A charming, rambling account of a life saved by rock ’n’ roll—and devoted to the music industry.
Pinfield, the host of MTV’s “alternative” show 120 Minutes, does plenty of decadent tale-telling and name-dropping while presenting himself as a lucky rock nerd who fell into his fantasy life. Obsessed with music from infancy, he claims, “the dream of access, of proximity, began when I was a kid sitting in front of my record player.” He compellingly portrays his late-1960s childhood as an era of ubiquitous, exuberant music beneath the surface strife. He began attending concerts obsessively as a teenager, while barely surviving a brain aneurysm solidified his connection to rock’s raunchy nonconformity: “As always, records got me through.” He began DJ-ing for the Rutgers University radio station and at New Jersey clubs just as punk and new wave were surging regionally. “It was a perfect time to be on college radio,” he writes. Pinfield shrewdly built his reputation, befriending bands as a thoughtful interviewer and developing a following on a small commercial station: “For years,” he writes, “well into the ’90s, we were the one stop every alternative act had to make.” This led to his jump to MTV, despite being “this bald barrel of a person with a voice like granite, spouting arcane rock trivia.” Similarly, this insider’s perspective took him to Columbia Records, where he signed hard-rock bands, looking for post-grunge hits, until the industry’s financial strife led to mass layoffs. Pinfield’s enthusiasm endured, and he ably discusses the cultural value of rock and the quirky, high-risk mechanisms of the industry. He breaks up the narrative with best-of lists and vignettes of encounters with big bands (KISS, U2, etc.), which can seem superfluous, and he’s frank about the dark side of rock culture, noting his own trips to rehab and some lapses into sleazy behavior.
Pinfield is a disarmingly likable guide through rock ’n’ roll’s twilight, though he occasionally epitomizes a music industry hustler.