New American Library, New York, 1986
The blurb on the back:
The Beat is Rock - The Throb is Love
James Robert Baker, a brilliant new voice in American fiction, has written an exuberant, breathtakingly original novel that is at once a love story, an expose of celebrity, a black comedy, a thriller and a tribute to young passion - in the wild, surreal world of Los Angeles rock 'n' roll in the 1960s.
"Terrific...remarkably imaginative!" - Los Angeles Times Book Review
So there's this record producer who was huge in the early-1960s, creating epic trash masterpieces from girl groups and surf bands, a veritable Wagner of pop, but he retired at the end of the decade and disappeared into his mansion of tack somewhere in LA. He's still there, still married to the singer with his biggest group, a woman effectively held prisoner by the drug-damaged Svengali who can't let her go...
So you think you know what this is all about, and then you see the Publisher's Note at the front: 'This novel is a work of fiction... any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.'
Oh, okay. Then I must have gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick altogether. Cos I thought I recognized someone in there. Sorry.
Now that we've got that sorted, we can accept that this is a damn fine rock novel. Our narrator is a hip late-night DJ, who grew up on the music of Dennis Contrelle (that's the entirely fictitious producer, who bears no resemblance to any person living or dead), fancied the hell out of Sharlene (the entirely fictitious singer, ditto) and now finds himself drawn into their strange little relationship. It's one of the few novels that actually feels like it's bred out of classic rock & roll, rather than the sad little High Fidelity nonsenses. It's the textual equivalent of that moment when the New York Dolls quote the Shangri-Las' 'When I say I'm in love, you best believe I mean love, L-U-V!' Check out, for example, this description of the imaginary Sharlene:
The sounds you can hear are Kim Fowley orgasming, Wendy James gnashing her teeth as she reflects on missed opportunities, and Tony Parsons spontaneously combusting in envy.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 5/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 4/5