A fun, compassionate history of arena rock’s finest hour—and the less-fine hours that followed.

THEY JUST SEEM A LITTLE WEIRD

HOW KISS, CHEAP TRICK, AEROSMITH, AND STARZ REMADE ROCK AND ROLL

The story of four 1970s American rock titans: KISS, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, and, perhaps most importantly, Starz.

Starz, you may ask? That’s the point: The also-rans fit Brod’s theme that rock fame is sometimes arbitrary, usually absurd, and almost always fleeting. In the mid-’70s, all four acts were connected in terms of management, touring, and producers. KISS led the way both musically and theatrically; Aerosmith had a Stones-y (and for a long time druggy) vibe, and Cheap Trick merged anthemic rock with subtler, Beatles-esque songwriting. As for the glammy Starz, a band that had unlikely roots in one-hit wonders Looking Glass (“Brandy [You’re a Fine Girl]”), sharing management with KISS and stages with Aerosmith led at best to the nether regions of the sales and airplay charts and a role as tax write-off for KISS’ minders. When album-oriented radio stations emerged in the late-’70s, the band was “shut out of the broader airplay equation.” But even the bigger acts had Starz-like issues, struggling to stay relevant amid disco, hair metal, and grunge. Brod, former editor-in-chief of Spin, interviewed deeply, writes with a fan’s enthusiasm about all four bands, and braids their experiences to keep the book from reading like four separate bios. He’s also attuned to the Spinal Tap–ish nature of the acts, from backstage meltdowns to ironic calamities; Starz frontman Richie Ranno launched a successful business dealing KISS memorabilia until he was big-footed, yet again, by KISS. (Gene Simmons, infamously laser-focused on the bottom line, is a comically Mephistophelean figure throughout the book.) More information about the infrastructure of the music industry would better contextualize the story, and Brod delves further into the bands’ compromised late-period discographies than casual fans will care about. But their shifting fortunes are a reminder of their mix of talent and dumb luck: They all could have been Starz.

A fun, compassionate history of arena rock’s finest hour—and the less-fine hours that followed.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-306-84519-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Fans of Rogen will enjoy his laid-back, whimsical memoir.

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YEARBOOK

Everyone’s favorite stoner recalls his childhood, youth, and first stirrings of Hollywood success.

“My friends are thrilled when their kids don’t shit all over their floors,” writes Rogen. “As an adult, I get little to no praise for doing the same.” It’s a characteristic line; Rogen leans heavily on the seven words with which George Carlin made so much hay, with a dash of Borscht Belt shtick (“The hardest part about being Jewish is…the grandparents”) and some occasional high-concept material. The author reveals that he inherited a touch of his father’s Tourette’s mixed in with his mother’s gentleness, the blend of which resulted in a kind of easygoing ADHD best treated with lashings of marijuana. When he learned that a teenage friend had smoked pot with her brother, he asked how it felt. “It burns your throat like crazy,” she replied, to which Rogen responded, “Awesome.” Other drugs come and go in these pages—MDMA, for one, which can certainly make a pitch meeting difficult. And then there’s this: “If you’ve ever been grocery shopping while an inhuman amount of hallucinogenic mushrooms are [sic] aggressively taking over your system, you know that shit ain’t easy.” Indeed. Rogen’s not inclined to badmouth, though from time to time, his critical bone is tickled (“all the movies to come out of Project Greenlight fucking suck butt”). He also makes it clear, through encounters with the likes of Kanye West, Nicolas Cage, and George Lucas, that Los Angeles is the world headquarters of eccentricity bordering on madness. As a good Canadian, too, Rogen can’t help but get in a few digs at the rest of the country, as when he considers the reluctance of the federal government to legalize pot, “because it’s just too effective a way to persecute minorities and keep prisons full, which are things that they love to do in America.”

Fans of Rogen will enjoy his laid-back, whimsical memoir.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984825-40-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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