Mick Wall enjoys the reputation of being the world’s most famous rock and heavy metal writer. He wishes it wasn’t always so as it tends to overlook his close relationship with all kinds of music, most especially blues, jazz, folk, country and classical. He also never goes to the gym without the company of Fela Kuti on his earphone.
He was 19 when, in 1977, his work first began to be published in the British music weekly Sounds. By the time he was 21 he had also worked for independent record company Step Forward, and with bands like The Police, Alternative TV and to his great irritation at the time, Chelsea. He was now, though, in 1979, the partner in his own PR company, Heavy Publicity, where he worked – that is, drank and took drugs and ran around like a wildling – with groups such as Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Dire Straits, Journey, The Damned, Hawkwind and others.
When the company folded after the office burned down in a fire and he and his business partner went crazy, Wall got back into writing – variously, for Sounds, Time Out, City Limits, New Music News, and London Trax. There was a brief sojourn back into PR with Virgin Records in 1981, working with Human League, Gillan, Simple Minds, Japan and others, but that was purely for the money.
When, in 1983, he was offered the opportunity to write for the then fortnightly dedicated rock and metal publication Kerrang!, Wall was waiting to begin a degree in English as a mature student at London University. But a ‘lost weekend’ trip to New York for the magazine – which then turned into two weeks in Los Angeles – forced him to reconsider his future.
By 1985, Wall was the star writer of Kerrang!, presenting his own weekly TV show, Monsters Of Rock, on the fledgling Sky channel, and writing his first book, the authorised biography of Ozzy Osbourne, titled Diary Of A Madman.
In the years since then he has presented various radio programmes (Radio One, Capital Radio, Planet Rock, TeamRock Radio), written, appeared in and co-produced several TV documentaries (the most recent, When Albums Ruled The World, was one of the most viewed original programmes on BBC4), and continued to write for numerous music mags around the world, notably Classic Rock, where he was editor-in-chief for five years. But also Mojo, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and many others.
Mostly, though, Wall is now best-known as a biographer and author. In 2013 he published both the definitive biography of Black Sabbath, Symptom Of The Universe, and a personal tribute to Lou Reed, The Life. Both titles were best sellers around the world.
In October 2014, he published a major biography of The Doors, Love Becomes A Funeral Pyre…’ and in November the same year a new Amazon online biography of Pink Floyd, Endless Journey.
In June 2015, his new memoir, Getcha Rocks Off, was released, a semi-fictionalised account from a time when giants really did walk the earth, stalked by overpaid and overindulged rock writers like this one. You couldn’t make it up. Or could you? It has also just come out in Australia and New Zealand and is published in the US in March 2016.
Wall’s collaboration on a two-part TV documentary about AC/DC and Alberts, the production company that nurtured them, entitled Blood & Thunder, was also shown in Australia for the first time in June 2015.
In October 2015 the blockbuster biography, Learning To Fly, was published; the inside story of the Foo Fighters.
In early 2016, Wall released Lemmy: The Definitive Biography, based on dozens of original new interviews with Lemmy, friends, Motörhead band members, record company executives and other musicians.That was followed by Prince: Purple Reign, a personal tribute to the greatest artist of his era.
His latest book is Last Of The Giants: The True Story of Guns N’ Roses, a celebration of Guns N’ Roses the band, and of Axl Rose the frontman who really is that thing we so desperately want him to be: the last of his kind.
A further, deep-cut biography of Jimi Hendrix will follow in 2017.
Mick Wall’s Timeline
1977 – 78
Small-time freelance contributor to the weekly music paper, Sounds, writing about bands few if any people have or will ever have heard of, and being told off for writing, in the words of editor Alan Lewis, “like an ex-NME writer.”
1978 – 79
Still getting nowhere reviewing shite bands no-one has ever heard of but also now working for Step Forwards Records working with such ‘punk legends’ as The Cortinas, Chelsea, Alternative TV, The Police, The Fall and loads of others. Only allowed the rubbish, though, like poor old Chelsea, who I actually thought were quite good.
1979 – 80
Working for – then quickly promoted to partner in – independent PR company Heavy Publicity. The company specialises in hard rock and heavy metal bands like Wild Horses, Journey, REO Speedwagon, Dire Straits, Black Sabbath and others. First proper job and insight into the actual music business. Sex and drugs and rock’n’roll.
1980 – 81
Disillusioned with music biz, man, now working as dishwasher in ‘posh’ burger bar Crusts, in Ealing, where nobody knows me and life is very easy on £10-a-night and all the beer you can drink. Eventually crack and go back to freelancing for Sounds, this time writing actual features.
1981 – 82
Tempted by the prospect of an expense account and car, which I haven’t learned to drive and never will but which looks nice parked outside, I return to full-time employment as a PR for Virgin Records, working with Gillan, Human League, Japan and a ton of others I can no longer remember.
1982 – 83
Sacked from Virgin for ‘wayward behaviour’ after taking unplanned – and unannounced – six-week ‘hiatus’ in order to ‘get my head together’, return once again to freelance writing, this time for Flexipop magazine, covering top stars of the day like Dollar, Bucks Fizz, Duran Duran and other history-makers. Manage to combine new career path with bouts of dishwashing, furniture removing and general layabouting.
1983 – 91
Finally find a long-term home at Kerrang! where I rule the rocking world for the next eight years. In this time I also start to present my own weekly TV show for the fledgling Sky, called The Monsters Of Rock Show, write my first books, do my first radio shows, get my first proper newspaper stories published, and make myself a new home in Los Angeles where I briefly become Big In America.
1992 – 93
Disastrous spell at early version of Metal Hammer, where the company is being run by thieves and vagabonds. Eventually manage to get away to work for…
1993 – 95
… RAW magazine, where I am roundly loathed by all the staff (bar the editor, my old mucker Jon Hotten) for daring to write stories that help the magazine sell enough copies to keep them all in jobs. They are all music fans and think they are somehow in the music business. They are not. They are in the magazine business – just.
1995 – 96
Back working in PR for Rock Hard PR and Work Hard PR – two names for the same company. A good time had by Wall doing his best for Yes, Motorhead, Fu Manchu, Steve Earle, The Band, Willie Nelson and many others.
1996 – 98
Back writing yet again, this time for a succession of one-shots (all the rage in the mid-90s before the 2.0 internet kicked in) including stuff on the Spice Girls, Prince Edward’s marriage, Phones 4U or whatever the fuck they’re called, and suchlike. Also get to do some football writing.
1998 – 2004
Editor from second issue onwards of Classic Rock magazine, working with some of the old music enthusiasts from RAW, some old warhorses from Metal Hammer and Kerrang! and one or two largely clueless newcomers. It is uphill all the way trying to turn this would-be fanzine into a monthly magazine of merit, but we get there in the end. I leave before I kill someone. Or myself.
2004 – 06
Writing for Mojo. Great joy. While it lasted. Unfortunately, mistaken belief that I had never heard of the Beatles (or Dylan or the Stones or anyone else outside the worlds of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest) mean I am never quite in that thing they call ‘the loop’. Eventually decide, fuck this.
2006 – present day
Return to writing for Classic Rock. Like coming home. Especially as my successor, Scott Rowley, and old mate-stroke-new-publisher, Chris Ingham, make me feel most welcome. Good to be back, all living happily ever after. Now better known as a best-selling author, low-rent journalist, obscure radio presenter, TV scrounger, website whore and overweight four-eyed father of three. Or as The Guardian, The Times and The Daily Telegraph all recently and variously described me: ‘road-hardened’; ‘veteran rock writer’; and, my favourite, ‘legendary, lived-it, done-it, rock scribe’. May yet return to dishwashing, however…
Joe Daly interviewed me at length in 2011. Read the full article.