Babysitting A Band On The Rocks

By G. D. Praetorius - Book Review

It seems like everyone who ever worked in and around the music business is writing a book. As if it isn't enough to post pictures of rock stars on Facebook, reminiscing about the time you shook their hand, got them a sandwich, scored them drugs, emptied their garbage, gave them an 'atta boy' when they aimlessly walked by, or had any number of encounters that amounted to something as monumental as a job or as abject as a distant, menial memory — now we get troves of tomes detailing each and every little brush with fame. When you throw in the memoirs that every member of any band of note feels compelled to write, then you have to wonder when it's all going to end.

The truth of the matter is that as the music changes, the tide turns, and the days of yore become more cherished and sacred, it's only going to get more congested on the book shelves. And really, the only thing you can do is comb through the pile, and see if there's really anything worth reading. As someone who receives a lot music books to review, that's about all I can do. So, as you can imagine, I wasn't quite sure how to react when Babysitting A Band On The Rocks arrived in my mailbox.

For one, I had no idea who the book's author, Gregg D. Praetorius, was. And to be honest, after scanning the first couple pages, I wasn't sure I wanted to go much further. Was this going to be an insider's attempt at dropping names to show everyone how important and vital he once was in the big, bad music business? It could have gone that way, except Praetorius has a very unpretentious way with words, and a sincere, humble and refreshing approach to reel you in. Before I knew it, I started turning the pages, wondering what was going to happen next. The man's innate skill as a wordsmith makes the content sizzle.

So here's the lowdown: Praetorius turned his love for music into a colorful and brief stint as a production manager for a Long Island concert promotion organization in the early 80s. He was there when Aerosmith hit rock bottom and singer Steven Tyler was literally down and out. He promoted shows with an up-and-coming Van Halen, running wild and issuing riders that explicitly stated there were to be no brown M&M's in the candy dish. Directly or indirectly, Praetorius rubbed shoulders with AC/DC, the Allman Brothers Band, Pink Floyd, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, and many others.

The heart of Babysitting A Band On The Rocks is about making your way in the concert promotion business, and all the pitfalls and rewards that come with it. My favorite chapter is 'A Day In The Life' in which Praetorius takes the reader through a typical day of producing a show — from arriving to the venue in the morning to watching the last equipment truck leave for the next gig. Beautifully written and insightfully detailed, this one chapter alone is essential reading for anyone entertaining the idea of getting into the concert promotion business.

The last quarter of the book covers Praetorius and his post-concert promotion career encounters with Twisted Sister's Dee Snider, Billy Joel, Keith Richards and others. The flow of charming, high-caliber prose stays the course, but I'm not entirely sure these chapters fit in with the rest of the story. The book begins with Aerosmith, and it might have been appropriate to end it with Aerosmith, which Praetorius could have easily done, as he notes that his personal relationship with the band had come "full circle" once he left the business and became a fan again.

With all the rock and roll books on the market, Babysitting A Band On The Rocks is most definitely a worthwhile spin through one man's trials and tribulations of breaking into one of the most notorious and craziest businesses of the 20th century. It's always fun to learn about the human side of well-known musicians, and Praetorius does a commendable and seemingly accurate job at exposing people like Steven Tyler, Billy Joel and Keith Richards for who they were then and who they are now. Yet the best parts of the book focus on those behind-the-scenes folks that keep the whole circus going. Without them, the musicians we all love and admire would be lost without a net to catch them when they fall.

~ Shawn Perry

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