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Articles Home » Book Reviews » Book Review: 'I Am Michael Alago' Autobiography Review By Nina McCarthy
Book Review: 'I Am Michael Alago' Autobiography Review By Nina McCarthy

 

I Am Michael Alago

By Michael Alago with Laura Davis-Chanin

Released: March 25, 2020

Backbeat Books

By Nina McCarthy, Sr. Music Journalist

Boston Rock Radio

 

If you’ve seen the Netflix movie, Who The F*ck is That Guy? The Fabulous Journey of Michael Alago then you know exactly who the music legend Michael Alago is. If not, then go watch it and educate yourself and then buy this book.  I found the movie interesting, but the autobiography takes it one step further, going into the more intimate details of Michael’s life.


 

Growing up as an flamboyant gay Puerto Rican man in Brooklyn, New York in the 70s, photography, art, and rock n roll were his life. However, during that time also came alcohol, drugs, and sadly AIDS.  As a music journalist, I’m going to focus mostly on Michael’s adventures in the music business that he documents in his autobiography.

 

The journey in the music scene began at an early age for Michael.  He was always interested in art, music, photography and theater. Living in New York put him in the middle of it all. He began going to clubs like CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City while still underage, and somehow often found himself backstage. This led up to him seeing a “Help Wanted” sign in the window of the Ritz. (Sidenote: The Ritz received national attention in 1981 after the antagonistic performance by Public Image Limited which Alago had much to do with.) The owner, Jerry Brandt said, “this little kid walked in and there was something about him that was interesting.” Michael demanded a job and low and behold he was hired. Working at the Ritz at a callow age, he rubbed elbows with the likes of Duran Duran and Adam Ant. Eventually he learned the ropes from Brandt and started booking the acts himself, becoming the assistant music director at the Ritz and the Red Parrot. Alago hung with the acts such as the Ramones, Misfits, and The Dead Boys (even managing their Fan Club).

In the days of cassette tapes and paper flyers, at the young age of twenty-four, Michael began his illustrious career as an A&R Executive at Elektra Records. In 1984, during the thriving punk scene, he signed Metallica to their first major record deal, after hearing their demo cassette. Interestingly, Metallica was opening for Saxon on the US tour in 1982, when thrash metal was just becoming known, and there was only an underground metal scene in NYC.  They first were signed to Megaforce Records, an independent label by Jonny “Z” Zazula. Read the book to see how Michael acquired the band from Zazula. I’m not going to tell you all his secrets.

 

Michael also went on to work for Geffen Records and back to Elektra signing and working with bands such as Metal Church, Flotsam and Jetsam, White Zombie, and the Misfits. He also became close to artists like Cherry Vanilla, Patti Smith, Cyndi Lauper, Jason Newsted, Keith (now Mina) Caputo, and Rob Zombie to only name a few.  His stories of the dramatic and literally crazy Nina Simone were some of my favorites, bringing some humor into some of the dark tales. Despite Michael’s addiction with drugs and alcohol, which went along with the scene at that time, throughout the book (and his life), I was impressed with his openness and genuineness leading to long term friendships that last to this day.

 

 

Living in one of the world’s largest LGBT communities in the United States, in the early 1980s Michael contracted HIV. Ten years later he developed full blown AIDS, taking him to the brink of death. This autobiography takes you through the tale of his treatment back to health and finally telling his mother of the diagnosis. With the help of a cocktail of medication, which he remains on today, and the heroics of his doctor, Michael is now healthy and continuing to live his life to the full.

 

Going back to his addiction, this was not without a battle with rehab, relapse, sobriety, and reconnecting with his family, also chronicled in the book. I was amazed by tales of how he survived standing up to (and sometimes physically brawling with) some of the biggest muscular men and occasionally finding himself waking up in a city with no idea how he got there. Michael threw himself into the 12-Step Program of AA, which remains the stronghold to his sobriety to this day.

 

Michael worked during unprecedented times in the music business but with the emergence of computers and online file sharing and downloading, in 2005 Alago felt it was time to move on and focus on his photography. He went on to publish three bestselling books: Rough Gods, Brutal Truth, and Beautiful Imperfections, which featured his combined love of big beefy tattooed men combined with the artistry of flowers. Interestingly, Michael found these men on the streets, often in construction, and none of them were models.  One thing I did learn from reading this book is that Michael and I have very similar taste in gorgeous men. 

                                      

Michael continues to work as a photographer, as well as a record producer. He continues his passion for music, art, and literature. I laughed and cried with him throughout his story, which isn't over yet.  Perhaps there will be a follow up to this story. As I even told Michael, himself, I stayed up until 4am almost completing the book in one night. The chapters are short, constantly keeping your attention, and even included pages from his personal diary. I highly recommend this book, especially to anyone who enjoys biographies or autobiographies about the music scene. I Am Michael Alago can be found on Amazon. I will also be interviewing Michael in the near future to hear more of the gritty details of his adventurous life. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, head on over to Amazon and grab your own copy of this book, as I only touched on some highlights.

 

 

Nina joined BRR in December of 2015 after previously owning BB Entertainment which did booking, management, and promotion of local bands in her area. She also has freelanced interviewing bands, both local and national, for over 25 years. Nina currently focuses full time on BRR as the Senior Music Journalist and Digital Content Editor. Nina is a very dedicated supporter of music and is a familiar face at many concerts and shows throughout New England and beyond. (Nina can be contacted at nina@bostonrockradio.com)

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