Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. (Book review)
Published: 2019, Crazed Management
Reviewed: October, 2019
As much as I really enjoy reading autobiographies by my favourite Metal musicians, they can be, at times, a bit one dimensional or repetitive. For my tastes as an industry guy, I really look forward to reading books about the industry and that is why I was so intrigued to read.
This is the life and times of Jon Zazula the founder of Megaforce Records. To date there have only been a very few books about Heavy Metal specialty record labels (Metal Blade, Noise, Peaceville, Neat) so to me these are a bit special because they often have an inside story about the wacky, wild world behind the scenes of Heavy Metal.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints I am reviewing a digital copy, which I hate to do because I can’t tell you about the quality, layout or design of book but I’m sure it is decent enough. These are important factors for those of us who want to consider buying a physical book from Amazon for example, which did start as an on-line book seller! I can tell you that it is about pages long and does have quite a few pictures included.
HEAVY TALES isn’t exactly a detailed analysis of Megaforce records specifically, but because the founder Jon Zazula and his company are so inextricably linked, so until we get a third party writing the story of the company, this is the very best thing.
The book follows our hero along a fairly standard chronological timeline with a few details about his early life. Interestingly enough, Zazula journey went from middle-class to unemployed and homeless and back up the scale to being a well-off white collar guy before he got into Metal much later in life. I’m sure it was that training, on the streets and in the boardrooms) that helped served him well in his future success, although his path was not without bumps, as he was jailed for a short period of time for some Wall Street trading shenanigans! He wasn’t the first and won’t be the last Metal guy who has been behind bars or done hard time.
The story of Megaforce Records in essence is one of the American Dream. It is about hard work, dedication, sacrifice and belief in a dream that can one day be fulfilled if one works hard enough. Zazula and his long-suffering partner Marsha start with only a few dollars to their name start trading a few records at a time when the Metal record industry was in it’s infancy. With a keen ear the pair built a small local empire from their home and a stall at a flea market. Eventually this grew into promotion, band management and Megaforce Records. At the height of his power, Megaforce had 24 employees a huge office and the Zazulas owned a couple of properties! There were some dark times, some depression and substance abuse from the pressure of running his company, but by and large the tale is one of success.
Oddly enough, the story of about the signing of Metallica was one of the less interesting parts of the book because that story has been told so many times, I could have written that chapter, including details of the band raiding the Zazula’s liquor cart on the first day of arrival! If you are not familiar with the story there is tons of great stuff and stories about the early days of Anthrax, Overkill, Metallica, Manowar and working with Raven and Venom and Exciter and so many more. In fact, I almost wished there was a bit more detail, the mid-years of the label get a bit glossed over and the final years, the sad decline of the once great label are touched only briefly. I suppose decision to abandon Metal for greener (ie. non-Metal) musical pastures really came back to bite them as they lost almost everything and retreated from the music industry altogether.
I feel Zazula has few, if any, regrets and is now comfortably retired in warmer climes. He made his mark on the world, helped bring joy to so many and built an empire that still remains to this day. HEAVY TALES has more than enough Metal content to satisfy the die-hards and is a great entrepreneurial success story as well.