Getcha Rocks Off Extract – King Lizzy

This short extract is from my new memoir Getcha Rocks Off.

An odd thing about becoming involved in the rock biz is how few of my former rock heroes I have actually gotten to work with over the years. I meet people these days in their twenties and thirties and they talk about Iron Maiden and Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses and Metallica the same way I once might have talked about David Bowie or Roxy Music. Yet for me the Maidens and Leppards, Roses and Tallicas meant nothing, as a fan. For a start I was older than all of them, or about the same age in the case of Iron Maiden. I’d even been in the business longer. There was no thrill in meeting them the way there was when I met Jimmy Page, or Ozzy Osbourne. Or, finally, David Bowie and Bryan Ferry.

Even then, by the time I got to meet those people I’d been around long enough to downplay it in my mind. It didn’t trip me out. Not like the way it did when I got to know Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy.

There had been the time with Pete Makowksi, when I was just eighteen and stood shyly behind him as he rapped with Phil, and was appalled when Johnny Rotten, whom I’d never heard of, came over and started moaning about being bored. I could not have guessed that a couple of years later I’d actually be working with some of these people.

‘My friends call me Philip,’ he had told me the first time we met, and of course I was deeply flattered that he might think of me in that way – though I never did hear anyone else call him Philip, not that I recall anyway.

We met because Philip was always coming to Wild Horses gigs. Guitarist Brian Robertson had still been in Lizzy when I’d first met him, now he was co-fronting Horses with Jimmy Bain, who were managed by the same Lizzy team.

Robbo was only a couple of years older than me and he was always delighted with my constant pestering for Thin Lizzy stories. It gave him a chance to relive recent glories. How Robbo had come up with the riff to ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ but Phil had not credited him for it. How the Mafia ran the band’s record company in America. How Phil had hit him in the face so hard one time he thought he’d never talk again – ‘Fingers like fucking bananas!’ Times he must have known that, even then, would probably never come round for him again.

As the band’s PR, it would be my job to make sure Phil was made a fuss of whenever he showed up at the shows. But Phil could take care of himself. At least, he could back then. As the years passed though things changed.

The last time I actually spoke to him was at the end of 1985, and our situations were different. I had been clean, if not particularly serene, for over two years, but he was still deep down in the devil’s hole. You could see it a mile off. Not just the permanent night sweats and heavy sniffles, but now something else, the thickening of the jowls, the stoop no longer faked but deadening. The eyes forlorn and full of the pain of trying to hide it all away somewhere not so secret any more.

As well as writing, I was now appearing on the Monsters show. Phil was our guest that week and the two of us sat in make-up together watching the monitors, waiting for our turn to go on.

I don’t know why, it must have been his sombre mood, but I began to babble about regrets. I wince when I recall the conversation now. How thoughtless and insensitive, how plain rude. It must have been something to do with the low centre of gravity he now had. The pull towards the depths was simply inescapable.

‘Do you regret Lizzy never really making it in America?’ I asked him, out of the blue.

He turned his sad face towards me and smiled. ‘Yer, but dat’s like saying you regret not fookin’ Kate Bush . . .’

I nodded. Fair point.

When I heard of his death just a few weeks later, I was amazed. I knew he was still fucked up, still on the gear, the same death trip he’d been on for years. And yet… cats like Phil Lynott didn’t die just like that, did they? Unless it was an OD. But the papers said it wasn’t an OD, that it was multiple organ failure, brought on by years of bad living. I thought of my bad living through some of those years and still didn’t get it. Could it be that Phil had lived a life even badder than the baddest of us?

Apparently it could. And that’s when it dawned on me that I’d never really known Lynott at all. That perhaps none of us had. I wanted to find out more yet knew this was not the time. That those who knew the real Philip would be unwilling to share that information. Maybe one day, but not right now…

Getcha Rocks Off – LA Extract

This extract from my new book Getcha Rocks Off is a snapshot of my time in the 1980s basically living at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles.

I loved waking up at the Sunset Marquis to smoggy sunshine, eating a late breakfast by the pool, sitting in my shorts and shades, taking it all in. Watching Michael Bolton sitting over there eating breakfast with the phone permanently glued to his ear, same as he did every day. Loved it that at the adjoining table was Bruce Springsteen in deep conversation with Steve Van Zandt, even though Steve hadn’t played with Bruce for years. You noticed it, wondered for a moment what was afoot, then forgot about it as your own breakfast arrived and the sun took over your mind.

I loved taking a stroll up Alta Loma to Sunset Boulevard and Tower Records, just to load up on vibe, then across the street to Book Soup, where the ditzy chick behind the counter always had a gossip about who’d been in lately: ‘Oh, Mick Fleetwood was here Monday. I mean, he was high but he was cool about it also, you know?’

‘Yeah?’

‘But guess who came by the same afternoon? Stevie Nicks! Like, wow, coincidence, right?’

‘I don’t believe in coincidence.’

‘Me either!’

‘Was she high too?’

‘Who?’

‘Stevie.’

‘I couldn’t tell. She had her hat on.’

Unlike London or New York, where you had to run around town for interviews, in LA in the eighties they just came to you. I imagined my room at the Sunset as like a salon for passing rock stars and their old ladies. But it wasn’t like that. The hotel was simply one of those places those kinds of people were just born in.

You had to watch it, though. You could walk into the tiny corner bar by the entrance and not stagger out again until the next day. Time would run over you, leave you for dead in the road. If the party then moved on to your room it was over. Like this time with Warren from Ratt. I had a bag of weed and some coke in my room and he had his shiny new CD, so we made straight for there. As Ozzy always said, ‘You’re never alone with a bag of coke.’ Sure enough, as the afternoon collapsed into evening more and more people seemed to arrive out of nowhere. A couple of the guys from Cinderella and their roadies, Lars from Metallica, and a pet fan, Slash from Guns N’ Roses, on his own as usual, at least at first. He walked in through the poolside doors, no hat or shades, though you still couldn’t see his face behind all that hair, saw what was going on, had some, then tried walking out again but was cut off at the pass by two chicks in teeny-weeny bikinis and fuck-me kitten-heels.

‘Hey, Slash, can we get autographs?’ said the blonde one. ‘Sure, baby. Where do you want me to sign?’
He stood there lighting a new cigarette with the butt of the old one as they ran around trying to find a waiter to borrow his pen. The rest of us looked on, vaguely interested. Did they have any friends?
Then the girls were back. They both had pens but no paper.

‘Here,’ said the other blonde one, thrusting out her chest. The first did the same. They giggled again, that warm, Tinker Bell sound all blonde chicks made in LA when they wanted something. Were they twins?

Slash patiently applied his signature to their proffered breasts then added little drawings of a bad man in a top hat smoking a cigarette. They both shrieked with delight.

‘We love you, Slash!’ one blonde cried.
‘I love you too, baby,’ he said back.
‘Hey, what about me?’ the other one blonde pouted. ‘I love you even more,’ said Slash, grinning. ‘Can we come in, Slash? Pleeeeease?

‘Sure, baby.’

In they came. Then more girls in bikinis and whatnots began trickling in from the pool area, attracted by the music and the buzz.

Time passed. Everyone was talking very fast. I ordered a tray of stuff from room service and what seemed like a second later it arrived. Bottles of beer, bottles of Jack, bottles of vodka, wine, cola, cranberry juice, buckets of ice…

The room-service guy sniffed and smiled. ‘Hey, smells like somethin’ good’s cooking.’

Getcha Rocks Off – GN’R Extract

This latest clip from my new book, Getcha Rocks Off, comes from the lengthy chapter about Guns N’ Roses.

I first heard about ‘Get In The Ring’ when Duff – who wrote the original version – told me about it excitedly at a Christmas party in LA in  1989. Originally called ‘Why Do You Look At Me When You Hate Me?’, it was the Sid Vicious-worshipping, Seattle punk, Duff, who was to have sung it. He gave me a drunken verse or two and it sounded like a bad impression of Sid doing ‘My Way’. When, a year later, Axl’s bonnet was buzzing with so many bees he co-opted the song for his own purposes and re-titled it ‘Get In The Ring’, I’m told Duff was not exactly thrilled; his big solo moment gone.

Because my book, The Most Dangerous Band in the World, was published around the same time as Use Your Illusion II, it has always been assumed that the song was in direct response to it. Not so. It was all about that ill-starred interview he’d given me 18 months before about how he was going to ‘kill’ Vince Neil of Mötley Crü. The one he said I made up.

But then, as so many others and I were to discover, push the right buttons and Axl was ready to ‘kill’ anyone: me, Vince, his wife Erin (who quickly divorced him), eventually even his own band, all of whom would be gone within the next four years, leaving Axl to soldier on with an endless parade of trumped-up session men, maintaining the Guns N’ Roses legend in name only. Or, as the man said, printing lies, starting controversy . . .

As the years zipped by, and everybody cleaned up their acts, I became reacquainted with all the other members of Guns N’ Roses, most especially Slash, who remains a pal and someone I work with from time to time, to this day. But Slash gave up talking much about Axl, having been asked to explain the unexplainable too many times, referring only to ‘the old band’ when he had to. It is no secret that they would all happily reunite with Axl behind a reformed ‘classic’ line-up of Guns N’ Roses, but only on condition that Axl come down from his ivory tower long enough to actually turn up on time and do the work – which practically guarantees it will never happen.

‘At some point,’ Slash told me, ‘I just lost Axl. Everything was so out of control, then suddenly we came home and everything just kinda… stopped.’

It would be fifteen years before Axl finally came back with a Guns N’ Roses album all of his own – minus any of the other original members – during which time the story of Guns N’ Roses had gone from being about one of the finest bands of their generation to a weird tale of an angry guy living like a recluse at the bottom of a well somewhere, issuing instructions to loyal minions, some of whom now privately questioned his sanity.

Talking to Izzy, a decade after he’d been the first to bail out in 1991, I asked for his take on why things panned out the way they did. As the one who had known Axl since school, and had been his only real friend in the band during those crazy years, surely Izzy would be able to offer some insight?

He shrugged, smiled wearily. By the end of his time in Guns N’ Roses, he said, the band had ‘become like the Jerry Springer show. Everything was so magnified. Drug addictions, personalities, just the craziness that was already there anyway.’

The reason he left, he said, was because ‘I couldn’t relate to Axl any more’. Post-world domination, post-heroin, post- everything, Axl had been transformed from the awkward, ‘embarrassed’, small-town hick with an ‘authority problem’ who Izzy had befriended in their teens, into an increasingly blinkered megalomaniac, issuing contracts for journalists and photographers to sign. He even started to thrust bits of paper in front of his own band.

‘This is right before I left,’ Izzy told me. ‘Demoting me to some lower position [and] cutting my royalties down. I was like, “Fuck you! I’m not signing that. I helped start this band.”’

The key to Axl’s mania, Izzy thought, lay back in Lafayette, with a kid who ‘got nothing but shit’ and ‘never got no pussy at school’. Now he had ‘the chicks lined up, [he’d] got money, people . . . and the power went to this guy’s head. He became a fuckin’ monster! The control issues just got worse and worse!’

As for my own failed relationship with Axl, it has become the most bizarre of my professional life. Any rock writer from the days when rock journalism still carried real heft ran the risk of offending the musicians they wrote about. Anyone who didn’t wasn’t really doing their job. And I have had ‘run-ins’ with a great many, but almost always we have patched up our differences to fight an- other day. (Axl wasn’t even the first to put my name in a song, that dubious honour went to Gary Numan, in the title track to his 1979 album, Replicas, after I’d given a bad review to his previous album.)

With Axl, though, the situation has remained surprisingly toxic. When he arrived to tour the UK in the summer of 2006, I was warned by a still friendly face working for him that Axl had issued a list of names to security to watch out for every night of the tour, with my name top of it.

‘So if I show up at the London show, for instance, and some eagle-eyed security guy “spots” me, what are they supposed to do?’ I asked, mildly amused.

‘Throw you out,’ they said. ‘I suppose…’
‘You suppose?’
‘Well, I assume that’s all they would do. I suppose Axl might have given them different instructions.’
‘Such as?’
‘Well, you know…’
The irony is that I doubt Axl would even recognise me today.

The further irony is that you couldn’t drag me to a so-called Guns N’ Roses concert these days. I admired the Chinese Democracy album ‘they’ finally released in 2008 – or the first Axl solo album, as it might more accurately be described – but not enough to want to see Axl faking his way around the stage with a bunch of hired hands. If Mick Jagger formed a group tomorrow with a bunch of session men and put it out as the Rolling Stones, would anyone buy into it?

An Axl Rose solo show – now that would really be something to see. He has the talent, he has the story, he has the personality. He really doesn’t need to hide behind the sunglasses and big production any more. He should come out, show his audience what it really means to be bad-ass and brave, to be honest and human. To still be better than the rest.

If you’re reading this, Axl – and I know you read almost everything written about you – what would really work too would be if we got together and did a Frost–Nixon and spent a few days filming a proper ‘Get In The Ring’-style interview. Not in any real combative sense, though there would be that about it too, if you insisted. But something for the people to really enjoy and think about it. Something like an actual conversation between old friends/foes now old enough to supposedly know better. Come on, we’ve both lost our hair, we just have different ways of dealing with it.

Right, Axl?

Getcha Rocks Off – Led Zeppelin Extract

This is an extract from the chapter of my new book Getcha Rocks Off titled The Magus. It concerns the first time I worked with Jimmy Page: on a promotional project, tied around his solo 1988 album Outrider.

Jimmy seemed remarkably at ease with the new wave of Zep-lite impersonators who had scrambled to fill the Zeppelin-shaped hole the eighties was left with. But then Jimmy had hardly been slow at ‘borrowing’ from his own influences in Zeppelin. Maybe that was it. Or maybe Jimmy just didn’t give a fuck.

He’d lived his life ‘so far over the rainbow’ these past twenty years it was almost impossible to guess where his head was at. By the mid-eighties, outside of rock and metal circles, Zeppelin were as unfashionable as it was possible to get. Dismissed by ‘serious’ critics in their heyday, demonised in the wake of punk, openly laughed at in the aftermath of their grisly demise, the idea that one day Led Zeppelin would be considered one of the coolest rock bands of all time could simply not have been conceived of.

None of which seemed to bother Jimmy one bit. What bothered Jimmy was the sense that he was missing out. Like that hermit on the cover of the fourth Zeppelin album with the bundle of sticks on his back, Jimmy had been treading his own fearful path for so long he appeared to have run out of road.

‘I go and see Eric [Clapton] play when he does his yearly thing at the Albert Hall,’ he had told me when I asked if he ever went out much on his own these days. He was only forty-four when we met yet he seemed to have not gone past Go for a very long time. Smack will do that to you, though. Time doesn’t stand still, but you do. And when you finally unfreeze, as Jimmy finally had just a few years before, it was hard to find your way on to the right timeline.

Having been there myself, I felt for him. But it was still not a conversation he was willing to have in full just yet. At one point during process of the project we were working on, a major exec from Geffen’s LA offices had flown in to do some handholding. She casually mentioned how she’d been strung out on gear herself in the past. I had nodded along, making it clear I was no third-party virgin either. Jimmy got the message but clammed up when it was his turn. He really didn’t want to talk about it, acknowledge it even.

I tried another tack and asked him about his regrets. He told me he didn’t have any. ‘No, I don’t regret anything, really.’ The coke and the smack, the booze and the dabbling with darkness, ‘that was what fuelled us, you know?’ He hadn’t gone looking for trouble, he insisted. ‘Perhaps it was the other way round and the darkness found me.’

I found it hard to swallow. If drug addiction had shown me anything, it was that it was nobody’s fault but mine, as the Zep song went. Jimmy didn’t see it like that. ‘If John hadn’t died we’d still be going today. We’d probably have gone on to even bigger and better things. We were ready again for a new chapter. We’d turned a corner and things were looking good again.’

For someone who had once carved sonic sculptures with his music, who was able to move the immovable with such ease, such daring, he seemed painfully full of self-deception.

And what if Bonham had died after the second Zep album, just as they were starting to climb their stairway to heaven, would they have quit then? ‘Yes, it would have been the same thing,’ he said. Zeppelin, he said, ‘comprised these four elements, and once one of them was gone, the whole thing was gone.’

At which point, it dawned on me this was not about finding a common ground to explore the truth, this was about being let into Miss Havisham’s ruined mansion, all the clocks stopped at 23 September 1980 – the day Bonzo checked out in one of Jimmy’s plush guest bedrooms – and being expected to keep up with the narrative that had been running inside the old lady’s head all these years, the explanation she gave herself for the tragedy that had befallen her. In this case, not the actual death of John Bonham, but the much earlier expiration of Led Zeppelin, dead from the waist up since the day Jimmy lost control of his many addictions, and Bonzo then Peter Grant followed.

I actually felt a little sorry for him. Him in his Grade II listed eighteenth-century country mansion; me in my one-bedroom London loft with the slanted ceilings. Mostly, I could feel his neediness – to get back in the game, to be back on the cross, to get back to where he still believed he needed to be. But Robert was never going to agree to that. Robert, who would spend the rest of his life trying to live down Led Zeppelin, even after they became fashionable again all those years later. Robert, who would never quite forgive Jimmy for… well, everything.

Getcha Rocks Off – Daddy’s Day Extract

The following is from Getcha Rocks Off, my new book, just out this week. If you know a bad daddy and want to make him feel good. Show it to him. This bit comes from 1984, about six months after I’d started writing for Kerrang!, and recalls how I came to review Powerslave by Iron Maiden.

I was given the weekend to turn the review around. I knew I’d never get away with playing the record at Maria’s place, so I camped out at the flat of Kerrang!’s in-house designer in Rotherhithe. His name was Steve but everyone called him ‘Krusher’. Another devout follower of the left-hand path, Krusher would become my spiritual guide in all matters metal for the next few years, beginning with this new Maiden album.

‘You can’t just give it a good review,’ he said.
‘What? Why not?’
‘You have to give it a fucking good review.’ He looked at me, his raggedy Jesus-beard rippling.
I gave him the album to put on his record player. He lined it up with the care of a matron handling a newborn baby. Before we could begin, though, we had to prepare properly, he said. ‘We must first anoint ourselves,’ he declared. I looked again. No sign of mirth.

Krusher shuffled off to his bedroom. We were in his Southwark Park council flat, on the seventeenth floor of a tower block he told me the locals referred to as Terror Tower. He was joking, though. Wasn’t he?

He returned clutching several items. One was a jolly green giant bong, another a plastic carrier bag full of weed. Weed was harder to get back then than old-fashioned dope. I was suitably impressed. He told me to ‘load her up’ while he went into the kitchen for something else. He came back with two bottles, one of Old Granddad bourbon, the other of Mescal tequila.

‘First,’ he said, ‘we have to do some of this,’ pointing to the bong. ‘Then some of that,’ nodding towards the bottles. ‘We’ll also need some of this…’

He pulled out a couple of tiny pills from his jeans pocket. ‘Acid,’ he said. ‘Not the weak-as-shit kind. The good stuff.’

‘Wait,’ I said, nervous suddenly. ‘I haven’t done acid for years.’

‘Well, it’s a good time to get back into it, then, isn’t it?’

I looked at him again, wondering. His glowing eyes looked back at me. ‘What’s the matter?’ he said. ‘Afraid to play with the big boys?’

Fuck it. I took one of the pills and washed it down with a glug from the whiskey bottle. He followed me. Then we settled down to smoke the bong.

For the first hour or so we simply sat there stoking up the green giant and pouring the Granddad down our necks. It went down like Lucozade. I had never tasted whiskey so sweet and thirst quenching. Then it was gone and we were on to the Mescal. Krusher showed me the worm floating at the bottom of the bottle. The acid was now kicking in and the worm appeared to wink at me.

‘We share the worm,’ he explained patiently. ‘But to get to it we’ll have to drink the bottle first.’

Seemed reasonable. I ignored the giant worm that was now in the room, writhing on the floor – I wasn’t that easily fooled – and urged him to put the fucking record on.

Finally, at what now felt like some distant point in space and time, he did so. The needle found the groove and the world suddenly tilted on its axis and began to fall away.

HOLY JESUS CHRIST!! SHIT!!!

I reached out to try to stop myself from sliding off the edge of the cliff but it was too late. I was already on my way. The abyss below opened its jaws and swallowed me whole. Me and Krusher both.

The next thing I knew he was standing on the couch holding a tennis racket in his hands, playing it like a guitar. He leaned over towards the lounge windows, the view of London below spectacular.

‘LONDON!’ he screamed. ‘For one night only! We present you! THE NEW IRON MAIDEN ALBUM!’ He began riffing with a vengeance on the tennis racket.

The music was so loud I wondered vaguely where the cops were, who would stop us, how it would end. Then I didn’t care any more and jumped up on the coffee table. I stared down at the minions below, thousands of miles below, and I began to wave my arms and scream too.

‘LONDON! LONDON!! FUCK!!! LONDON!!!!’

What happened after that would only come back to me, in flashes, the next day. We must have done the whole gig then done it again and possibly again. Each time to bigger and bigger crowds. Each time to greater and greater acclaim. Each time falling off a mountain only to land on the backs of giant eagles that whisked us straight back to the top of the mountain. Finally, after about four hours, we sat down and started thinking things through. We looked at the album cover, which was all Egyptian sphinxes and ancient symbols, all now dancing in 3D before our whirring eyes. After that… more and… nothing… and…

It was a turning point for me, in ways that went beyond any trip I’d ever been on. When, late on the Sunday evening, the smoke still trickling from my ears, I sat down to type the review, I made sure what I wrote wasn’t just a good review but, as Krusher had wisely advised, a fucking good review.

It began, ‘We are now flying at 28,000 feet…’

But it wasn’t just the new Iron Maiden album I was reviewing, splendid though that was. It is clear to me now I was writing up my own make-believe future. I knew it even as my shaky hands tapped out the words. The only really good rock writers who had ever written seriously about Iron Maiden had been the snotty cunts on the NME. And all they’d done was take the piss. Obviously. Those were the rules. At the same time, the only writers who had ever given Maiden sincerely great reviews were the kind of well-meaning metal maniacs who wrote for Sounds and now Kerrang!. Genuine fans at heart, all about the music. But what good was that to me?

I would lavish something on Maiden they’d never had before, I decided. Praise from on high. Top-drawer material, not taking the piss, nor fawning at their feet, but something that flew as high as they did when they were tripping out in the studio on those blood-rushing rhythms and gurgling solos. Something that gave them a reason to hold their heads high and take themselves even more seriously.

That’s what I told myself anyway as I sat there drained of blood and spunk, pecking away at the typewriter in Krusher’s tiny council-flat kitchen as he slept on the floor, the album still spinning away in the background, more quietly now but no less haughtily.

I would write my review and they would read it and want to meet me, and that would be it: I would be in with the biggest heavy metal band in the world and so the adventure would begin.

I really did think like that. More ridiculous still, as I found out, they did too.

Getcha Knickers Off

So my new book came out yesterday officially and… my website died. Same day. Can this be a mere coincidence? Or were there malevolent forces at work?

Naw, I’d forgotten to pay my bill to my ‘hosts’ that’s all. Great timing, though. Anyway all better now and extracts from Getcha Rocks Off to follow over the coming days, starting again tomorrow (or even later today).

Is it like all rock stars say of every new thing they put out ‘the best thing I;ve ever done’… well, it’s definitely one of them, and I speka as someone who will gladly tell you now to never buy that old Bon Jovi book with my name on it or that hideous American thing on Bruce Springsteen with my name on it. Not saying I didn’t write those, just saying they pulled up to the kerb with a bag of moolah and a gas mask and I may possibly have scribbled a couple of words here and there without looking. That’s all. Anyway don’t fucking buy them, they’re shit.

Getch Rocks Off though is me doing my best to be me. The real me. Well, the fake me still but so fake it is beyond fake as the dear Courtney Love once sang and she turned out all right, didn’t she?

Aye. So, got treated by Robert my agent to drinks at Grouchos to celebrate. Then treated myself to a new jacket from Nino. Then came home and had to wood stain the decking in the garden mow both lawns front and back, buy new pot plants to make both gardens seem almost nice and do 101 other things to make the old gaff look half-presentable because as well as moving office last week we are also selling our house.

‘So now the book’s done,’ someone said, referring to my next book on the Foo Fighters, which also got completed last week, will you be taking a bit of a break?

I punched them. Sordid details foll-ow-ing…

Getcha Rocks Off – Extract 1

My new memoir, Getcha Rocks Off: Sex & Excess, Bust Ups & Binges, Life & Death on the Rock’n’roll Road is published this week. So I am running a series of exclusive extracts form it. This is the first and goes back to 1976.

SOUNDS IS LOOKING FOR NEW WRITERS. NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY.

Those were the magic words: ‘no experience necessary’. I’d seen ads for filing clerks that asked for more than that. No experience necessary . . . ‘That’s me,’ I thought. All it asked for was that you write something – anything – about a musical artist you knew something about it, then send it in. The lucky en tries would be interviewed at the magazine’s London offices. All entries in by—

That night, I made myself an extra-specially strong cup of water. There was so much sulphate in it I had a job getting it all to dissolve. I choked it down. It tasted fucking awful. Jesus God! I thought I was gonna chuck-up. My poor, sleep-starved eyes began to water and my hair frizzed right up behind my ears. I could feel it. I smoked a couple of cigarettes, gave the gear time to kick in, then picked up my biro and began writing.

It was about David Bowie, a subject I felt I knew more about than practically anyone else in the world, including Charles Shaar Murray, who’d been good during the Ziggy period but had got Diamond Dogs and David Live all wrong, from start to finish. I had never really forgiven him for that, and I felt Bowie hadn’t either. I would set the record straight. In the form of a review of Low, which had just come out and which I alone knew to be a masterpiece of desolation and icy peeks into the future, our future, the one waiting for us now we’d broken all the rules and there was no going back. This was David allowing us into his room, blue, blue electric blue: us and all that broken glass.

When he sang about always crashing in the same car, I knew exactly what he was talking about, almost as if I’d been in the passenger seat next to him. And when, on side two, on ‘Weeping Wall’, the synthesiser sliced open ‘Scarborough Fair’ so cleanly the two halves spun all the way round in a circle back together again, I knew he had to have been up speeding too for a very, very long time. That neither of us might ever sleep again. Expe- riencing first hand that terror. I knew that when, on the final, blissfully psychotic track, ‘Subterranean’, when in his wordless vocals he sang ‘Kay line, kay line, kay line, kay line, briding . . . lee shelly shelly, shelly omm . . .’ I would join in, howling like a brother wolf separated from the filthy pack, looking down with hungered yellow eyes from that thin, crumbling ledge high above the abyss. Me and Bowie; Bowie and me. Let me tell you about it, properly this time.

I wrote and I wrote, the pen dug into my speed-frozen fingers like a knife, and when the sick grey winter sun came crawling up the walls I carried on writing until I really had run out of ways to express it. But my mind wouldn’t switch off, and so I kept on. Knowing to keep on would be to destroy it, trying to say too much of what was really all too little. Wordless lyrics. Inside-out melodies. Upside-down rock that despised having to roll. I knew I would ruin it, and I did, but still I couldn’t stop.

Finally the buzz and burn blew itself out and I dragged myself over to the mattress, pulled the electric fire nearer, and lay there, my eyes staring open as I slept, the room full of cigarettes smoked and unsmoked. The way I supposed I liked it. Or said I did.

Later that day – or the next, it was hard to tell – I propped myself up again and read through the pages. Some of it was illegible, even to me. Some of it started well and went nowhere. Some of it just disgusted me. It said nothing whatsoever. Not even close to what it was I’d been thinking at the time, what I’d meant to say.

But at least you could see I could write. There were enough words, surely. Long and short. Writer’s words.

I carried it to the post office, bought a big envelope. Wrote down the address copied from the ad, torn from the magazine, and bought a first-class stamp and posted it. I cringed as I did so, imagining someone coming across it and holding it aloft from its furthest corner, by the tips of their fingers, regarding it as one might a soiled tissue found on a toilet seat.

Then I shuffled back to the house again, where I slurped more speed and this time imagined them reading it aloud to each other, amazed at the discovery of a new genius. Then I went back to seeing them crumpling it into a ball and hurling it on to the fire. Where it belonged. See that a mile off. Still, you never knew, maybe the right guy would get it and he would like it, see the potential, persuade the others to give this newcomer a chance.

Jesus God Christ . . . I knew the comedown would be horrendous and tried to postpone it for as long as possible. Knowing it wouldn’t work. 

Getcha Rocks Off – interview

He looked like you’d expect. Like one of those fashionable teachers. Glasses but ones that went black in the sun. Trainers. With stripes. Slim, smiling, welcoming, but balding and puffy around the chuff. He sat down in my office and set the equipment up. I had a long drink of water.

Interviewer: So what prompted you to write the book?

Me: Money.

I: Hahahahaha! Other than money though…

M: The chance to write something that was about me, not them.

I: By ‘them’ you mean the various rock stars you have known?

M: Them and all the others.

I: Yes, I see…

M: I wanted to try my hand at something more real. But, you know, entertaining at the same time. But mainly for me. And the money.

I: Absolutely. I totally get it. So let me ask you, this is supposed to be the follow-up to Paranoid, right?

M: Yes. That’s exactly what it is. But not chronologically. Just in terms of the type of book it is.

I: Right, because it covers more or less the same period in your life.

M: It starts a little earlier and ends a little later but… yeah.

I: Yet the same emphasis on addiction isn’t there as in Paranoid

M: It’s there just depicted in different ways. Different kinds of.

I: And there’s a lot more sex.

M: The publishers asked for it. When I told my wife the publishers had said they wanted sex scenes she said that was fine – as long as I wasn’t in them too.

I: That’s not how it comes out in the book though.

M: I am blessed in that my wife has never read any of my work. She says, “Why the fuck do I want to read your shit when I have to put up with it everyday?” I agree with her.

I: Haha yeah…ha… So are all the stories in the book true then?

M: What do you think?

I: I think they are.

M: There you go.

I: But I also think you have kind of… glossed over things… to make them… funnier maybe?

M: That’s one of the things I do, yes. Also, because the truth is something no one really knows or wants to know about. If I had to stick to only writing the ‘facts’ I wouldn’t bother with a book like this. I spend my whole life writing books where I have to do my best to ensure if I say something happened on a Thursday that it did. Paranoid and Getcha Rocks Off are the opposite of that. I don’t give a fuck how anyone else remembers it, or how they think it went down, or whether they think I am honest, or right, or whatever the fuck it is they mistakenly think writing is about. In these books then I am god and the devil and the bloke standing on the corner looking the other way. I am the one who never quite gets it, doesn’t trust truth, doesn’t know what anyone else wants and doesn’t care. I just want to write what I want to write just to see what comes out. That’s the only sure way I know to really try and reach the truth. Or let the truth reach me. Not by telling exactly how it happened or even if it happened. But just opening the door and letting the smell out.

I: Yes, I see. Of course, I can’t let you go without asking what everyone wants to know. How did you end up in that Axl Rose song?

M: Oh for fuck’s sake.

I wondered to myself: can I be bothered to get into that again? No. I can’t. Told him we’d have to end it there. I had somewhere else I really had to be. Then after he packed his equipment away and left I went back to my seat and had another long drink of water. Thought about a piss. And whether to write a blog. I haven’t been keeping up with them much lately. Haven’t been able to think of anything much to say. Been too busy being too busy. Maybe next time…