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So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star: How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful Of Record Executives and Other True Tales from a Drummer's Life Hardcover – June 29, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Slichter's bittersweet recollections of Semisonic's rise from unassuming Minnesota trio to international rock stars navigates through the strange and uncomfortable worlds of the music business, fame and constant worry. Taken from his tour journals as the band's drummer, Slichter's insights alternate between funny and poignant as they peel back the curtain on a lifestyle that most people consider luxurious and carefree, but that is actually mentally and physically taxing. Slichter quickly learns that all the bills, from dinner to the cost of making a record, go to the artist while most of the profits go to the record label. He also finds out that the existence of profits depends on the suits at the record company picking the right song to release, a fickle radio station program director deciding to play it and MTV deeming the video cool enough to air. All this pressure to simultaneously create music and make business decisions takes such a toll on Slichter that he becomes more focused on album sales than on the fun of playing drums. Even when the band does hit it big with "Closing Time" and their 15 minutes of fame start ticking away, Slichter and his band mates Dan Wilson and John Munson never seem at home in the spotlight. But Slichter's uneasiness makes for interesting tales, like being starstruck at the Grammys or his lacking the ability to rein in his celebrity personality, which causes him to talk in sound bites. Thanks to Slichter's good-natured presentation, these stories and Slichter's work as a whole, despite their rock star origins, are surprisingly easy to relate to.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“If I was nineteen again and lusted after the game of music, this book would be my guide and charm.”
—Andrew Loog Oldham, former manager of the Rolling Stones

“Still wondering what your college band coulda been? This giddy, can-you-believe-my-luck book is for you.” —Time Out New York

“Slichter’s most impressive attribute is his unfailing enthusiasm for his craft and for music in general.” —James McMurtry, The New York Times Book Review

“[Jacob Slichter] is a self-effacing, good-humored, and intelligent guide through the musical maze…. Few first-person memoirs of the rock biz are as smart, honest, and entertaining as this tart, incisive work.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; First Edition edition (June 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767914708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767914703
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,330,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Banfield on July 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Like most music fans, I knew "Closing Time" but not any other Semisonic songs. Having read this book, I now understand why. Slichter's clear explanations of the machinations of the music industry (percentage points, independent promoters, Soundscan A&R guys) gave me great insight into what actually goes on behind the scenes of our favorite songs. He chronicles the signing process, the video making process, and what it's like to go on tour (even down to a detailed explanation of the tour bus) and why some songs "hit" and some miss. The book is neither gossipy (he meets Prince but doesn't give lots of details) or boring - Slichter is a Harvard graduate and writes very well. I wish he had given us an epilogue, telling what he and his bandmates are doing now, and what happened to Coco. It also would have been fun to see a "money count" detailing just how much was spent on the band and how much they actually made back. This book should be required reading for anyone interested in going into the music business.
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Format: Hardcover
Let me testify about the truth, humor, and saddness. Having worked promotions for a two well-known international record labels, Mr. Slichter's brilliant book is no fantasy but a realistic explanation of the music biz. His observations are spot-on about radio, recording, promotions, merchandising, retail, concert promoters, and fans.

The book should be required reading for any band hoping to get a record deal. Chances are they won't make a lot of money, but they sure-as-hell will spend a lot. And the expenses aren't even for the supposedly fun things like 5-star hotels, private Gulfstream jets, vintage Cristel and parties with supermodels. Oh no, the cash flows out to independent promotions, recording costs, and dozens of other "necessities."

The book shows how a band can "ship" millions of "units" (as opposed to selling records) and still wind up losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mr. Slichter also proves something about the wisdom of everyone in the recording process. If they actually knew how to score a hit, every song would be one. Truth: there is no real formula for a hit record, and even less of one to determine which songs really sell at retail once they do manage to get on radio, MTV or VH1.

Touring for a starting band can be a grisly existence. What we have here is a handbook for survival -- or at least an outline of how to cope with life on the road during a band's early days. Every band that gets a record contract probably imagines it'll be the next Led Zeppelin once the tour dates and cash start adding up. Surprize!

Mr. Slichter ought to be remembered far longer for his book than for any of his notable accomplishments in Semisonic. He's witty. He's accurate. He's definitely been there.

Most of all, Mr.
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Format: Hardcover
I had heard the author speaking on NPR and was glad when my brother gave me this book.

Jake Slichter is erudite (how many rock drummers are Harvard graduates?) and has a real knack for telling interesting stories. He is a true writer: a shy, sensitive individual who might not have said the right thing at the party but can go home afterwards and write well about the situation.

The story of Semisonic's semi-rise and semi-decline is a compelling story, and the behind the scenes look into the mainstream music industry is amazing. And not only that it has actually made me appreciate music more - ever since I've read this book I pay a lot more attention to the drumming while listening to rock music!
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Format: Hardcover
What a great book! Slichter tells his story both with wickedly sly humor that will make you laugh out loud and with a self-effacing style that makes you feel connected to him. There is no rock-star preening to be found; this is a book by a smart, humble, and hilarious guy who goes through his fifteen minutes of Semisonic fame with wide open eyes.

I liked most how Slichter brought me right into the middle of the action. It could easily have been me in his place, I felt, just because he comes across as being so human, as such an Everyman. You feel like you are with him every step of the way on his rise from dead-end day jobs and musical dreams to rock stardom. As he progesses, you get to see the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of the music and radio industries and how they *really* work, something most people don't know (I didn't). You feel the thrills and the disappointments that Slichter feels. You share his astonishment at the byzantine workings of the system. And from cover to cover, you will laugh out loud as he takes you on the roller coaster ride of modern rock and roll.

I highly recommend this book, and not just to music fans. You don't need to know (or care, for that matter) about the music Semisonic played to appreciate the fantastic writing, and anyone with a general interest in music of any kind will be fascinated by all the dirty exposed inner guts of the music business. This one has my full and hearty recommendation!
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Format: Hardcover
I heard the mention for this book on the Howard Stern show and picked it up. I normally don't sit for a whole weekend reading, but I blazed through this in about a day and a half because I couldn't put it down. The synopsis doesn't do the content justice, there are so many interesting things about the music industry revealed here in humorous and subtle (and not so subtle) detail that you just start reading and hunger for more. My favorite thing about this book is that it shows just how much trouble the music industry has gotten itself into, not because of the evil internet, but because of the ineptitude of the people making the choices that make or break their very own commodity... the artists.

Good for Jake, I'm glad he got this book published because he's a hard worker and a great artist. I have 10 times the respect for Semisonic than I ever did now, and I alraedy owned all three of their albums on MCA. Pop in their CD and enjoy this great book.
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