‘Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock’ by Sammy Hagar with Joel Selvin – Book Review

I know, I know. I am a little late to this book as it came out way back in 2011. But I’m finally here, I’ve finally drenched myself in to the pages and I am ready to tell you all about it. Thanks for being so patient with me. Sammy Hagar! What is there to say about Sammy. I remember seeing “I Can’t Drive 55” on MTV and really starting to discover who he was. I found out he was the lead singer of the band Montrose from the 70’s and then around 1985, I remember he was named the new lead singer of Van Halen. That was when I really started to find out who he really was. I picked up some Sammy albums and definitely bought the Van Halen albums and I really liked him. Then in the 90’s after leaving Van Halen, he started up his solo stuff again. Eventually he turned in to what I felt was the Jimmy Buffet of Rock & Roll. He had this laid back, surfer dude, all sunshine, relaxation and Tequila. He has always seemed like such a cool dude! And this book proved that to be the case, but I discovered so much more.

The book has Sammy really focusing on his rock & roll life with nuggets of his early childhood, but thankfully he stuck to the music mostly. Well, almost thankfully, as I would’ve loved to hear more about his business side as he only touched on it (except for Cabo Wabo and the Tequila) a little and that seems to be the area where he made most of his money and let me tell you, the man looks like he made more money on the business side of his life then the music side and I find that fascinating. Hell, he sold his Tequila brand for around $100 million…DAMN!!! He had a fire safety sprinkler company before there as really such a thing. He’s had his bar Cabo Wabo which is now bar’s’ with an ‘s’. He seems to invest in the right things at the right time and I have never been that lucky.

But the main reason to read the book for any Sammy fan is the Va Halen stories and they don’t disappoint. I’ve heard that he was really harsh on Eddie Van Halen and he regrets that a little, but I don’t think it was that harsh. I don’t think it is anything we didn’t expect or know. Eddie was an addict and his behavior over the years has shown that. I think Sammy was being honest with how he interpreted the stories and that is what I want in a book. I can read other people’s books to get their side and then draw my own conclusion, but Sammy’s seemed authentic to me. The sunshine and roses of how he got with the band seems to coincide with what Ted Templeman said in his book which is all good. But the downfall is where it got interesting. The little things they did to each other, the backstabbing, the drugs and alcohol and just the shitty way things went down was outright riveting to me. Sammy laid it all out there for you to read. So go do it.

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Ted Templeman: A Platinum Producer’s Life in Music by Ted Templeman and Greg Renoff – Book Review

I have been reading so many Rock Books lately, some great, some not so great. When I heard Ted Templeman was putting out a book. I got real excited. I knew he produced all those David Lee Roth era Van Halen albums and thought, this will be great to learn all the behind the scenes stuff on Van Halen. But what I got was so much more.

Ted goes back to the beginning and explains his family life and what type of music he was raised around and he was definitely immersed in to music his whole life. I learned a lot as I didn’t know about his band Harper’s Bizarre from the late 60’s and they had minor hits. It was those albums where he started to learn the craft of producing and would eventually would lead to an A&R job with Warner Bros. Records where he would spend the next 25-30 years of his life climbing the ranks of the business, but always producing.

Being in California he met everyone from around that 70’s scene. Really cool all the people he met and a couple massive icons he saw recording in the studio. When we was learning the ropes, some of his contacts let him come in to the studio to watch and learn and one occasion he was able to witness Frank Sinatra record and was awed at his professionalism and his indelible knack to hit the right note every time. Another icon was Elvis Presley and to the same effect. I can only imagine how cool that had to be to experience.

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‘Stories to Tell: A Memoir” by Richard Marx – Book Review

I have read a lot of books about bands and rock stars and I am a little tired of the sex, drugs and Rock & Roll aspect of the whole thing. It is the same old, same old. I like to read the fun stories that are interesting, smart and I enjoy the stories behind the songs or even the artists writing style and what motivates them. If you are the same way, then this book is what you need to read. Richard Marx brings us a book about his life and believe it or not, he had a great childhood, loving parents, he doesn’t do drugs and never had the wild sex-filled tours and you know what, that is okay because what he gives us are intelligent stories, tons of humor and a lot of behind the scenes looks at the numerous stars he has worked with and songs he has written.

Before I get to that, let us look at the book itself. The copy I purchased was a bundle. It came with an autographed copy of the book as you can see below. I also paired it with a greatest hits CD which is 1 CD full of his hits and another full of demos, rare tracks and a collection of songs he wrote for other people, but this time with him singing and not the artist he wrote it for…really cool. Oh yeah, and the CD came with a signed booklet as well. Really cool stuff…okay, back to the review.

Richard took the down time with Covid to bring us a detailed telling of his life in music…not his personal life. We do get some of it, but mostly it is about the music. Richard is real private about his family but does give us glimpses, however, this is about the rock star. And let me tell you he has worked with some mega stars and is friends with some as well. We learn how he got started in the business by being a background singer for numerous people but got his break with Lionel Richie. He also works with Kenny Rogers and writes a song for him that gave him his first #1 song in country music. But that is the only tip of the iceberg.

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Freddie Mercury: A Life, In His Own Words by Freddie Mercury, Greg Brooks and Simon Lupton – Book Review

In going through Amazon’s Kindle book, I found this book on Freddie Mercury and thought I would give it a try. The book is called ‘Freddie Mercury: A Life, In his Own Words by Freddie Mercury, Greg Brooks and Simon Lupton. Now, it says by Freddie Mercury but that is very misleading as Freddie was not involved with this book as he had long since passed. It is not an Autobiography. The book is actually a collection of interviews that Freddie had done over the years and they were pieced together here to let you hear from Freddie and what he was thinking. A pretty cool idea, however, it didn’t work in the way I am sure they were hoping it would.

Here are the problems…First…the book is in no real chronological order. It doesn’t really tell the story of Queen or really Freddie in any kind of sequential order. It is all over the place timeline wise. Second…it doesn’t go in depth on Queen much at all. So, if you are looking for a deep dive in to the inner workings of Queen, albums or tours, you will be sadly bored to tears. And third…it is very repetitive, It is very repetitive and it is very repetitive. I can’t tell you how many times we have to hear about how much Freddie likes to spend money, how much the real Freddie is not like the stage Freddie and how lonely and few friends he has. Those are all interesting story points true, but these interviews mention it time and time and time again.

What did they get right? Well, the concept is really cool. I did like hearing Freddie talk about the struggles of being famous, his battle with being lonely and his inner thoughts about getting old. As I said, they are truly interesting bits to learn about they just didn’t need to rammed down our throats a hundred times. The man does have an ego as he knows how good he really was, but that ego is squashed by how charming he can be in an interview. Heck, I did have fun reading the book in Freddie’s voice. In my mind I am putting the inflections on the headvoice as I am reading the same way I remember how Freddie would say things. He was flamboyant, he was over-the-top and he was Freddie Mercury, but you do get to see the other side of him which is quite nice to learn.

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‘Dokken: Into The Fire And Other Embers Of 80s Metal History’ by James Curl – Book Review

I found this book on Amazon Unlimited and thought, I like Dokken, this should be a good book to read. And it was, however, my opinion of the boys is now slightly tainted. I now wish I didn’t know what I have learned because I won’t look at the band the same way again. More on that later.

The book is called “Dokken: Into the Fire and Other Embers of 80’s Metal History’ by James Curl. That is a long title. The book is a collection of personal interviews he had with Jeff Pilson and Don Dokken as well as collecting interviews from other people over the years including George Lynch and some Mick Brown (but very little from Mick). The puzzle is pieced together and the story is told of the band from before the beginning with the members other bands all the way to 2019 and where the band stands today.

It is cool to learn about the previous bands and what it took to get to the point of starting Dokken which to me is the weirdest and strangest tale. Dokken got started in the strangest way not anything like the other bands on the Sunset Strip. Dokken wasn’t signed because of all their shows on the Strip, nope. Somehow, Don wound up in Germany and got a deal to record there. The classic line-up was not around yet of Jeff Pilson, George Lynch and Mick Brown. Don was back & forth between L.A. and Germany a lot and was able to pull together the line-up after the original guys he had lined up couldn’t commit. The book tells how he got to know George, Jeff and Mick.

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The Spectacular Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Hair Metal by Christopher Hilton – Book Review

My favorite era of music is the so called, 80’s Hair Metal scene. Of course, back then it was just rock and didn’t yet have a label, but that was the music for me. I know a lot about that era and the bands so any time I can get my hands on a book about that time, I am all over it. I took a chance on this one called ‘The Spectacular Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Hair Metal by Christopher Hilton. The book had a 4.4 rating so I thought I would give it a shot.

The book goes chronologically through each year of the scene and goes all the way up to 2019/20. When it gets to the 90’s and 2000’s, the chapters start to cover more than one year as it would be too much. I was expecting some great stories and maybe interviews from people of that era and from those involved in the scene, but that is not what I got at all. The author went through and talked mostly about the biggest bands of the era including Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Poison, L.A. Guns, Faster Pussycat and the like and he went through each album and the best songs on the album. At the end of each year he ranked the best album. Honestly, it felt like I was either reading wikipedia or maybe even something I would have written with my limited knowledge of these bands. It was rather pedestrian.

The stories about the bands were the same old stories we’ve heard all the time, there was really nothing new at all. No interviews, no real thought provoking insight, no real meat at all. He always focused on the biggest bands and seldom if ever brought up bands that were lesser known that were completely overlooked. The only good thing is he did follow the music in to the 90’s (and he mentioned Paul Laine of Danger Danger) and how the bands changed their sound and style and then went in to the 2000’s where the 80’s Rock scene saw a major resurgence. He even went as far a talking about the new bands in the 21st Century that have taken up the 80’s glam scene and how a lot of them come from Europe, especially Scandinavia. A good list of bands to check out. Most of them I already knew about, but for newbie’s that part is worth checking out.

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‘Walk This Way: The Autobiography of Aerosmith’ by Aerosmith & Stephen Davis – Book Review

I had signed up for the Amazon Prime Unlimited for Kindle books as I figured I would give it a try to see if I would read enough to make it worthwhile and I found this book was eligible so I gave it a shot as who doesn’t love Aerosmith. Ok, don’t tell me if you don’t as I don’t want to lose respect for you. The book is “Walk This Way: The Autobiography of Aerosmith”. It was written by Stephen Davis with the help of the band including Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer. And let me tell you they are all brutally honest and they go in to some massive detail and lay it out all for the world to see.

The book starts at the beginning, I mean beginning of their music career not the band…way before that. They go through the details of how each got in to music and how the band got to meet. The beginning of the book does spend a ton of time about young Steven Tyler and eventually leads to the meeting of Joe Perry and the rest of the band. Let me tell you these boys were doing drugs before they met, while they met and every second of the day. This wasn’t a gradual decline after the band hit success, this was a problem long before that. They were heading down that spiral pretty damn early in life. They were broke, they struggled but it was always about the music. Music was their brotherly bond and they were brothers. They lived together and they fought just like brothers fight, but there was always that undeniable attraction that together they were unstoppable.

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‘Def Leppard: The Definitive Visual History’ by Ross Halfin – Book Review

I stumbled across this book at a store called 2nd & Charles. They sell used books, games, cds, vinyl, you name it. I was browsing the book section, in the music section of course, and stumbled across this beauty. As you know, Def Leppard is one of my favorite bands and I will grab anything I can find by them or about them. And this was write up my alley because it is a picture books and few words because me no like words, reading bad!! Picture books are more my speed.

This particular book is called ‘Def Leppard: The Definitive Visual History’ and all the photographs were taken by the legendary rock photographer, Ross Halfin. Ross has photographed Def Leppard literally since the band started way back in the late 70’s. He is the only photographer to be there basically for every step of the way. This book is a beautiful chronological story of Def Leppard told in photos. And if a photo can speak 1,000 words than this books has millions of words.

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‘Confess: The Autobiography’ by Rob Halford

If you follow my site at all, you know I am in the middle of a Judas Priest Review Series where I am reviewing all the albums from the Judas Priest Collection Box Set (and a few more it missed). I thought as I am immersing myself in their catalog, why not find out some information about the band by reading Rob Halford’s book, ‘Confess’. They sum up nicely below who Rob Halford is but it is really a bland description. I think they left out is that Rob is the ‘Metal God’, Rob is a man who waves the Rainbow Flag proudly, Rob is sober for over 30 years, Rob is human, which means Rob is fallible.

The story of Rob Halford, told by Rob Halford, covers a lot of time. It starts off him as a child growing up in the Black Country of the U.K. His stint where he wanted to be an actor, and then his discovery that he could sing. And man can he sing. It spends most of the time talking about his time with Priest, but it really is about Rob, the person. His struggles in life, but not just with being gay. He struggles with that, but it was more about his struggles with hiding it as being the lead singer of a Heavy Metal band and what would be the fall out if it came out. Honestly though, he didn’t really try to hide it because a lot of the early Priest songs actually talk about it, but no one was perceptive enough at the time to figure it out. The story really is about his struggles with finding love and with trying to have sex while on the road while the band had easy pickings of the female groupies, Rob had to go to seedy truck stops and bathrooms to find love. It didn’t always go well as we find out when Rob has his own George Michael moment. Rob was very lonely, for a very long time and that caused a lot of drinking and a lot of drugs and then rehab. He had many bad relationships with guys that were really straight, it was a tough road. Rob, however, found his way sober and finally found love and it all had a happy ending, thank goodness.

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‘Off the Rails: Aboard the Crazy Train in the Blizzard of Ozz’ by Rudy Sarzo – Book Review

I have been reading a lot lately and I was able to get this book on my Kindle for the super low price of nothing so I thought, what the hell. I really like Rudy Sarzo, I like Ozzy, I like Randy Rhoda’s so why not check this out. The book was written by former Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne bassist, Rudy Sarzo and he chronicles his short time in Ozzy’s touring band the Blizzard of Ozz. This time period is that same time period as when Randy Rhoda’s was in the band and Rudy wanted to capture those moments and felt the story needed to be told. I have to say, I think he is right and I thoroughly enjoyed walking through in great detail, the tours he played on.

The book starts off the day Randy went up in the plane and would crash and end his short time on this planet. The story then immediately jumps back in time to right before Rudy was brought in to Ozzy’s band. Rudy had been in Quiet Riot for a short time with Randy and the band got famous in Japan, but not in the U.S. The group had stalled and Randy went and joined Ozzy’s band and Rudy joined a band called Private Army with his friend Frankie Banali. In the meantime, Ozzy’s debut solo album was released in 1980 and right before the band was to go on tour in 1981, Ozzy fired the drummer and bass player. Randy was still in the band. Tommy Aldridge was quickly brought in, but the band needed a bass player. Randy called Rudy and Rudy would go to Don Arden’s house (Sharon Osbourne’s day and Jet Records President) to meet Ozzy and Sharon and audition. Well, needless to say, things worked out or this book wouldn’t have been written.

Rudy chronicles the entire journey through the tour for Blizzard of Ozz and the Tour for Diary of a Madman. It feels like he kept a lot of notes about what happened at each show, but also, he had help. At the end of the Blizzard Tour, Sharon gave him a scrapbook of every show including newspaper clippings of the reviews of the shows. What is funny is the fact that a ton of these reviews would list the original band which was not Rudy or Tommy which goes to show the writers knew nothing about the band and didn’t even bother going to the show.

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