BUMPING INTO GENIUSES: MY LIFE INSIDE THE ROCK AND ROLL BUSINESS by Danny Goldberg (Gotham), 305 pages, $28.50 cloth. Rating: NNN
Danny Goldberg, former music critic and PR flack and now a powerful label mogul, has spent his long and colourful career establishing his rep as a savvy music industry player.
With Bumping Into Geniuses, his eye-opening account of his climb to the top, from stumbling into his first job at Billboard to serving as Led Zeppelin's spin doctor and ultimately signing Nirvana to his management firm, Goldberg entertainingly dispels many long-held myths about the music biz, its most respected icons and his own well-cultivated image as an artist-first executive with unimpeachable integrity.
Amazingly enough, Goldberg has no qualms about discussing his frequent forays into the ethical grey area of public relations, citing concrete examples of planting fabricated quotes and ghost-written reviews in major daily newspapers.
He appears barely able to fight back the laughs when he recalls taking $1,000 from Just Sunshine label owner Michael Laing to hype Karen Dalton's In My Own Time album to his rock critic friends. When none of the writers bit, Goldberg reviewed the album himself for Rolling Stone.
There are more failures than successes, and Goldberg's willingness to open up about them is what makes the book an enjoyable read.
You have to wade through his recollections of his "gimmicks" and a healthy supply of Led Zeppelin anecdotes to get to the stuff about Nirvana, but then there are a few intriguing behind-the-scenes revelations about Kurt Cobain and company, though nothing that veers from the accepted account.
The point of writing the book appears to have been to launch a pre-emptive strike against the publication of a less favourable view of his wheelings and dealings.
But there's still lots of material left uncovered.
Goldberg discusses the music biz with musicologist Rob Bowman as part of This Is Not A Reading Series on Tuesday (October 21) at the Gladstone. See readings.