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.

 

skool daze

Danny was in The Exploited. Mick and Joe were in The Decorators. Auntie had his own solo thing going on, Pete had been in Dexy’s and we all lived together in one tiny shithole in Acton back when Maggie was on her throne, the miners were on strike, the dole was our lifeline, you could get pork and rice at the Indian for 49p and there really was no future. Wendy, meanwhile, was alone in her room with Elvis Costello. Yes, Elvis Costello. We could not get our heads round that at all. We would all sit huddled at the other end of the flat, pretending it wasn’t happening. We were all frightened of bumping into him going to the toilet or something. Like, what would you say to him? Er, hi, Elvis. And what would he say? Er, hi, NO ONE.

Pete would never shut the fuck up about Kevin Rowlands, jesus christ you’d think he’d been his girlfriend. His jilted girlfriend, cos it was Kev who’d given Pete the boot, for being so awfully fucking boring, we decided. Well, he was, poor cunt. Mick was the one we all thought would make it out of the shit. The one who had somehow kept a little back to help him make the leap when his time came, which was soon, we were all sure of it. He had the talent, the songs, the charisma. Mick would make it, for sure. Maybe he would give the rest of us jobs. That was the dream.

Danny, though, was the one who was always actually getting the gigs. He’d been in The Satellites who were great, lots of others, and now he was in The Exploited. We thought they were a bit of a joke. A bit oi oi and all that where we were more Miles Davis and Nick Drake and whatever indie record Mick brought home from Beggar’s Banquet each week. (He was brilliant at that, should have been a DJ, really.) Danny didn’t give a shit. He was the only one touring and recording and getting paid. Got himself a mohawk, no questions asked. Then sat there looking at his picture in the centre spread of Sounds. Later he was in the Boot Hill Foot Tappers. Top Of The Pops, cover of NME, all that. Then he was in The Pogues. Danny was the only real pro amongst us and he knew it but wore it all lightly. I really liked Danny and envied him his cool attitude and huge dick. (He pulled it out and pointed it at us once, frightened the fucking life out of you.)

And of course there were the girlfriends and other hangers on. I never had a girlfriend. Never. I used to wonder what was wrong with me. I’d finally get one but they’d wise up within days and we’d never be ‘together’ again. Until one day I met one who had it all wrong and thought I was somehow something to do with The Decorators and this was her ticket to ride. Except all The Decs already had chicks so I was next best. That didn’t last either but at least I got my first proper fuck of the 80s out of it.

Rotten days, really, but formative, as they say. So that when just a few years later I was sitting on the private plane with Def Leppard, I never forgot who I actually was. Him. In that flat in Acton, wishing he’d learned to play the guitar too so he could have been in a band. Instead of just writing about them. And wishing he had a girlfriend.

So…

… in between coming into the office at the crack of dawn trying to finish off my Foo Fighters book, and answering questions from my American publishers about my Doors biography, which comes out there in September, and my Black Sabbath biography which just came out there last week, I’m also having to think about my forthcoming laugh-out-loud (no, really!) memoir, Getcha Rocks Off, which comes out in June in time for Father’s Day.

That is, when I’m not having to deal with the bank, the tax, my accountant, the VAT people, and the actually very kindly workmen who are helping get my house looking inhabitable by humans again after what I and my family have spent 10 years doing to it (you can look but you dare not touch).

In the old days all these things would be helped along quite significantly, with the aid of beer, wine, whisky and even the occasional song. Not anymore. I’m too fucking old. If I drink for two nights in a row I’m done for, for the next two days. Even going to the gym doesn’t have the same effect on me that it used to. It gets me up and at it for about a day and then it gets me down and falling asleep in my chair again. The only thing that still works the way it used to is seeing the Sainted Vanessa for more of her magic needles and smoky moxa, and going to bed so early my nine year old son stays up longer than I do.

Not that I’m one to moan, of course…

Madonna Dogging

So… Tidal has already gone tits up. Well, what a surprise. Not. Jay Z and Madonna, Beyonce and all those other poor zillionaires not really providing an ‘alternative’ to Spotify and YouTube and all those other yummy sites where you can get all your music for free. Well, fuck ‘em. I don’t care about those people anyway. Jay Z? A joke, man. And a very bad one at that.

Meanwhile, speaking of jokes… The so-called Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame has just announced its latest list of inductees. Oh, hold me back please, the excitement almost made me spill my tablets.

Ringo fucking Starr as a solo act? Why don’t we get Basil Brush in there too. He must have sung a tune once upon a long ago. Kiss? I mean, Kiss? One undeniable all-time great album? Name it for me. Meanwhile, Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy, actual bands that recorded actual rock classics that everyone and I do mean everyone can name and hum – no shot. And don’t even get me started on Rush. Oh, I know the born-too-late 40-something nerds love them. But those are 80s kids who never knew any better. Zep had gone and so had all the real originality in rock. Me, I’d take Def Leppard or Slayer any day over Rush.

But the R&RHOF ain’t about music, as any fool do know. No more than the X Factor or America Once Had Talent is. It’s about the TV show. The FB conversation and twitter twats. Jeez, even Madonna is in there somewhere and she is so far removed from what men of a certain golden age know as hairy-assed rock and roll that it makes what’s left of my teeth positively ache just thinking about it.

What’s next for Madonna anyway? A dogging video? Now if they put that on Tidal I would pay for it.

Actually, I wouldn’t. I’d just wait for it to hit YouTube 10 minutes later, like everything else on there.

Song From The Long Ago

I have this song in my head. It came out of a trance I was in while lying in bed unable to sleep. It means nothing, it means something I suppose. If I write it down perhaps it might go away.

I remember you in Jimmy’s / Greek Street nineteen-eighty-three / You were pouring down Retsina / The old guy’s hand on your knee / You were sex and death embodied / Hotter than stolen money

I was hoping for some new times / Sick of doing dark crimes / You’d been someone else’s wet dream / Now you looked down on that scene / Drinking all day smoking in bed /Jump wires fitted to your head

I remember you on Melrose / LA, nineteen-ninety-two / You were posing nude for Playboy / So what no big deal for you / Kept saying times were a-changing / But I kept choosing not to know

Repeat endlessly…

Today’s Headlines

Tom sat there at his desk trying to think of something to write about in his blog. Tom was a rock writer, old school, from the days of typewriters and liquid lunches, back when heavy still meant something and giants walked the earth. These days he had a website, an official FB page, a twitter account and a very tired head and fat body. Yet somehow he had committed to doing this daily blog. Lately though the daily part had become more like something once every couple of weeks. Something he would force himself to do, to somehow justify keeping the show on the road to nowhere.

He skimmed the usual rock sites for news. For something to write about.

… Black Sabbath cancel ‘farewell show’ in Japan… no reason given…

OK, thought Tom, well, that will be money. Not that the Japanese didn’t offer enough. They’d offered plenty. But others – almost certainly in America – had now offered more. Why would Sabbath want to say ‘goodbye’ in Japan anyway? It didn’t make sense, unless there had just been so much money on the table. And now there was even more elsewhere. You want to know the ‘reasons’ behind anything in the rock biz it is almost always money. Maybe Sabbath would do the comeback in Tokyo a couple of years later…

… increase in vinyl sales soar…

So what? Tom had teenage children, all music crazy, and not one of them had ever even seen a ‘vinyl record’. Nor would they ever buy one. What for? How would you play it on your phone? Vinyl was for old nitwits with more money than sense. Vinyl was the latest con by the bitch-slapping record companies whose only valuable asset was now back catalogue. Hence the £100 ‘deluxe editions’ and all that crap. Technics, who made the greatest turntables in the world, are still going strong, with brand new futuristic audio generators of every conceivable stripe. The only thing they don’t make anymore is turntables.

… another shit old band from the 1980s that no one ever really liked have reformed and are playing a club near you soon…

Like shooting fish in a barrel. No wonder Tom couldn’t be bothered to bash out a blog every day anymore. The festivals with the same ‘headline’ acts year after year; the ‘long-awaited’ albums that people would forget about the day after they were released; the poor old sods now dropping like flies being drooled over as ‘legends’ when the week before no one could even remember what they looked like.

Tom looked at his pile of ‘correspondence’. Final Reminder from the Gas: £550, now or else. The VAT: £3000 now or else. The tax: £18,000 now or else. The Bank Loan: £31,000 to be paid back over the next seven years. Or else. He got up to make an espresso, winced at the twinge of angina in his left breast and thought: fuck it. I wonder if any of the old boys are around for a drink tonight?

Just then: the ding of another email. Tom opened it. ‘Dear Tom, I recently mailed you a link to the great new album by Arse Fire. Just wondering if you’d had a listen yet…’

On A Night Like This

Was honoured by a visit to Casa Del Wall last eve by Dave Everley. Usually (always) the cool dudes I work with in London understandably expect me to fetch up on their doorsteps whenever we plan a visit. Dave, though, being of the old school, and a proper Northern gentleman, offered to jump the choo-choo and come and visit me for a change.

I was so thrilled, I took him to meet Stefan and the boys at the Sweet Tomato in Yonder Village, where there is no Last Orders and therefore no reason ever to leave. Sure enough, the fire was roaring, the beer was pouring, and we sat at the bar with my wife and one or two other senior pub VIPs, taking in the warmth and digging the vibes.

I first met Dave over 20 years ago, when I was a furrow-browed editor on RAW and he was a very tall, extremely long-haired kid with an overdose of writing talent. I recall predicting great things for him. He recalls me giving him a blocking. But, hey, he was just a kid and I was living then on Desolation Row, communication lines may have been blurred just a tad.

Suffice to say, he went onto Big Things indeed, and now – oh sweet irony – he is my editor at Classic Rock magazine, where he never thinks twice about sending me long emails explaining how good my latest story is but how so much better it would be if I just take care of a few small details, then lists about 50 things that need putting right. The annoying thing is, he is always – always – right. The end result: it’s a real collaboration. One in which I get the credit for work that wouldn’t be half as good if it wasn’t for Dave. I also get paid. What’s not to like? The least I could do was sit him by the fire and swap a few war stories.

You know it’s a good night when it ends too quickly. As was the case here. Haven’t enjoyed myself so much in ages.

Hidden In Plain Sight: Faith No More: Introduce Yourself

Forget ‘Epic’ and Mike Patton. Sure, it lived up to its title, absolutely. As did the album it came from The Real Thing. And Patton was a great frontman if very much in Anthony Keidis fanboy mode. But for those of us that were actually there, this is the real ‘real thing’ Faith No More album, the one that truly broke the mould and introduced the rocking world to the Sound of the 90s three years ahead of time, and two years before the Red Hot Chili Peppers finally found their groove with Mother’s Milk.

At Kerrang! we had been warned they were coming ahead of time by Our Man Newly-Arrived in San Francisco, Steffan Chirazi. “You’ll like them, they’re great,” he said. “And their guitarist looks just like Krusher.” Steffan had told the band something similar, arranging for them to come and visit us all at the office, which they did, along with their Krusher-lookalike guitarist ‘Big Sick Ugly’ Jim Martin, from where we took them to the pub where we stayed all day. Yes, kids, that’s how things were done on Kerrang! back in the 80s.

When a few days later I had them as guests on my weekly Sky TV show, Monsters of Rock, Jim was too hungover to make it – so I suggested we substitute him on the set with Krusher – and the band immediately said yes! These days that seems such tame shit compared to the goings on of the young YouTube stars and the horrible old wankers of reality TV. Back then, in the Thatcher-ridden, Reagan-rocked 80s it was a revelation. So I was already kindly disposed towards the band before I’d seen them actually play.

Then I saw them play. Dingwalls, was it? I think. Then a couple of nights at the Marquee. I remember the place was packed. Word was out. This was not only the real real thing but the hot new real thing. You had to be there or live with the fact you had never been close.

The band had three major things going for them. One, the music. Rock meets rap meets synth-based space-rock meets street poetry meets skateboarder chic meets heavy metal grace meets a giant gargling with nails wearing a tutu. This had NOT been done before. Not like this. It was absolutely positively futuristic. Beside it, everything else suddenly sounded hideously old and out of gas.

Two, they had ‘Big Sick Ugly’ Jim. Fucker ate riffs like donuts and shat them out like rainbows. Fucker rocked at a time when everyone else bar Metallica was simply posing. It came as no surprise to learn that Jim Martin and James Hetfield were beer buddies and would often go out shooting their shotguns in the woods together.

Three, they had CHUCK MOSLEY. For me, easily the best, most exciting, most intriguing, most deeply unpredictable frontman of the 1980s. Forget Axl Rose, Chuck was something else. He was black, he was white, he was bald, he had dreadlocks, he could sing, he couldn’t sing, he was a South Central LA-born street rat brought up in an orphanage and unlike Mike Patton, there was no one else in the world could do what Chuck did. The rest of the band hated him because he just  did not give a fuck. No, not one of those assholes who tell you they don’t, one of those dudes who you don’t realise has your number until they’ve already fucked your chick and driven off in your car – not cos they like it but so’s they can sell it later.

I remember coming home early from a holiday on an Italian island, in the summer of 1988, specifically so I wouldn’t miss Faith No More at the Town & Country Club in London. I did not regret it. They started the way most bands started their encores, with the place already insane, the band already much higher. And they just kept climbing. For the real encores, Chuck came on in a gold tinsel wig, alone, just him and an acoustic guitar – they’d been fighting backstage, didn’t want him to do it – to sing ‘Life’s A Gas’ by T. Rex. Epiphany. Then blast off as the rest of the band joined him for a version of ‘War Pigs’ that made the original – which Ozzy had also started doing again that summer now Geezer was in his solo band – taste like old farts and string vests.

Of course the album couldn’t live up to all that. Not unless you could give a record six stars. Back on terra firm again, cold light of day, ashes in your mouth, piles bleeding. Yet it was still the most forward-thinking, genuinely groovy, blissfully exciting, difficult to get into the first 10 times, then impossible to stop listening to for the next 100, album of the decade. No arguments allowed.

I was gonna go through some of the tracks – ‘We Care A Lot’, ‘Faster Disco’, ‘Chinese Arithmetic’, ‘Death March’, to name just the obvious – but as I’m sitting here listening to it I just can’t quite manage to keeps the words in any kind of right order. Which tells you something right there. For the truth, I’m sticking up a link below. Listen, behold, cover your ears, peek through your fingers, and imagine the alternative reality that exists in which the band don’t chicken shit out and fire Chuck – and then later Jim. Ye gods, what the fuck were they thinking! (Same as all the other bands who hate each other, actually.)

End times music.

Crystal Balls

RIGHT NOW

CDs are dead. Vinyl is irrelevant. Albums are luxury items more for the artists than the audience. Tickets are grossly overpriced and T-shirts still sell more than anything. Meanwhile, movies are dead. DVDs are antiques. Box sets are over. Yet TV rules like never before. Netflix is better and cheaper and more genuinely popular than Sky. Spotify is better and cheaper and more genuinely popular than Amazon. YouTube is better and FREE and more genuinely popular than all of the above put together. So there. Doesn’t matter whether you like it or lump it, this is the reality now.

THE FUTURE

Streaming. Like Nextflix and Youtube and Spotify all rolled into one, but micro-micro-micro-managed so that the like-this offers are not scattergun and annoying like amazon, but precise to the point of ouch, OK, give in, you got me, just press play. Like Netflix currently is. Piracy? Who can be arsed with that? A fiver a month for all you can eat and more? Yes please, big brother. With multiple multiple multiple options, globe-wide, time zone resistant, on-on-on demand always ever ever. Thankyewverymush…

Why not?

Meanwhile, you wanna form a band? Go for it. Should anyone else care? Of course not. We never did. Not until what you did was undeniable. You just have less time to make it happen, that’s all. Hard done by? But dude, it’s not about you and your bandmates anymore. It’s about us, the ones paying for all this. And that’s the way we like it, where only the very, very best, or what we consider so, will do.

Later, Andy

On the road, travelling, can say no more for now, perusing home news from a certain perspective, quick squints into the vortex and…

What is all this shit about Jeremy Clarkson? He punched a BBC producer? Or he shoved him? Or what the fuck ever. Who gives a rat’s arse? All the Jeremy-haters getting their knickers in a twist over this nothing story. Dude, if you don’t like Top Gear don’t fucking watch it. Meeting over. Meanwhile, I can think of several BBC producers – and film and radio and other media monkey producers – I’d gladly give a kick in the balls to. And some punches to the face. The only really shocking thing about this whole non-event is what an ugly light it has thrown on the people who have been racing to air their hate-filled bile at Clarkson. In my job I would have been sacked, blah blah blah. OK. But Jeremy isn’t in your job. He writes, presents, embodies and came up with the whole idea of the current zillion-pound making enterprise called Top Gear all on his own. That’s right, fucker works hard for his crust just like the rest of us. Don’t like his politics? So what? If you had to like the politics of everyone on TV there’d be no TV. Grow the fuck up and find something else to talk about that might mean something real to somebody some day.

Like for example the news I just picked up of the death of Andy Fraser. I’m not gonna pretend I was Andy’s good friend or anything, but we had been in touch, by phone, face to face, by Skype and email, for nearly 10 years now. Maybe because he’d been through so much illness, maybe because he was just a wiser head than most, I don’t know, but he always got my full attention whenever he had something to say. Like he had nothing left to lose so would just put it out there. The last time we spoke, last year, he was joking about Paul Rodgers being “one of those hairy-backed northerners,” while Andy was “just a little gay boy from London.”

Wow, say the Jeremy-do-gooders, racist and sexist… Well, no, actually. Brave and honest words from a man who knew his time was short but the day was long, and simply didn’t have the energy anymore to worry about trying to set the world to rights. That’s a young man’s conceit and Andy was born old, still a babe when he co-fronted Free and co-wrote ‘All Right Now’ – and all the other great Free classics. I never bothered telling him how ‘All Right Now’ was one of the first singles I ever bought because he’d listened to that story from practically every person he’d met for the past 40 years. I did talk to him about practically everything else though. This made for wonderful conversation but not always great copy in interviews. You’d talk to Andy for some retrospective story on Free or related items like Paul Kossoff, Bad Company, Zeppelin, John Mayall, etc etc, and by the second question he’d have taken the conversation into much better, deeper directions you just knew the magazine (any magazine) would rather he didn’t. Andy was simply too real. Too far gone, somewhere far over the rainbow, in a place you could only wonder at. And funny. The real mark of a master. Very, very funny indeed. Trust me, the world doesn’t deserve your righteous fist-pumping when it takes people like Andy so young.

Which – somehow – brings me on to my own destiny. Love that word, so meaningless yet golden. Several kind souls out there have been sending me well wishes about my financial predicament. Well, thank you, but here’s the new deal. You really only learn what matters when you are in the deep, deep shit. Two things I’ve learned lately. One, you soon find out who your real true blood friends are when you are sinking fast in quicksand. You know because they are the ones who come forward and grab you by the hand and start to pull. For me, that’s been Harry and Maureen. No questions asked help. The only kind that really means anything in the short and long term.

The other thing is this: there is no future, not really. There is only  what is in front of you now. Get that right and the rest takes care of itself, as best it ever can. So… no more pulling heavy loads that break my heart. No more getting worked up over nothing. That’s the new rule of the road here. Which reminds me, better get back to it…

Messages From the Sponsors

Some very nice emails form some very nice people, for which my thanks. As follows…

Dear Mick

Thank you so much for writing “Love Becomes A Funeral Pyre”.  My daughter bought it for me for Christmas.  I watched your interview on the Today show back in (I think) November, and I surprised myself by wanting to get a copy and read it.  I have to admit, I wasn’t a Doors fan until they were ‘revived’ back in the early 90’s.  They played a big part in my life.  Back then, I was in a very sad state.  Not long before I had moved from Australia to the Uk, due to my mother wanting to go back to her homeland, and I had to go with her.  I reckon it was the closest we came experiencing what it was like to living back in the 60’s (I was 17 at the time) and it has been one of the best periods in my life.

After the Oliver Stone film, which I so loved, I read Danny Sugarman’s book, and realized most of the movie was a load of rubbish.  Can’t understand why film people do that.  The real Doors story is so much more interesting.  I lost respect for Mr Stone for a while, then I watched his brave documentary about America.  As I got older, I began to think Jim Morrison was a total tool, and went right off him and The Doors.  Your book has renewed my love for their music.  I have to say, I laughed a lot at the silly things Jim did.  And now that I’m older again, I felt very sad reading about his life.  Especially how he was used so much by so called friends and associates.  So glad you shed more light on Pam.  What an awful piece she was.  It’s a real shame Patricia was betrayed the way she was in the movie.  The revelation about Paul Rothchild and Janis Joplin was tragic but beautiful.  I was happy to read she died in love, and not the sad, lonely person we had thought her to be. To me, the bath death never really sat with me.  Your version does.  Makes perfect sense.  I hope many, many people read it. 

Many thanks, Elizabeth (a new fan!)

 Hi Mick,

Just finished reading “When Giants” again, 3rd time , pick up on something new each time and wanted to say thanks to you this time; every time I pick it up it forces me to put vinyl Zep on the old Dansette and reminisce, can’t help it; I was a teen when they blew my mind back then Mick and you’re writing takes me right back there. Cheers mate, much appreciated.
Andy Gawley
Hi Mick
I have just started reading your biography of Marillion whom I’m slowly getting to know, my email is in regards to an update on the Hogarth era.
Thanks Matt Marsden
Dear Mick
Re: Your Lou Reed book, The Life. Big thanks so much for doing that. What a read! A real page-turner. I know it’s not meant to be like one of your big definitive biogs – wish the reviewers could have grasped that – but as you put it a ‘sincere, speed-written’ tribute, but I got such a rush reading it. No, you are definitely not like the other biographers, just as Lou Reed was not like the other rock stars. Thanks be.
Jean Poneman, Woodstock, Upstate NY
Hi, Mick!

I’ve read your books on Metallica, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath with great pleasure!!

I just wonder if you have any plans on writing a book on my absolut favourite band – Deep Purple!

I wish you all the best and keep on writing!!

Yours sincerelly, Pelle Thyrstedt, Sweden

Foo Are You?

Been working hard on my new Foo Fighters book. Of course, to tell the story properly, you have to go back and reconsider Nirvana too. And how that influenced Dave Grohl in everything he would do afterwards. He and Kurt started out so similar, at least on paper, that when Kurt’s mom Wendy and Dave’s mom Virginia first met at Nirvana’s famous Saturday Night Live performance, they decided their boys had so much in common they “could have been twins.”

Yet when Dave jumped from the wreckage of the crash that followed, he came back with something entirely unlike Nirvana, no matter what the half-listening rabble and online haters still say and think. It wasn’t dark, it wasn’t smacked-out, it wasn’t edging into the abyss, it wasn’t deliberately Kurt-like or Kurt-lite, it was pop punk rock music for the velvet-eared. Don’t read that like it’s a bad thing. See it for what it is: a true thing. A personally courageous thing. And if you don’t like it, that’s cool, too. But if you feel you have to shout your hate out loud about it, ask yourself why? Why should you even care? I don’t care when you listen to what I consider to be shite house music. That’s your puddle of piss to lie in.

Anyway, like all my books, it’s not so much the music that gets me, it’s the story, the people, the time and the places. If you can find your way around that far enough to draw a decent map, you will have learnt a great deal about yourself too.

Right, Dave?

Odd Job

A strange couple of weeks down at the Wall Homestead. Wife’s car died. Then our eldest dog died. Then VAT man told me I might die. Then the bank’s stretched to the point of breaking ‘support’ died too.

Still, spring in the air, eh vicar. Always look on the bright side etc. Been travelling around the cityscapes, mainly London. Saw my new best friend Nino, in Soho, who has become to me what a dealer is to the most addled addict – my mainman supplier of goods I absolutely can’t afford, and absolutely can’t stop buying. The euphoria never wears off though, not when you’re wearing one of Nino’s hand-stitched Italian shirts. I am drooling even as I write this, then trembling with angst as I gaze through parted fingers at my zero-tolerance bank account.

Also saw my sweet soul sister Maureen Rice, who treated me to dinner at Joe’s in Covent Garden. I keep telling her she’s the grown woman’s Caitlin Moran but she thinks I’m just chatting her up. I’m not. She’s got at least one great book in her, probably the makings of a successful franchise. But even my agent Robert can’t talk her into taking the plunge. She clearly knows something I don’t. It’s been this way now for over 30 years.

So then I got ill. Still running around, that isn’t allowed to stop, but I just came down with something that probably has to do with stress, but I’m not allowed to go there either. Or maybe I’m just getting old. Maybe? That’s a laugh. Meanwhile, I have had precisely one new applicant so far for my proposed mentorship scheme and him I fear I may have scared off. Which is a shame as he had potential. But then maybe I didn’t explain myself properly. I’m thinking, an hour a month sitting here with me while I go through your work, carefully it building it up again with all the benefit of my own wit and wisdom and 40 years of experience as a writer/interviewer, until you discover your own voice, or just decide you’ve had enough already. I also make a jolly good cup of tea.

Off now to peruse the houses-to-rent sites for places mad enough to consider the clan and me and two (no longer three) well-beaten dogs. Looks very much like we may have to sell the Palace Wall. Just to keep off those several hairy, long-nosed, sharp-fanged beats that keep hanging around my door.

So You Wanna Be A Rock’n'roll Writer?

Occasionally I get people emailing in asking how to get a start as a rock writer. I nearly always tell them to go away. Because I had absolutely zero help myself in my earliest days, I have always had a chip on my shoulder about it.

Unfairly. And not entirely accurately either. In fact, I’ve been hugely instrumental in helping out a great many would-be rock writers along the way, going all the way back to Kerrang! and right through my years as editor of Classic Rock. More recently, I’ve mentored a couple of writers who have gone on to do some pretty great things, giving regular monthly classes to one and regular long conversations and phone calls to the other. They have both done me proud.

Anyway… one of the great privileges of anyone’s life, once they get to a certain stage, is to be able to pass on whatever knowledge they have. I realise now I have long since reached this stage and should do something proper about it.

So… as of now, I am going to make myself available for a variety of ‘mentoring schemes’, let’s call them. I don’t mean quick emails back and forth shooting the breeze. I mean serious attention to anyone who wants to be just as serious about progressing their work as a writer. Not just a rock writer, but any kind of tipper-tapper on a keyboard.

Time wasters and groupies need not apply, but if anyone out there thinks this might be something that they’d be interested in, let me know. Send me an email to mick@mickwall.com

Before you ask, none of this is free. Free lessons are worthless on every level. You pay, you commit, you learn. Really learn. For these are secrets from another world. And there are no guarantees of success. But if you are willing to gamble – and you must be willing to gamble to be any kind of writer – then you have to play with real live chips on the table. That way you get the best of me too.

All thoughts welcome.