God help us all, Martin Popoff may have put together the ultimate book on Hair-Metal

Book reviews

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The Big Book of Hair-Metal, Martin Popoff, Voyageur Press, 2014.

 

Let me begin by stating that Martin Popoff is one of the most reputable rock writers there is. The man has been writing books about Hard Rock and Heavy Metal music for over two decades now and he’s earned my respect from covering artists like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest (along with volumes dedicated to decades, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 00’s) in a passionate, scholarly way.

That said, Popoff never appeared to be too fond of what has come be called Glam-Metal, Hair-Metal, or sometimes simply “80’s Metal”. I’m talking of course about bands like Motley Crue, Poison, Ratt and countless legions of bands wearing (in retrospect) ridiculous amounts of hairspray, makeup, spandex, leather and animal print.

Popoff never dismissed Glam, but never seemed to be enthralled by it either. In fact, I recall reading one of his early books Riff Kills Man where he reviewed albums of the era where he rated releases by so called “Hair Bands” unfavourably.

Perhaps the author has discovered or re-discovered an enjoyment for 80’s candy sugar coated rock and power ballads. All I can say is if you’re a fan (secretly or otherwise) of Hair Metal -love the music, just not particularly crazy about the term- then this book will bring back memories and offers a very good retrospective and insight into the era of big hair rock.

What I like about Popoff is that he is opinionated and relatable about whatever he happens to write at the moment. For instance, he states that he is not a fan of Bon Jovi even though they have plenty of coverage in this book. In a way it’s almost like having a serious conversation (i.e. Debate) about some of your favourite bands with a friend.

Now I’ll admit on the surface the book looks a little cheesy and maybe even too much like an entry level book to hair metal. But once you pick it up and look through the volume you realize there’s a lot more to it than you thought. Of course it DOES serve as a beginner guide to 80’s Metal, but it offers a lot that will make it appealing and worthwhile to an older fan as well.

The chart positions, releases dates and insights into the albums are great but mostly for newbies. Fans get stories from various interviews, insights into recordings, decisions, record companies, touring etc. Some I had read previously, some I had not.

Altogether The Big Book of Hair Metal does a superb job at being a damn near definitive 80’s Hair Metal guide. If it appeals to new, old and casual fans then you know you’ve done something right. The damn least it will do is make someone pick it up and go “Oh wow look at this! I completely forgot about that band!” Or “Look at that album cover!”.

The really big bands like Motley Crue, KISS, Van Halen and Def Leppard get plenty of coverage, but lesser known bands like Stryper, Danger Danger, Keel, Kick Axe and Dangerous Toys also get their 15 minutes.

Big album releases like Pyromania and Appetite for Destruction get a bit more coverage but you’ll almost always catch yourself learning or reading something you haven’t before. It is such an entertaining book, it’s hard to put down and such fun to flip through over and over again and notice things you might have previously missed. It’s a visually compelling book to look at.

The book is build on a timeline format which works very well for a retrospective-type book such as this. It begins long before the 80’s with coverage of influences on Hair Metal dating to the 50’s and 60’s and gets more and more important around the 70’s with proto-glam and seminal Hair influences arise.

Everything is where it should be. At times l wish there was a bit more for say, 1983 but the book focuses on a genre that really exploded around 1985 so the content seems to get bigger and more as it goes on. The lengthy index section comes in handy is also much welcomed for quick search or reference.

One of the highlights of The Big Book of Hair-Metal is the amount of pictures and content. Backstage passes, posters, album covers, flyers, promos … It’s a whopping amount of visuals and Hair-Metal had a lot to do with visuals. The text is great in most instances but as a flip-through book, it Warrant (s) an A+.

The pictures alone almost make the price of admission worth it: album covers, tickets, tour programs,guitar picks, shirts, backstage passes and the pictures of posters and adds from the era make for splendid time capsules.

I wish the book didn’t end with the year 1991. That is really my only complaint. Popoff himself states that he thinks some of the best Hair Metal came out in 1992. I’m here to confirm that he is accurate in his statement.

Even though it was a dying genre in terms of popularity, plenty of good albums, events and stories could have been added if he chose to add just that one more year to the book’s timeline. Maybe it’s because he felt Nirvana killed glam with Nevermind in ’91, but it didn’t die instantly. It was still acceptable and even in the mainstream in ’92. Even Vince Neil put out a very enjoyable album that would be classified as Hair Metal in 1993.

For anyone who likes the catchy anthemic metal of the 80’s and early 90’s, The Big Book of Hair Metal offers a great insight into this much maligned genre.When it comes to 80’s Hair/Glam Metal I’ve just about read it all and The Big Book of Hair Metal sits as one of the best. Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City is also highly enjoyable look at the music from a fan’s perspective, and Louder Than Hell is a great, although more general look at Heavy Metal. Eddie Trunk’s books are also not bad for a newbie but are more like introductions to the music.

The book might just encourage you to embrace (or re-embrance) pink Aqua-Net hairspray, big choruses and flashy solos. Pull out those cassettes and turn it loud, some of the music is better than you remember it to be. 4 1/2 out of a possible 5 stars.

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The history of MTV before reality shows

Book reviews, Uncategorized

 

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I Want My MTV,Rob Tannenbaum, Craig Marks, Plume, 2012 revised edition.

 

In a way I Want My MTV is very much like the reality shows their air on the channel now: everyone talks in each other’s back, we know too much details and even though there’s no actual music it manages to be entertaining.

A lot of the book is marked by ridiculous excesses and demands and egos from both the artists and the people who worked at MTV (and that goes for the people who directed videos as well). Simply put, there’s a lot of dirt on everyone, some of it humorous and some of it downright disgusting and filthy.

Those were the glory days of MTV, where the music world entered around the channel. MTV had the power to turn artists into stars seemingly overnight, offering unprecedented exposure. It’s easy to forget that at one point the VJs employees were living it up just like the artists that appeared on the channel. If you were around when all of this really happened in the 1980’s and early 90’s you’ll be enveloped in nostalgia, if not it’s a great look at a truly unique and memorable era in music, fashion and television.

I Want My MTV is in a quote by quote format. There is very little else than quotes in the book in terms of text. They’ll talk about a certain topic and then we get a page full of spaced quotes with who said them. In a way it’s perfect for what the book was going for.

However, it gets hard to remember who says what because they interviewed just about everyone right down to that girl who was in a video for four seconds and was ashamed because she didn’t like how her butt looked.

It can get boring reading page after page of quotes and I feel it’s really more of a flip through book, at least that’s how it works best. Even though I sometimes got lost remembering everyone and who did what -some big names are mentioned throughout- they really did cover just about everything and everyone who has ever worked is interviewed (or close at least).

Some of those quotes are unnecessary and will make you go “Really? They even interviewed even so and so?”, but I know some people will absolutely dig those little facts and stories.The index is a nice touch and quite useful considering the book is over 500 pages.

There are great stories told here. The changing musical landscapes. How MTV was seemed as racist several times for various reasons. Michael Jackson’s rise on MTV opening doors for black artists. The Billy Squier video that literally ruined and stopped his career, the New Wave bands from England, the Hair bands that ruled MTV, the rise of Grunge and alternative… Just about everything you can think of is in here.

Some of my favourite stories includes hair bands with no hair. For instance, how record companies spent a fortune for plugs on Great White alone. Stories about video directors trying to figure out how to keep Mick Mars’ wig from flying off his head during a video shoot. It’s all here and no one is safe from the dirt.

The stories behind videos, excess stories, VJs staying up all night on drugs, the partying, Stevie Nicks not liking her hair wanting to reeshoot a video, modifying Heart’s videos so as the make the singer appear slimmer, who used plugs and wigs, the change of direction, introducing game shows to the network….it goes on and on. I wished they would have featured a little more of the VJs as they really lived MTV but I can’t say that I’m disappointed with their coverage here.

Overall it’s probably not the perfect MTV book and if you don’t like the quotes format you’re pretty much screwed. I know I got tired of it a few times and put it down in favour of something else. Everything MTV is in here, the dirt revealed, the great stories told: it’s really all you wanted to know and didn’t want to know about MTV in the same book. The edition I own is the revised edition expanded with more interviews.

It’s a bit much at times but it’s entertaining and I learned a LOT for sure and I have interesting anecdotes I can tell people about MTV and their favourite artists. I Want My MTV is not essential reading by any means but if you’re even nostalgic or curious about what MTV used to be before reality shows on teenage girls and the Jersey Shore, then this should be of interest to you. You’ll want your MTV too.

The “Soft and filler” album

Music reviews

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Twisted Sister, Love Is For Suckers, Atlantic Records,1987.

Twisted Sister’s fifth and final studio album Love Is For Suckers (unless you count the band’s 2004 Still Hungry, a collection that sees TS re-recordings the Stay Hungry album) is one that tends to be heavily criticized, one that is sometimes divisive among fans.

Some SMF’s dismiss it as too pop citing lacking substance, while others have a soft spot for it and thought it was an enjoyable release at the time. There’s some claims to be made about both opinions. The main problem with with Love ls For Suckers is that it really isn’t a Twisted Sister album.

“Wake Up The Sleeping Giant” is deceiving in that it almost sounds like classic TS. Yet only Dee Snider as an original member remains and then there’s Joey “Seven” Franco who was in the current lineup on drums. It really should have been a Dee Snider solo album which is what it was intended to be and truly was, but instead the record company pressured for it to be released as a Twisted Sister album.

Love Is For Suckers is plagued by a few big issues besides the absence of the classic lineup. Ever seen Reb Beach and Kip Winger receiving credits on a Twisted Sister album?  Get ready. Probably not a happy thought for most TS fans as the album ended up taking an ultimately softer and pop direction. You have to consider that it was competitive with the musical climate in 1987, but ultimately it has not held up well with time.

Also for an album title that claims love “sucks”, it’s ironic that most of these songs are well… Love songs. What’s with the drum sound?! The songs are wimpy but with a thunderous, big drum sound which leads to question that maybe he was a good drummer who ended up playing on the wrong album. The production by Beau Hill is about what you’d expect, very “1987” and time has not been too kind to it’s sound.

Opener “Wake Up The Sleeping Giant” is misleading. 1) it sounds like Twisted Sister and 2) it’s the best song on the album and it leads you to think (and hope) the rest may be up yo hear.

“Hot Love” was and it’s a great candy rock piece tailored for 1987; cheesy but fun and a good overall song and choice of single. It’s one of the most memorable songs (remember the video that went along?).

The title track, “Love Is For Suckers” is actually not a bad rocker at all, it’s consistent as Snider does a good vocal performance and it’s somewhat catchy.

Now, This is where the album takes a slide in the quality department with “l’m So Hot For You” and “Me And The Boys” (this one especially is embarrassing) being generic filler tracks that halt any momentum the album had going for it.

Sandwiched in between those songs is the slightly better rocker “Tonight” which showcases some aggression, not a bad tune at all.

“One Bad Habit” is more filler material. “I Want This Night To Last Forever” has a Van Hagar feel to it, especially during the chorus but is nothing to write home about either.

“You’re All That I Need” tried to be a big power ballad but it fails during the chorus even though it had a nice build up. The keyboards prevent it from being a strong ballad like “The Price” and as a result if sounds a little too soft and thin.

The closing “Yeah Right” ends thing on a more positive note. It’s a solid upbeat rocker and one of the heaviest songs on an album that could’ve used more songs of this caliber.

I own the remastered version with four extra songs. “Statuary Date” is the worst of the bunch. “Feel Appeal” is better than some of the songs that made it onto the actual album, it’s more straight up rock and a little catchier. “I Will Win” is rocking but the chorus doesn’t get it right, close but no cigar. “If That’s What You Want” became “Me And The Boys” although it’s earlier incarnation was stronger and had better lyrics. If you ask me this version should’ve made the album instead!

There you have it. Any way you slice it, Love Is For Suckers is definitely without a doubt the worst Twisted Sister album. It suffers from poor production, is full of fillers and it doesn’t feature Jay Jay French, Eddie Ojeda, Mark Mendoza, A.J Perro (who left before this was released) even though the liner notes say there were a part of it. The first two songs and the album cover are the only things that are truly memorable about LIFS. The rest is really unfocused and sub-par songs.

Twisted Sister’s decline had already begun with their previous effort, 1985’s Come Out And Play which show cracks of the band’s imminent implosion. Love Is For Suckers was a commercial disappointment failing to reach gold status or chart successfully. Simply put, Twisted Sister was no longer a band at this point and the album did nothing to stop them from breaking up and was quite frankly just not very good. 2 stars.

More like casual conversation with the author than self-help

Book reviews

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How To Be A Man (and other illusions), Duff McKagan, Chris Kornelis, Da Capo Press, 2015.

Right off the bat,

you may thinking : “Why would the bass player for Guns N’Roses write a self-help book?”and “Why would l take advice from Duff McKagan?”. Or better yet: “Who is Duff Mckagan and why does he think he can teach me how to be a man?”.

It doesn’t go without saying that since his GNR days the man known as Duff has grown tremendously as a person and is now a husband, father and worldly modern man. He wrote the type of book most of us could only dream of writing and How To Be A Man (And Other Lies) essentially proves that you can learn from anyone, even GNR’s bassist.

In McKagan’s second book, he takes a different approach than his 2011 autobiography lt’s So Easy. As previously mentioned, How To Be A Man takes the form of a self-help book in which Duff shares some of his advices which range from dealing with airports to handling fatherhood.

You may think he would be unfit to give tips if you only know him from his GNR days, but he’s been to business school, wrote articles for playboy, wrote sports columns, has travelled all over the world amassing a wealth of knowledge along the way.

While the books a generous intent, -and I have no doubt Duff is a smart individual- , there isn’t a great amount of self-help in here, despite what the title implies. You won’t know any more or less how to be a man, rather you’ll read some funny stories and get cool insights. How To Be A Man reads more like tips and everyday stories than the excess of a Rock N’ Roll journey that was all over McKagan’s first book.

This book covers everything and nothing in a strange way. It feels like a very casual conversation with the author even though it suggests that it is in fact, more. The way he talks about a day he spent shopping with his bandmate Ben in Paris is about as casual as it gets. Then there’s moments where it gets very real and he talks about parenting and the issues and obstacles that come with being a parent of not one but two daughters. In those moments he shines, but he is never boring in either and somehow it all fits.

Some of it is good and practical advice, some is painfully obvious and basic with the sole purpose of filling the blank page. The whole hotel/band/airport guide is more funny than anything else and goes into the psyche of really being “just one of the guys”, while also remaining considerate.

Duff gives the readers tips for travelling to various countries and things to experience such as the Jambon in Barcelona and places to visit like the Berlin Wall. He seems to have a story for just about every city in the world which in itself is entertaining to some degree. One passage struck me. When he explained how pro athletes and celebrities goes from people’s perception of filthy rich to later file for bankruptcy.

Then there’s more serious issues. He talks a LOT about being a father and parenthood and some of it was particularly reflective and real. He explains his role in how when kids reach a certain age you become almost a consultant rather than a parent, which l found to be very thought inducing and true. Being a dad and a parent is not easy, and it’s difficult being the father of two girls by all accounts.

All I know is that it makes for good reading and it’s often touching, but he might talk about it a tad too much considering the length of the book. Then he goes right back to talking about how he and Axl Rose are constantly doing “knock-knock” jokes and how crazy the fans in South America are about Guns N’ Roses (which seems otherworldly).

One of the main problems is that the book is called How To Be A Man but has a lot of well, nothing. Some cool stories and insight but far from being a game changer. It’s more of a “I get to write about anything I want, no need for order or direction”.

For instance, Duff’s top music list is generally solid but the comments attached to the artists/albums can get a little redundant. It’s touching to see the fan side of him is still very present when he talks about artists such as Lou Reed and Prince (or his speech about Bon Jovi in an earlier chapter).

The book list is much inspiring and it doesn’t get go be a chore to read, I always like to know about the books that inspire others. I get that those music and book picks are meant to be helpful but l think it would be more fitted for an internet chat room than your own book, although l must admit it does fill pages. Duff repeats himself a few times and there just isn’t much overall content.

All in all it’s a quick light read that gets repetitive at times, but not an awful read by any means. I don’t think it teaches you any more how to be a man than you already are and it does seem to be aimed strictly towards men for the most part. Duff McKagan’s first book It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) was an excellent autobiography and is very recommended reading, this one not so much.

How To Be A Man is light reading, very casual with a few funny stories. It’s hardly essential. If you had the first and you want more Duff it’s just like having an every day conversation with him. If you’re looking for the next great self-help book, this isn’t it. If you must read I’d just wait for the ultimately cheaper paperback edition. 3/5 stars.

When Peter Criss defends Peter Criss

Book reviews


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Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of KISS, Peter Criss, Simons and Shuster, 2012.

 

 It took years until it saw the light of day, but it’s here in the form of Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of KISS. In 2012, original KISS drummer Peter Criss released the autobiography that he had been promising the world for what literally decades. I used to kid around with people that it was Peter’s Chinese Democracy, but even that came out four years before his autobiography did.

KISS fans are attached to each of the original members and the individual personas they portrayed, but when I was a kid I wanted to be Peter Criss. He was the reason I began to play drums and when me and my friends put on the KISS makeup for Halloween I was Peter.

You cannot deny that Peter was an original member and was a part of what made KISS and what made the band special, his jazzy drumming style, his voice; he was an important part of what made KISS the band the it became.

I was glad to see that his book was finally released, Paul’s book was excellent, Gene’s and Ace’s books are good reads, but you get a sense that just scratch the surface (Gene’s first book is largely about himself, his second business and Ace’s book he seems to have forgotten things and skims through years towards the second half).

Peter Crisscuola, I knew, would be honest to write it all down; the good, the bad, the madness and he’s not shy about his drug addictions, his near suicide in 1994, depression, battles with cancer, even his band members (I think this may be the final nail on the coffin for any fans that still had hopes of seeing the original four reunite once more).

The first chapter already sets into the some of the madness in Criss’ life. The book starts in 1994 when an earthquake destroyed everything he owned and he was about to pull the trigger on his life. It’s a rather dark chapter to start the book with but it’s good in that it makes you want to read the book and find out all you can.

I loved the part about recording Destroyer and how demanding producer Bob Ezrin was, out of all the books that have come out on the band Peter goes into the details and things that aren’t as talked about.

He sheds insight on the money he made, how much money KISS made. Peter is very vocal and I was captivated to read his thoughts from about 1978-80 when he was about to leave the band and it was clear that they were not longer a unit (he wasn’t fond of Love Gun either turns out).

He was against doing the KISS Meets The Phantom of The Park ’78 made for TV movie and the way he recalls it he was really direct about it too and thought it wasn’t KISS anymore and hated doing it.

Same with the Dynasty album in 1979 with “I Was Made For Loving You” going disco even though he didn’t play on that album except for his one contribution. I think he sums it up best when he said,”To me KISS was a Rock and Roll band and we had become a kiddies band, a circus and it became about the merchandise and not the music, I was in for the music from the beginning man”. I think that echoes some of the KISS Army’s feelings too.

I love how he doesn’t hide his feelings on KISS, the band members, producers or anyone else. When he talks about why he quit the band you understand it more, why he decided to leave and the events that pushed him to do it. His feelings about KISS now are clear as well and he really doesn’t like Tommy Thayer. He’s vocal about decisions that were made and what some band members did and tells it all like it was.

The book is not just about KISS, there’s a lot about Peter himself. His personality comes through when talks about his solo career and the bands he played with, his near-suicide and more recently, his battle with breast cancer.

There were a lot of things I didn’t know or had only read about without any real insight. His wives, his going to basically an asylum, his near comeback to KISS in 1980, suicide attempt and so on. I loved reading about Peter’s childhood and growing up, playing clubs before KISS, his attempt at a solo career, the reunion with KISS up until the present day. It’s all covered in Makeup to Breakup, make no mistake.

Sometimes it’s easy to see how fragile and emotional Peter could be. Deep down, the cat is surprisingly sensitive. Yet with all the stories he tells, he really was the original Tommy Lee in a sense, there’s a lot of immature fun and stuff that will make you go “what?”. There’s swear words throughout but then again its rock and roll and sometimes it can be offensive.

The most interesting parts of the book may very well be the dirt on Gene, Paul and Ace. I don’t think anyone would be surprised by what Peter had to say on Gene. Ace’s is a bit more surprising and I’m sure he wouldn’t be happy to know some of the things that were included about his subject in the book even though they’re more goofy than anything else. The worst though, is definitely Paul and Peter tells it all, how he used to see shrinks and talk to them on the phone every day, his sexuality, certain physical aspects and things that he did (particularly funny and exaggerated during the KISS/Aerosmith tour).

What made me respect Peter’s decision to make this book was that he intended to reveal all the behind the scenes about KISS and he had no problem telling this as they were. He gives credit where credit is due as he talks a lot about Bill Aucoin and Sean Delaney, the tour guys and acknowledges whoever did what. At one given point Peter says that Gene and Paul like to take credit for certain things while it was others who came up with the ideas, or mess with “KISStory” as he puts it.

Peter is utterly honest about touring, his wives, the sex, drugs and all the crazy things he did. He tells all about growing up, his family and personal things really. Sometimes you don’t even want to know some of these stories in the book because it’s plain filthy and immature, but this is Rock and Roll and Criss’book is a wild ride.Peter’s book was well put together and comes across as honest and very readable.

I know he was known for exaggerating sometimes and crying wolf, even he acknowledges that, but he doesn’t try to make himself or anyone come off as angels or any better than anyone else. Makeup to Breakup is a great read for anyone who is or was a KISS fan, Criss’book does the best job of telling it like it really was and goes into things that other KISS books do not which would make it required reading for the die-hard.

I have a lot of admiration for Criss putting this book out slamming himself, his bandmates, the decisions they made. An entertaining book and a solid read, it delivers and informs certainly answered some questions I had and others I didn’t have. 4.5/5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Starchild unmasked

Book reviews

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Face The Music: A Life Exposed, Paul Stanley, Harpercollins, 2014.

I always suspected that if one day the four original KISS members each had a book out, Paul Stanley’s would be my favourite and the best written of the bunch.

It is now much later and Ace Frehley has a book, Peter Criss has a book, Gene had two (well, actually three) and now, KISS frontman and resident Starchild Paul Stanley has his own book as well with Face the Music: A Life Exposed. My initial suspicions turned out to be right.

I was surprised at how literate and intimate the book was. Paul always seemed the most private member of KISS so I never assumed he would ever release a book. I don’t know how much the ghostwriter who helped with book did, but Paul comes across as very articulate and intelligent person in real life and interviews and that’s precisely how he is in Face the Music.

I knew Paul had an ear condition but not to this extend. It was revealing how much suffering he endured and how much it troubled him and l think it played a big part in him creating the persona of the Starchild. Becoming who he wanted to be, fabricating this rockstar personna.

Honest. I think Paul comes across as honest about the people he has worked with and ultimately, himself. The managers and people who worked in the background to make KISS happen and gives credit to those who deserve it. He talks about therapy and how’s been doing it since he was a teenager. He even mentions the songs he ripped off at times which I find interesting.

In Face the Music, he comes across as especially harsh towards Ace and Peter, especially Peter which was to be expected, but he also throws quite a few stabs at Gene (and it’s these that are the most interesting). It shouldn’t be all that surprising to fans. Through the years since the farewell tour, he and Gene have been putting down Ace and Peter quite a lot. But it seems that even though he says there are good memories with them, he can’t find space to share any of them. Even Eric Carr gets some of it.

It’s no secret that Paul did not like Gene at first, and in this regard things don’t seem to be all that different today. He rips on Gene for his views about marriage and calls him a hypocrite for later getting to Shannon Tweed. Stanley also doesn’t think Gene is as good as business man as the world seems to think. But then there’s the part of him that was appreciative of Gene when he helped him out and was supportive when he was going through a divorce.

Paul touches on a lot of topics that fans know about but have very limited knowledge on. I doubt fans know all about his divorce or the details of his time portraying the Phantom of the Opera. I didn’t know how much he enjoyed being a father and having a family. Some I knew, some l didn’t, but I certainly wasn’t bored and enjoyed the ride. He gives great insight as to how it was when he took over the reigns of KISS in the 80’s and how felt about Gene, his contributions, the band, the music itself and who was in the band.

Paul goes how when the other band members of KISS went home off tour to their families, relationships and side projects as things that kept themselves occuphed he was alone and by himself. That’s why l find Paul more relatable than the other members of KISS when l read their bios.

He talks a lot about the loneliness he felt and the irony that he fronted one of the biggest bands in the world. He felt he had a void to fill and its interesting because for him committed relationships and kids came later for him than the other members of KISS. His life looks pretty full now with his wife and kids, the band and his art but it seems that in the 80’s he was especially lonely and heartbroken, only falling in love to get hurt. It’s an interesting period of time when he looks back on it, especially considering how much of a “happy” band KISS had become in that decade.

It will definitely be essential reading for the hardcore KISS fan, and worth reading for those who enjoy biographical books and rock books. Paul said something in the book about being all about ongoing self-discovery being more important than creating a myth that wasn’t who he was and l think that’s the best way to summarize his memoir.

Yes he’s the guy from KISS, wrote great songs, influenced musicians, but he’s still his own person. Even though he seems comfortable on stage as the ringleader, it took him time to find inner peace. I would recommend Face the Music, it’s certainly not as self-boasting as Gene’s, or left with blanks like Ace’s or as resentful as Peter’s and that probably makes it the most accessible and honest bio we will ever get from a member of KISS. 5/5 stars insightful and enjoyable reading.

Why I equate Space Jam (and by default, Michael Jordan) with Easter

Movie reviews, Uncategorized

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Theatrical poster. Space Jam, Warner Bros. 1996

I will always associate Easter with Space Jam.

 

Every year on easter weekend Space Jam would air on TV and every year I would watch it without fail. It’s a proud tradition that I continue to honour to this day. It’s slightly different today. Now I just pop in the Blu-Ray and voila, no more waiting for TV. It’s not as nostalgic this way, but the movie is always as good as I remember it to be.

For all intends and purposes, Space Jam was my 1996. Growing up, I wasn’t much of a basketball fan, but I loved everything about this movie. While some movies came and went, Space Jam was a constant mainstay in my collection and in my heart. I love everything including the ridiculous storyline. The Looney Tunes have an intergalactic basketball match against aliens. At first, they have no problem beating their pint-sized opponents. Until they steal the talents of NBA stars and become “Monstars” that is. The Looneys then get the help of Michael Jordan, a retired NBA player turned baseball player.

           Space Jam doesn’t feel dated as much as it feels classic. What can I say about the cast? Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Shawn Bradley, Larry Johnson, Mugsy Bogues, and an appearance by Bill Murray. While Jordan is hardly an actor, he gives a very credible and charismatic performance with his loony teammates. Although those featured NBA players are retired by now, it’s fun to reminisce and see players that era of NBA history.

Maybe it’s because it’s a sentimental favourite, but I feel Space Jam is very much a product of it’s time and a memorable piece of ’90s pop-culture. It also has more than enough humorous sequences and lines to warrant multiple viewings.

“For all intends and purposes, Space Jam was my 1996. “

What really makes the movie charming is the array of Loony Tune characters and watching them come alive on a story tailor-made for the big-screen. There’s something oddly endearing about the pairing of humans and Looneys feeding off each other. In the context of Space Jam it never felt bizarre or out of place. The movie was also notable for being the appearance of fan favourite Lola Bunny. The Monstars are every bit as cool looking as they were. Many of us who grew up in the 1990’s wanted a Tune Squad jersey, I should know, I still want one.

The basketball match is filled with small bits of comedy where every Looney gets 15 second to shine. It’s the highlight and best part of Space Jam. No matter how many times I’ve watched the film, it’s still every bit as fun as it was the first time.

 

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Home video poster. You can practically smells the 90’s.

 

Characters and visual effects look as good today as they did then, it’s cliché’d to say it stood the test of time, but it’s true. In my eyes, the animation looks just as fresh and vibrant as it did upon first viewing as a child twenty years ago.

The Blu-Ray features commentary by Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and director Joe Pytka, Jammin’ with Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan featurette, 2 music videos (Seal’s “Fly Like An Eagle” and the movie cast’s Monstars Anthem Hit ‘Em High) and the theatrical trailer.

That’s it that’s my Easter story. This explains why to me Easter = Space Jam and by default, Michael Jordan. It’s not much of a tradition, but I’ll take it.

              Space Jam is quirky, fun, charming and visually appealing. Everything from lines to the soundtrack is practically etched in my consciousness by this point. Perhaps I’m biased, but so be it, I will aways love Space Jam.

Pearcy tells the world

Book reviews

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Sex, Drugs, Ratt & Roll: My Life in Rock, Stephen Pearcy w. Sam Benjamin, Gallery Books, 2013.

Sex, Drugs, Ratt & Roll: My Life in Rock is exactly what the premise of the title indicates, if that suits you, great, if it doesn’t, that’s fine too. The warning is right there in the title.

First off, I think the most remarkable thing about Stephen Pearcy is that he always had enough drive and luck, and was determined enough that he always knew his way around or connected with the right people to help him along his path to rock stardom and success. The guy knew Van Halen before they were famous, hung out with Ozzy and Motley Crue and has a bunch of stories to tell that make you see that he had charisma or something about him to help make his ambitions come fruitful.

I’ll tell you right away, most of the book is focused on the glory days of Ratt, from their inception, to playing bars and a string of multiplatinum success throughout the decade -with a large part of it centred on the excess of it all.

I would have liked Stephen to go more into the process of writing and creating songs but since a lot of Ratt songs seem to celebrate excess in one way I suppose it all makes sense. Stephen Pearcy tells interesting tales, yet they’re almost all based on excess, sex and drugs. For instance, when he talks about being in a hospital for months he still manages to have a relationship with one of the nurses.

There isn’t a whole lot of depth to his book to be honest, its mostly a tale of Rock N Roll debauchery but a good one at that. Where the book works best is when Stephen talks about the early club days of Mickey Ratt and Ratt but especially when he talks about Robin Crosby. Stephen clearly considered Robin his brother, his best friend at least at some point and when he talks about him is really when his emotions come out. Otherwise Stephen made it clear that it was pretty much all just a big party to him.

He had great stories to tell about Robin and those were always entertaining to read. Yet he doesn’t talk a whole lot about the rest of them. He makes it clear that there has always been some grudges between him and Bobby Blotzer but there is so little mentions of Warren Demartini and even less of Juan Croucier.

Stephen talks mostly about his teenage years, going to see bands, girls and then forming different bands who eventually became Ratt, their initial success and the tours and recordings up until right after the Dancing Undercover tour.

Once we get to the Reach For The Sky album the coverage becomes less and less and Pearcy skims through. There is less talk about the albums, recording and tours from then on and we get almost progressively less and less details. What really makes the book work is that it comes off as really being Stephen Pearcy talking to you and his character is all over the book, which makes it hard not to like.

By reading Sex, Drugs, Ratt & Roll you would think that when Ratt disbanded and he went to do Arcade and different music projects he was still making a ton of money and being on top of the world. You get the impression that in his world Grunge never happened and the scene stayed the same.

That’s the thing though, Stephen doesn’t exactly complain and seems to be content, not happy but nonchalant about what happened since and couldn’t care less. He is still out there doing gigs and it gets him through.

I was surprised that through all of it Pearcy never really became sober, even for a short while. Even when his daughter was born he was still struggling with drugs and alcohol and makes his love of marijuana pretty clear throughout the book. He doesn’t give the impression that he ever stopped, in fact he pretty much *tells* us so. He goes to rehab at one point, and one of the most humorous things here is when he talks to a doctor every now and then throughout the book and the questions and answers are very funny.

I like that he is very honest and doesn’t hide anything, about him or anyone else screwing up, his personal flaws, mistakes and his demons. You sense that he has nothing to hide and he is an excellent storyteller as well.

I might have made it sound like just another book about Rock N’ Roll and excess, and in a way it is but Sex, Drugs, Ratt & Roll was a book I enjoyed and didn’t put down easily. I read it very quickly and enjoyed it. Even though fans will be left with questions and might have anticipated a little more, we get a good sense of Stephen Pearcy is, his life and a good look at Ratt.

I made it clear that it’s not phenomenal or an absolute must read, but curious Ratt fans could do worse than pick this up, it’s an entertaining memoir and a lot of it was either interesting or funny. It’s not one of the best Rock memoirs I’ve read by far, but it’s not one of the worst either and I was really into it so I can’t really complain about much really.

If you’re a fan of Ratt or are looking to satisfy your hunger for some more Rock reads, go right ahead Mr. Pearcy’s life makes for good reading. 4/5 stars.

Just enough leftovers for Volume II

Book reviews, Uncategorized

 

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Eddie Trunk’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Volume II, Eddie Trunk, 2013

 

Hard Rock and Metal connoisseur, TV host and Radio personality Eddie Trunk is an important figure in the world of music. When it comes to his scope of music at least. He keeps metal music alive, knows the bands, and had a genuine passion and respect for the artists and the music.

It was hard not to relate or connect to Trunk as he interviewed his favourite bands on That Metal Show or discussed opinions with fellow members of the metal community on the show. The man lives and breathes Metal.

His first book served as a good introduction to world of Hard-Rock and Metal from someone who knows the music and the bands. That’s where the second doesn’t succeed, because most of the great, important and essential bands were in the first, bar a few that didn’t make the cut. Eddie Trunk’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Volume II is a little diluted from the first Trunk’s first effort.

Are the bands in Volume II deserving and classic? Well, yes. But essential is a relative term and so opinions will vary. Do I think Cinderella is a great band? Yes. Are they essential? Probably not.

The premise of Eddie Trunk’s second book is the same as his first: introduce an audience to a genre of music and rock their world with classic bands. He does a fine job of writing about the bands and his experiences with them. Yet, partly because most of the truly essential bands (and the reason I emphasize essential is due to the word being used in the book’s title) were already in the first Volume, Part ll is a little lacklustre.

There are even some repeats of the first book. Ace Frehley, Slash and Zakk Wylde were already part of Volume I with their previous respective bands so putting them as solo artists feels like filler to me (as much l like these artists and their solo material). The reader might feel cheated with these inclusions.

Some of the bands were obviously going to be in here like Accept and Blue Oyster Cult. Some are a nice surprise, like Angel. For the most part it seems to be heavy on a Glam metal acts: Cinderella, Dokken, Great White, Night Ranger, Quiet Riot, Ratt, W.A.S.P., Warrant, White Lion etc (who all had the Glam or Hair Metal label attached to their name at one point or another). I like these bands and love the era but there isn’t a big variety of Rock and Metal in Volume II like there was in the first. It doesn’t feel balanced. Just a lot of Glammy bands with some previously included band’s solo careers and a handful of other artist.

A dedicated and hardcore fan will probably know most of these bands already and so they’re just reading it to support Eddie or to read about the stories and less so to learn. That aspect is still present from the first book and Trunk remains entertaining.

Eddie’s playlists are back -In which Trunk features playlists of songs  by an artist that he personally thinks are most enjoyable, underrated etc.- the lists were a high point of his first Volume and I for one, was glad to see them come back. I read those and I went “Oh yeah! I forgot about that one!” Or “This is underrated” and so there’s always songs and albums to check out or re-visit.

I mean no disrespect to these fine bands/artists or Eddie Trunk, but his second book is basically last night’s leftovers: results may vary. The stories are good, the playlists fun and Trunks is as opinionated as ever, yet it’s not an excellent book. It feels too rushed, too quick and not diverse enough to compromise a truly essential book. There were few missing from his first but as a whole it made for a solid introduction to Rock and Metal. It also felt more global in terms of sub-genres.

The first volume had Rob Halford doing the forward, this book continues the tradition of high-profile forewords this time with Slash. It’s a nice touch to have someone so prominent in the industry introduce your book, it legitimizes it.

I love That Metal show, I like Eddie Trunk, I like his stories. I feel that what he does is important and plays a role in preserving this phenomenal music, but 2/5 stars is the best I can do for this book (Oh and the pictures are great!). Eddie is always more than honest and sometimes a little brutal in his assessment of music. Therefore I’m sure he won’t mind if I do the same with his book.

Passable introduction to the world of Hard-Rock and Heavy-Metal

Book reviews

 

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Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, Eddie Trunk, 2011.

I followed That Metal Show while it aired (here’s hoping for a comeback -I’m looking at you VH1-) and I listen to host Eddie Trunk’s radio show. I have to give the man credit because he really knows his music inside out.

When it comes to metal this guy has been following the genre since its beginnings and he’s met Hard Rock and Heavy Metal’s biggest legends and talents. Trunk has a wealth of experience on when it comes to this genre of music. In 2011 Eddie finally released his own book, a project which he had long been working on.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect out of Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, but since Eddie Trunk was the author, that seemed like enough a reason for me to buy it. I was curious enough that I wanted to see for myself what Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal had to offer.

I won’t argue with the author’s picks and I’ll agree that most of these bands are essential listening for a true fan. In fact, I would probably have included many of these bands on my own personal “essentials” list. As always some fans are going to criticize and say this or that band should have been included (normal and perfectly understandable), but there was only so much room in the book even if some truly great bands have been overlooked.

I’m not surprised at the picks and there are obviously a lot of Eddie’s favourites like KISS, UFO, Thin Lizzy, Dio and so on. However it seems that there’s little room for new bands in Eddie’s idea of Hard Rock/Metal. While I myself prefer the classic bands over the ones of today there are still some good bands and musicians that make great music these days that should be talked about.

I feel that it would only be normal to also spend some time on bands that carry on this genre of music, just my opinion. Trunk goes by favorites here which is typical and no big deal, I feel that fans would agree that the bands selected are essential and are deserving of a spot here. I think that there could have been room for more bands and more pages, Eddie’s knowledge of the genre and these bands is huge I must say and that’s why I feel this book could have given fans more. Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal is basically an ok introduction and not much more, hardcore fans won’t be finding much new here (I know I didn’t).

This book is about the music and the bands but it’s also a lot about Eddie. He mentions whenever he met one of the bands and on which occasion and how these guys are “great friends” and he has some interesting stories to tell. Sometimes all this fanfare actually gets in the way of the band’s bio.

Even if this is not a biography there’s a lot of his own story thrown in along with some highly opinionated comments which are a lot of times really accurate where I feel Trunk speaks for the Metal community as a whole (like when he talks about Def Leppard losing touch with their Hard Rock roots and how he doesn’t listen to a whole lot of Leppard after Hysteria). There are also times when his comments and opinions are a little less valuable and just plain biased.

On the good side there are some great pictures in there, quite a few I had never seen before (as you may have guessed there are also a few of Eddie with the artists in here as well some which are taken when he was in his teenage years!) and while I wouldn’t say they’re worth buying the book alone they’re certainly nice looking.

As a nice personal touch that I enjoyed were Eddie’s own playlist for each of the bands selected, it’s interesting because these playlist tend to avoid most of the artists’ hits and go for some excellent obscure song. This is where Eddie shows why he is a true fan, it would have been easy to only pick the popular songs but he went one step further here. The discographies are mostly complete, as Trunk states in the book he didn’t include the live releases that he felt weren’t supported by the bands therefore the discographies are fairly accurate while they don’t always include everything (like Iron Maiden’s live releases of which there are more than plenty).

The Did You Know? Section is fun, but as a die-hard fan of the genre I already knew a lot of these facts and you don’t need to be a hardcore Metalhead to get them all right. For a new fan these facts/anecdotes would be more than suitable, I feel they would learn from them.

Eddie also includes a Classic Lineups section which lists the members of what would generally be considered every band’s classic lineup as well as a Key Additional Members section which concentrates on other musicians who have played with the bands.

With all of Eddie’s knowledge on this music I just expected better, bigger, more massive. This is slightly more than a superficial overview. For a new fan, the person who doesn’t know all the band names, albums etc. or someone who’s just getting into metal Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal would be a passable introduction to the genre, good yet nothing special.

The foreword by the one and only Metal God Rob Halford is also a nice touch worth mentioning. Eddie Trunk is really just a fan who got to meet his idols and someone who dedicated his life to this genre of music, his opinions as a fan are often very valid and right on the money and the fact that he’s so honest and opinionated justifies his fandom.

I’ll rate 3/5, I was hoping for more when this came out and I was disappointed, therefore it pains me to say I can only recommend Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal as a general introduction to Hard Rock/Heavy Metal book and not much more.