Archive for the ‘What’s The Rockbrat Reading Today ?’ Category

images.jpgPlastered is more than a labour of love – this publication is in many ways an archival piece that opens a window to Australia’s cultural and rock ‘n’ roll past. There are certain people/organisations in Australia who recognise the significance of antipodean rock ‘n’ roll history and undertake activities/projects that unearth and re-present these works to a new audience. Festival Records are a good example of this, as they continue to reissue great Australian rock from the 60s to the 80s that would otherwise be lost and left to the memory bank. Ian McFarlane and Chris Spencer are two others whose tireless work over decades in researching and printing (often self-published) books/fanzines dedicated to Australian rock ‘n’ roll also deserve a mention.  Who remembers From The Vault Magazine in the late 80s ? Or the short lived Australian Record Collector magazine?  With respect to Glenn A, there are many other ‘rock historians’ in this country, unofficial or otherwise, who haven’t been afforded the same recognition as the former OL ’55 Manager but they probably should have. More often than not, labours of love don’t translate into dollars, yet do go a long way to raising awareness and also preserving Oz rock.  And if I can be a little pretentious, perhaps even some of the output my brother and I have completed over the years across any number of projects (view some of these here) has also made a contribution in some way. I’ve lost count of the number of album reviews, gig reviews, articles and interviews we’ve done. And whilst none of the albums/singles released on our old label Vicious Kitten Records didn’t damage the charts – it did make a contribution and I know people still dig the records. Which brings me in a roundabout way back to today’s topic – Plastered.  Plastered takes the reader on a chronological journey through popular music poster art – the jazz, rock and roll, pop and punk scenes in Australia. The book contains more than five hundred posters from the past five decades, all lovingly reproduced, and most are from the collection of avid archivist Nick Vukovic. As an archivist, the role that Nick has played in both collecting and preserving Australian rock posters is significant. Not too dissimilar in fact to the way that an art gallery or museum preserves and then presents pieces of work with cultural significance for others to enjoy.  In the 60s and 70s, Nick was a collector of art, porcelain dolls, antique gold watches and postcards. Yet his obsession for Oz music posters only came in the early 90s, when he was driving through a Melbourne underpass and noticed all the music posters attached

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Nick Vukovic with some of his 40,000 music posters. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

to the walls. He found out who the printer was and encouraged the printer to donate the posters to libraries and universities in return for tax deductions. There were always extras, and Nick began to hunt them down. 25 odd years later, Nick is doubtlessly Australia’s biggest collector of music posters with a conservative estimate of 40 000 posters! Many of Nick’s posters have been borrowed for TV shows and films such as Packed to the Rafters and Chopper. He has contributed posters that were published in books by Paul Kelly and also Michael Gudinski – (a book celebrating the Frontier Touring Company’s 30th birthday). By the way, listen to an interview with Gudinski author Stuart Coupe here).  The story goes that Gudinski was so impressed with Nick’s collection that he offered to buy the lot!  While the first three pressings of Plastered have sold out, and occasionally turn up on eBay etc, the good news is that Nick is on the hunt for more posters and a new publisher to get another new book out. If you have some posters , Nick would like to hear from you. Go and get yourself Plastered.

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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

Yes I know this book has been out for about 18 months or so – but I only recently had the chance to read it. I’ve read many rock bios over the years – but none better than this. In fact, it’s much more than a rock bio. It’s a story of one man’s lifelong pursuit of a rock ‘n’ roll dream, to reach the heights of success, and then to have that success taken from him. It’s a story of how he realised that none of it was as important as the love of his family,  above anything and everything else. Snider writes in a way that is honest, humorous, self-deprecating and therefore – very appealing to even non rock fans.  I couldn’t put it down and read it cover to cover in a few short days. As someone very familiar with Snider and Twisted Sister, I could relate to the content – but what makes his story interesting is its far more than the usual cliché bio about sex, drugs and lies (ala Nikki Sixxcheeseburgers). So many bios nowadays lack authenticity and humility. Snider has that in spades. He comes across as very genuine, what you see is what you get. People may forget just how big a force Twisted Sister were in the rock world in 84/85. They were massive, and their two signature hit ‘Were Not Gonna Take It’ and ‘I Wanna Rock’ stood out like dogs balls amongst the shallow pop shtick of 1984 (Wham, Culture Club, Thompson Twins etc). Twisted Sister made the pop charts amongst all this dross – and were a veritable beacon in the night for disaffected teenage rock fans to whom they spoke. Much like the Coop did in 75, with his fist raising rock anthems – Dee Snider was one in your face megalomaniac who was the voice for thousands  of suburban youth. From memory, Mr Rockbrat even had a Dee Snider cloth patch on his denim jacket. Mr Rockbrat also reminded me that in early 1985, instead of participating in a week’s work trial at a local Fire Station, he opted out on day one, purchased a Twisted Sister album and stayed at home listening to it. The die was cast Mr Rockbrat. I also recall that our KISS mate, an aspiring drummer himself, caught one of AJ Pero’s drum sticks at Twisted Sister’s Hordern Pavilion Show in Sydney. Yet  I digress.  As I was saying, in 1985, Snider’s mush was everywhere. He was all over the TV. Bu therein lay the problem. With an outrageous, over the top image – and an oversaturation of the market (certainly in America) – and a follow up album (Come Out And Play), that lacked stomping rock hits ala the aforementioned tunes – By 1986, the downward slide for Twisted Sister was rapid. After such as rapid rise in 84 / 85 Twisted Sister could not deliver a follow up album that would plateau them out and maintain their status as ‘here to stayers’, ala Maiden, Priest etc. Even thrashers like Anthrax, Megadeth etc became stayers. In hindsight, releasing a cover of ’Leader Of The Pack’ was a career ending move. Whilst the band used to play this in the late 70s / early 80s to a receptive fan base in the tri state area and it became a cult favourite, a global audience just didn’t get it. A cover tune showed a band out of ideas. They also should have ditched the makeup and stuck with the denim and leather look. By 87, the good ship Twisted Sister, after having fought the good fight for so long, was swamped by the Bon Jovi’s, Europes, WASPs etc etc.  There are great stories about Snider’s early years, his lifelong love affair with his wife Suzette, Lemmy’s support of TS – and many other great stories. If you are lost for ideas – this book is the idea gift for a Twisted Christmas. 9.5 out of 10. Buy it here       

Just recently I re-read Cherie Currie’s bio, ‘Neon Angel’ and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was about to start reading Dee Snider’s ebook, when the cover of Bobbie Brown’s new kiss ‘n’ tell book caught my eye, as it would most red blooded males. Who says you can’t judge a book by its cover? Not in this instance anyway. The book is stacked with gossip and scandal, stories of sex, drugs and rock n roll – Hollywood style. For anyone who has fond memories of the late 80’s Hollywood hair metal scene – you may enjoy Brown’s recollections from that period. She was a little late on the scene though – following the path set by Tawny Kitaen and then, to a lesser extent, Susie Hatton. In fact, if you recall Poison’s ‘Fallen Angel’ video clip, where Hatton arrives in LA on a Greyhound Bus (no clichés there), gets into modelling, drugs and the decadence of the time – it could have almost been scripted for the real life Brown. A small town Southern girl from Louisiana, a Miss Teen winner who thought she’d try her luck in Hollywood in 1989 as a model. She was certainly the MTV video vixen – appearing in videos for Hurricane, Great White and famously, Warrant’s ‘Cherrie Pie’ – THE video that everyone remembers from that period right? It certainly made an impact and pissed her then girlfriend, I mean boyfriend Matthew Nelson off considerably. It had immediate impact. She was the video vixen that all the girls wanted to be – and all the guys wanted to nail. I remember seeing Kings Of The Sun once back then, and this video was played on the TV screen immediately before they came on stage. Everyone was glued to the screen. Yet like the hair metal scene, the blonde bombshell with the silicon boobs was soon gonna fall a long way. Unlike grunge though, which basically killed off the Hollywood Aqua net glam scene, it was drugs and a series of poor relationship choices that caused her to crash n burn (I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a tremendously original Sunset Strip poseur band by that name so go google it). You could argue that the pages are overfilled with a certain sameness – stories that revert between sex, drugs, sex, drugs, lousy relationships, sex, and drugs – and it could be considered to be somewhat shallow – but I doubt she ever intended to be a literary giant that would have her book disected by a weekly book club meeting. Yet if it’s juicy stories about rockers you want – then it’s a worthy read. There’s stories about Jani Lane, (who struggled to accept that there was no place for him in the shifting music landscape and battled his own personal demons), and Tommy Lee, (IMO – one of the most obnoxious scumbags of all time – with WAY over stated relevance), her nemesis and also silicon enhanced Pamela Anderson, Rod Stewart, Dave Navarro and plenty of others. She talks about parties with Kevin Costner, constantly being wasted on blow, how she thought the effeminate Paul Stanley was gay, and dalliances with the supposedly endowed Leonardo Di Caprio. At times it’s funny, at times it’s pitiful. How some have a moment in the sun and are on top of the world – and within a few short years it all slips through their fingers (or up their nose). The astute ones recognise their time is fleeting and squirrel some $ away – others don’t. I do have some degree of pity for Jani Lane, and the way his life turned out. He comes across as quite a pathetic, naive figure in many ways ie: splitting song writing royalties with all band members, his ‘friends’ – even though he wrote all the material – He drowned his demons with alcohol. She doesnt declare the incident he had been hiding for many years that was one of the root causes for his alcoholism – probably due to litigation threats. For what it is – this is her life story, and in spite of whatever else she has achieved in her life – she will always, most famously, be remembered as the ‘Cherry Pie’ girl. 5 out of 10.

Honesty is a quality not normally associated with KI$$ in recent years. That quality that, certainly extends to Paul ‘Ace’ Frehley. This is indeed, an honest account of Frehley’s life, in KI$$, and out of it. It was a very engaging read, and I read it in about 6 days from front to back. Frehley is a very humble person, never lacking in humility. He has never denied his problems with drugs and booze, and in this book, he sugar coats nothing. He gives the facts, warts and all. With the exception of Peter Criss, on a personality level – he was so different to Simmons and Stanley, particularly Simmons. Those differences were put aside for the sake of the success of the band, and KI$$’s success was beyond massive back in the 70s. But buy the late 70s, he’d had enough. With the sacking of his mate Peter Criss, he held on until 82, but that was it. This book is full of KI$$ stories, and if you are like Mr Rockbrat, a lifelong Kissaholic since 1980, or just a casual fan, you will enjoy this immensely. I remember buying the 7” of ‘Talk To Me’ back in 1980, so I guess I’ve been along for the ride with Mr. Rockbrat most of that time. I really enjoyed the stories about Ace’s pre KI$$ years, being in bands, growing up in the Bronx, doing drugs with Belushi, and so much more. Sure, there’s many KI$$ stories, from the time they recorded their killer demo in 73 with Eddie Kramer at Electric Ladyland, to a verbal account of the Tom Snyder interview, and many  more in between. I enjoyed the swipes he took at Gene $immons in particular. For Ace, it was always about the music, for Geno, it was about $. When is too much enough money ? For Ace, he grew tired of Simmons and what he represented. In 2000, when Ace was late to a show, he arrived just in time for the show, only to see Tommy Thayer dressed in his spaceman outfit. When Ace bought his girlfriend backstage once, Thayer challenged Ace about the “no wives or girlfriends backstage” rule. Ace belted Thayer. Ace was kicked out of the band, and Thayer filled his shoes. One of two hired guns, the imposter story is another good one that Ace tells in candid detail. It’s easy to see why Ace is so well liked. He is genuine. He is humble. He is not deceptive like Simmons. He has human qualities that we can all relate to. He has no regrets – I have one. I should have got off my ass and seen his show in Sydney in 2010!

Part of the charm of the Gallaghers is their no nonsense approach. Neither suffer fools lightly, be they journalists or not, so at last, late last year this little book was released that compiles all the wit and wisdom of the Gallaghers in one book. I read through it the other day and reading some of Noel’s quotes made me laugh. Need to know what Liam thinks about  aliens?  Or Noel’s thoughts on religion ? It’s all in here. Hey Rockbrat –  you got this one? At only $14 Australian – with free postage worldwide – well you can’t really go wrong now can you…..buy it here

So who is Kevin K, and why would you buy this book? Kevin K is a Florida based rock ‘n’ roller who for 30 + years has been playing street punk, NYC style rock ‘n’ roll. He counted Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan and Syl Sylvain from the New York Dolls as his peers and friends, as well as just about every other New York based rocker from the late 70’s onwards. Sure, he hasn’t sold hundreds of thousands of albums, no he’s never played Madison Square Garden (though he must have walked passed it a thousand times). No he isn’t a household name (though he is in my house). But he has written literally hundreds of underappreciated songs since the late 70’s, recorded 30 odd albums, and tenaciously niched out a career for himself by creating distinct, melodic and inspired rock ‘n’ roll – music that matters. If you are a fan of Johnny Thunders, The Dolls, The Dead Boys, Ramones, Iggy or punk rock in general, you will no doubt enjoy reading this book as it’s littered with great, real life stories that features all those guys. Yet this is more than a rock ‘n’ roll book. This is a human interest story about a life well travelled. It details his life as a boy and his youth growing up in Buffalo, high school, getting into rock n roll, living in NYC in the 1980s and 90’s as a musician struggling to make it with all the craziness that city had to offer at that time. There are many interesting stories in here. He came so close to ‘making it’ that he could almost taste it, yet he never signed that major label deal or had a video on MTV. He just kept plugging away, year after year, making new albums and touring in support of them. NYC, Detroit, LA, Japan, Germany, Poland, France, Spain. There’s great stories of the road from all those countries. There’s stories about living in NYC next to Iggy Pop, encounters with GG Allin and The Ramones, playing the clubs and moving to Hollywood. There’s stories about the death of his brother Alan (whose music was also way underappreciated), hanging out with Johnny Thunders and Cheetah Chrome, drugs, St. Mark’s Place, Jennifer Love Hewitt and much much more. It’s 2011 and the Ramones are long gone. CBGB’s has gone. Rock ‘n’ rolls glory days are gone. Despite it all, Kevin K has just kept on keeping on. I have been hipped to his music for 16 years now. For those of us in the know, this guy’s music has always been special. In an age when rock ‘n’ roll is manufactured, contrived, disposable and lacking in authenticity, the need for Kevin K rock n roll is greater than ever. This guy has more rock n roll credential than an army of Avril Lavignes. He is the last of his kind. Get this book now and discover what I’ve known for a long time now – Kevin K rock ‘n’ roll is the best there is.   

 At only $14 this is a MUST! But it online at Amazon here

Tune in to hear an exclusive interview with legendary Kevin K that was recorded on September 3, 2010. Cowboy Col talks to Kevin about all his new releases including the autobiography, his just released double DVD and current studio album ‘Joey & Me’. Listen here