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So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star: How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful Of Record Executives and Other True Tales from a Drummer's Life

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  602 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
After years of working day jobs and making music in his basement, Jacob Slichter wondered if his dreams of rock stardom were a vain illusion. Then he was recruited by two of his successful musician friends to form a band that became Semisonic. Who could forget the smash single “Closing Time,” a runaway hit in 1998 that thrust Jake and his bandmates into the international s ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 10th 2005 by Broadway Books (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

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Jul 07, 2008 Jodi rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008-read
This is my plea to all rockstars past, present, and future: If you ever write a book about rockstardom please, please, please, pretty please with cocaine and slutty groupies on top DO NOT spend pages explaining recoupable debt.

Read the rest on
Jul 15, 2011 Bill rated it it was amazing
If I could give this book six stars, I would. It was absolutely, and as a musician, this is one of the best real-life books written about being a musician that I've read.

I don't know how much more I can say specifically about the book other than the fact that I loved it and was drawn in from word one. I could have finished it in a single sitting had I the time to do so.

If you are a musician, definitely read this book. If you are just a music fan, you should still probably read this book. If yo
Jonathan Maas
Sep 22, 2014 Jonathan Maas rated it it was amazing
Books like these make me wish Goodreads gave me more than 5 stars to give!

Unbelievable - just a slice of life from the music industry in the late 90s, showing how Slichter (the drummer from Semisonic) and his band got a hit in 'Closing Time,' and tried to go onward and upward from that point.

From Radio Station PM 'Super Frank,' to the Music Executive who has a kid that thinks Semisonic is 'old,' this shows what it was like to be a musician before the internet era.

Most all the Byzantine details o
Dec 25, 2012 Evan rated it it was ok
Possibly the dullest rock memoir ever written. (Slichter was the drummer for Semisonic, of "Closing Time" fame, which should have been a warning sign.) I'm the kind of music geek who doesn't mind reading a lengthy chapter about the process of choosing a music video director, as long as it's entertaining ... but I can see a whole lot of people picking this up and going "Where are all the drugs and groupies? Where are the sordid anecdotes?" Of course I realize that such a book serves a valuable de ...more
Dec 21, 2010 Monica rated it it was amazing
Slichter's a pretty damn good writer. I never heard of his band, Semisonic, prior to reading the book but it got some excellent reviews that piqued my interest. They were, I guess, the sort of decent band that wanted the big bucks and got made into sausage by the corporate music machine. Slichter's a smart guy and his self-depreciating and humorous anecdotes help make his story of the corporate rock machine palatable, if not at times, quite enjoyable.

Considering how many god-awful rock memoirs a
Feb 03, 2015 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this so much. Slichter is such a hilariously stupid pussy - and I really can't think of a more perfect word for a guy in an Adult Contemporary Soft Rock Band who spends his entire memoir recounting record label accounting practices and reminiscing about watching "Law and Order" VHS tapes on his band's tour bus. What a goon! What an absolute nebbishy poindexter! None of the comedy here is intentional, but I howled through this thing. This guy deserves swirlies and wedgies for life after t ...more
Christian Lipski
Aug 07, 2009 Christian Lipski rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: musicians
A really good look at the workings of a band from the eyes of the drummer. Semisonic's Jake Slichter describes the beginnings, the heights, and the denouement of the "Closing Time" fellows.

What really goes on in the choosing of a single? The shooting of a video? How long does it take to recoup an advance when everything you do adds on to it? Jake has a love of music and a keen and cynical eye on its industry.
Matthew Smith
Dec 16, 2007 Matthew Smith rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who were teens in the 90s
This memoir from Semisonic's drummer is mildly entertaining, but a bit depressing. Made me especially thankful to not have to rely on idiotic record labels to determine the course of my career. I thought there would be better stories in the book, but he generally takes a sad-sack tone and talks about missed opportunities rather than anything truly entertaining.
Claudio Rivera
Jan 15, 2014 Claudio Rivera rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books that hits close to home, literally! As a drummer from Minneapolis that has been in many bands, this book was basically like reading my own diary. Lots of interesting insight for any musician or fans of live music.
Kat Kunz
May 16, 2014 Kat Kunz rated it it was amazing
Was thinking about this book in the context of Fred Stoller's Maybe We'll Have You Back, about life as a constant guest star and how the uncertainy of the biz wears on you. While the jury is still out as to how I feel about that book, I unabashedly LOVED this one when I read it about nine years ago, shortly after it came out. I'm one of the few, the proud, the Semisonic fans beyond "Closing Time", but this book is a fascinating indictment of the major music industry, an industry that barely exis ...more
Mar 28, 2007 christa rated it liked it
Shelves: doneanddone
memoir of the former drummer of semisonic (closing time). seems like it should have been more funny and anecdotal and less about numbers and sales.
C.M. Subasic
Apr 06, 2015 C.M. Subasic rated it it was amazing
An insider’s stroll behind the music industry glitter
So You Wanna Be a Rock’n’roll Star by Jacob Slichter pulls the sunglasses off of rock stardom to show the beer-soaked, stale cigarette smoked, boring truth (with a few rock star wet dreams in there too, of course). As the drummer for band Semisonic, renowned for its hit Closing Time, among many others, Slichter knows what he’s talking ‘bout.

The music industry has changed dramatically since Slichter penned this industry insider in 2004, but th
AJ Conroy
Jul 10, 2009 AJ Conroy marked it as to-read
From Gapers Block:

About the Book: Jacob Slichter is Harvard graduate and an NPR contributor. But his most profiled career achievement was being the drummer for the 90s multiplatinum-selling band Semisonic. Slichter's memories of starting as a humble band to the overwhelming feeling of playing arenas after the success of their hit song "Closing Time" truly leave you feeling like you've been in a band that was catapulted into the spotlight.
Why I like it: After being in many failed bands, I've alw
Jun 16, 2009 Johnriem rated it liked it
this is the first book i read using the free kindle for iphone application. slichter was the drummer for the 1990s alternative rock band semisonic, who, despite much critical acclaim prior to their album feeling strangely fine, are now solely known for their #1 hit "closing time." slichter's book traces the bands journey from obscurity to overnight superstardom and back-- a rags to riches to rags story, if you will. slichter does a good job describing the machinations of the music business. he's ...more
Nov 11, 2013 Terence rated it liked it
Rather than being a tell-all about the drug- and groupie-fueled excesses of a narcissistic rock star, this is a detailed, thoughtful memoir of a moderately successful band's rise and decline. Jake Slichter was/is the drummer for Semisonic, which produced three albums and achieved a #1 hit with "Closing Time." Schlicter's account gives a sometimes exhaustive description of what it was like to be a part of the "star-maker machinery behind the popular song" (an appropriate quote because Jake admire ...more
Sep 01, 2013 Onyxavatar rated it it was amazing
Great read. "So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star" is intelligently written and yet fast paced, which makes it very enjoyable from page to page. I liked that he didn't shy away from the business-end of the music industry. Slichter explains the contract process and financial model every band has to go through, which is really frightening.

I don't know why any band would sign the contracts that they get and hopefully, with the Internet and YouTube that model will flip. The financial model was es
Marcin Wrona
May 13, 2011 Marcin Wrona rated it it was amazing
"'Are you the drummer for Everclear?'
No, I'm the drummer for Semisonic, and this is my story."

Timid, inexperienced, and insecure, and given to "goony" grins and fears of vomiting all over his drum set, Jacob Slichter is the perfect anti-star to narrate the improbable rise and fall of a (dare I use the one-hit-wonder label?) rock band. When he forms Semisonic with friends and industry old hands Dan and John, he finds himself on the outside looking in, and we, the readers, learn the ropes alongsid
Jul 28, 2010 Rachel rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
I discovered this book existed by following Dan Wilson on Facebook. Wilson made a reference to this book, which immediately intrigued me. I put a hold on it at my local library and began to read it immediately.

I actually became a fan of Semisonic near the end of their heightened popularity. I was a college student who had a radio show with the campus radio station. I think their album All About Chemistry was in the new release section of the studio. We as DJs were required to play a certain numb
Nov 03, 2007 David rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anybody who wants to know more about the bowels of the pop music industry
Shelves: music
If you're not offended by regular droppings of the F-bomb, this book is a fabulous read. Some say it's the definitive expose to date of the American recording business. Parts of it are hilarious, parts of it are reflective & sobering, all of it is fascinating. I read it in one sitting staying up 'til 3am or so. I've read it 5 or 6 times since. It's one of my favorite books.

Jacob Slichter was (is?) the drummer for Semisonic, the band that brought you "Closing Time" back in 1998. So You Wanna

Nov 22, 2011 Jason rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
So You Wanna Be A Rock And Roll Star is the book you or I might write if we were to trade places for five years with someone who had just scored a major-label record deal (and hopefully had some actual musical talent as well). It's a remarkably clear-eyed and self-aware chronicle of a trip through the looking glass of fame and back again. Slichter, drummer for Semisonic (remember "Closing Time"?), chronicles his wild ride with an Everyman mixture of bewilderment and lust (for affirmation, mostly ...more
Mike S
Feb 15, 2016 Mike S rated it it was amazing
This isn't the typical rock 'n roll memoir filled with debauchery and all of the typical excess of rock stardom. You won't find sex, drugs and heavy drinking.

Instead, Semisonic drummer Jake Slichter uses sardonic wit as he tells his tale of being in a rock band at the tail end of the '90s, fighting terrible record label management, boredom on the road, and going from unknowns to having the fight the success of their single "Closing Time" on the way to becoming renowned as one-hit-wonders.
Dec 07, 2009 Trisha rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I bought this book so I could research the music industry and what it is actually like being on tour, etc. as I was writing a story (AM writing a story I should say) that involves rock bands on tour. Plus my main character is not a druggie so I thought she could relate to Slichter's lack of drug/groupie action.

I found this book fascinating and depressing all at once...but there were many funny moments, made all the more funny because the story is true. I like how Slichter is always trying to act
Chris Branch
Mar 15, 2012 Chris Branch rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a straightforward and honest-sounding account of the Semisonic guys trying to make it in the music industry, including all their struggles and successes.

Slichter comes across from the beginning almost as an outside observer, since there's much more focus on the other two band members - it's like he gets pulled along for the ride. He's a good writer (Harvard graduate) and there are some humorous parts mixed in with the business realities of record deals and radio airplay.

Regarding all the
Daniel  Dubay
Aug 01, 2014 Daniel Dubay rated it really liked it
Very easy read. Despite being almost 300 pages, I finished it in 8 hours. A lot of it is just the story of Semisonic and not the funny anecdotes that I was told to expect.
As a music industry veteran, I found myself educated on some nuances that I was not aware of. This can be tedious to some readers but I enjoyed the detail.
Feb 19, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it
This memoir by the drummer of Semisonic is not your typical rock 'n roll story. It's not about groupies, sex, drugs, and wild times, but instead is an MBA survey course on the business of being in a band in the current musical landscape. It was really fascinating to get a glimpse of how some songs become hits, some die trying, and some mega-hits are all but ignored by "the suits," and somehow find life when an influential DJ puts them on the radio.

This book was written largely before the digital
May 19, 2015 matt rated it liked it
It is a true mystery that an album called "All About Chemistry" that features two beakers having sex on its cover and a song called "Get a Grip" would bomb.

"Get a grip on yourself you know you should
I got a grip on myself and it feels good
Get a grip on yourself take my advice
I got a grip on myself and it feels nice"
Rick Lay
Sep 26, 2012 Rick Lay rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: musicians, 90's music fans
After playing guitar and making music for most of my life, I read this book and I stopped producing music because I wanted to "make it in the music business" and focused on the love of making the music. This book spells it out...making it in the music business is very difficult, and even if you are an outstanding musician, it takes an incredible amount of luck to get noticed....then make money/a living. This book is a humorous, first person perspective of all of the obstacles and the counterpoin ...more
Nov 25, 2013 Kim rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
Well written & clear, the book suffers a little from dated-ness. There are a number of tense issues; things Shlichter talks about in the present tense that either probably or definitely don't exist today. One reviewer said that the stuff detailing music business things like recoupable debt was not fun, and I thought so too, at first; but then I decided I liked the his sort of nebbishy attitude about the business and the process. If I were gonna be famous I'd be popping tums like crazy too. B ...more
May 11, 2009 Kid rated it really liked it
An almost perfect encapsulation of the absurdity of the major label music game. . .this guy was a schlubby looking drummer in a band with one hit (remember "Closing Time"?). . .

It's a great rags to fame to rags again story w/o the typical descent into sordid self-destruction. Slichter managed to escape fairly unscathed.

Anyway - it was an enjoyable read and yet another reminder that shattered illusions are the bread and butter of many music biz memoirs. But to be fair Slichter is not indignant.
Jan 19, 2009 Owen rated it really liked it
This is a book by the drummer of the band Semisonic, who had a big hit with “Closing Time” in the late 90s. It’s a little bit like a VH1 Behind the Music, but instead of talking about groupies and drug abuse, it goes into the business aspect of being in a band, and how once you sign a record contract you are immediately hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. I loved all of the references to the bands that were around at the time that the book covers, and could relate to some of the stage anxi ...more
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