Book Review: ‘Rock On: An Office Power Ballad’ by Dan Kennedy*

May 9, 2008 · Print This Article

By Jennifer B. Kaufman

Described as a cross between the TV show The Office and the mock documentary This is Spinal Tap, Rock On: An Office Power Ballad by Dan Kennedy seemed right up my alley. Always interested in the music business, I picked up this memoir with some high expectations.

In 2002, Dan Kennedy got a dream job with a major record label. A huge music fan since he was a teenager, Kennedy thought he had it made working in music marketing. He figured he’d get to meet his favorite musicians and come up with amazing marketing campaigns that would blow people away.

Kennedy does get to work with some big names. Phil Collins, Jewel and rapper Fat Joe are just a few names Kennedy drops. But he doesn’t exactly get to develop brilliant marketing campaigns. Kennedy gets to work on women’s razor commercials featuring Jewel’s song “Intuition” and Public Service Announcements for all-girl band the Donnas telling students not to bring guns to school. Kennedy soon realizes that, despite his cool sounding job, he’s basically just another cog in the corporate machine.

Furthermore, he’s in the music industry at a time of major upheavals, including mass lay-offs, cuts in artistic contracts and low sales, not to mention Internet musical downloads. And though Kennedy thought his days would be filled with creative projects and discovering the next musical phenomenon, they turned out to be filled with politics, positioning and avoiding pink slips.

And perhaps that’s what’s the problem with Rock On. Kennedy’s experiences aren’t much different than anyone who has worked for “the man.” Like the rest of us, he deals with pointless meetings, bad management decisions and the chasing of the almighty dollar. Plus, Kennedy describes his colleagues in thinly-sketched stereotypes while making himself a “too-cool-for-school” outsider. This would be cute if he was twenty-one, but it comes across kind of pathetic in a man closing in on forty.

Still, Rock On does have its memorable moments. Kennedy’s chapter on the chaos and destruction at an Iggy Pop concert is quite interesting. I also got a giggle from a corporate-wide e-mail Kennedy never had the guts to send. And Kennedy’s “Free Lyrics for Any All-Girl Band Trying to Win Over the Middle-Aged White Suburban Male Demographic” showed he can turn a witty phrase. Some sample lyrics?

I think that’s muscle, not fat
I think your hair is still rad
You and your friends still seem like rockers
It turns me on
The way you tuck your short-sleeved Polo into your pleated khaki Dockers.

Kennedy is a good writer and does have a story to tell. But what makes Rock On not exactly work is its length. Kennedy’s experience would make a great Rolling Stone article, but as a book it’s just too many words and not enough substance to really keep the reader interested in the long haul.


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