Friday, June 6, 2008

"like a rolling stone: the strange life of a tribute band" book review



i followed up ten-cent plague with "like a rolling stone: the strange life of a tribute band," by steven kurutz. what better transition from the history of comic books than over to rock music? kurutz spent a year on and off the road with a pair of tribute bands covering the rolling stone's music. "sticky fingers," and its front man, glen carroll and its guitarist, the "keithiest keith" get the lion's share of attention in the book. but the "blushing brides," the other stone's tribute band, and its front man, maurice raymond, provide an interesting counterpoint in style and operation.

blushing brides actually has a sub-title to its name: "the most dangerous tribute to the music of the rolling stones." while that may be true, it's carroll's arrest kurutz documented after a sticky fingers' gig at a college frat house in virginia! yet despite apparent differences between the bands, the day to day existence of these rock bands and their members is remarkably similar. getting gigs, and getting the band (however constituted at the moment) to those shows is a big part of this world. in kurutz, tribute bands have a sympathetic reporter who opened the door to this tough lifestyle, and painted a portrait in colors other than black.

for anyone interested in rock music and its lifestyle - i don't see the cross over appeal for jazz and classical music fans - kurutz objectively presents the gritty ups and downs of hard-working and touring bands. while it often seemed the down and out dominated to road these band travelled, living the lifestyle of a faux rock star did have enough ups, including occasional world travel and, yes, even fan adulation, to make it worthwhile! and, even more remarkable, there are those once in a million moments where a tribute band member is invited to move up to the "real" band - like a minor leaguer going to the big show, or the movie "rock star!"

while the book is devoted to the stones, kurutz does reel off a list of tribute bands devoted to the beat of other rock super groups. he even devoted half a chapter to dark star orchestra, the definitive grateful dead tribute band - and probably the most successful tribute band out there today! as a lifelong dead head, it was easily my favorite part of the book - haha! one can't help but come away from the book, regardless of the tribute band, with a sense kurutz took these guys seriously as musicians and professionals. it takes a lot to get out of a garage or basement, not just once or twice - but on a regular basis - and consistently perform in front of paying crowds at showtime.

kudos to those musicians who can do it for a living! kudos to kurutz for sharing it with us!

check out kurutz' blog.
check out this interview with kurutz on wnyc.

2 comments:

Rob Leder said...

The Blushing Brides played my college around 1990 or so...I had no idea those guys were still around!

The best tribute bands I've seen are Australian Pink Floyd, DSO, and The Musical Box (Gabriel-era Genesis).

rundangerously said...

rob, both bands still around, but probably nothing like the line-up that played at your college. as the book points out, new muscians constantly in and out of these bands... but the songs remain the same :D