Category Archives: Book Reviews
The KISS Album Focus, Volume 1: Kings of the Night Time World (1972 – 1982)
The KISS Album Focus, Volume 2: Hell or High Water (1983 – 1996)
The KISS Album Focus, Volume 3: Roar of Greasepaint (1997 – 2006)
The KISS Album Focus, Volume 4: Never Enough (2006 – 2013)
by Julian Gill
For many years, the website KISSFAQ.com (not affiliated with or endorsed by the band KISS) was the source of a lot of great info on the band. What I found most entertaining and informative was the website’s “KISS Album Focus” series where the band’s recording history was broken down into detail. These considerably lengthy articles were all posted and available for free. Eventually, he Album Focus articles were pulled from the site and were slowly released in book format starting in 2002 (with updated editions being published at various points). As of this writing, the series covers the band beginnings all the way up to 2013.
In addition to KISS albums, these books also focus on what every band member was up to pre- & post-KISS. Various editions of albums and singles are discussed as well.
I’ve read a lot of KISS books over the years and these are some of the best. While this isn’t technically a biography of the band, it does cover every album the band has released (including compilations and live albums) and talks about events during and leading up those releases.
I started with Volume 2 because it covers my favorite era of the band. I think KISS’ run during the ’80s and early ’90s is much more interesting than the classic period. We’ve heard all the stories from the band’s 1970s heyday a million times. so my eyes and ears always perk up when I get to read about what went on post-originals/pre-reunion.
Next I purchased volumes three and four. Volume 3 was interesting because it focuses on the reunion and while I already knew that Psycho Circus wasn’t a true reunion album, I didn’t realize how much of a mess relations were in the band from the get-go. Volume 4 covers the shortest amount of time out of all the books and according has the least amount of pages. I was a bit disappointed with this one because I felt surely there’d be much more to say with the band kick-starting their creatives juices with the releases of Sonic Boom and Monster.
Finally, I picked up Volume 1. I almost bought the $5 Kindle version because the paperback was listed as being out of print and prices on copies of it skyrocketed up around $40. Just a few days earlier the paperback was in stock and had been listed at around $17 or so. I mulled over whether I wanted an e-book to complete the set but after doing that for a few weeks, Amazon got more paperback copies in, so everything turned out okay.
My biggest complaint about this series is that Julian Gill really could’ve used an editor (or a spell-check/grammar check program). Words are omitted, words are misspelled, entire paragraphs are repeated but worded differently… This happens throughout the entire series but seems to happen the most in Volume 1.
I wouldn’t recommend these books to a casual KISS fan that may only pick up a Gene Simmons book for a quick read, but all hardcore KISS fans should read and love this series. These are books I’ll be referring to and re-reading certain chapters for many more years to come!
Zakk Wylde – Bringing Metal to the Children: The Complete Berzerker’s Guide to World Tour Domination (Book Review)
Bringing Metal to the Children: The Complete Berseker’s Guide to World Tour Domination
By Zakk Wylde with Eric Hendrikx
(2012, HarperCollins/William Morrow & Co.)
While I’ve always thought Zakk comes across as a cool guy, I’ve never been a huge fan of the music he’s played. That’s not a knock on his skills, I know he’s a great guitar player it’s just that Ozzy has never appealed to me much and I think all Black Label Society albums sound the same, give or take a few tracks. Still, when the opportunity to read this book came about, I figured it would be worth looking into because Zakk is a true rock star yet seems much more down to Earth than other “rock stars”.
If you’re looking for a detailed history about Zakk’s life, you aren’t going to find it here. You do pick up bits about Zakk’s early days and his family and home life but this is less of an autobiography and more of a humorous take on the good & bad that occurs on the way to finding your place in the world as a viking god of metal. The book is what the title says: a guide to world tour domination.
Mostly told through Zakk’s voice, co-author Eric Hendrikx handles a lot of the introductions to each chapter and a number of sidebars. Each one is so hilariously over the top, making metal sound so epic and majestic you’d swear these intros were written either by Jack Black or Manowar. There are also a few other “guest” writers such as UFC fighter Forrest Griffin, WWE pro wrestler Chris Jericho, TNA pro wrestler Bully Ray (aka – Bubba Ray Dudley), Zakk’s wife and various other friends & BLS bandmates.
This book is definitely not for the timid. The book is filled with very colorful language on each page and lots of gross out humor. If you’re turned off by tons of cursing, alcohol, detailed accounts of bodily functions and lots of talks about penis & vagina don’t bother picking this book up. The things Zakk says about his wife! That gal has a great sense of humor to sign off on this book.
There are stories involving Ozzy but the book mostly focuses on Zakk’s time since starting up Black Label Society. It’s obvious Zakk takes heavy metal and the Black Label brotherhood very seriously but at the same time everything is open for jokes. I really enjoyed the self-deprecating humor that Zakk displays in the book. Nothing is off limits and the book is written tongue in cheek. He’s not some rock star looking down on everyone trying to play it off like he’s the coolest guy around (though he may be) saying “here’s what you need to do if you wanna make it like I did, kid”.
Zakk may not drink anymore but he’s comes across as the kind of guy you could just walk up to and shoot the breeze with at a bar and have totally normal conversation. Books like these can sometimes be used as a weapon to take shots at certain people but Zakk doesn’t do that here (well, maybe other than the music labels) and I have to commend him for that. It’s a fun book with not a single self-important or mean-spirited page to be found.
While Ozzy fans and BLS fans should have a particular interest in this book, I also recommend it to metal fans in general if you’re looking for a good laugh and some fun/gross stories about playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band.
Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock
By Sammy Hagar with Joel Selvin
(2011, It Books)
At 238 pages, I was able to read this one over the course of a week. Let me tell you, considering how long it usually takes me to read through a book, I’m pretty proud of myself for that. I’m not one of those people that can pick up a book and knock out most of it in one sitting. It usually takes me weeks to get just one book finished.
Anyway, Red is good light reading but it has some darker moments like when Sammy talks about his abusive alcoholic dad and his wife slowly having a nervous breakddown. Other moments like when Hagar talks about the VH reunion tour back in 2003 are just plain sad because of how out of it Eddie was at the time. But it’s weird because when Sammy talks about his dad it’s almost as if he is glorifying him, yet the Van Halen brothers come across as low-lifes.
For the most part, Sammy is pretty upbeat on his view of life but obviously still has issues with Van Halen. He seems so free-spirited and easy-going about everything in life… except his old band. Sammy even makes the (oft-repeated and ridiculous) claim that Van Hagar sold more albums than the DLR era. Not even close. Why do people continue to say this? The feather in the cap of Van Hagar is that their albums always debuted at #1, not that they sold more.
The book does not revolve entirely around Van Halen. Hagar talks about his childhood, working the club circuit, Montrose, solo career, Mexico and his various business ventures. If my memory serves correctly, there’s a few chapters that didn’t make the book that were posted online at one time. One dealt with the divorce from his first wive and the other involved some more shady business dealings with VH and the new manager they had taken on at the time (that Sammy was not getting along with).
A good read overall. There’s enough Van Halen drama for those that like their biographies to dish the dirt while giving us a deeper look into the world of Sammy Hagar. Recommended.
Rat Salad: Black Sabbath, The Classic Years, 1969 – 1975
(2006, St. Martin’s Press)
By Paul Wilkinson
Here is a short review for a book I had considered buying on and off for years. While I have read a number of Black Sabbath books, I held off on this for awhile because it focuses on the Ozzy era up through 1975 and it’s well-known that I prefer the likes of Ronnie James Dio & Tony Martin over Ozzy Osbourne’s tenure. Still, when I found out it was available from the local library, I checked it out and gave it a shot.
To be honest, I got about 80 pages into this 240 page book before I decided to walk away from it. I am a huge Sabbath fan but you not only need to be a major Ozzy-era fan but also a musician to really get the most out of this book. All the talk about C sharp, E minor or whatever is absolutely boring to me. I am not a musician, so that detailed information means nothing to my brain. I read a review that stated this book is like a text book, in some ways, I agree.
In addition to that, the author tries to interject his own personal history into the book. I found this to be quite odd and it really disrupts the flow of the book whenever he delves into his personal life. If he wants to talk about how Sabbath affected his teenage years, fine, but I don’t care to learn about his school days, his best friends or first kiss. It’s really out of place and the author comes off as a self-important snob but then I guess most of us music critics are exactly that.
Bottom line: if you love the early years of Black Sabbath AND are a musician, you’ll probably like the book a lot. For those of us that like to listen but can’t play a note, there are much better books on Black Sabbath out there.
Book Review – ALICE COOPER, GOLF MONSTER: A Rock ‘n’ Roller’s Life and 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict
Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: A Rock ‘n’ Roller’s Life and 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict
(2007, Three Rivers Press)
by Alice Cooper with Keith and Kent Zimmerman
So about two weeks ago, with money to burn and a desire to read something more than a comic book or magazine, I headed off the bookstore and snatched up a few books, one of which was this 2008 paperback edition of Alice Cooper, Golf Monster (originally released in 2007 as a hardcover). When the book was first released, I couldn’t bring myself to spend the cash on it due to the usual high hardcover cost plus the fact that the book dealt alot with golf. Golfing just isn’t my thing and that’s something that even the king of shock rock is never going to change.
I love reading biographies and autobiographies and Alice is one of my favorite musicians so a book written by him is right up my alley, but Alice makes no bones about his love of golf and his intention to talk about it regularly in the book (just look at the book’s title). So I had to give a little to get a little. Each chapter is either dedicated to golf, his personal life, or music.
Though I read the entire book, as I said, I’m not a golf fan and I know nothing about golf. So a lot of the things he said went over my head or I found myself thinking “okay” and moving on. Alice does try to relate golf to a way of living life and the similarities of his music career though so it’s not TOTALLY like you’re reading two books at the same time.
I hate to say it, but at times Alice comes off as just a smidge full of himself when speaking of his celebrity, wealth and music career. No doubt, the guy is a legend and is definitely one of the most down to earth rock stars, but there was still a sense of “I’m Alice, I’m the man”.
He’s definitely led an interesting life though and has gotten to hang out with tons of interesting people: Keith Moon, Mickey Dolenz, Frank Sinatra, Mae West, Groucho Marx, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and John Lennon are just a few of the names that pop up in the book.
There are also some really fun stories, such as Groucho Marx calling Alice over to his house in the middle of the night to keep him company and watch old movies together. My absolute favorite moment, though, was Alice speaking of his time in rehab where he had to clothesline a female patient to prevent her from destroying a TV set that had become the only thing that was keeping him from losing his mind. Absolutely hilarious!
All in all, I would say this is a decent book, but nothing great. There’s probably not *enough* golf talk for golf fans and there certainly wasn’t enough talk about Alice himself or his career for this music fan. If you’re a diehard Alice fan, I suggest you pick it up for a few entertaining nuggets, but I still await the day for a end-all, be-all bio on Alice. Unfortunately, it looks like it won’t be coming from Alice Cooper.