It's not often that a 200 page, afternoon read can seem bloated, but the music industry exploits in Dan Kennedy's Rock On pulls it off. Anyone that has ever worked at any level of corporate America (half the country) can relate to the office politics and positioning, especially when it is in such a coveted and lucrative industry as popular music, but I've heard far more interesting war stories from inside the walls of Kraft Foods. Even for those not in the music business, it should come as little surprise that the executives making the decisions aren't nearly as passionate about music as they are about their annual bonus and job security. That's right, people, the music industry, like nearly every other industry based in midtown Manhattan, is totally corporate. No, really, it totally is all about the money. I know, news to me. Someone tell Ryan Seacrest to put down that Coca-Cola.
Even though the theme of corporate take-over of popular music and the subsequent vaccuum it has unleashed upon the quality of the product (see Col. Parker) has been discussed ad naseum, it would be easy to ignore if Kennedy's exploits had been a tad more entertaining, or even, more unique to the music industry (because if he simply intends to reveal the sterility of the industry's office environment, he's wasting all of our time). Kennedy attempts to paint himself as the outsider looking in, as the eyes and ears of Joe Music Lover, but his awkward and positively neurotic interactions make it difficult for anyone to relate to him or his petty, mundane professional problems, especially after how quickly he gets sucked into the corporate culture himself and painfully tries to fit in. Instead of the exploits of a man crushed by the reality of his well-paying dream job as seasoned corporate sharks push him around and the push-over cross he bears throughout his tenure and the book, the first 100 pages sound more like George Costanza fan fiction as Kennedy is unable to shake the monkey on his back that is his suburban white skin, and completely uncomfortable interacting with nearly anyone outside of that skin. Meanwhile, the missiles he launches at his self-absorbed co-workers sound like those of the quiet, alienated 8th grader plotting to kill everyone because he doesn't fit in, thus making the reader question his worthiness as the audience's emissary (or mole).
Had Rock On been more focused, the nearly redeeming chapter (and highlight of the book) about an anarchic Iggy Pop concert would be a microcosm of the problems with Kennedy's book. While Iggy trashes the VIP room during the course of the concert in iconoclast fashion, Iggy himself is still an act from some 30 years ago performing for industry big-wigs at a major Manhattan music venue. While the show sounds great (Kennedy's own enthusiasm shines) and Iggy is known for not bending to anyone (except GAP ads and Carnival Cruise, perhaps), it's apparent that the 30-something Kennedy isn't so different from his corporate co-worker that he dubs "Rush Hair" for both worship at the feet of acts whose time have long since passed, however, one of them has a lot more money to show for it.
When Kennedy is enthusiastic about his subject (and not completely neurotic) the book is mildly enjoyable and it does have a few humorous moments (the less said about the interstitials the better), but when your book's thesis is essentially, "man, was this ever disappointing," it's a long way to page 199. Even "Rush Hair" probably knows that those double albums of the 70's probably should have been EPs.