Garni, Kelly-Angels With Dirty Faces (Book Review)

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Reviewed: December, 2020
Published: 2012, Indie
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: JP

I have actually had this book for many years but I didn’t really know what to do with it.  Mr. Garni very kindly sent me a digital years ago but being a hard copy type of guy, I just didn’t have anyway to read this!   Now that I’m a little more technically proficient with digital books and, combined with the fact that Frankie Banali recently passed away, I thought this is a good a time as any to look back at the early days of Quiet Riot.

ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES originally came out as an independent publication in 2012 but I have yet to ever see a hard copy, so I can’t comment on the quality of the book itself.

The first thing that struck me was how long the book is, it’s over 500 pages long!  Garni is a prolific writer.   I suppose I need to take a step back, just in case you may not recall who Kelly Garni is; he is the original bassist of Quiet riot from 1978 to 1982. Not only was he a founding member of the iconic band, he was a very close personal friend, best friend in fact, of Randy Rhoads.   In case you might be a Quiet Riot fan who thinks that think that METAL HEALTH is the bands first album and that Garni is just some guy who was in the band for 10 minutes and is trying to capitalize on the fame of Randy, nothing could be further from the truth.  Garni was there from day one and was instrumental (pun intended) in starting the band.

ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES is essentially Garni’s autobiography. Like most, it runs chronologically and follows his mostly normal upbringing in suburban Burbank California in mostly pleasant circumstances in the late 60’s and early 70’s until he hits his early teens.  Garni laces the book with lots of photos and a few other people contribute who were important to the story commentary along the way.   There is also an extended section of photos and celebrity quotes about Rhoads , almost 50 pages worth!  Initially I  thought the book might largely be about the Quiet Riot era but in all reality that was only a very short part of it as Garni was only in the band for a couple of years before being kicked out for his dangerous, violent, alcohol fuelled behaviour.

ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES was, not an easy read.  Everyone may share a very different perspective but to me, Garni seems to have a pretty hard life; fights, drugs, alcoholism, crime, guns, poverty, jail, divorce, the death of several close friends and more failed relationships than I could count.

Garni really needed an editor to help trim the fat.  This book is just way too long.  He spends many, many pages just talking about parties and girls in his teenage years.  While those stories are interesting to a degree, they tend to get repetitive where he talks on and on in great detail about where he and his friends went to some party with some chick in some car and got drunk and high and into a fight.   We don’t even really get to read about Quiet Riot until about 180 pages into the story!    As the Quiet Riot section of the story concludes with his firing, we get another 100+ pages of him drifting from job-to-job, town to town, place to place, girl to girl, each story ending in some sort of tragedy or bad ending.  Are has quite the storied career; security guard, EMT, video store owner, limo driver, musician, photographer; always smart enough to make money but fool enough to lose it all just as quickly.

In the introduction Garni says, don’t worry too much about the technical details (ie, dates, times and places) and this is evidenced quite often in the story when he says things that just could not have happened.  I’m not suggesting he is lying but just not really focused on accuracy, again a place where an editor could have helped. For example, he said he was in a bar band in Vegas in 1981 doing covers of Motley Crue songs.  Well, considering that Motley Crue’s debut album didn’t get released until November of 1981, that it makes it pretty hard to cover songs that haven’t been written yet.  It is not a critical point but it just sheds doubt on the accuracy of the other stories.

I don’t want to dwell on the negative. Garni has had a pretty remarkable life, highs and lows that most people will never experience. His story is compelling and interesting, if a little long.   It is almost like a cautionary tale.   He goes into enormous depth about his friendship with Randy Rhoads and his odd experiences with the cult of Randy that exploded exponentially after Rhoads tragic death.   The whole section about the (at the time) ill-fated Quiet Riot documentary and controversial coffee-table book was fascinating, albeit one-sided.

Garni is inextricably linked to the band.  He was there.  It is a bit sad in hindsight with DuBrow, Rhoads and Banali now all deceased, the band on life support. However, Garni is a survivor, now still making the rounds in Metal media, happily talking to anyone who is interested about the legacy of Randy Rhoads and Quiet Riot.  ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES  is a wild ride, but without a doubt a special and unique insight to that brief golden time.