This is how Chapter Five, Give This Man A Ride, starts in my Doors biography, Love Becomes A Funeral Pyre, published in the UK tomorrow, already out in Australia and New Zealand, and available now from www.amazon.co.uk
In his autobiography, as in later life, Ray talks mindlessly about Jim being ‘a satyr’, being high on the spirit of Dionysus, of being in fact the earthly embodiment of the overripe old goat god, just as all the great ones had been, like Rimbaud, Modigliani, Neal Cassidy…
Yet when Ray Manzarek first met Jim Morrison at UCLA he found him something of a lost cause. An overweight self-absorbed stoner who rolled such beautiful joints Ray considered them, far more than the incoherent, patchwork student movies he made, Jim’s real ‘works of art’. [Ray Book]
Garrulous, overeducated, supremely self-confident and already living with the beautiful, intelligent and cultured young woman that would one day become his wife, Ray was the alpha-male at UCLA, not Jim. As Robby Krieger would later put it, Ray was the ‘big man on campus’. Jim was the screwball. ‘We were all heads,’ Ray would later say of his time at UCLA. ‘Everyone was high. Everyone was giggling and laughing just having the grandest time.’ Few though would have as grand a time of it as Ray Manzarek.
And yet his and Jim’s paths to UCLA were not so very different. Both had arrived on the west coast from distant parts of America – Ray from the Midwest, Jim from the Southeast. Both were accompanied by the loves of their lives: Dorothy with Ray, Mary with Jim. Both had a marked passion and superior knowledge of film, literature and music. And both shared a deep and abiding ambition to somehow get more out of life than the professional careers their respective families still sought for them.
Where they differed were the ways in which they went about achieving this ill-defined yet ever-present goal. Ray saw his best chance of cutting loose being to take great strides at university, to get his MA in film studies and go on to become a big Hollywood director. No matter that so many of his favourite movies had been made largely outside the Hollywood paradigm, Ray always knew where the main chance lay.
Jim simply couldn’t see that far ahead. Still thought he could cruise by on luck, though the fear of failure never left him. Still thought if he turned in too early he’d wet the bed and incur the wrath of the gods. Jim never wanted to sleep again; never wanted to get out of bed in the morning; never wanted to be in class anyway, yet never felt more abject than when one of his tutors stood him up in front of the rest of the class and accused him of being, ‘Opposed to everything this Department stands for.’
A later incarnation of the future Doors wild man might have laughed it off, taken it as a compliment even. But 20-year-old Jimmy was mortified. It meant him taking the entire course again in order to ensure his BA, the very thing he had promised his parents he would do if they let him go to UCLA. To prove he was really a serious boy, and not the artsy-fartsy disappointment his father was beginning to talk about him as.
But Jim was about to find temporary solace in a new father figure, in the tall, bespectacled, all-knowing figure of UCLA’s favourite son, Ray. Jim would eventually rebel against him too, of course, in an inevitable repeat of his relationship with his real father, getting in the disappointment early before things got too deep and out of his control. In the meanwhile, he had also acquired a mother figure, in the form of Mary Werbelow, who against her parents’ wishes had decided to follow Jim down to Los Angeles when he started at UCLA in 1964.
Speaking to the St. Petersburg Times in 2005, Mary recalled how Jim had asked her to wear ‘something floaty’ when she arrived. ‘He wanted me to look like an angel coming off the plane.’ But Mary being Mary, she decided she would rather not do that and simply drove herself the nearly 3000 miles instead, arriving in L.A. a week early in order to surprise him. By then Jim was living in a small pad on San Vicente Boulevard paid for by his parents. But Mary determined not to be perceived as merely Jim’s concubine, refused to stay there with him for long and found her own apartment nearby. She found a part-time job working as a clerk in a hospital X-ray department, and enrolled for art classes at L.A. City College, where she was adored by the other students, many of who when they met Jim could not believe such a sweet girl was somehow tangled up with a guy like that.
I’m well, thanks for asking. It’s the not drinking and the regular going to the gym. And the going to bed early. But then I am always so tired anyway these days, can just drop off like a cat anywhere. Anytime.
Slept OK last night, which was good as I didn’t sleep at all the night before. Then this morning I went to see the Sainted Vanessa for acupuncture. People ask, “Does that shit actually work?” People ask all kinds of stupid stuff, though, all day every day. Walking around in a bad temper because the prime minister said or didn’t say something. Did or didn’t do something. Tell me, does any of that shit ever work?
Then to my office. Trying to get back into the memoir. I was flying Saturday but had yesterday off, wife and kids time, ain’t no love in the heart of the city without it. But the gap stalled me somehow. Took me until the afternoon to find a way back. Then finished just now wondering if I’m for real. Is this stuff actually any use? I am really not sure. Can’t stop now, though. I’m already halfway to Venezuela.
Going home now for an early dinner. Got a late one tonight. I am appearing live on the Breakfast TV show on Australia’s Channel Nine. 10.15pm for me at the BBC studio in Oxford. 8.15am Tuesday morning for Australia (Sydney). Talking about my new Doors book, Love Becomes A Funeral Pyre, which is out this Thursday folks. The best thing I’ve written, I think, since Led Zeppelin. But I always think that. You will have to tell me.
I have no idea if this shit is any good or not but my god but I have been bashing out stuff for the memoir. I have been typing so fast my fingers can barely keep up. I am almost too afraid to read any of it back though in case I discover I am actually fucking insane and that no publisher in their right minds would touch this.
Then when I’m making yet another espresso I’m suddenly convinced that this is a very good sign and that what I’m actually writing is probably the greatest thing ever written since Kerouac inserted the rolling paper into his typewriter and decided not to stop until the paper ran out.
Then when I’m stopping just for breath like now I am back to fearing the worst. Not in a coy way but in a very real, very terrifying, what the fuck am I doing sort of a way.
Do I exaggerate in these stories? Yes I fucking do! But then I think back to what really happened and realise you can’t exaggerate this shit. That it’s MY DUTY TO EXAGGERATE this shit otherwise no one is going to believe it’s true, that it really happened. Even when there are several scenes in it that didn’t happen blow for blow the way I am writing they did, but conflating several people, characters, real and imagined, together to make a greater, more real whole.
As a writer it’s an exhilarating experience. Doing magazine features, writing books, you are always having to stop and check whether it was Tuesday or Tesco, always having to root out the right quotes and get your facts straight. With something like this, a memoir, none of that matters. What matters is that the truth is in there somewhere and the only way for me to convey that is to keep going without stopping, without doubting, just running at a hundred miles an hour until either the engine blows or I run out of road.
But as a reader I fear the worst. That no one will believe me. That no one will care. Except you can’t think like that. Can’t think at all. This is not thinking music I am writing, this is dancing music my friends! To be played at maximum volume.
We are driving to Oxford as I read her out the email from my brilliant new editor with the suggested subheading for the memoir I am currently writing. It starts with the word ‘Sex…’
“Ah… I suppose I’ll have to write a few more sex scenes then,” I say tentatively, half-joking cos obviously this is a somewhat odd thing to discuss with your young wife.
“That’s OK,” she smiles. “Go for it.”
“Absolutely, Better make them good ones though.”
I am impressed by her gumption, her cool, her instant grasp of the nettle.
“Really? You won’t mind?”
“Of course not. As long as they’re about other people – rock stars – having sex and not you.”
“Ah… yes. Well, yes, rock stars having sex for sure.”
“I’ll probably need to be in some of them though…”
“I don’t fucking think so!”
“I probably will…”
“You probably fucking won’t!”
“I can’t have a book out that has sex scenes in it and not be somehow part of the scene,” I say.
“Email her back,” she says of my editor. “Tell her she can have all the sex scenes she likes but not with you in it.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Yes you can. Do it.”
“Fuck off! I’ll look like a pussy!”
“You are a pussy!”
We drive along, nearly there now. Over the bridge and right into the Westgate Car Park.
I sneak a look over at her but she is already looking at me, laughing.
“So you had sex did you in the 80s? I thought you told me you were a virgin when you met me…”
We both laugh. When we get back later and I am in my office I write the first sex scene of the book. Still not sure if I should be in it or not. Luckily my young wife never reads any of my stuff anyway.
“Boring! Why would I read that? I have to live with you. That’s bad enough…”
I thought I would bring this up as most of you – most of us – are still thinking along old world order lines. Let’s start with albums. Unless you are Pink Floyd, the question is: why? CDs are dead. And were just a rip-off anyway. Vinyl is an expensive joke. And was always cheap, easily scratched shit anyway. Even downloads are over. YouTube has taken them all out of the game, along with all the other streaming services like Spotify and the even better ones about to emerge.
You can still make a musical statement and you can make it as long or short as you like – BUT NOT AS AN ALBUM. No one cares anymore. We love music more than ever, past and present. We just don’t want anymore of your bullshit albums with only two great tracks on them, if that.
As the great American music biz guru Bob Lefsetz recently pointed out, not one single artist in America has had a platinum album in 2014. Not one. Most barely get to gold album status and by most I mean the Stones, U2, Madonna, maybe even the Floyd when that drops next month, though if there is to be an exception that’s likely going to be the one.
Instead, as Bob has been saying for some time, it’s about building up a body of work, one track at a time. That is, one GREAT track at a time. Can you do that? Because most, nearly all, can’t. Look at U2, they’ve given their new album away, keep going on TV to tell everyone it’s the best set of songs they’ve ever written and what happens? We’ve already forgotten about it.
Why? Not one GREAT track. Not one. Least of all that horribly over-produced Joey Ramone single. They will still be great live and their back catalogue is still as good as it ever was. So we don’t need another ‘good’ U2 album. We’ve already got some, thanks.
Same goes for catalogue-only, heritage acts like Led Zeppelin. We already got the best tracks, guys, we don’t need the rejects, no matter how prettily tarted up. As for the box sets and assorted crap, it’s time Jimmy stopped posing with the guitar and started actually playing it again. If he can.
Same goes even for those old monsters intent of clawing it back and staying contemporary like The Who. I love The Who. I reviewed their last album, Endless Wire (terrible title, truly average album) and in my determination to prove my love I gave it a v.good review. Then never played it again. And neither did you, be honest.
This is not like it was in 1976 before punk came along and gave rock a reboot. Rock was not dead then and rock is not dead now. It’s just that the game has changed as all games do. There is no new music coming down the pipeline to show the older artists where they are going wrong. The pipeline has already given us all the answers. They are right here on whatever device you are reading this shit on.
Same as TV. It’s almost otherworldly how Saturday TV, for example, is still Saturday TV. Like anyone knows what day it is anymore when they’re favourite programmes are on. Or that viewer ratings somehow matter. No one watches when they’re supposed to. They already have it Sky-Plussed or similar. They watch when they watch. Game Of Thrones was given a kicking for not attracting enough viewer ‘ratings’ when it was shown first time around. Did it matter? Of course not. Because we had the box-sets, we had the repeats, we had the Netflix to find it on. You put together all the people in the world who are GOT addicts and place them next to whatever the ratings are whenever they show an episode live and the two figures have nothing to do with each other.
It’s not about going platinum and it’s not about being No.1 in the TV ratings. It’s about reach. It’s about being part of the conversation while knowing that the conversation takes place 24-7 or not at all. The 9pm watershed? Gone, gone, gone, baby. Building the whole of your Sunday around watching the match live on the box? Only for the simpletons sitting there in their Liverpool and Chelsea shirts. The rest of us are out flying around, only checking it out when it suits us, if it ever does. On the phone or the tablet or the TV if we want and we’ll decide when thanks. Not you.
The only place left where the old world order still holds sway is Christmas. And that’s another reason why most people hate the whole fucking palaver. The sickly Christmas songs on the sickly radio, the forced bonhomie of a mindless set of old world zombies driven by commercialism and bad habit.
All now blown out of the water – or very soon to be – by self-knowledge and a better day. The only ones who don’t know are the ones who are already dead.
Books too huh? Yeah, them too. Though there we have a somewhat different paradigm, as books have been supposed to die since the moving image on the box in our lounges and heads first took over. And books go back even further than Christmas. Even further than time. Without books we don’t have any choices because we don’t have any words to make sense of anything. So they will survive. They are already portable, online, take them anywhere, to bed or the bog or simply hanging upside down from the ceiling. Books have always been ahead of the curve and out of reach of the future. Books fucking rock and always will do. If you don’t read, start now, you’re embarrassing yourself otherwise.
So welcome to the new world order. It’s not new actually, it’s just that most of us keep forgetting it’s already here and has been all along.
So The Doors book is out next week. You can pre-order here if you fancy by clicking on the picture of the Paranoid book and simply searching for The Doors: Love Becomes A Funeral Pyre. I will put up a proper button for it imminently.
To promote it I’ll be doing a personal appearance at Blackwell’s Book Store in Oxford on November 13, where I’ll be reading a bit, doing a Q&A and signing afterwards. There will be beer and a special Doors tribute band, Soul Kitchen. Details as follows from the Blackwell’s site…
Tickets cost £3 and can be obtained by visiting our Customer Service Department at Blackwell’s Bookshop, Broad Street, Oxford. Alternatively, contact our Customer Service Desk Tel: 01865 333623 email: email@example.com
Scott Rowley is going to be onstage with me, asking questions and generally giving me a rough ride, cheers mate. I would be honoured if you can join us.
Meanwhile, back at the funny farm, I’m now busy trying to write a new memoir. This will be the (sort of) follow-up to Paranoid, only 15 years in the making. Though only actually begun in the past few weeks. Not so much a follow-up as the brighter side of that particular moon. That’s the idea right now, we’ll see where it takes us.
It is an odd thing to do, writing down your (false) memories. There’s absolutely no chance of me recalling exact details, the old brain just doesn’t work like that anymore. If it ever did. Instead I find myself writing allegories. In what my esteemed gentleman publisher Malcolm Edwards calls my ‘heightened’ writing style. That is, conjuring up the impressions which do still remain startlingly vivid, if not the actualité, as they say in France where they know how to say the unsayable.
So today, for example, I have been recalling scenes from 30 years ago, and the early days, for me anyway, of Kerrang! magazine. Of prancing around the lounge of Krusher Joule’s council flat high up on the 17th floor of Maydew House in Southwark Park, aka Terror Tower, while blasted out of our brains on Old Grand-dad and Other Things. This while playing Iron Maiden records very fucking loud, as was the law back then.
Krusher once took Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield of Metallica back to this flat and treated them to a very similar scene, as I recall. On that occasion, however, it ended badly when James and Krusher ended up having a fight in the park below, after Krusher had taken offence at an alleged racial slur that came slithering out of James’ gob. Well, strong drink had again been taken so what did you expect? A night of peace, love and willy-fiddling?
I also, in an adjacent chapter, found myself recalling an encounter with Trevor Rabin then of Yes, during which my then girlfriend did everything bar pull down her pants to get his attention. She needn’t have tried so hard. Seems she had him at hello. Well, her tits were hanging out at the time and what few scraps of clothes she was pretending to wear somewhat resplendissante as the French also say, naughty but nice little monsieurs that they are.
This all does strange things to the mind. They say you should never go back but for me it is now too late. I am back, back, back, for another three or four weeks at least, until I finish. Where will it end?
So… yes… yawn… these Led Zeppelin reissues… well now…
You know what, go get ‘em if you want to, why not? I hear they come with a nice picture book and some drivel text telling you how lucky you are. But for most of us being ‘privileged’ to hear all the ‘rough mixes’ and tracks without vocals and etc, is of, shall we say, somewhat limited interest. Really, you’re just buying the pretty packaging.
I first bought Houses Of The Holy in 1973 when it came out. It still sounds just as good today. I bought the untitled fourth album back then too and, yep, that still sounds just as good.
So here’s what I and several million of my Zep mates would really like to see and hear – a new Jimmy Page album. I mean, there hasn’t been one for 20 years. Even Axl Rose has put out one album during that time. And no, I don’t want to hear a sort of sub-Zep ball buster featuring loads of Plant-alike singers ‘guesting’, Or even Plant himself.
I want to hear what the guy who brought so many different influences – folk, raga, drone, blues, electronics, west coast, east coast, underworld, overground – has to say, musically, now he’s in his 70s. I mean, what’s the problem? Could it be that he simply has nothing to say? Other than how much he still misses Led Zep and what a rotter that Plant is for picking up the ball and taking it home with him?
I mean, really? Look at Bob Dylan, three years older and still out there making mischief, along with some of the most intriguing music of his career. Or how about Leonard Cohen, ten years older than Jimmy and still at the cutting edge?
And wouldn’t it be pitiable if they were to try and become who they were still when they were in their twenties? Do not get me arse-about-face here. I bow to no one in my respect for Jimmy Page the musician. But I am puzzled, baffled, even a little embarrassed for him. What happened to him, and his music? Where did it go? He would obviously like to still be respected for it or he wouldn’t be wasting his time peddling these old artefacts, all shined up and winking like an old dowager way past her prime.
I suppose this is a fan letter of sorts, but I’ll not claim to have been a long time fan of yours, truthfully I’ve only just discovered your work via recently reading the new Kindle edition of Paranoid.
But what a great insight into your storied past it provides, I couldn’t put it down and loved every single page. I’ve read a lot of similar works including a lot of Nick Kent’s stuff, who you rightly laud in your book as being a great writer, however I have to give you the credit you deserve, as in my opinion you are every bit as good as he is, if not better in the way that I feel your style exudes a greater sense of humour and humanity.
That’s not to diminish the deeper meaning in your work, as whether you intended it as so or not, Paranoid is very moving in parts and you make your reader feel like they’re right there with you, side by side, experiencing the terrible and beautiful times that you spent.
I especially liked your tale of Richmond Ice Rink as I spent many hours there as a young kid in the 80’s, and I’m certain I got chips there too at least a few times, maybe I even created a bit of unwelcome work for you back in the day, but from the sounds of it it probably wasn’t too taxing overall.
Anyway, I’ll be sure to check out your other works, I’m not even a particular fan of any of the artists you’ve written about, bar Led Zeppelin, but I’m going to check out as many of them as I can regardless, such is the appeal of your work to me.
So I hope you can knock out many more books in the future, because you have a captive and growing audience.
Cheers for the great read, Matt
Only up to page 47 so far but am really enjoying the info you have included re the pre AC/DC days especially Bon’s days in Perth as that is where I am from. Used to work with a girl who reckoned her aunty went out with Bon. Have been a fan of AC /DC since day one. I’m amazed at the info you have been able to present without the cooperation of anyone in the band.
One thing you may wish to check is radio station 6KA. I’m sure there never was one. The “A” I think must be something else. A local radio/music historian Alan Cranfield I am almost sure will be able to tell where Alan Robinson worked. You can get him at Zenith Music firstname.lastname@example.org (the music store that has been in his family for 40 years).
I’m a huge fan of your work and just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your books. I consider your books on AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and Black Sabbath to be the definitive biographies of those particular bands. The research and detail that went into all of these books is astounding and I believe you have set the benchmark for all future rock biographies with the standard and consistency you have demonstrated over the last few years. You can add your Axl Rose book to that list as well, another excellent read.
I also must have read your Iron Maiden biography cover to cover around 7 or 8 times. I realise this was an official biography and therefore your hands must have been tied, so to speak. Knowing how in control Steve Harris likes to be I would find it interesting to hear what you have to say about the writing process for that book and would love to see what an unofficial biography on Maiden might read like (I realise this is probably unlikely).
Recently, I purchased your e-book Paranoid for my Kindle (the only book I’ve ever bought for the device) and thoroughly enjoyed it. The honesty with which you discussed dark topics such as your drug addiction was refreshing. I found it even more enjoyable than Nick Kent’s Apathy For The Devil, which I also read recently. If you intend to release another biographical work, like you have hinted, I would certainly purchase it, in whatever form it is released.
I have been reading your website lately and enjoy your posts – honest, unapologetic, an best of all, insightful. You have mentioned Thin Lizzy a few times and it made me wonder if you’ve ever considered giving them the Mick Wall treatment?
Also, have you ever considered writing books on Alice Cooper, Motorhead, or Neil Young?
There’s not much in the way of quality reading material out there on either Alice Cooper or Motorhead, and both certainly have careers long enough and discographies large enough (and personalities interesting enough) to make for a decent read.
And while there are some decent books available on Neil Young, I feel you could bring a lot to the table if you were to try and explore his contrary personality.
Anyway, I hope you continue to write for years to come, whatever it may be.
All the best, Fearghal Traynor, Dublin, Ireland
Just finished your book on WAR, and must say as a fan of the band since hearing Appetite in the school classroom in 1987, I absolutely loved it, in fact have read it twice on our recent family holiday.
Am now immersing myself in youtube videos to accompany the text!
Many thanks for such an enjoyable read!
I just wanted to stop by and say how much of an inspiration your writing has been to me over the years – Kerrang! In particular. Alas, as much as I’d like to, I don’t write about music – there are plenty who say I should – but about motorcycle racing, speedway in particular. I’ve just finished my eighth book, Kelly Moran: A Hell of a Life, who was once described as the George Best of speedway. I suspect you get the idea! Sadly he died in 2010 at 49 from emphysema.
Anyway, I’ve just ordered your AC/DC book – my favourite band – and loved the intro I read on the sneak preview on Amazon. Keep up the good work.
Regards, Brian Burford
Hi Mick -
First, thanks for some great interviews from back in the 80s. I happened upon a posting that purports to be by you. As you know, links fade and die and I’d hate to see such a piece about Steve fade. I was hoping that you could post it on your site so that it lasts a bit longer.
I’ve just finished reading your Lou Reed biography, which I very much enjoyed. I’m currently doing a project on The Velvet Underground and Nico and am enjoying learning as much about them and Reed as possible. I only discovered The Velvets and Reed properly fairly recently but they have inspired me to write some new songs and continue striving after a life in music.
I wrote down some corrections of your book whilst I was reading, and hope you appreciate these for future alterations:
Page 23 – ‘Venus in Furs’ should say ‘The Velvet Underground’.
Page 104 – ‘money and fame and no going home again ever’ should say ‘money and fame and not going how ever again’.
Page 151 – ‘As if as reward for…’ should say ‘As if a reward for…’
Page 194 – ‘or people he worked with, there very little time left to lose’, should say ‘or people he worked with, there was very little time left to lose’.
Page 199 – ‘him through a final round a cherry-picked…’ should say ‘him through a final round of cherry-picked…’
Page 211 – ‘if he would you describe…’ should say ‘if he would describe’.
Page 211 – ‘What then about he…’ should say ‘What then about the…’
Once again I enjoyed and appreciate your contribution to immortalising Lou Reed. Here’s a song I wrote the other day inspired by him… I have a few other scrappy recordings on my phone if you’re interested in listening, please let me know.
x Laurie Wood
My name is Wayne Madden, I’m an MA student at Sunderland University and I’m currently doing a paper on Ethics in Music Journalism. As someone who has worked in Music Journalism over the past few years I was looking to speak with lecturers, Journalists, artists and Promoters about their feelings on the subject.
Would you mind if I was able to send you some sample questions to be answered via email and have a discussion about this?
I feel its very important to gain the most relevant quotes and insight and would love to have your opinions?
Best, Wayne Madden
Just read your books on Metallica and AC/DC.Quite an eye opener! The Metallica one was very informative on the origins of the band and the downright nasty way they treated Jason.I must admit I found them increasingly hard to stomach musically from Justice onwards but live they’re still a good night out! As for AC/DC a band that no one seems to really know that closely at all. I do remember the Kerrang feature you did on Rock N Rio in 85 where you mention AC/DC just ignored everyone.Seems like it’s always been that way! Never quite realised the Iron Grip that Malcolm has on the band and also the possibility quite a few of the lyrics on Back In Black could be Bon Scott…
Anyway both good reads! Read your Zep book a year or so ago which again doesn’t just regurgitate the stories we’ve all heard before. Read your Maiden one which being authorised I expect was subject to heavy editing? They are my favourite band but I still think there’s more to be told that we may or may not get to hear about.
Will get round to the Sabbath one soon I’m sure.I do wonder that as the generation of Classic rock bands start to fall away who will we read about? I see you’re doing a book on The Doors.I read the No One gets out alive one years back.
Anyway best wishes and all that! Kev
I bought the book titled “Black Sabbath- Symptom of the Universe” by Mick Wall for Christmas as a gift for my husband but unfortunately page 360 is blank and the story doesn’t continue from page 359 to page 361 so there is information missing. Has this been brought to your attention yet? I do know of one other person that has encountered this problem and it appears to be a problem with all the copies I have looked at. The book was purchased from a book store in Sydney Australia. Many Thanks, Tina Haniotis
I am pleased to share with you my Second Annual Author Marketing & Publicity Toolkit – and to offer you the opportunity to guest post on my blog.
Write between 500-1000 words on some aspect of what you like about being involved in publishing, writing, and the world of books. At the top, write your name and list a bio of 100 words, including your web site. Email it to me at email@example.com and I will let you know when it is posted.
Lastly, if you need professional assistance to promote your book to the news media, please consult www.MEDIA-CONNECT.com. Thank you – and happy holidays!
Best wishes, Brian Feinblum
Just a short note to say I just finished reading “Symptom of the Universe”. Couldn’t put it down! Loved it.
Great stuff – and the best thing for me is it opened me up to Dio’s work with the band which I had always totally ignored. His drive & professionalism shone through in your text – and I am over the moon to be discovering a gem like Heaven & Hell now for the first time. So thanks!
One small request: my paperback book is totally missing the text on page 360! It’s totally blank!
Can I ask you to possibly send me the text on the missing page?? Bill Ward was talking about the mementoes he keep from deceased friends on page 359 – and page 360 is missing – before resuming on page 361 with Aimee Osbourne etc.
I know its a publishers issue – but if you can assist it would be great!
I feel like I haven’t quite finished reading it yet!
Perth, Western Australia
Hi Mick – loved reference to Crusts! In many ways happy days…simpler!
Good luck – the kid done well eh?
Happy New Year and all.
(I remember you mate – you’re probably thinking Who the fuck is he? !)
just devoured Enter Night, I read Star Trippin many years ago and I used to read your stuff in kerrang! and of course the rock show you did on MTV with Satriani in the background, and who could forget the thunder and lightning thingy
Vandenberg are Dutch, not Swedish
Aardschok fest was an indoor affair, it was held at the Ijsselhal in Zwolle
Other than that fab book, I really enjoyed the amount of detail up to Justice. You rightly pointed out that when they acted like wankers it got a mention in the book.
One more thing you did mention Ross H being thrown off, any idea why? Or is that still a touchy subject? As even before they made up it was never really mentioned why they canned him.
Best regards and keep up the great work. Bart
Bought the Black Sabbath / Metallica biographies in one go recently.
Now that I’ve demolished them, thought I would send my congrats on both of these fine tomes.
The research and attention to detail I think are great. So much in these books that I was previously unaware of. The following bits I considered to be worth the price alone:
- what bastards Sabbath could be towards Bill Ward
- what bastards Metallica could be towards Jason Newsted
- Tony Iommi’s drug use
- James Hetfield and Cliff Burton once considering getting rid of of Lars Ulrich
- pretty much everything else written about Lars Ulrich – what a character!
- and so on and so on.
Just wanted to say that I truly enjoyed the new Black Sabbath book. Not having read your works until the Led Zeppelin book, I’m hooked on your writing. You have inspired me to relisten to all the Sabbath albums-although I’m an Ozzy fan, so it’s really 1-5 for me. We will make the trip from Chicago to London Ontario this spring to see the show.
So [now] I’m getting your book on Metallica. It’s amazing that I’ve been a Deadhead for the past 20yrs and your writing has brought me back to my Metal Days.
I walked into Waterstones with a few minutes to kill [at Christmas] and could not believe my luck when I came across your new book. Having been a fan since I bought the Paranoid Album in Cattolica in Spain on holiday with my parents at the age of around 13 years old 43 years ago I’ve never stopped loving Black Sabbath. As you can imagine I’ve read an awful lot about the band over the last 40 years but your book which I could not put down changed the story I was so comfortable with quite significantly and I thank you for letting me in on the real story. I like your honest comments about the members of the band and your description of the albums, although I don’t necessarily agree with all that you say, not doubting the validity in attacking the quality of some of the latter original line up albums as I can see that in comparison the media view them as much weaker but as a true fan I’d take any of them on to my desert island. It is amazing how the Black Sabbath story thus far ends, like a fairy story, weird, twisted and sad but living happily ever after with a number one album worldwide and a place in history which is where they truly belong… A grown man, father, grandfather, businessman as excited as a school kid and ready to head bang at a Sabbath concert one last time…… but I hope not.
Many many thanks Mick, Stephen
You probably won’t read this and you might think I’m a little crazy but I’ll go ahead anyway.
I just read WHEN GIANTS WALK THE EARTH and ENTER NIGHT and I loved the way you wrote those biographies. I am a huge Metallica fan and I think your book is so much more interesting than any other biography about the band. It’s not some old friend or fan of the band writing about how great Metallica is and all the shit we already know.
It’s about Metallica and everything arround it and what made it what it is today.
Reading it gave me that excitement I had when I was a kid hunting for records, looking at album covers and just tripping out. Trying to be the first in line to buy your favorite band’s new record. We don’t see that anymore and it’s a shame.
The begenning of the book brought all that back by talking not just about the band but what was going on musically at the time. What might have influnced them in creating that type of music with other bands of that era.
And the story’s about the record company guys are great, it makes us understand more what Metallica is and where it came from. These people believed in that thing and they are part of making it happen!!!
Anyways, I just thought that a movie couldn’t do justice to the way you write your bigraphies but a really good well produced TV Series could be a great way to go even deeper in the story telling. Go deeper in all the characters, not just the band members but you could make an entire episode about a fan who tries to get in a concert, story about road crews and record executives and everything surrounding a band’s musical career, where the guys came from, their families and background and what pushed them to be Metallica!!!
I’m talkin about Enter Night because metallica is my band, but all your biographies would make great TV Series, When Giant Walked the Earth would be amazing story telling on screen.
Anyways, if you ever read this before deleting it, and you think it’s not a bad idea… I wan’t to work on it, direct it, play in it, be assistant camera dude or some shit but I wan’t to be in this. Just reading these books, I can see the scenes in my head, I think your a great story teller!!!
A series about these bands could be a great eye opener for kids to see what it meant in the days to start a band without all the American Idol and the Voice shit!!! You had to work your ass off and give everything for it!!!
Fucking GLEE won’t save music but this might!!!
Thanks!! Roch Beaudoin
P.S. My english is not perfect I know, I’m french canadian from Montreal, sorry about that!!!
I was reading the cover story in Rolling Stone they ran recently on the life-and-death of Robin Williams, and the thought occurred: how long before we start to hear about the suicides of similarly apparently successful yet deeply depressed figures from the music world?
Yep, there was Cobain. Richey from the Manics. And Freddie died of AIDS. And all the ones that drank or drugged themselves to an early grave. Or simply bought it in a crashing plane, car, motorcycle, heart attack, cancer. But I don’t recall a major rock star taking care of business the way Robin did, because they were getting old, felt their career was on the slide, and, worse, had just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s – a living death sentence for someone like Williams who relied so much on their speed of thought and verbal dexterity.
But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen sooner or later. We are all a lot older than we were just yesterday. Those not busy being born, busy dying, as a young folk singer once sang, himself now knocking pretty damn loudly on heaven’s door.
And when it happens, it will be even more of a shock. For no matter how much we loved Robin, or all those other actors that eventually faded from the picture, we will feel it even more if, say, Bowie goes and does something unavoidable one long cold night. You think Bowie hasn’t thought about it? Next you’ll be telling me you haven’t either.
Or still crazy after all these years Elton? Or Axl Rose, the loneliest rock star that ever lived? And what about Keith Richards? Used to be Keith was the only one we knew they could never kill. What do we say if one day we read on our phones that he’s taken one of his many revolvers, stuck it to his bandana-ed head and squeezed the pips on it?
Movie stars play so many roles, live so many lives onscreen and off, however they go, it may sadden or disappoint us, but it never really freaks us out because we’ve seen them die so many times before. Rock stars, though, they have always wanted us to believe they live forever. Like they have the secret formula to happiness. Look at Gene Simmons up there sticking his filthy tongue out gabbling bollocks about how great he is. Does he ever sit at home at night, alone, wig off, wondering what the fuck? He’ll swear he does not. Which only makes him seem so much more screwed up.
What about you and me, kid? Robin was only 63 when he decided it was all over. For me that’s only seven years from now. How long do you think it will be before it happens to us? Towel thrown in. No way back.
Recorded by their drummer just six months after Kurt Cobain pulled the trigger on Nirvana, and with that same skin-beater writing, singing and playing all the instruments, the chances of this being a success must have seemed so remote at the time as to be non-existent.
There was no big budget record company plan behind it, either. Just Dave Grohl on his own in the studio for a week, recording tracks one at a time in the exact same order they eventually appeared on the album, almost everything done in one take, the only exception being ‘I’ll Stick Around’, which took two. And the lead vocals which the drummer was understandably insecure about. So much so he didn’t just double-track them – old Indian rope trick for wobbly singers – he quadruple-tracked them.
All this, lest we forget, when Grohl was still deep in depression about the gruesome loss of his friend Kurt – and the instant annihilation with it of his band Nirvana. I mean, the dude was still just 25. What was he supposed to do with the rest of his life?
OK, yes, it’s true, Tom Petty offered him the gig on the skins in the Heartbreakers. And Iggy Pop would have been proud to have him too, along with several other-coolios. But Grohl somehow had enough smarts to realise anything like that would have been distinctly downhill after Nirvana. So what does he do? Decide to write, play and record an album on his own.
Balls the size of Seattle, my friends. Bigger. And heart. So much heart you can feel it beating on every single track on the album. But nous too. So that when he nervously pressed just 100 copies and stuck them out not under his own burning flame but a new one on all of us – Foo Fighters. Like what the… ? – we had no choice but to decide whether we liked it or not without the baggage that would come when we did finally figure out who it was, our gobs flopped open at the sheer… audacity.
Listening to the Foo Fighters album now I am awestruck at how brilliant it is. Hands up, I was not so impressed at the time, still hungover on grunge and the terminal velocity of Nirvana towards their end. I mistook the plain simple joy of tracks like ‘Floaty’ for a kind of lightweight Nirvana outtake. Well, I was wrong. Listening to it now it strikes me this is easily as good as anything on Nevermind, while something as nails-through-the-palms, head-splitting as ‘Weenie Beenie’ is right there with the blood and guts and spilled sperm of In Utero, and those are some of the albums I’d happily be buried with.
And this is before we get round to mentioning ‘This Is A Call’, the greatest single of the grunge era after ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. When one considers that most of this material was penned by their drummer while he was still in Nirvana it pains me to think how great things might have gone for that band if they had heard some of this, maybe, or if they had, they had recorded it.
Because the Nirvana influence, the sound and meaning, is still evident across all of Foo Fighters. But then Dave Grohl owned that sound as much as Cobain and Novoselic did. He was entitled. But that still doesn’t mean he was going to be able to do it justice, or parlay it into a genuinely fascinating career. But he did.
I get a lot of stuff from would-be rock writers asking for useful tips. Usually I don’t respond, feeling that if they can’t figure it out then they won’t get anywhere anyway. This is due more than a little I suppose to the fact that NOBODY helped me when I was starting out. But then that’s not strictly true. I was alone for the first couple of years, but then I began getting to know other much more successful rock writers and learned from them by osmosis. Sort of. In the end no one can write the damn stuff for you. And no one can keep you company when you are left alone with the computer, the music and a desert of white empty space to fill. Interestingly.
Here though are a few Dos and Don’ts.
Research thoroughly before going to interview someone. You don’t want to waste time asking for factual data, most of which you can now Google anyway, when you could be asking them more interesting stuff like have they ever hit a woman in anger? How often do they masturbate? What role does the inevitable coming of death play in their everyday life?
Turn up wearing one of their band T-shirts. Or indeed any other band T-shirt. If you are there to interview them for a fanzine, then fine. Turn up looking like a grovelling fan. But if you want them to take you seriously the way to do it is not to come on like the world’s biggest fan but someone for whom the jury is still out, will always be out, because you have bigger and better things going on in your life than worrying about their stupid band. Trust me, you will get a much better interview. Not because you will be rude but because you will be someone they can talk to like a normal person. A rare experience for them. No big deal for you.
Ask your question then keep your own mouth shut. Don’t bend over backwards trying to make it easier for them. The longer the silence hangs over your question the more they will feel compelled to fill that space. With secondary, third and even fourth thoughts. It is almost always the fourth or fifth thoughts that contain the gold.
Turn up with all their records and merch in a bag hoping they will sign it all for you. You would be amazed how many so-called music journalists do this. It is a most sickening sight to your average rock star and utterly scuppers any chance you have of being taken seriously by them ever again. First impressions are everything. Don’t make their first impression of you to be that of the slavering gimp.
Listen hard to what they have to say. Listening is just as important as asking the right questions. If you have brought a list of questions with you be prepared to abandon them the moment a more interesting subject comes up. The best interviews are never the ones where you know everything you are going to ask and are happy when they stick to that and nothing else. Allow the conversation to wander a little. But don’t keep interrupting. In fact…
… ever tell them you know how they feel and it’s funny because the exact same thing they are describing happens to you and etc… Rock stars are not remotely interested in you as a person. Even the ones I’ve known for decades actually could not give a flying fuck whether i’m having a good or a bad day. Don’t make the monumental error of thinking they will ever be real friends. This is a good thing as almost all musicians are in fact the most self-absorbed, arrogant cunts you have ever met. It’s a given. It’s amazing to me how often I try and explain this to other writers, producers, TV people, fans, whoever, who just don’t get it, think I’m being unduly harsh. They all tell you how bloody nice the singer in such and such a band is and they are wrong. It is a game. Learn to play it without ever over-believing in it.
Ask the right questions. A fellow rock scribe, someone I respect, once asked me why someone I interviewed had not told them in their interview about the time they were in jail. I did not want to seem rude so said nothing. But the truth is they did not ask the right questions. They asked about the band. Dwelled on the music. I began by asking about who the person I interviewed was when they were growing up. About anything and everything that ever happened long before there was any band or any music. The music we can all listen to any hour of the day or night. The rest requires a more enquiring mind.
Think it has all been said and written before. It absolutely has not. I just finished writing a biography of The Doors. There are many other books out there about The Doors. So why should I find anything new to say? Because this is my take, no one else’s, and reading through what has been put out there I found there was hardly anything worth a damn. It was all myth and orthodoxy and music music music. There are exceptions. Stephen Davis is one. But even Stephen is not me. This was my fresh take, in my own very singular voice. It couldn’t be like anyone else’s book if I tried.
Bring two digi-recroders with you. One will break down, fail to work for some weird reason, or simply work then not play back. It happens all the time. Or you simply press the wrong button. It has happened to me so many times I could gnaw my own balls off. The only way to save your ass is to bring TWO RECORDERS. Then if they both fuck up, you really can say well, I did my best.
Ever listen to the PR people who tell you how long you’ve got or what you can’t ask. Nod your head then completely forget you had the conversation, talk to the muso about anything you want. Just go for it. The worst that can happen is they have to drag you from the room with the guy screaming at you. And what a great piece that would make!
I would work all night, on a typewriter in the corner of the bedroom, a full ashtray and several squeezed empty cans of beer by my side. Weed and wine and a woman asleep in the bed, the smoke billowing around us like cloud nine. Around 3.00am I would rip the last of the tippexed sheets from the machine and staple them together, ready to re-read over a drink whenever I regained consciousness. I knew they were good but were they good enough? Never! I weighed nine stone nothing and was ready to rule the world…
I get up early, drive to my office, make espresso, drink water and nibble constantly at wheat-free chocolate biscuits. I don’t have any hair left to pull out so I stare out the window, fiddle around on YouTube looking for stuff to help me think of what to write about on whatever it is I am working on. By lunchtime I am starving and eat a sandwich or go and buy one or call my wife if she is not working and allow her to talk me into going for lunch somewhere (it is not difficult even though we can’t afford it). In the afternoon I am overcome by Diabetes Type 2 dizziness so I lock the door and lie on the floor, an enormous copy of a rock encyclopaedia for a pillow, and doze for an hour or so. I weigh nearly 14 stone and all I want to do is sit in a chair and forget about it. Preferably while eating lunch.
Record companies would send me so many CDs and records each week that the postman had to deliver them all in a special sack. I would wade through it, playing stuff, listening, digging, discarding, then get on the phone and do something about it. This while drinking beer and/or wine and filling up yet more ashtrays, lighting joss-sticks and pissing off the neighbours with my music. That took care of the afternoon. Then in the evening a gig. At least one gig, sometimes two or three. Where the night would end was up to the night. I had no reason to get back early, nobody special waiting for me. And besides the last thing I wanted to do was stay home and zed-out. I’ll sleep when I’m dead! If you don’t wanna fuck me baby you better fuck off! Etc.
I Sky Plus programmes I know I will like, or programmes I think I will like or programmes I just want to have a quick squint at before deleting. I do this because I know that otherwise I will have nothing to watch on TV and when I get home in the evening, in that small interval between the kids finally going to bed and me and wife collapsing, I will not find anything on TV I want to watch that just happens to be starting there and then. I can’t be bothered with football, don’t like any of the popular movies, or if I do they’re already halfway through and well christ who gives a fuck anyway? Some days I am taken by surprise and some crazy person sends me a CD. Nine times out of 10 they go straight in the bin without me ever listening to them. Make that 10 times out of 10. Unless I know them and even then… you know?
I was young, absolutely knew I knew it all – or enough about the important stuff anyway – and I wore a leather jacket, grew my hair long and liked to wear black skinny-fit T-shirts with the name of some band on them.
I root around each morning for the XX Large shirts, grimace if I find one with a band’s name on it – thankfully most have gone to Helen & Douglas by now – and try on various jeans and trousers until I find a pair that don’t pinch too much and I reckon I can sit around in all day without giving my hiatus hernia more grief.
There was only me and you.
There is only me and mine.
I still love Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Mozart… What does it all mean though?
I had to be at my office very early this morning to take a conference call with some people in Australia. That’s OK. I like being up early these days and it makes a nice change to be in my office so ridiculously early. The meeting went really well, too, better than I had expected. From my window I could see the fog lifting and the sun starting to shine.
After I got off the phone I checked email and net stuff and found to my amazement that – lo – Paranoid had gone back to No.1 on the Amazon Kindle music chart, nudging my great rival Cheryl Cole back to No. 2 again. This is without doubt one of the most surreal things I have ever experienced in my career. Being No. 1 at anything would be… weird, frankly. But to be competing with the likes of Cheryl Cole, Coleen Nolan, Bernard Sumner, Rod Stewart and all those other famously crazy cats – and beating them, even for just a day – well, why not just shove a broom up my arse and I’ll sweep the floor as I go, too.
I mean I was feeling blessed.
Then I got an email which brought me crashing right down again. From a dear heart who I love and respect but had somehow gotten into an email spat with. One of those things that blow up in your face unexpectedly and before you know it, it’s all gone johnny rotten. Bad vibes on both sides and no way to climb back down. Not until the dust settles anyway, meanwhile welcome to the rest of your day, feeling like shit and wondering why the fuck it’s always you.
By now it was nearly half after 10.00am so I called my wife and we arranged to go for a late breakfast at this place we know in Wallingford. I strolled down to the car and turned the key. Rolled down the windows and hoped my blues would blow away like wind through my non-existent hair.
As I reversed out of the parking spot I noticed God had decided to come along for the ride. I was surprised as you don’t see him everyday. Disappointed though that he hadn’t turned up at a time when I was feeling less stressed. Wary too suddenly because you never know what the fucker’s going to say…
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey,” he said.
“Where you been?”
“Around, you know.”
We drove in silence for a while, just the sound of Ken Bruce doing Pop Master on the radio to accompany us.
“I love Ken Bruce,” said God.
“Me too,” I said. “I used to think of him like a poor man’s Wogan but now I see him for what he is. A major, major talent. I wish there were more like him.”
God smiled and said nothing. I knew what that meant. Poor Ken. Poor all of us.
“I take it you saw the email?” I said.
“What? Oh that. Yeah I saw it. So what? On every garden a little drop of rain must fall.”
I sighed. I could do without the holier than thou act.
“I see Paranoid went back to No. 1 though,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said, grey-smiling.
“I thought you didn’t care about sales though,” he said. “That charts were for old farts and most important of all was the work.”
Now he was just goading me but I just wasn’t in the mood.
“Sales matter when you’re selling and not when you’re not,” I said. “There I said it, now what?”
He put his sunglasses on and checked his reflection in the mirror.
“What’s most important to you?” he asked. I glanced over. He seemed to mean it.
“Well,” I said, taking a deep breath, “I need the sales because without them no dough and no dough means between the tax and the VAT and the bank and the credit cards I will be fucked. Totally. For a long, long time. Longer than I can afford probably,” I added, trying not to sound too needy.
“But?” he said.
“But… I can’t carry on like this. I’ve had enough. I just want to do some good work before I cop it. Is that too much to ask?”
“For most of us, yes.”
“Of course us. What, you think I’m somehow different?”
“Fuck off, will ya.”
I was feeling irked enough.
Another pause. Then I couldn’t help myself, I said: ”So? What do you reckon?”
“I reckon,” he said, “that whatever you decide it will have to be down to you. Always. That was the deal we made, after all, yeah?”
I pulled into the drive at home, cut the engine, got out the car and walked to the front door. Left him sitting there, fiddling with his phone. Things to see, people to do. Inside my wife was finishing doing her hair and very happy. She’s got a new job and things have been going well and today was a a day off for her. I didn’t want to spoil it.
I may have been wrong about this one. Just a little too much Bono shoved down my throat all these years I was like a crocodile so choked with human parts I just couldn’t take one more bite, one more bloody sip.
Anyway, after berating the whole ‘with one touch the world can have our album – free’ (assuming they have iPhones and/or iTunes) schtick, my 14-year-old daughter came up to me the other bleary-eyed morning and asked, “Dad. Have you heard of this group U2?”
Sometimes, particularly first thing in the morning, I wouldn’t know how to answer a perfectly innocent question. Knowing this, daughter elaborated.
“It’s just that I got this album sent to my iTunes, I don’t know where from, I didn’t buy it, I promise…” None of the kids are allowed to buy anything on their phones without getting a pass from their mum or dad first.
“I know,” I said.
“It’s by a group called U2 and it’s a whole album.”
“What’s it like?”
“Really good, actually. I just wondered who they were and if you know them?”
Let me add, my daughter, an accomplished clarinet and piano and guitar player, loves music. Her phone is stuffed with tracks by all sorts of 21st century boys and girls I’ve never heard of nor especially care to. My kid knows her shit. But she had never heard of U2 until Apple, via kindly Uncle Bono, sent her the new U2 album for free onto her phone.
That’s when I got it. And had to hand it to them. Doesn’t matter all you haters out there writing in block caps about how much you FUCKING HATE IT that Apple have polluted your iTunes stores with the new U2 album, this is one trick that has worked big time. Because my daughter, who was just nine when U2 last released an album, which in her eyes makes them as old as Charlie Chaplin, now knows who they are and… “quite likes” their new album “actually”. Which means several million other kids her age will be feeling the same thing. Along with all the regular U2 fans who also have no reason not to love this latest bit of PR wizardry from the man with fly-shaded eyes.
Does it mean the album as a concept is now a viable one again and that more artists of the stature of U2 will follow in their digital footsteps? Wrong question. The question should be, would any of this make a jolt of difference to anyone except U2 if the album had stunk worse than a 10-day old corpse?
For there really was a risk being taken in making the album available to so many so instantly. The haters can’t be pacified no matter what. If anything, their presence is only an indication of how loved an artist is – be they musical, writerly, actorly, painterly or whatever. You can’t get the big love without the big hate coming too. The converts do matter, though. But they only join the dots if they like what you’ve given them. A very hard crowd to please, as so many things – apps, music, books, films, etc – are free on demand now.
Yet U2 did it. They came up with a bunch of songs that are now virtually critic-proof. Nobody has to ‘decide’ if they want the album, only if they don’t want it. And a huge amount of them do want it, so there.
U2 will now in conjunction with Live Nation embark on another globe-straddling, dollar-gobbling world tour. And no one even knows or cares where their album got or gets in the charts or whether they have a single or hit single or not to go with it. None of it matters. Because you have the album already. Or not, if you prefer. It’s just the tickets for the show you might want to decide about. Or not.
Meanwhile a whole new generation/regeneration is hip to their trip. Not swayed this way or that by who or what Bono is. Or The Edge. If anyone even thinks about that at all anymore. Let alone who or what Joey Ramone whoever he was or is did or does that was a miracle, whatever that is or was or was ever meant to be, back then in them there days when the olden people bought big shiny pieces of plastic and – don’t laugh – stuck needles into them to get them to play in boxes.
In common with most older-types, I find it increasingly hard to get a good night’s kip, the slightest thing – pant of dog, creak of door – enough to bring me zinging back to full consciousness. This was not always the case. Indeed, there was a time in my younger days when I could sleep through virtually anything, including gigs. I even found myself sleeping through my encounters with various rock figures, at different junctures.
This could lead to some tricky situations. Like the time in the early 90s when I woke up, still groggy, my head on the shoulder of Stevie Nicks, a long silver stream of saliva connecting my gaping mouth to the ringlets of her hair. What the fuck happened there, I don’t really know. We were seated next to each other on a couch at her Hollywood mansion as she showed me her scrapbook of poems and journal entries. True, this was hardly scintillating stuff, as anyone who has sat through some dreamy female showing them her family photos will know, but to actually fall asleep while she was doing so… this was surely unforgivable. It wasn’t even as if it was late. It was only about 9pm and I had only had a couple of glasses of wine. I can only guess it may have had something to do with the – literally – thousands of candles she had flickering about the house, sucking up the oxygen from every room.
Not that Stevie batted an eye. “Good, you’re awake again,” she said sweetly as I struggled back to consciousness. “This is a lock of hair I kept from the time I was…”
Equally bittersweet was the occasion, around the same sort of time as my misadventure with Stevie, when I was entertaining some guests in my hotel room – various members of the Hollywood rock cognoscenti, including members of Ratt, Cinderella, Thunder and, for some reason now lost in the mists of grime, Lars Ulrich of Metallica. There were lots of others there, too, and the party went on, as I vaguely recall, for about three days. Finally – finally – I could take no more and announced in a very loud voice that everyone should “GET THE FUCK OUT! NOW! I MEAN IT!”
Only no one could hear me above the noise. Or if they could they weren’t paying attention. One or two may even have wondered who the hell I was, telling them to get out of whoever’s room it was. Unable to deal with it anymore I slumped to the floor and flaked out. At which point, the hand of an unexpected Samaritan intervened, helping me to my feet and leading me to the bed in the adjoining room. It was Lars. Admittedly, he was sniggering loudly, finding my reduced state unaccountably amusing. But once at the bed he pulled back the duvet, helped me onto my back, took off my shoes then tucked me up.
“There you go, buddy,” he continued sniggering as he turned out the bedside light. He may even have given me a goodnight kiss on the forehead. I don’t know, but I immediately fell into a deep and peaceful sleep.
Inevitably, not all such encounters ended so equably. Once I awoke with a rock star actually lying next to me in bed. That had been on the Def Leppard US tour of 1988. After the show one night, once the hotel bar had closed, guitarist Steve Clark and I had ended up back in my room, drinking and smoking and examining our noses closely in the large mirror we had helpfully taken down from the wall and placed on the coffee table. As you do. Then Steve blacked-out on the bed and I couldn’t wake him. Not knowing what else to do, I had grabbed what I could of the duvet, lay down on the other side of the big double bed and turned off the light.
Cut to what was probably several hours but actually felt more like three seconds later. I awoke to find myself lying there staring at his back, listening to him snore, wondering what the right thing to do might be, if indeed there was a ‘right thing to do’ in what even for me was new territory.
Then the phone rang. In the ghastly quiet of the still smoky room, it was like the sound of a bomb going off. The phone was on his side and Steve, until then unconscious, almost leapt off the bed. Before I could say anything he had grabbed the phone. He grunted into it a few times and hung up, then lay back down again, groaning.
“Who was it?” I asked quietly.
He nearly jumped out of the bed again. He turned to look at me, utterly aghast. Then he screamed. “Aarrrgghhh!”
“Steve!” I cried. “Jesus Christ! Stop! It’s all right! It’s only me! Everything’s all right!”
He stopped screaming and just sat there staring, his frightened bloodshot eyes blinking at me, questioning.
“What are you doing in my… room?” he enquired.
“Steve,” I said, “it’s not your room. It’s mine.”
He let out another long wail.
“Christ, stop!” I begged him. “You crashed out,” I said, “I couldn’t wake you…”
He looked around, taking it all in: the empty bottles, the overflowing ashtrays… Then he simply got up and made for the door. “Sorry,” he said as he closed it behind him. A moment later, he was back again, knocking nervously on the door. He’d forgotten his shoes. I went to fetch them. He looked at them.
“Um, last night,” he began falteringly. “I think it’s best if we don’t… say anything to… anybody… you know?”
“You mean the rest of the band?” I said. “No problem.”
His shoulders relaxed. He looked up at me. “Thanks,” he smiled wanly. “You know how it is…”
Oh, I knew how it was. Sometimes you just need to get some shut-eye. Where you got it or who with was nobody’s business but your own.
I have turned a corner. Not much of one, and one I have been around before in years gone by only to find myself slipping back again. But this time I feel like I won’t need to come back. It began with the laptop my wife and kids use in the lounge at home. They inherited it from me when I bought my iMac (second-hand, 2012 iteration, since you ask). It was a top of the range laptop when I bought it in 2009, a ‘professional’ model I bought for the bargain price of about £1200.
Anyway, it’s busted, broke, demic, as my wife has recently taught me to say (look that one up). And with wife using it for work and all three kids using it for online homework, which is where most homework seems to live these days, we needed a new one. Toot sweet.
So I went to PC World. What a boring thing that is to do. I looked at the Apple site. I pondered Amazon. And I found some great-looking tops all going for anything from about £300 to £3000. But I envisaged my kids bashing away at it, chocolate fingers and drinks spillages on a consistent basis. I imagined my wife beating it with her fist when it didn’t work fast enough or some other damn thing happened which she couldn’t fix and I said to myself… naw.
So I went to eBay and found one going for £99.99. Refurbished. With Windows 7 and all that. And I bought it, fearing the worst but thinking fuck it, if it’s crap I can send it back and if it breaks down in six months it was only a ton. Buy another one.
And guess what? It’s great. I mean really, really great. Good as new. Cue happy and grateful wife and kids and peace-gobbling husband (until the next calamity).
Suitably inspired, I had a look at the EE website for a new phone. My deal expired a month ago so I’m entitled and yes I spent far too long looking at all the iPhones, hey, you can pre-order the new iPhone 6, hey, it’s only £66 a month, and etc. And as usual I thought fuck that. It’s just a status symbol. Don’t bore me with the ecology just let me know the damn thing does calls, texts, emails FB, twitter and all that.
I scrolled down. Samsung. New ones, old ones, gold ones and blue. I’m a fan, had them for years. But man my last monthly bill came to over £50 and that is bullshit in this day and age. So I went to the phone review sites, three different ones and looked and – wait a minute what is this? – they all were going nuts for this latest Motorola Moto G 4G handset that came out a couple of months ago.
I went back to EE and looked and there it was, unlimited everything, brand new, all in, for just £19.99 a month. And don’t bother with your messages about what a piece of crap it is, too late, mother, I ordered me one. And guess what I DON’T CARE WHAT ANYBODY THINKS!!! It’s a fucking phone. It sits in my pocket. It is not the be all and end all of my life. That’s right FB addicts, I am not one of you. I am one of me. Finally.
And for once it feels good.
So now I intend to apply the same rules to the rest of my life. Go cheap, where it makes sense, and ignore all the ‘advice’ from the netherworld. Go me. Go us. Go get it, get out again.
There is a gurning simpleton outside my office door. He keeps laughing like this: herherherherherherherherherherherher. Like a rattling gun. Herherherherherherheher… on and on. With that wincing air of desperation that people have in their laughter when they are doing it at work where not much is really that funny. They just keep laughing anyway, nervously, desperately.
I am on the other side of the door at my desk trying to write a think piece about Pink Floyd. That is, something serious, yet poetic, as befits their music. Something insightful, hopefully, that will suggest an extra layer to the story, already well told elsewhere.
But the laughter is stopping me from thinking about anything like that. I imagine taking a gun and going outside and shooting the fucker. But I know it’s not his fault. He is trapped, like the rest of us, in somebody else’s dream, and the manic laughter is merely his signalling his fear.
I sit back and take a long drink of water. It doesn’t help. I stretch my legs out, my feet touching the radiator by the window and close my eyes. Try and block it all out. But it is not easy.
There is the Floyd thing and there is also The Doors thing. The book is coming out end of October and I am writing a couple of pieces about it for a Certain Magazine. I am fortunate, it should help publicise the book. I am fortunate and yet I feel low. Hard done by. Not by the offer of work but by something I can’t quite define. Fed up being here in my office. Fed up being here in this same life, that I’ve known for nearly 60 years. It bores me. I am all too familiar with the terrain. I no longer care how it turns out in the end.
And then more laughter. What in fuck is so funny? It’s not just today it’s every day this guy is around. I think he is some kind of salesman, goes out to do the deed then comes back and makes his report. Amidst much endless nameless desperate laughter.
Meanwhile, back at my desk, there is also the Van Halen thing. Something I said I would write for a Certain Foreign Magazine. Again, nice work if you can get it. And I am so very, very grateful. Yet so very, very unglued. Neither happy nor unhappy.
And the emails. Someone in Australia is making a documentary, and asks if they can interview me, first week of December. I have said yes, but how much will they pay? They have not responded. They never do straight away when you ask for the money. And when they do they will say we don’t have a very big budget but we can offer you £150 and I will say that’s not enough and they will say well how much is enough and I will say £500 and they will faint with shock and come back and say we could stretch to £200 plus your travel expenses and I will say I don’t live in London and my travel expenses alone will come to about £100 which is why I want £500, cheap at the fucking price mate and they will say how about £250 and if I am sufficiently bored I might say yes but I will likely say no and anyway whatever way it goes come the first week of December I will give even less of a fuck than I do right now. Unless they come up with the £500 then I will be OK. But they won’t. They never do.
That fucking laughter. Herherherherherherherherherherher. Herherher. There is a gurning simpleton at my door and there is nothing I can do about it. I can’t even ask him to go inside his own office and close his door. I did that at my last place and was forced to move office because everyone took against me what harm was there in a bit of office banter that guy’s weird and etc.
The girl from Argentina who sends the long pleading email asking me to put her in touch with the ‘boys’ from Iron Maiden. The guy from Brazil who wants to know about Guns N’ Roses. I tell him it’s all in the book he says can I send him the book I tell him to click on fucking Amazon.
It’s too much. It’s not enough. My feet won’t settle on the radiator and besides I have work to do. I get back into character and try and go to work. All that other stuff is going to have to wait anyhow as I have a book proposal for a book I’m really not that sure I should be doing that I am hurrying to finish. My tax inspector needs the money. Has threatened to ruin my life if I don’t give it to him. I must be a bad guy for him to talk to me like that.