Released: 2013, De Capo Press
In terms of Metal history, this is quite an important book. For the first time one of the four surviving members of Pantera, one of the best-selling, most influential Metal bands of all time, has told the tale. Zac Crain wrote a decent bio about Darrell Abbot back in 2009, (check out my review on this site) but this is the real deal. I’ll state my bias up front, I’m not a huge Pantera fan. My tastes lean more towards what I refer to as the ‘Golden Age’ of Pantera (pre-Cowboys) before the major label deal and dramatic change in style and sound. However, I was very curious to learn more about the inside workings of this band.
OFFICIAL TRUTH:101 PROOF is a nice looking hardcover with 30 black and white photos on glossy plates inserted into the middle of the 259 page book. Rex Brown, former bassist and long-time member has written his autobiography with a strong leaning towards his musical career both in and out of the band. There is a nice Foreword by Dug Pinnick of King’s X and the book is co-written by Mark Eglinton who also wrote a biography of James Hetfield.
Like most autobiographies, this book follows a logical linear, chronological sequence. It starts with a well-used (but effective) literary cliché of the ‘hook’, a quick chapter that sets the stage of some major event (in this case, somewhat predictably, it is the death of Darrell Abbott) and the rest of the story runs as almost a flashback, taking the reader up to the aforementioned major event.
One feature I was pleased to see is that Rex covered most of his life with equal enthusiasm and detail. Many other ‘rock star’ autobiographies (Snider, Mustaine, Iommi, Frehely) are horribly thin on current detail and the recent years of their career. Pantera, unlike many other bands, did not have immediate success. They worked damn hard for many years and I found the most interesting part to be the early pre-Phil years because that era has not been exposed as much via the Metal media. As 80’s Metal fell from favour in the North American media (ie. MTV) Pantera deliberately tried to bury that part of their history, so it was good to read about the 80’s Pantera.
This brings to my next point where I was delighted to read. Rex validates that Pantera deliberately changed styles to gain mainstream acceptance. Back in February of 2002 I wrote a controversial piece here on Metal-Rules that said, essentially that Pantera sold out. I took some heat (ie. angry e-mails) from that from newer (90’s, Phil-era) Pantera fans who disagreed. However, as a casual observer and industry watcher, I felt it it was a calculated move and Rex has the balls to admit, and I admire that courage. He says, ‘Our image was new and so was the music. …we, as a band id make a conscious decision to distance ourselves from those first four records.” (p. 72) That is the classic textbook definition of selling out. And you what? It worked. After a decade of struggling, Pantera went on to untold fame and fortune and for the next 150 pages or so, Rex talks in detail about the major label years of the band. It’s all there, the whirlwind of sex, drugs and Metal.
Pantera’s last gig was in the summer of 2001, so there is quite a bit of post-Pantera material that Rex covers in his autobiography. He discusses Down, Crowbar and his brief career in Hollywood, California trying to do soundtrack and production stuff. He remains quite a private person, caring not too mention his wife or kids too much and talks about keeping the separation of his musical life and his personal life. He talks freely about his addictions (mostly booze and cocaine) his attempts at rehab, the highs and lows of his career, finances and dealings with industry and media. I like the tone and style of his prose, he is not bragging or preaching, nor downplaying his failures. He at times has some very unkind words for the other dudes in other bands he has been in, but the lot of those musicians seemed to be messed up in one way or another, so his criticism is not unwarranted, nor mean-spirited. The book is littered with quotes from Rita Haney, his bass-tech Jeff Judd, ex-managers, and various others. It was also good to hear from ex-singer Terry Glaze. They all brought a unique perspective to his life-story. He has had quite the life!
I’m not really surprised that Rex was the first member of Pantera out of the gate to write an autobiography. Vinnie doesn’t seem to be the book writing type and I don’t think Terry Glaze would have too much to add beyond the first three albums (1981-1986). Phil seems perpetually messed up but when he does write a book it will be huge. So, basically that left Rex or perhaps at a long shot Rita Haney (Darrell’s longtime girlfriend) to write a book. Throughout the years Rex always seemed like the quiet one, perhaps the most stable of all of them (which isn’t saying much) so I feel this is probably a pretty realistic perspective of the bands history. OFFICIAL TRUTH is recommended for all Metal fans and essential for Pantera fans.