Michael Sweet, known prominently as the front man for the most feted of all Christian rock bands, Stryper tells the story of his life with a candid honesty that makes this a compelling read, and not just for rock fans. Rock fans will no doubt relish the tell-all account of Stryper’s rise and fall and rise again – yet it’s the depiction of his frailties, strengths and struggles that makes his a human interest story the reader can not only relate to, but also empathise with.

In the mid-1980s, Michael Sweet was a young man going places. His band Stryper represented the popular glam metal style of that time, characterized by highly visual performances, twin guitar solos, big hair and Sweet’s high-pitched, multi-octave screams. Here was a guy in his early to mid-twenties, a gifted guitar player, vocalist, song writer and front man for a band who were touring the world, selling hundreds of thousands of albums and enjoying worldwide success on MTV. Unlike their peers however, they were rock ‘n’ roll trailblazers – the first Christian heavy metal band to enjoy global commercial success and at the same time, proselytize the word of God through their music to the masses.

Yet behind the façade, Sweet was anything but happy. A series of events over a sustained period (including disputes about song writing, poor financial management and even egos permitting the band to become incorporated) had seen cracks start to appear in the yellow and black veneer, cracks that would ultimately lead to his departure from the band.

Being a highly visible Christian metal band was what separated Stryper from the pack. Yet by 1991, Sweet was being choked by it. He was tired of being lampooned by both Christians and non Christians alike. Sweet ditched the yellow and retained only the black, hit the bottle pretty hard, took up collecting firearms and put God on hold. To the Christian zealots that makes him a sinner. To me, that makes him human. He describes these events in his life with a frankness that you don’t normally find in rock bios, a quality that is consistent throughout the book.

Amongst a slew of topics, he talks about growing up with ADHD, signing bad publishing deals, record labels going bankrupt, the sacking of Tim Gaines, the pros and cons (mainly cons) of having his Mother manage the band, the squandering of millions of dollars, and being asked to join Boston. Yet its only when Sweet describes his struggle to break free from the shackles of Stryper that you begin to understand Stryper has been both a blessing and curse for him, a monkey on his back that at times he has wanted to kill, and at times has been an impediment to his solo career.

If the reader chooses to forever pigeon hole Sweet in striped yellow and black spandex then the point is missed. With each chapter, it becomes clear that Sweet possesses a depth of character (and staunch faith) as he has dealt with life’s trials and tribulations. He comes across as a sensitive, at times emotional figure. These traits we can all relate too. From being a rock star and performing in Stadiums to performing manual labour, to struggling to find his identity and re-establishing himself following Stryper’s split, to being a better Father to his children, and supporting his wife through her terminal battle with cancer. I was stirred by Sweet’s narrative of his wife’s Kyle’s last days, and you’ll be hard pressed not to be moved either.

As expected, he talks a lot about his faith, (a faith that has been tested), and his relationship with God. Throughout life’s roller coaster ride he has maintained his conviction and integrity – again, behaviours not unfamiliar to readers, Christian or not.

This is a thoroughly engaging read, and a book I couldn’t put down. I’ve read hundreds of rock books over the years – and Michael Sweet’s ‘Honestly’ makes my Top 10. That’s a statement I don’t make lightly. 9.5 out of 10.

“Honestly: My Life And Stryper Revealed, will be released worldwide on May 6th. For more details go to Michaelsweet.com

Melbourne’s Gena Rose Bruce is a rising star who has the potential to go all the way. Aside from taking out first prize in the 2013 Telstra Road to Discovery competition, there’s been a performance at the Golden Guitar Awards in Tamworth, a trip to Nashville to dip her toe in the water, and now the release of her debut CD ‘Wild One Babe’. Amongst a surplus of female singer / songwriters, Gina Rose Bruce possesses those few extra qualities that separate her from the pack. She has a voice that is sweet and likeable with immense appeal – yet if you are expecting cutesy or syrupy – think again. Here is a 20 year old fusing her love of country/folk/grunge/pop with a lyrical depth that belies her years, creating an alt. country sound (for want of a better term) that is all her own. Of the five tracks on this EP, there’s plenty of highpoints. Opening with the rambling ‘Jackson’, this is a ride for the broken hearted down Americana road, with guitar tones evoking images of sweeping plains, and a strong hooky chorus pinned by sweet vocals. The unpretentiousness of ‘I Need A Boyfriend’ follows, and it has a plaintive, toe-tapping charm all of its own, before diving headlong into the frolicking rollicking stomp of ‘What We Want’. Draped in 60’s pop sensibilities and awash with Hammond organ, guitars that echo and a shrill voice that reaches the summit, particularly on the chorus. With only acoustic guitar and vocal, the pared back title tune ‘Wild One Babe’ is further example of Bruce’s affable charm as both melodic songwriter and songbird, with lyrics that hint at a darker side. ‘Old Love’ is my highpoint though, and the tune that first hipped me to her. Lyrically, it’s a bitter sweet song about breaking up, yet musically, it’s more profound than that.  What starts out as a humble country ballad rises and falls like a roller-coaster with an infectious chorus and an impassioned vocal delivery that is nothing short of superb. If any of the current crop of major label female country artists had of released this tune it would still be in the charts with a bullet. Yes chum, it’s that good. Whilst Lana Del Ray may be an influence on Gena Rose, vocally, Susanna Hoffs is perhaps a more apt comparison. She certainly has the honeyed tones with a range that rises almost to falsetto. She has the songs, the talent, the looks, a gorgeous voice – and the potential to find a niche for herself above the aforementioned surplus of female singer / songwriters. 5 out of 5.

https://www.facebook.com/GenaBruceMusic

skynyrd_australiaLynyrd Skynyrd are just as important as the Rolling Stones.

That is a rock n roll fact. This was indeed Skynyrd’s first ever tour downunder, and a welcome one
at that. The guy in the seats in front has brought along his teenage daughters – both decked out in Skynyrd tees. I should really nominate him for Father of The Year – cos he has succesfully weened his kids onto the right kinda rock.
Well done friend. Melbourne outfit My Dynamite opened the show tonight and in a word and were impressive – grabbing the opportunity to perform on a large stage with both hands. Comparisons to the Black Crowes should be taken as a compliment – and it is re-assuring to know My Dynamite are around. As their set grew, so did their confidence – and they eventually had the majority of those in attendance hooked and on board. A name to make a note of.

My brother and I have long been Lynyrd Skynyrd disciples – in the very early 80′s we would play the ‘Gold & Platinum’ double album till the old Sanyo hi-fi exploded. It was an education which was indeed, life changing. From there the journey took us further – and what an amazing ride of discovery – 38 Special, Blackfoot, Van Zant and the amazing Rossington-Collins records. When the band reformed, I always had my fingers crossed for a tour – but to no avail – and our paths never crossed in the times when we trekked across the USA. But here we are at last. In the Sydney Entertainment Centre, on a humid summer’s evening – with a few thousand fellow rock fans – all standing at the ready – in the presence of gods, as it were.

I heed the call of the ‘show is starting alarm’ and find my seat. Screw that, I’m gonna stand I decide – and commence dancing to ‘Workin’ for MCA’ with a beer in one hand and a grin a mile wide. the stomping I Ain’t the One follows, then they air the title track from the album they are touring ‘Last of a Dyin’ Breed’. It cooks. The crowd are appreciative, and the band are on form. What’s Your Name, Gimme Back My Bullets, Down South Jukin’, That Smell, You Got That Right, Saturday Night Special, I Know a Little – it was a set-list to savour. The fan in front of me was in ballistic bliss – and who could blame him ? Ex-Black Crow Johnny Colt – who I’d last seen at the Hordern back in 92 fits the band well, and his Thunderbird bass grunt is a welcome addition. The shadow of Leon Wilkeson will always loom large, but Colt looks right at home. Simple Man is next and a definite highlight – how cool is Johnny Van Zant ? No dancing and prancing – like Malcolm, Angus, Wells and Co. The real deal. To his left stand Gary Rossington – a rock n roll icon. He leaves a lot of the lead work to Rickey Medlocke and Mark Matejka but commands your attention nonetheless. Tuesday’s Gone, a rollicking Gimme Three Steps, Call Me the Breeze are aired next – the set being closed with the obligatory Sweet Home Alabama. Skynyrd encore with Free Bird, and as I dance and play air guitar – in perfect sync with Medlocke – I feel the energy inside me – I am high on the true excess of pure rock n roll.

The houselights come on and I am soon wandering near the stage – hoping to snag a missed Rossington or Medlocke pick. No dice and no great drama neither – cos I
have the memory and it is one I will cherish. You see – rock n roll dreams do sometimes come true – and yes, Lynyrd Skynyrd are as important as the Stones. People should respect that. Rock n Roll.

img175I cant recall If Ive written about Tough Luxury elsewhere in this blog. If I haven’t, I should have. For those into the Sydney metal scence of the early to mid 80s – Tough Luxury will be a familiar name. They released a very underrated album on the Possum Records label called  ‘Streetwise’ and a bunch of singles from it. Check out the video for ‘Without Warning’ from that album here. Anyways, by the late 80s, front man Stuart Cave had moved on and several of the other band members had moved on to a reworked version of the band called Fetish. I remember seeing them round the traps, along with bands like Gold Zeppelin, Rags n Riches, Kizum and the like. Anyway, Ive been digging through the Rockbrat scapbooks and came up with a couple of old Fetish articles that appeared in Sydney’s  On The Street magazine. (vocals)
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In the mid 80s, Adelaide’s Escape caused quite a stir amongst the HM community – on the east coast at least. Their guitar player, John The Beast, was quite literally – bigger than Ben Hur. For a band  that relied heavily on its image and stage show – it comes as a surpise that no recorded legacy exists of the bands existence. Man punters will of course remember when John The Beast appeared on Sounds, or Adelaide Tonight etc. The media interest however, was always based on the size of the man, and the array of gear he used to attire himself in – including, from memory, a guitar with an engine ! Great days. Here is a couple of old interviews I found from old Sydney newspapers I was thumbing through today. One by Stuart Coupe.  Apologies for the quality. Click on images to enlarge.

img172For anyone who remembers, up until that time in 1980, the KISS Tour of Australia was the biggest tour of Australia since Abba a couple of years previously, and only the Beatles in 64 before that. In November of 1980, the masked marauders were all over the newspapers, TV etc etc. Gene couldn’t adjust his wig without it being headline news. The media had an absolute field day. Go check out Norman Gunston’s interview with KISS for proof. Before the bands first Australian concert at Perth, the band were privileged to have a visit from the great DK Lillee, armed with his trusty machine gun logod aluminum bat. Here is the original newspaper article. Apologies for the quality. Click on image to enlarge.

ImageIf you did not have your ear to the Sydney underground in the early 90′s, you most likely woulda missed this outfit. I got sent this YouTube link today and it’s great. So many Australian underground bands never got filmed – so the fact that this video exists – ensures that long-lost rock n roll outfits like this, can be brought back to life online. I am fairly certain me and the Cowboy checked out Dizzy Dollz – probably at the KD or Springfields. Maybe they supported the Candy Harlots ? Dates and places are getting sketchy as the years roll by. In a different time and place maybe – Dizzy Dollz woulda had more of an impact – but they were lodged in an era of mostly mute kids all looking towards Seattle and buying shit like Pearl Jam or the horrendous Ugly Kid Joe. Vocalist Bella screams through Runaways covers like ‘Cherry Bomb’ and ‘I Love Playin’ With Fire’ with much gusto. Two thumbs up from Mr Rockbrat. Looking back – they weren’t all that different to Madame X – and they could belt out a couple of very cool originals. Can’t be sure – but I think the guitarist Glenn Read coulda also been in Starlet and Platinum Blakk – correct me if I’m wrong. Sadly, bass player Lisa passed away some time back. Anyway, enjoy this quick trip back in time to a winter’s night in 1992 at the western Sydney venue called the Cobra Club. Good, fun, rock n roll people – and ain’t that the way it’s supposed to be ?!