Metal Fatigue (Book Review)
Released: 2014, Independent
There is the old adage, ‘Write about what you know’. This is sensible advice and may explain why we have seen an increase in the number of metal-themed autobiographies by people who aren’t metal musicians. From Klosterman’s infamously poor and anti-Metal book FARGO ROCK CITY, to any number of smaller scale independent publications by authors like Dawes, Hunter, Jensen, Keck and McKenzie, lots of people are writing their life story as it relates to Heavy Metal. If you don’t know who any of these folks are, that’s OK. I have reviewed all their autobiographies here on this site, you can search for them by last name and each book is fascinating in it’s own right. METAL FATIGUE is the latest book of this style.
Todd Baker is ‘just some guy’ who wrote a book about being a Metalhead. Don’t let my phrase of ‘just some guy’ fool you. Sure, he is not a big-name ‘Rock Star’ writing his life story but that does not make it any less interesting or valid. Baker is by all accounts, including his own, is a surprisingly average dude. Born and raised in the USA, he is a middle aged, middle-class, white guy, an employed bureaucrat, married, kids, mortgage and car and has short hair. Not the standard image of a Metalhead and yet, there are probably more guys just like Baker that are Metal fans than the classic stereotype. They are the silent majority, the ones on the surface you would never suspect but are still ragin’ Metalheads.
METAL FATIGUE is actually Baker’s second book (the first was his experience about running a marathon) and it is an independent publication, soft cover running about 240 pages with no pictures or any extra features. It’s well put together and easy to read. The sub-title is ‘The Making Of A Middle- Aged Metalhead’. Baker tells his life story as it relates to his growing up as a Metal fan. The book has an easy-going humorous style that is also part Metal primer for people who have no knowledge of Metal whatsoever. He explains in simple terms about basic Metal concepts, (ie. what the NWOBHM is) and aims his narrative not at die-hard Metal fans but outsiders.
I found METAL FATIGUE to be enormously entertaining and funny, I laughed out loud on several occasions. As a middle aged white guy, married with a mortgage and a car I could totally relate to his story. The parallels to my own life-story were uncanny. In fact, I started to write my own book much like Bakers many years ago but it will never see the light of day when there are far superior books like METAL FATIGUE to read. Baker describes his experiences of his first stirrings of becoming a metal fan, his first records, accidentally meeting Tommy Lee of Motely Crue, his first show, first club gigs, first stadium gig, his college radio show…all described in loving detail. Not surprisingly, like hundreds of thousands of us middle aged white guys, Kiss was his first real introduction to Metal. Young people today may scoff at such a notion but in the mid-70’s discovering Kiss was much like when The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964, it shook up an entire generation of rockers. In some sense Baker’s story is completely unremarkable and no different (except in minor details) than hundreds of thousands of other guys, but the key difference is that he wrote a funny book about it.
I think the only criticism I would have is that the book gets bogged down a bit near the last third. Baker readily admits he basically lost track of Metal for a good 20 years as he moved on, drifted away from friends, got married, had kids and got a job and so on. The remainder of the book is composed of telling two main stories. One, how he broke his leg in a mosh pit when he was a young man. The other story is how he got his first tattoo much later in life. Both stories are well-written and very entertaining but have very little to do with ‘Metal’ per se.
I rated METAL FATIGUE a little higher than I might normally for ‘just some guys’ random autobiography. It got extra marks for the humour and the sense of familiarity of his own life and the similar or equivalent experiences in mine. It spoke to me! If you don’t fit the profile (North American, middle aged, middle-class, married white guy etc), you might not enjoy this as much as I did but METAL FATIGUE is an excellent slice of what it is like to grow up being a Metal fan.