Released: 2012, Plexus Publishing
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.
Of all the books in this feature Blows book is the least autobiographical, but as his role as journalist for a number of publications including Metal Hammer Magazine, he has some very interesting stories.
Blow was Editor of Metal Hammer (UK) for several years and he was fully immersed in the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal scene for many, many years. You could not get a more accurate account and/or vivid picture of what the rocking lifestyle of the 80’s and early 90’s was like. Blows prose and praise for the life and times is effective and very readable. He comes across as very sincere, likeable and funny.
The 192-page paperback is essentially a recap of many interviews and experiences with Hard Rock elite that the author has had over the years. The book is divided into eight sections, traveling, fights, drinking, drugs, sex, candid conversations, comedic situations and it all rounds off with a brief recap of the legendary Soho scene which was a self-described ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of rock bars (The Ship, The Marquee and the St. Mortiz) that helped define the scene for decades. There are about 30 full-colour photos of the people he has interviewed and a nice two-page collage of ticket stubs and backstage passes. The book is printed on pages that have grey watermarks, which look good but makes HAMMERED a bit hard to read at times.
Blow had had access to many of Hard Rock’s heroes. He has had a chance to chat with although the book leans more towards Hard Rock he does interview and/or talk about Metallica, Sepultura, Gamma Ray and Yngwie Malmsteen. The book naturally has a very heavy British focus with all the usual suspects, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Motorhead, UFO, Def Leppard and Ozzy. I liked it when he dug a little deeper into the Metal underground and discussed Deathwish, Wolfsbane and Paradise Lost, each great British bands. The focus of HAMMERED was on mostly 80’s and early 90’s artists, some of these interviews have been sitting in his archives for over 20 years, so at times they seem a bit stale and UK-centric but interesting nonetheless. There are liberal doses of drinking stories about botched interviews, missed flights, and the various trails and tribulations of trying to keep pace with professionals. One of the highlights for me was a very intimate chat he had with a very upset Lemmy about a controversial piece that Blow had written after a conversation with Wurzel.
Over the years I’ve heard that many Metal stars have had a love/hate relationship with the British Media. Reading this book and listening to the stories of Blow and the choices he made, I can understand why. I was left with a somewhat negative impression of Blow himself and reaffirmed why I never read Metal Hammer. Like much of British Media, Blow’s stories tend to be sensationalist. Part of the problem is that when you have people who are paid to interview people they aren’t interested in and write stories about bands they don’t care about, the journalists often put some sort of twist or angle on the story in an effort to sell issues. That is their job. The bands use the media to portray an image and the media use the band to sell magazines and more importantly advertising. There were a number of times where Blow admitted he didn’t care about the new album or what the artist had to day but would rather try to trick them, usually with lots of drinking involved, to come up with something more salacious. It is the seedy underside of journalism that has had me view all journalists with a high degree of suspicion and mistrust for many years. A less charitable person might use the phrases ‘liars’ and ‘jackals’ to describe many journalists, and to me quite often Blow veered dangerously close to this territory.
However, he was good at his job and it made for a very interesting read. I do have some sympathy as these writers like Blow would work hard and then get blown-off by some label suit, a PR hack or even the artist themselves. It must get very disheartening and a veteran like blow comes across as quite cynical and jaded, even bordering on negative. He constantly makes fun of bands and artists and compares many of them to Spinal Tap. He must have referenced that movie a dozen times! One occasion an artist asks him to NOT publish certain information, but he does anyway, so I lost a lot of respect for him and explains why many journalists have bad reputations.
While discussing the negative aspects of HAMMERED, on a personal note, there were quite a few artists I just didn’t care to read about, lots of grunge and pop/rock guys like Joe Walsh, Fleetwood Mac, Henry Rollins, Carlos Santana, Eddie Vedder and Frank Zappa. They should have been dropped in favour of more Metal related content. The inclusion of these artists kind of taint the book a bit for a Metalhead like myself.
In the final assessment, HAMMERED; Heavy Tales From THE HARD ROCK HIGHWAY delivers exactly what it promised, great stories and an intimate peek behind the Metal curtain. It’s an excellent addition to your library from a wily veteran, who can truly say, ‘Been there. Done that’, then buy you a pint and tell you all about it with a smile.