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McKenzie, Thomas
Power Chord (Book Review)
September 2012
Released: 2012, It / Harper Collins
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: JP

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…

-Kirk Blows-Hammered

-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.

In the introduction to my review of NO SLEEP TO SUDBURY (also this month) I mentioned that I had quite a lot in common with the author of that book. The same holds true in this case for Thomas Scott McKenzie, the author of POWER CHORD. We share many of the same traits, same age, enjoy the same style of music, and have many similar experiences all initiated by the power and glory of Kiss back in the 70’s as they impacted our fragile little minds with excessive bombast and grandeur. The obsession with Ace Frehley, and guitar heroes in general, runs deep with McKenzie, so much so that he wrote a book about it. Subtitled, ‘One Man’s Ear-Splitting Quest To Find His Guitar Heroes’ succinctly summarizes the main thrust of this autobiographical story.

Running 208 pages with a couple dozen full-colour photos, POWER CHORD is a nice paperback with a simple easy to read format. I really like McKenzies self-depreciating humour. I chuckled on many occasions as he poked fun at himself and his gripping compulsion to rock out on the guitar despite having no skill or talent. Like many of us in that era, he grew up admiring the guitar slingers from afar and obsessively made lists and charts about bands, members, and hierarchies of guitar gods.

Our American guitar hero in training over the years, grew up, got married and found some success in his career and amassed quite a collection of guitars and gear and accumulated quite a body of knowledge, but he couldn’t play a note. There came a time where he had enough time, energy and money when he decided he was going to learn to play. Not only play but get lessons (or at least face time) with his guitar gods.

The bulk of the book details his various trips across the American mid-West going to guitar clinics, taking lessons, going to shows, meet and greet and eventually getting enough savvy to contact publicists and get actual interviews for a relatively non-existent guitar based webzine. Although it may sound mildly insincere to pass oneself off as a legitimate journalist to gain access to the stars, it demonstrates the level of his commitment to his quest. Over the course of a year or two (until the kids showed up!) his tolerant wife and bemused friends supported his entertaining quest to meet people like Bruce Kulick, Ace Frehley, Stacey Blades, Steve Vai, Oz Fox, Rudy Sarzo (Yes, we know he is a bassist by trade) and others. He had a dream, made a plan, set goals and did it. Not many people can execute something like that and write a book to tell about it!

McKenzie generally stays in the ‘mainstream’ and most of his heroes are older 80’s-era guys with perhaps the exception of John 5. Although his knowledge of obscure 80’s guitar trivia is unparalleled he doesn’t have seem to have extended his fondness for the genre beyond the United States nor into the modern era of Guitar Gods and/or the elite shredders like Joe Stump and Dushan Petrossi. Accordingly POWER CHORD is steeped in 80’s nostalgia, and some keen insight about his (our) aging heroes.

His journey ends when he meets as many of the people on his list as he can and the arrivals of twins seriously impede his ability to jet off to L.A. to attend rock and roll fantasy camp with Steve Vai. Like any good epic quest our hero returns home to waiting arms, fulfilled and with tales of adventure. POWER CHORD is the modern day Illiad and Odyessy for all of us, the teen dreamers who watched our own Guitar Gods on stage.
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