Originally created 08/17/97

Book follows Columbia band on way to stardom

Hootie and the Blowfish sold 12 million copies of its debut album, Cracked Rear View, and a respectable 2 million of its sophomore effort, Fairweather Johnson.
    But it seems laughable to think that anyone could be inspired to write much about the band, the way people write about Elvis, for example.
    For one thing, the Columbia band makes every effort to present itself as a bunch of regular guys who make simple music. Secondly, critics see them that way, to put it charitably. Many dismiss Hootie as an average band with a good singer who happened to be lucky enough to show up just as people got sick of alternative angst.
    Really, how much can you say about that? In Mike Miller's case, the answer is "248 pages." Mr. Miller embraces what others might see as dramatic flaws in Hootie!: How the Blowfish Put the Pop Back in Rock, a detailed chronicle of the band from its beginnings to the current day.
    Mr. Miller writes about music for The State in the band's hometown of Columbia, and this is clearly a hometown book on several levels.
    For one, he has nary a critical word to say about the band, but he is ready to lift a sword against any national rock critic who slammed Hootie's music as shallow frat rock. He details the band's charitable activities and civic awards, and the guys come off as basically flawless people.
    He also goes into greater detail than an outsider might have in reviewing controversy over lead singer Darius Rucker's remarks to Rolling Stone against the Confederate flag's flying above the State House dome in South Carolina, and how Gov. David Beasley claimed to have never heard of the band the week Cracked Rear View topped the charts.
    Mr. Miller writes not just about Hootie, but also about the development of a rock scene in Columbia during his tenure as music writer, which began in 1986. He writes in great detail about the clubs in Columbia, their rise and fall and the groups that stopped in along the way. Every major Hootie show in Columbia after the band broke big is reported in detail. If you hung out in Columbia clubs in the late 1980s and early '90s, this book will surely trigger the memories.
    Mr. Miller clearly has had great access to the band from the beginning, and his book includes many backstage conversations and interviews that appeared in The State. The oddest thing about this book is that, as much as you learn about Hootie, you leave with a basic impression of the band that is no different from what you get from its videos and music.
    Either Mr. Miller failed to get beneath the superficial level, or there's not much else there.


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