Please Step BackBook |
A late '60s rock star's rise and fall, told at a whiz-bang tempo in a cleverly stylized voice.
In San Francisco circa the Summer of Love, a sprawling band led by the ultra-charismatic black frontman Rock Foxx scores a handful of joyous, uplifting hits that smash the barriers between rock and funk, black and white, male and female. But chemical excess, too much money, intra-band squabbles and the souring of the nation's socio-political mood leads to a paranoid bad trip of an album, and -- as the drugs take over and the music scene moves on -- a long, slow decline. So let's not kid ourselves: in its broad strokes, Please Step Back is a barely veiled fictionalization of the rise and fall of Sly and the Family Stone. But Ben Greenman, a staffer at The New Yorker, delivers the story of Rock Foxx and the Foxxes at a whiz-bang tempo, and feeds his characters a smart and deliberately stylized blend of hipster jive, slyly cribbed phrases from pop songs and TV commercials, and wry authorial asides that read like a flower-child Damon Runyan. Under the kandy-kolored surface, though, the passages concerning Foxx's initial artistic ambition and increasingly paralyzing fear of how he's going to top his early success articulately capture both aspects of the creative mind.