Die Soft

They keep dying. Chris Squire not even the latest though one of the greatest. It’s just our time. Should we fear it? No. But we do. If you’re under 50 you really won’t get it, but once you pass the magic marker of a half century two things occur: one, you cannot believe how it happened. It’s like you were watching TV or staring out the window one day in your early-30s, got up to make a cup of tea, came back and suddenly you are 50. Like, it’s not even fair. It feels wrong. There you were imagining you’d have changed somehow, grown into something more comprehending by the time you got to that late stage of the game. But you haven’t. Nor will. You just get used to the repeat prescriptions, the funerals, the aches and pains of just moving around, the weird way in which young girls no longer check you out. You think rock stars or any different? You really aren’t old enough yet then.

The other thing that occurs is the imminent arrival of your own death. It’s the secret of life, of course, the special sauce that turns merely existing into actual living. No sun without the moon. No life without death. But for most of your life you haven’t felt you would have to deal with it directly, on a one to one level. Until now. Just knowing that knock on the door could come any time at all. Now even. Or maybe yesterday, you just haven’t picked up on the signs yet.

What does it mean for rock? Nothing. Rock gave up the ghost 20 years ago, with the grunge scene. How many life-changingly great rock albums released since then? None. How many so called new bands doing anything – anything – in the rock sphere you haven’t seen and heard a zillion times before? None. Not a one.

Even the album is dead. Oh, you can make and you can download them or stream them but no one with half a brain gives a shit. I must have ‘bought’ maybe three ‘new’ albums in as many years. All by either Miles Davis or Bob Dylan. And the week before last I sold the lot to a market stall dealer I happened to meet selling some of my books in Oxford Market. I now no longer possess a single CD or vinyl record. Phew, what a relief. And Neil Young is still groaning on about bandwidth and quality. It’s like fishing or riding motorcycles. Really great if you’re into it but don’t try and make it the law. Not for me or my kind. I do not give a fuck. Love music, hate old bores.

Instead, I walk slow these days and drink plenty of water. I still lose my cool – hey, I’ve got a wife and three kids, it’s amazing I have any cool left at all. But not like the days of blood and thunder. I walk towards my own death only pausing to note the deaths of Squire and others with a short and steady gaze. I actually look forward to the death of certain rock stars. It’s the only thing they’ve got left to keep us entertained or interested.

Dirty Old Town

Been spending the past few days in London, one way or another. Was there at the weekend with my wife and kids. Not staying at the Bucket Of Blood this thine though, but at an even worse dive called the Teddy Bear, in Paddington. We had booked a ‘four-bed suite’. What we got was two rooms on top of each other, both with two beds in – and no room for anything else. The curtains by the windows were both burned from being too near the night lights, and the windows looked out over grey roofs and walls – and the smell of some cunt smoking nearby. Smoke if you must but when I book a non-smoking room I don’t expect you to do it outside my window. They didn’t even do a cooked breakfast. For that, we walked over to the Bucket where their traditional menu of burnt toast, rubber eggs and old socks sausage looked entirely edible for once.

The rest of the time was good though, much walking round Camden Market on a hot Saturday afternoon, buying an array of incense-soused tat that pleased wife and kids no end, and helped relieve me of that bundle of cash I had been squeezing so lovingly in my pocket. In the evening we went to Mele e Pere in Brewer Street where they took such care of my boy, making him an off-menu spag-bol he scoffed, I vowed never to eat anywhere else again. Then we went to wander around Covent Garden until the Sat Nite crazies started coming out and we taxied back to beddy at the Teddy.

Oddly, and I did not plan it this way, but I had to be back in London first thing Monday for some work-type… work. Meetings, don’t you know. Greetings. Everyone talking at once. Big open plan offices and small dark corners elsewhere. Then in the evening, forward to Soho and yonder public house.

Then yesterday, the same thing all over again. Except this time I ended up in Joe Allen’s with a certain editor very close to my wallet. Got there early, left there late. I believe there was food involved at some point. But mainly it was the drink. Pitchers of beer and frosted-glasses of Vodka Martinis (with a twist). I always know when I’ve probably gone a little too far the night before when I wake up the next day with my head on the floor beside the bed next to me. And I reach down for it and can’t quite get it back on the right way round.

All most acceptable most days when all I have to look presentable for is myself me and I in my little office all alone and lonesome. But not this one as I was back in someone else’s office doing the do for much of the day. Still, I will be leaving shortly so thought before I do I would bring you up to date. Admit it, you only miss it when I don’t.

I Bet You Have Some Crazy Stories…

Yeah, I do. The craziest though are not the ones that involve rock stars. The stories that I still think about the most are the ones that run much deeper, that involve real blood, not the fake Hollyweird kind, the real-life tales I often recall through the barely parted fingers of my hands as I hide my face in shame. The times when I would hang around Joe and Bareen knowing they were going out to eat – there was a greasy spoon stayed open late in Acton Vale, sold proper grub dinners for like £3. I wouldn’t have had hot food for several days, had zero spondoolicks, just knew if I hung on long enough and pretended to not know better they would just let me tag along, then at the end when it was time to pay the Greek at the counter I would feign shock at that missing fiver, sure I had one in my pocket when I came out, and Joe would look at me sideways about to say something but Bareen would squeeze his arm and Joe’s better nature would take over. Man, I think I would have died if it hadn’t been for Joe. Then years later when things were going good for me (though bad really) brushing him off because… I don’t know… because I was a cunt, basically. Then all those years since then regretting it, shuddering, still thinking about it.

The times in my life and career when I have let far lesser mortals walk over me. Back and forth, back and forth, until what was left of my so-called soul was squelched into nothingness. Hating them for it but hating myself more for allowing it to happen. Then seeing that same truck come steaming down the street towards me again, and allowing it to hit – again.

Ah, shit, so what? Lately, I feel like I am turning a corner. We – wife and I – are selling our house and using the proceeds to pay off all our (enormous) debts. We should have enough left over plus our usual income to live something like the good life. (Definition of the good life: a plate of something good and a glass of something better to go with it each night and many days of doing something I actually enjoy for a living, rather than anything I can get my hands on just to keep that rotten death trip wolf from the broken door.)

Hey, we might even have a holiday. A proper holiday. No more half-arsed trips to Norfolk (hi six!) or sending wife and kids away to Dorset while I stay behind to work, work, work. Somewhere hot and fabulous and fine where life feels like it’s forever. Haven’t had one of those for nearly 20 years. Ridiculous. Pitiful. Wrong.

Time to make it right. So this next year is going to see me doing stuff I actually want to do. So that if I die the day after tomorrow I will do so no longer a prisoner to someone else’s idea of money and the hell we most of us have to go through to get it, only to give it straight back again. Starting with a nice new tailor-made dude suit from my mainman Nino. Hey, baby!

One Nervous Cat

This extract from Getcha Rocks Off concerns the chapter on Steve Clark of Def Leppard, and how he was falling apart on the road.

Steve had a sideways kind of way of talking, skipping certain words, leaving you to fill in the blanks. But I knew what he was talking about, all right… getting up just as the sun goes down, fumbling blindly for the Tylenol, searching for your head among the ruins of your room, trying to put it all back together and failing… ah, God, the pain, the sickness, the regret… the overpowering stench of your own mortality clogging up the room. Then staggering to the bathroom, cowering in the shower… gagging as you brush your teeth… anything to try to clear away the poisonous shad-ows that hover over everything like a cloud of flies. Collapsing exhausted back on the bed, staring at the silver room-service tray… swamped by thoughts of death, thoughts of home, thoughts of fakery… thoughts of all the things you didn’t do yesterday that deep down inside you know you won’t be doing again today.

Deep down inside… what a terrible place to wake up to each day on the road. It was bad enough for officially sanctioned freeloaders like me, there just for a few days at a time to write a story or shoot a TV clip. But for Steve, there not only for the long haul but also as a principle member of the team, the pain and the guilt must have been overwhelming. And the worse he felt, the more quickly he moved to kill the pain with vodka and cocaine and anything else he could get his shaky hands on. Which just fed the guilt more. What a rotten wheel to be trapped on. What a death trip. I couldn’t figure it. Why didn’t he just stop? Even just for a little while, until he had it together again? Or just slow down? What was his fucking hurry anyway?

But whenever I suggested it, even just casually, he’d shake his long, blond tresses impatiently. ‘I do… do that… but then… I dunno. I mean… What else is there?’

He had me there. ‘I never really… drink. Never… anything… before I go on,’ he lied. ‘I always try to do the gig straight.’ That part I did believe. ‘It’s just… after. What’s the… I mean… few drinks… whatever… What’s wrong with that?’

He made it sound so reasonable. If only the reality had been as straightforward. By the time I got to know Steve well enough for him to talk to me about this stuff – the first time, as I recall, after a Leppard gig in Milan, in the spring of ’88, when some chick from the Italian record company slipped a couple of grams in his hand – he was, it transpired, already on a round- the-clock regime of vodka, schnapps, beer, cocaine, painkillers, antidepressants, sleeping tablets and various other party-favour tranquillisers. A strong, fit man would have buckled under the weight of that medicine chest. Steve was neither a strong nor a fit man and the wonder was that he was still able to get up on that stage each night and run around like he did. Even without the added extras, he was smoking maybe forty cigarettes a day, would go limp at the very mention of the word ‘exercise’, and hardly ever hit the sack before daybreak.

In retrospect then, you might say he was an accident waiting to happen; that somebody should have done something to stop him before it was too late. As one of those possible somebodies, I would say this: the Steve Clark I knew looked and talked like a man for whom the tragedy had already occurred. That maybe it was already too late to help him.

Maybe.

Getcha Rocks Off Extract – Mr Big

This is an extract from my new book Getcha Rocks Off, a snippet from the chapter concerning my time working with the Godfather of Rock – Don Arden.

Determined to do something for her ailing father, Sharon Osbourne encouraged Don to finish his memoirs, a project he had been working on sporadically for five years. But he needed a writer to work with. Sharon recommended me.

We would meet a couple of times a week at the luxury Park Lane apartment he was renting while he was in London working with me on the book. Don was old, and he could be painfully funny, and I certainly enjoyed my time with him. It wasn’t every day, after all, that one got to hang out with a genuine mafiosi-connected throwback to the time when the music biz really did resemble the Wild West.

Don, however, was still quite frightening when he wanted to be. He no longer actively hung people out of windows or placed a loaded gun against their heads. (‘Sometimes I would just lay it on the table at meetings,’ he told me. ‘It had a wonderful way of focusing everybody’s minds.’) But he was always quick to suggest he still knew people who did.

How much of this was simple bravado and how much real, I couldn’t gauge. I sensed it was probably the former, but not enough to put it to the test. Not when he was continually telling me stories of all the different people he had ‘sorted out’ over the sixty years he had been in the business – like the stage manager he’d beaten up and ‘rolled down the stairs like a bundle of rags’ in his days as a young song-and-dance man, whose crime was, ‘Fucking up the lights during my act, then not even apologising!’

Then there were the bootleggers and drug pushers he’d broken the arms and legs of during his days as a tour promoter – ‘The scum of the earth, I’d leave them unconscious in the gutter’. And the rival managers he’d ‘given a kick up the arse to’ like Robert Stigwood and, less famously but even more brutally, Clifford Davis, who’d had the misfortune to challenge Don over management of sixties’ hit makers The Move.

Don recounted with typical relish the day he turned up unannounced at Clifford’s office: ‘He had a big cigar in his mouth and he said, “I know where you live, Don.” I said, “Take that fucking cigar out of your mouth, I can’t hear what you’re saying.”’

At which point, according to Don, he held the unfortunate Clifford in a headlock then ground the lit end of the cigar into his face, ‘Right between the eyes.’

What did Clifford do? I asked, in shock.

‘Oh, he cried out and all that. He struggled at first then his body went all limp. I felt so good afterwards I dismissed my driver and walked home…’

Other times, he’d tell me old music hall jokes and sing me funny little Yiddisher songs ‘from the old days’ when he was a variety star, headlining the London Palladium or appearing on TV in the 1950s as one of the original Black and White Minstrels.

One day, I turned around and he was wearing my jacket. It was a worn old thing purchased from a charity shop on a whim, because it looked vaguely foppish, I thought, in a post-modern kind of not-bad-for-a-fiver sort of way.

‘What the fuck is this?’ he roared, prancing around the room in it. ‘If you’re gonna be hanging round with me we’re gonna have to get you to my tailor!’ I smiled weakly. ‘We don’t want people thinking I associate with a fucking tramp!’

Partay…

Finished writing the Foo Fighters book on a Friday afternoon while standing at my desk. Had to hurry up and send as I had to run and pick up my handsome boy from school. I don’t know what happened to the next few days, I think I was running around with my wife trying to get the house fixed up ready to sell. Anyway, the following Thursday Getcha Rocks Off was published. I really like the cover. You have to hold the hardback in your hands to really appreciate it. I started reading it that night, something I never do with my books usually, but this one of course is different. It’s not about some big old band, it’s about big old me. Or a version of me anyway, don’t for a minute think it carries nothing but the truth. I would not have allowed it to be that dull.

Meanwhile, the For Sale sign went up outside the house a week later, two days after that we got an offer – and took it. In about a month from now we will be on our way. People keep asking: where you going? We laugh and say: We don’t know!

Then last Tuesday it was my birthday. 57. How in fuck did that happen? I just shrugged as I wrote that. Who knows? Who cares? Fuck. It.

Had kind of an impromptu bday do at the Sweet Tomato in Yonder Village, me and wife and a few of the ‘boys’ and their wives. Bucket after bucket of good white wine and lovely French finger food. Then the next night I was out again at a dinner in another town, lotta guys in suits. Then the night after that another dinner, this time in London with the famous Maureen Rice. Who as usual told me how it really is. Even though I am older than both of us, she still knows more about the past and the future. Cant wait to read her book when she eventually writes it.

Then Friday wife and I were out again, I can’t remember doing what, then the night after that I was out again, back at Yonder Pub in Sweet Village. Then Sunday I was back in London hosting this event about Back In Black and signing copies of my AC/DC book and hanging with Tony Platt at Strongroom Studios, of all places, a joint I was a frequent visitor to back when it was being built in the 80s, a permanent midnight guest of its owner, Richard Boote. Christ but we had smoke coming out of ears in those days.

Then Monday night my beautiful wife and I were out again, this time at the v.fuckingcool Indian in Abingdon, the Dil Raj. Had us a time and laughed and talked dirty all the way home. Then last night, after an afternoon sweating in my office because the internet in the building is down and deader than dead I went out again, wife joining me later, to, yep, The Village Tomato in Sweet Land. More buckets of good, good wine. More laughs with various elders and of course my good friend Stefan. Then when I woke up this morning I had a bit of a headache and couldn’t think why. Boy was I hot.

Oh, by the way, do me a big favour PLEASE and review Getcha Rocks Off on Amazon. Please. It’s a very naughty book that needs a little help from its friends. Thanks, kids.

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…

Foo Are You?

Over these past six months or so, whenever I’ve mentioned my next big biography is going to be about Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters I’ve had one of two reactions, both surprising to me, though no longer. First off, there were the usual balcony watchers and pie-throwers, the ones who smirked and said, ‘Well, yeah, but really, you know, who gives a fuck? They’ll never be as good as Nirvana.’ Or variations of, such as: ‘They’re just a Nirvana rip-off.’ And etc.

Then there was the other reaction I kept getting, which was straight and simple: ‘They’re my favourite band!’ Or variations of: ‘They’re my son’s/daughters’s favourite band!’ Or, this one from David Letterman, who last week chose the Foos to be the last band to appear on his last ever show, ‘My favourite band, playing my favourite song – ‘Everlong’!’

Well, here’s my deal. When I took the book on, I really didn’t know anything about the Foo Fighters as such, or Dave Grohl specifically. I mean, no more than the averagely intelligent rock writer (and truthfully most of them are extremely averagely intelligent indeed). Now six months later I know one thing: there is no Foo Fighters really. Not as such. There is only Dave Grohl. And I admire him for that. Most of you sitting around with the TV remote in your hand, or flicking through your iPhones or whatever, you have no fucking idea the guts it takes to get out and actually do anything, let alone what Grohl has managed to do these past 25 years. You actually think it’s easy.  Tell me, is your life easy? Is anybody’s? Grohl’s parents split up when he was six. He comes from nothing. And now he’s something.

‘Oh, yeah, cos he was in Nirvana!’ Well, duh. But that wasn’t winning the lottery. That was because as their fifth drummer he as the first who was any  good. Like really fucking good. And when that ship sank, how lucky was he then? Wrote, sang, played every instrument on and recorded an album, that went on to sell millions. Hired and fired a band to help him do it. Then went on to do it again. And again and again.

Okay, this is not meant to be a love letter. Just that as I come to the final chapter of the book, I can’t get over this guy. How he did it. How he did it again. How he’s still doing it and will be long after you’ve deleted this or left a sarcastic comment about it. Turned yourself into a hater. Dave, meanwhile, who has been on intimate terms with haters since before haters were invented, rolls on, that smile, that hair, and that big talented fucking brain ticking away like there’s no tomorrow. Except Dave already proved there is. If you know where to look and aren’t scared to try.

Charlie

Charlie had been walking the Earth for over 50 years and while most of it still didn’t make sense, he had grown accustomed to some of it, noting patterns of behaviour, in himself and others. Learning and unlearning. Over and again. The women had all been interesting, marvellous, purple hazed and wise, when they weren’t being painful and underwhelmed and beyond Charlie’s reach no matter how hard he tried. The men had been more interesting. He liked the older guys, the ones who could teach him things he didn’t know or hadn’t yet come up against. The ones who’d walked through the fire and come out the other side scarred and burned yet still walking with something going on.

Some had been rock stars. The really big rock stars were different from the others in so much as they didn’t have anything left to look forward to, only the past to think about, repackage, resell, sell tickets for. Even in the days before it was all the rage, the  biggest rock stars were always like the walking dead. Happy, smiling, still pretending and so terribly boring to talk to. That is, to have to keep listening to.

The failures were not always the ones with the least talent. The ones with the most talent were quite often the biggest failures. Some were so talented they just didn’t have what it takes to get up and move towards the prize like a true prize-fighter. To descend on the gold like a stinking wind. Cos that’s what it took. Oh, the cigar and cheque book boys could take you far. But only on condition you had enough of the cunt in you to let them. Cos that’s what it took.

Most had not been rock stars. Had been so-called ordinary guys with tales to tell. These were the ones Charlie liked to sit down with the most, when he could still be bothered to pay attention. The ones who knew where Charlie was coming from, where he’d been, without saying a word. Could just see it like a cloud of flies hovering over his head. These could be men or women. But mostly it was still men. You didn’t have to be so considerate with men. If you didn’t like them you could say so to yourself. Could say so to their ugly faces. Could let them know without a second thought. Women, it was different. With women, it would always be different. It was just meant to be, whatever Charlie thought. Woah, yeah.

Early Start

I got in around seven, made coffee and ate a sandwich, followed by a chocolate bar. Energy, much needed. Read The Times online. Labour were lining up the women to be their new leaders just as I’d predicted. Them and one unelectable male. Yawn. Meanwhile Manchester United were lining up for a big summer spending spree. Yeah, well…

I got to writing, hoping to find that groove that allows you to keep going even though you don’t know where exactly you’re going, letting the words take you there all by themselves, which does happen, but not always, far from always but if you don’t sit here and try then nothing happens. Even then nothing happens often.

Come eleven I’m hungry again, so more coffee, more sandwich, more chocolate. Used to be other, distinctly last-century forms of oral gratification but the days of me working through endless six-packs and shots and happy chimney trails to get my writing buzz on are loooooong gone. Do damn well miss it sometimes, though.

Got halfway through the afternoon, feeling like shit. (Too much coffee and chocs.) Grabbed the huge coffee-table sized book on The Who – Maximum Rock and Roll, I think – with its big curved spine, lay it down on the floor, curved spine to my neck and lay down, closed my jittery eyes. Slept but without rest. Rested without sleep. Just took it all down to the ground and let it ride on out and in.

4.30 my landline rang. It was the guys from Sirius in NY, calling for my interview about the Sabbath book, which has just come out there. Did 20 minutes, much laughter, then they asked me about BB and I told ‘em the thrill is gone, gotta catch it while you still can if you can. Put down the phone and got back to work.

I couldn’t type though cos my fingernails are getting too long. Pulled out my penknife, not the red Swiss Army one in the desk drawer, the brown wood-handled fisherman’s delight I carry in my bag. The scissors are blunted on the red one, too many years of cutting my nails. The woody one though still rocks, cut you up like strips of paper. Got to work. Even has a file so did that too. Better.

So back to work. More coffee. More chocs. More coffee. And water! Goddamn, lots of fucking water!!!

Sud-den-ly… I am done! Another chapter done! Yeah, baby. Should I read it back? Well, duh. But will I? Fuck off. I can’t take it right now. I have to go home. Have to eat a takeaway. It’s late and no one cares anyway. Pray for some good TV or something Sky-Plussed I can stare at. Then my pills and then bed. Got an early start tomorrow.

Bye bye BB – King of the Kings

Well, I’m busy, same as you, hence the lack of blog time recently. But no matter how busy I am today I couldn’t let this moment pass without a few words on the death of one of the lo-time greats – BB King. When someone like him goes – one of those stars in the night sky that even outshines the moon – we all feel it. The world changes, moves, shudders, and we get left behind, alone again.

You don’t have to feel you know blues music to feel you know something about what BB King did. You only have to listen a little. If you don’t have the right stuff to hand, go to YouTube or Spotify right now and dig out ‘Lucille’ or ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ or any of them. They’re all there awaiting. My pick right now would be to punch up the special edition of the Rolling Stones’ live album, Get Yer Ya Yas Out, the one that came out a while back that includes both the opening acts on they 1969 tour – Ike & Tina Turner and – yes – BB King. Man, this is live music as in nerve crackling, emotional overloading stuff that comes down on you like a waterfall. You like guitar? Go get some now. Do yourself a favour.

I was just doing an interview on the Freewheelin’ show on Sirius Radio in the US and as we closed they asked for my thoughts on BB ‘passing’. What struck me today, I said, as he news came down one me like a weighted blanket, was that we are now very deeply into the age of Last Chance To See. If you were never lucky enough to see BB King live, well, it’s too late now. So whoever it is, whatever living legend lives inside your soul, whether it’s Axl or Dylan, or Ozzy or the Stones, go and see them first chance you get. Life is short but the day is long. Do it while you can cos you can, even if you think you really can’t. You won’t be sorry but you will if you don’t. Like with BB. Amen.