Book/Film Review “I am Michael Alago” (or “Who The F**k is That Guy?”)

If you want to know more about Michael Alago, ’cause you just might be asking “Who the F**k Is That Guy?” well, there is a documentary about him on Netflix and Youtube called, “Who The F**k is That Guy?” to answer that question for you. There is also a book called “I Am Michael Alago” that gives you more depth to the subject matter (believe me, you WANT to know more).

I Am Michael Alago book cover

I have read countless Rock and Roll memoirs over the years, from all of these books, and been behind the scenes at so many shows that I can I say I have seen it all. I prefer to read the books written by the subject, somehow that feels more gritty hearing it from them directly. I have read so many books about my favorite bands, their tours, their history, and events like “Live Aid” or Woodstock. I have even read the tour diaries of roadies.

It is when you read the stories of so many people telling their version of the same event that you feel like you were there. Or even better, when you read about an event and you WERE there, too.

I have outlived most people in my life in music fandom. I have crates of memorabilia, autographs, photos, and a list of artists I have met and photographed that would make most people jealous. In all of this, Michael Alago has outdone me 20 times over. I have a thousand amazing stories that I could write in books galore to recount the history of various events in music as history was being written. Michael Alago has more stories than anyone can count. How did he do it? Just by being “himself.”

Not to name drop, but:

… if you have ever found yourself bopping to early Madonna, he landed her first “big break” gig

… if you have enjoyed Cyndi Lauper’s recent catalog, you can thank Michael Alago for that.

… for helping book the bands in the New York music scene in the ’80s acts such as The Police, Prince, and even Divine in his music career, even the relaunch of Tina Turner’s musical career, you can thank him for that.

… if your soul has been soothed by the final songs by the legendary diva Nina Simone, you have him to thank for that.

… for making so many historic moments happen, the first Public Image Limited (PIL) show in America, as an old school punk, I have him to thank for that. He booked U2 for their first filmed performance in the United States at the Ritz (the most traded U2 bootleg, and what fired up their cult following in the US). I will personally thank him for that.

Michael Alago with James Hetfield backstage, New York City, 2018. Photo courtesy of Michael Alago.

… if you have ever been in a moshpit at a “Dead Boys” or “MC5” or enjoyed the music of “Black Flag”. All of the punk that flourished in New York in the early 80s, well, Michael Alago is to thank for fanning those embers into flames in the local scene and thus influence the music industry.

… if you have ever done the “Two-Step” or “Head Banger” dance to Metallica, or ever enjoyed a single note from a Metallica song, you have Michael Alago to thank for all of that.

… if you have ever laughed at the complete insanity of someone living on the edge, you need to read this book.

… if you have ever lost anyone as a casualty to drugs and alcohol, this book has something for you.

… f you have ever lost anyone to, or been affected by AIDS or HIV, this book has something for you.

… if you have ever suffered an incredible loss that was so senseless, you will find gems of wisdom and empathy in this book.

… if you have ever felt regret for selfishly hurting others because of your own mistakes, you will find something useful in this book.

… if you have ever wanted to get past your regret and forgive yourself for hurting others, you will find it in this book.

… if you want a message of hope from the man who has beat AIDS, signed Metallica to a record deal, took a bubble bath with Nina Simone, and a million other wild wonderful stories, stream the video and drop “I am Michael Alago” in your Amazon basket.

Michael Alago is a gay New York City-born Puerto Rican whose name might not be known outside of the music industry. However, his contributions to the music industry are immeasurable. The landscape of pop, punk, soul, and metal would not look at all the way it does today without Michael Alago behind the scenes.

He was just a regular kid with a love of music and spent every free minute involved in the music scene in New York in the ’70s, starting little fan magazines, and sharing the music everywhere he could, and just happened to have his camera with him to get shots that as time goes on are considered by so many to be priceless. He has an air of confidence, control, and in his own words, “Arrogance” about himself that just makes things happen around him.

First, he was a “Stage door Johnny” as a teenager at clubs like, “Max’s Kansas City” and “CBGB’S”. He started working as the booking agent for various clubs in New York, “The Ritz” the “Red Parrot” and others over the years, going to shows every night then he landed a job in the record business. Alago has the “Midas Touch” and called the shots on so many artists trying to make it. In mid-career, he became the A&R (Artists and Repertoire) representative for some of the biggest music labels.

Between these fantastic music moments, you will be sucker-punched with stories of loss of people most of us have heard of. There was Rober Mapelthorpe the gay photographer who challenged social norms with his work. There was Cliff Burton, the first bassist for Metallica who died in a tour bus accident. Burton was his friend, and Metallica was “his band”. He tells the most humorous story of his friend, photographer George Dureau, and his friendship with and his death. He also writes the somber, respectful, and love-filled experience and heartbreak of being one of the last people to speak to the vocal goddess Nina Simone. So many times I had to set the book down, stop reading, and walk away for a while.

Visiting Robert Mapplethorpe’s grave with Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, and Edward Mapplethorpe on the 20th anniversary of his death, March, 2009. Photo courtesy of Michael Alago.

There are crazy fun adventures, stories like Stiv Bators (of The Dead Boys) and him pissing in their beer mugs, handing them to some Skinheads, and then running backstage into Divine’s dressing room to escape getting clobbered. Divine just looked at them, knowing that had been up to some mischief and smiling, said, “What kind of trouble are you in now?”. For so many of these stories, I had to put the book down and finish laughing before I resumed reading.

Without shame, he tells you of his sexual escapades, living wile frequenting “The Piers” in New York City in the early ’80s, contracting AIDS, being given a death sentence, and then conquering it.

There is a happy ending, telling you how he photographs muscular freaky hot buff men and his photo work. He gives a message of hope, that we all need in a time like this.

Thaddeus Jones by Michael Alago

The book is a page-turner, and one of the best Rock and Roll Memoires, Michael Alago tells the story with honesty, humor, and blunt creativity. It is so crazy, that you couldn’t make this stuff up.

I was taught to enjoy and respect what I have learned from the things in my life, and for what others have gone through. I was then to appreciate what I have done, seen, and heard as a journalist, to cherish every one of the experiences.

I give it a 5.6 out of 5. This book has something for everyone (music junkie or not).

That is “Who The F**k” that guy is. Thus for all of that, you need to read this book and stream the movie.


Link to book on Amazon

Facebook.com/michaelanthony.alago

Twitter: michaelalago1

 

What do you think?