Klosterman, Chuck – Fargo Rock City-A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (Book Review)

Reviewed: September 2001
Released: 2001, Scribner Books
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: Dave


A comedic take on growing up in the 80’s in the US. This autobiography is not so much about metal as the authors lifestyle and his cynical observations about hard rock culture.

FARGO ROCK CITY – A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota
by Chuck Klosterman
Hardcover – 288 pages (May 2001)
Scribner; ISBN: 0743202279 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.04 x 8.76 x 5.84

\”Fargo Rock City\” is an interesting and amusing read to anyone who was born after the summer of love and was raised on a diet of Vince Neil centerfolds and pointy guitars. It provides a look back on how foolish the big image \’80\’s rock and metal bands look to us us now but also looks back on how important some of these bands were to us at the time. There have been a few books to offer up logical explanations and reasoning behind Heavy Metal culture, a good example is Deena Weinstein\’s \”Heavy Metal : A Cultural Sociology\” . Though a good read, Weinstein is a person who enjoys metal but did not come of age to Twisted Sister videos and Iron Maiden album covers, therefore it seems as she may be viewing the whole metal subculture from an outsider\’s perspective. She also tries too hard at relating metal to some far out collegiate theories. I never listened to Megadeth because of some deep Dionysian theory, I listened to it because it was loud and it rocked.

This is exactly the point of Chuck Klosterman\’s book. He wanted to look at the whole \’80\’s metal explosion from a fan\’s perspective. While reading the book I somehow forgot how huge the whole hard rock thing was back then. It\’s easy to sometimes forget when your most recent exposure to some of these bands has been reduced to seeing them at some club in Indiana where your own band has just performed at. Some bands, like Poison, come around every summer with these package tours that sometimes resemble those stupid \”Rockin\’ To The Oldies\” shows that frequent State Fairs every summer.

Klosterman is a very relatable character to most metalheads. He perceives his adolescence as awkward and geeky and probably had his first sexual experience with a Lita Ford album cover. The one thing he does relate to and the only thing he has to deal with sexual frustration is Motley Crue, Ratt and other hair metal icons. On a side note, I remember the late Shannon Hoon from Blind Melon once saying that \”Listening to Motley Crue probably fucked me up sexually.\” It could be true, I mean we loved the Crue because of the fact that they did what they wanted, they were total social misfits but they still had the hottest chicks. Problem was, because of the Crue we expected all girls to enjoy mud wrestling, have big tits and be willing to do anything to please us. When you are a fifteen year old in Newfoundland, Canada with long stringy hair and an Ozzy shirt just begging for a trip through the rinse cycle, those kind of women are hard to find.

Some people may not get much from this book because Klosterman seems to favor the more light weight commercially accessible pop metal bands. He touches on some real metal in a chapter about the heavy metal/satanism debate and offers some amusing one liners about the lack of sexuality in traditional metal – \”If you want to keep your sons from getting the neighbor girl pregnant, buy him Dio albums and a D & D Dungeon Masters guide\”. After reading the book I am still not sure if the Author shares my belief that \” Master of Puppets\” and \”The Number of The Beast\” were turning points not only in heavy metal, but in rock music in general. Nontheless, the book does give a great perspective on \”Shout At The Devil\” and Guns N\’ Roses \”Appetite For Destruction\”. I myself consider GN\’R\’s debut to be one of the greatest albums ever made and reading Klosterman\’s veiws on the band and the album brought back memories of dropping the needle on \”Appetite ..\” for the first time.

Another thing that makes this book enjoyable is the fact that Kosterman grew up in a rural area, far from big city lights and any kind of \”Rock Scene\”. That aspect is endearing for most of us who grew up in areas that were not part of tour itineraries for most of our favorite bands. It is extremely frustrating growing up with very little live music because at least when you have access to concerts you can occasionally feel part of something you identify so strongly with. However, when you don\’t, perhaps these bands seem so much more larger than life and you have a more romantic view of rock n\’ roll. That\’s probably why so many rock stars come from the middle of nowhere. When you grow up in Eastern Canada, you think that living in some filthy studio apartment with your buddies on Sunset Strip like Slash and Axl did has to be better than living in a nice house with your parents and getting three meals a day.

All in all, that is what makes \”Fargo Rock City\” such a nice way to relive your youth and remember what is was like before mortgages and real responsibility. Back then bad financial problems consisted of not being able to buy both Metallica\’s \”…And Justice For All\” and Slayer\’s \”South of Heaven\” on the same day.

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