No Sleep Til Sudbury (Book Review)
Released: 2012, Edwards Press Company
There has been a trend developing lately in Metal related literature, specifically the autobiographical tale using a Heavy Metal theme. I believe one of the first was Chuck Klostermans, horrible, horrible book FARGO ROCK CITY, in which he spent most of the book making fun of Heavy Metal. Another few books followed by Hunter, (CONFESSIONS OF A HEAVY METAL ADDICT, 2004) Keck (METAL GENERATION, 2007) and Long (A SHOT OF POISON, 2010). Recently, there have been a whole bunch of books published in this style. These books are not written by musicians, not written about bands, nor are they academic works, they are just stories of peoples lives, the fans lives, in a Heavy Metal context. My theory is that the people who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s now have the capability to write their life story to some degree and there is a strong market demand for Metal-related literature. Accordingly this year alone there have already been four books in this style published. Listed alphabetically by authors last name they are…
-Brent Jensen-No Sleep Til Sudbury
-Thomas McKenzie-Power Chord
-Rita Rae Roxx-Once Upon A Rock Star
I’ve reviewed them all this month and encourage you to enjoy all the book reviews in this four-book feature.
I was immediately drawn to this title for a number of reasons. Primarily, I have many shared experiences with the author. Although I do not know Jensen, our paths have been very similar. We are the same age, gender, both grew up in a small town in Ontario, both university educated, both married, both of us were unruly boozers with strong opinions about Metal. We watched the same hosts on Much Music Power hour, (J.D. Roberts) as we got older went to the same clubs in Toronto (Gasworks, Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven) followed the same local bands (Hateful Snake), read the same ‘zines (Metallion) saw the same mega concerts on the same Canadian tours (Alice Cooper & Sword in 1987 etc) and pretty much shared a very similar musical trajectory growing up on diet of Kiss and Crue. I carried high hopes for this book!
Sudbury is a small city in (semi) northern Ontario, hence the clever title, alluding to the Motorhead album. NO SLEEP TIL SUDBURY is an independent publication, a paperback that runs 253 pages with no visuals at all. It’s easy to read and Jensen’s casual, conversational prose is also very entertaining readable. The cover is a bit dull but it is the content that what counts. There is one more thing to mention. The sub-title is ‘Adventures in 80’s Hard Rock and Metal Deconstruction’. What does that mean exactly? Well, as Jensen admits the book is heavily, heavily steeped in nostalgia, approximately 1983-1993 is covered in his life with brief comments about earlier life and later life.
His primary focus is his thoughts, feelings and experiences being a small-town Canadian Hard Rock and Metal fan. The deconstruction part comes from his in-depth analysis, much of it based on personal opinion of various bands, scenes, performers, albums, concerts and more.
The book is broken into 24 chapters and isn’t really strictly linear in a traditional autobiographical sense. Many of the chapters are the ‘deconstruction’; opinions about bands and albums, why they are good, why they are bad and so on. As evidence by his Psych degree, Jensen is a deep thinker. An analyst and critic to the core, he presents some very insightful points about many bands. His scope is quite small focusing on mostly Hard Rock and some Heavy Metal as his dismisses many bands based on some relatively arbitrary grounds and others get dismissed because in Ontario you could not easily find this material and of course, you can’t buy everything!
Despite all my favoritism towards NO SLEEP TIL SUDBURY my feeling was that Jensen comes across as quite negative in many instances. He makes many broad sweeping statements that come across as opinionated with little or no substantiation. For example, on page 165 he says, “The purest form of the hard rock genre has expired and it’s completely played out”. Later on page 166 he says …’real hard rock is dead…” and he concludes on page 167 that, “…any hard Rock band is doomed to fail… ” Those are pretty bold statements! I just don’t agree and his negativity and cynicism, although well-stated ignore the fact that there are many, almost countless new melodic Hard Rock and Metal bands that are very popular all over the world, touring, shooting videos, writing songs, recording albums and partying like it’s 1984. The rock 'n' roll business (which he calls an oxymoron) infrastructure is also in place with retro labels like Eonian and TNA records digging up gems from the past. The Frontiers label and Perris Records both continue to sign classic 80’s artists and have a healthy roster of new young hard rock artists and lastly there are specialty labels like Escape and that sign new interesting talent. Bands like Wig Wam, Chickenfoot and Black Country Communion are on major labels and doing huge business in todays musical climate.
Ultimately the authors’ nostalgia has clouded his judgment about the myriads of exciting new hard rock bands that carry not only the 80’s spirit, but attitude as well. However, that generation of bands are not his generation and assigning value to a band only if they are original or unique is a dangerous trap because then virtually everything a person listens to will be discarded. Bands like Kingdom Come, Great White, Tesla, House Of Lords, King Kobra and many more still make great records (in my opinion naturally) but they don’t seem to be on his radar. He did not seem to continue to follow the bands he once loved. There is nothing wrong with that, I expect it is quite common for older fans to give up the thrill of the chase to follow their old favourite bands and complain that there are ‘no good bands’ anymore. My position is that there ARE many, many good new bands AND all the old 80’s bands are still going. We are truly in a golden age of Melodic Metal and Hard Rock.
On many issues we just don’t agree. The bands he loves, I don’t. The bands I love, he doesn’t. Despite the very similar environmental conditioning we have vastly different perspectives about Metal. That’s why I enjoyed reading NO SLEEP TIL SUDBURY so much. It made me think. He has many interesting points on Black Sabbath, theories about Axl Rose, opinions on Aerosmith and they are all well-thought out and meticulous, but again highly opinionated. But of course, it’s his book, his life and experiences and it warms my Metal Heart to think a fellow Canadian is somewhere, out there, obsessing about stupid and irrelevant details about the bands we love. With humour and insight Jensen demonstrates that he cares enough to write a book about it and if you still care (or even cared in the first place) you will enjoy NO SLEEP TIL SUDBURY.