Friday, April 3, 2015

Book Review: Off My Rocker

Published in late 2013, Off My Rocker: One Man's Tasty, Twisted, Star-Studded Quest for Everlasting Music hit the bookshelves and eReaders across the planet. This is the biography of Kenny Weissberg, a man who started from a childhood in Newark, NJ, in the early 1950's, and would go on to have a varied career in the world of music, a world he loves with a burning passion.

This reader-friendly, quick-paced memoir starts right off with a tale from his college days, with his love for music of the great Otis Redding, and how he decided to pursue his dreams despite the misgivings of his parents. From there, he made a name for himself in Boulder, Colorado, as a disc jockey and music critic (clocking in countless hours on radio from 1971 to 2007 and thousands of newspaper and magazine articles). He even dabbled briefly as a performer as part of the short-lived Kenny & the Kritix in the early 80's. A move to San Diego, California, after that exposed him to another aspect of the industry, one of the competitive world of concert promoting. He successfully produced and promoted two thousand concerts for the famed Humphrey's Concerts by the Bay. Finally, he returned to his roots again in the late 90's as he got back behind the radio mic with award-winning Music Without Boundaries program.

My favorite sections of the book were part 2 ("Behind the Mic") and Part 4 ("Backstage at the Bay") as these dealt quite a bit with the music scene of the 70's and 80's. The number of stars, known and lesser known, that Weissberg interacted with in his various careers really kept my interest. From B.B. King and Chuck Berry, to a then-rising Whitney Houston to the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, he shares stories of backstage behaviors and moments.

One paragraph in particular, towards the very end of the book, really hit home for me.

I think back on all the changes I've lived through; 45s begat LPs, which morphed into CDs, which gave way to digital downloads. We went from mono to stereo to quadrophonic sound before reverting to muddled sonic compression. From jukeboxes to iTunes. From speakers the size of silos to earbuds that can fit into a thimble. The joy of finding new records at E. J. Korvettes, Victor Music, or dozens of Tower Records has been taken away from us, replaced by one-click shopping at Amazon.

This truly sums up the morphing of music consumption for those of my generation and Weissberg's. We remember how the past was and how different things have become. Off My Rocker helps celebrate that past and serves as a welcome reminder of that long journey. Thank you, Kenny, for that much needed reminder. It is very much the same reason I refer to albums as "records" here on my blog and will focus on the structure of each "side" as they were first presented on vinyl decades ago.

I very much recommend this biography to those who have a love for the history of the music industry.

You can find out more about Kenny Weissberg, his career, and even buy his book autographed from his website

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