Reviewed: November, 2020
Published: 2020, Indie
I find writing reviews of books I didn’t really enjoy very difficult to write. Partly because I don’t want to annoy the author, (maybe it is a polite Canadian thing) and partly because I really do want to like and support people who write books about Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. However, I can’t like (or pretend to like) like everything and unfortunately MEMOIR OF A ROADIE falls into that category.
Joel Miller is a fellow from America who worked as a roadie for a couple of years and has decided to write about those years of his life on the road from about 1999-2001. I can’t comment on the physical book itself, it is digital only, which as a book fan I despise. I hate sitting trapped on a screen, squinting at tiny font. Constantly scrolling. I don’t know what the quality of the final product will be. MEMOIR OF A ROADIE is long as well, which is really great value, but man, at over 500 pages long, it felt like a real slog to get through.
Miller is a bit of an anti-hero. A classic under-achiever, self-admitted alcoholic and drug dealer he drifted into the job of being a roadie. After a few pages of his personal background he gets right into it the story. He was hired at about age 17 to be a runner on a tour with Stone Temple Pilots. This constitutes the bulk of his touring experience. This has nothing to do with Miller but I don’t like STP at all, I think they are just another generic, crappy grunge band and so I had to sit though over 250 pages reading about a band I don’t like.
Then Miller moves onto his stint with Guns N’ Roses. His touring experience consisted of two concerts with them, the comeback New Year’s Gig and then Rock In Rio. Miller doesn’t really seem have much experience or interest in Hard rock and Metal. This is not an insult but he had to be told what Rock In Rio is and he had to be told by Kevin DuBrow who Randy Rhoads was! I mean this rock 101. Admittedly, the section on G n’R was the only interesting section in the book for my tastes.
Then Miller hopped on the Glam Slam Metal Jam tour with Poison, Warrant, Quiet Riot and Enuff Z’ Nuff. This was the only other part of the book that I was looking forward to. Well, Miller being a millennial type-guy hates that kind of music and spent most of that section complaining about the music and tour. There were a few cool stories about hanging out with Poison who he seemed to like as people but couldn’t stand their music. Lastly, he hooked up with The Cranberries (who?) and that’s when, as a Metal guy, I pretty much tuned out. That was his last tour before quitting the roadie gig.
MEMOIR OF A ROADIE wasn’t all bad. Miller is an entertaining story-teller to be sure but it was too much of the same, endless stories about trying to get laid and then getting drunk, crashing in generic hotels, and going to work hung-over at a job he hated, with people he hated. This is absolutely a cautionary tale that debunks the myths about the glamorous life of a roadie. I will say this; because I’ve been in the music industry a long time, none of these types of stories are new, but for someone who has never been backstage or read a book about a tour, this book will be fascinating. If you are an STP fan, you really need to get this book as well.
The last issue which his found the most irritating is that like many new authors, he assumes that everyone reading has the same experience and knowledge as he does. Accordingly, he would name-drop people all the time that I had no idea who he was talking about. He was absolutely was not name-dropping to seem cool or get credibility but would casually mention a name without any context. Who the hell are Jeff Buckley, Anthony Keidis, Juliette Lewis, Robert DeLeo, Darius Rucker, and Jeff Gordon? I had no idea and it got really annoying to stop reading and have to go to the internet to look these people up because he sort of assumes everyone knows who these people are.
I don’t want to come across like I’m bashing Miller. He seems like a likeable sort, hard-working, safety-minded, and conscientious which made him rise of the roadie food-chain very quickly to assume the role of Stage Manager. He is quick with a joke and is self-depreciating and wears his heart on his sleeve and maybe was a bit too bright, educated and sincere to be able to deal with the often-harsh working conditions and class of people who are career roadies.
I think ultimately it was my fault, maybe I expected more or my expectations were to high but when it comes right down to it, I really don’t care about most of the bands he talked about. I just don’t want to read about them so this book had very little value. The Metal content in this book is virtually zero, and when Hard Rock is covered it is quickly dismissed because the author doesn’t like that style of music. There is virtually nothing here for readers of this site. My final advice, approach with extreme caution.