Gary A. Smith’s book” Vampire Films of the 1970s Dracula to Blacula and Every Fang Between” ( McFarland, 2017 240pgs) is a wonderful book that every horror fan should own.
This guide to Vampire films starts by Smith writing that the movies made during this decade were mixed; some were great and others horrible, but lets the reader make the final determination. Smith then starts walking the reader through the many known (and unknown) films that was made dealing with vampires, which some movies stuck with the normal themes of vampirism, while others were so far out there that they are only vaguely considered vampire films.
The first chapter is given to the Christopher Lee films (which started in the 1960s) that entered into the 1970s, such as “Taste the Blood of Dracula,” and his final film in 1973, “The Satanic Rites of Dracula.” The next several chapters deal with other Hammer productions, including the failed “Vampirella” film in 1976, along with other British Vampire works like “Bloodsuckers,” “The House That Dripped Blood,” and “The Vault of Horrors.”
Smith’s book covers so many types of films that true fans will appreciate how he covers films from France, Italy, Spain, and Asia. The behind the scenes tales of some of these films are not only interesting, but sometimes just plain humorous, such as when one director hired his stockbroker to play Dracula, changed his name, and pieced together parts from other movies in order to make his films. Even the vampires in the Asian films have a different approach to the vampire character; instead of walking they hop according to Smith. Smith even covers a chapter of the book that features famous Mexican Wrestler Santo, who Smith writes “met more monsters than Abbott and Costello.”
The great thing about this book is that Smith covers all Vampire films, not just a few famous ones, and covers genres, such as comedies, some hard to find films, and a section that he calls “oddities.” The book not only gives out some background of the films, but also gives written reviews by several named critics, along with Smith’s own opinion of the movies. This book is not just for entertainment, but is one filled with knowledgeable facts that will make the reader find themselves looking up some of these rarer works to watch.
One (of the many) interesting chapters that comes to mind is the one on Elizabeth Bathory, who was known as “The Bloody Countess,” because of the rumored stories of murdering hundreds of women and bathing in their blood to stay young and beautiful. The several films mentioned in this chapter are definitely ones that this reviewer will be searching out for viewing.
Smith discusses some television movies of the decade, such as “Salem’s Lot,” ABC’s “Vampire,” and the “Dark Shadows” TV series. He also briefly covers Dracula and vampires in novels and comic books as well.
Gary A. Smith’s manual is well written without boring the reader with too many facts, and has a great summary of each of the major films that he covers in each chapter. There are enjoyable black and white photos added in each chapter, along with a Filmography at the end of the publication. This book is a wonderful textbook, thesaurus, and historical read all in one collection. From “Blacula,” “Love at First Bite,” ” Count Yorga,” to Frank Langella’s “Dracula” and Klaus Kiniski’s “Nosferatu The Vampire,” Gary A. Smith’s book is one that film fans should sink their teeth into.
Following Chris Jericho for me has gone back many years. I first started watching him in Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and became a fan of his in Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling. I met him in 1998 in Boardman, Ohio at a WCW signing event, where he talked about his love for Christian Metal bands. I had the honor of writing a review for his last book in 2014 (“The Best in The World”) for Slam Sports Wrestling in Canada. I am a constant listener to his podcast “Talk Is Jericho,” and I used to read his columns in Metal Edge magazine in college (which I still have in my collection).
Chris Jericho has been an actor, wrestler, writer, podcaster, dancer (he was on the TV Show “Dancing With The Stars”) and a singer of a Hard Rock band, so who better to write a book on achieving a person’s life goals than Jericho? In his latest book, “No Is A Four Letter Word: How I Failed Spelling But Succeeded In Life,” (Da Capo Press) Jericho takes the reader through his successes and failures in life, along with the valuable information he learned throughout his journeys.
Each chapter of the book deals with advice that Jericho offers, called Principles, named after a celebrity, such as The Gene Simmons Principle, The Paul Stanley Principle (who writes the book’s Forward) The Vince McMahon Principle, and even The Yoda Principle. Each chapter has stories explaining the Principles from Jericho’s life, including when he met Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, when his band Fozzy played a concert on the Kiss Cruise (which didn’t go quite as planned), and explaining WWE Owner Vince McMahon’s work ethic. The topics deal with ideas enjoying the moment, eliminating negativity, let failed attempts in the past, and advice that a person never knows who is watching them. The topics deal with everyday issues, from the workplace to achieving a goal in the person’s life.
Jericho provides great stories such as his encounter with Yoko Ono at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremonies, meeting Gene Simmons at the Kiss founder’s house, and meeting Alice Cooper’s manager Shep Gordon. There are also wrestling stories with backstage tales of his recent WWE programs with Dean Ambrose and A.J. Styles. Some funny tales include being on a Fozzy tour with the band Saxon that involves a chicken, when he sang at Lemmy Kilmister’s (of the band Motorhead) 70th Birthday Concert, and a story dealing with management of the band The Scorpions for his podcast that is not only humorous but also makes the reader just as frustrated as Jericho was during the event. These stories all are combined throughout the book with one liner references to Star Wars, The Blues Brothers, Kiss, Kool and The Gang, and The Nelson Brothers (and it wouldn’t be a Chris Jericho book without some Canadian Band references like Kick Axe).
Some self help books by celebrities are laughable when someone who was born into money tries to tell someone how to achieve goals, but Jericho’s advice is from someone who really paid dues and failed in order to achieve his goals of being a pro wrestler and a singer in a rock band. This book is filled with interesting tips (some are even common sense) with a touch of humor. With this being Jericho’s fourth book, one would think there is not much left for him to write about, but that is not the case. One does not need to be a wrestling fan in order to enjoy the stories and advice that this book entails.
In the book Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling (Sports Publishing; October 2017), Jim Ross and Paul O’Brien not only write about the exciting world of professional wrestling, but they also capture the ideals of the American Dream.
Jim Ross is known to many as the greatest wrestling announcer of all time, along with his duties behind the scenes on the creative committee and talent relations of several wrestling organizations. In the book, Ross details his life growing up on a farm, his first encounter watching wrestling on television, and how he worked his way up from ring crew to the top announcer in Bill Watt’s Mid-South area, Ted Turner’s WCW, and the WWE.
Early in the book, Ross writes about getting into professional wrestling, by watching it on television with his grandparents, and make up storylines with his toy army figures while commentating on his make believe matches. After getting a chance to see a live event in Oklahoma, Ross decided that “I knew I wanted into this crazy business somehow. I just didn’t know how to find a way in.”
Ross found his way in when he and a friend started fundraisers in college after making phone calls to Mid -South Wrestling’s main man, “Cowboy” Bill Watts. After Watts became impressed with Ross’s work, he was invited to work for the company, just shy of graduating from college.
Ross’s early job in the Mid -South area involved being a babysitter for announcer and part owner Leroy McGuirk, where Ross details several funny stories in the territory, including a humorous car ride involving McGuirk and his famous cigars that McGuirk was known for. Ross also worked as a referee, on the ring crew, and helped with the booking of the shows (helping plan out the storylines).
Ross tells the reader many stories about some of the wrestlers in the Mid South, including Dick Murdoch, the 600-pound twin McGuire Brothers, Bill Dundee, Ernie Ladd, and wrestlers from the more famous time of the Mid -South region like The Rock n Roll Express, Jim Duggan, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, and manager Jim Cornette. He also talks about when their biggest moneymaker, The Junkyard Dog, just walked out of the company in order to join Vince McMahon’s WWF in the early 1980s, along with Watt’s opinion of the situation. McMahon’s taking over Georgia Wrestling on the cable channel WTBS is covered, where after dealing with the situation, Watts and Ross decide to go national with the Mid-South to compete with the WWF.
Ross gives his take on many of wrestling’s top stars, such as Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Steve Austin, The Rock, Randy Savage, and more, as the book takes the reader through Jim Crockett’s NWA, Ted Turner’s WCW, and McMahon’s WWF/WWE. Ross also describes some of the bad creative decisions in his wrestling career from being on the creative committee, with angles involving Flair and Ricky Steamboat, the Ron Garvin NWA Title reign, and how he felt the NWA/WCW handled Steve “Sting” Borden as champion. Ross also informs the reader about his time in the WWF covering famous feuds, such as The Undertaker and Mankind’s “Hell in the Cell” cage match, the ill-fated “Brawl for All” Tough Man competition, and the famous “Montreal Screw-Job” involving Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.
Ross covers the revolving door in WCW’s management, which could have been a book in itself on how to manage many different bosses in a short time. Not only were there multiple managers in charge, but he also had to deal with a rotation roster of bookers as well, from Flair, Rhodes, Watts, to Ole Anderson. Since Ross was also one of the announcers, he discusses his opinions on his announcing partners such as Jesse Ventura, Bobby Heenan, Jerry Lawler, Gordon Solie, Lord Alfred Hayes, and Curt Hennig, along with interactions with celebrities Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Butterbean, and Robocop.
The book is not just about pro wrestling; it is an inspiring tale about a man who had to overcome obstacles to achieve his dream of being in a business that was closed off to many and secretive. Ross overcomes low pay after traveling hundreds of miles, failed marriages, losing the family business store, and overcoming health issues with his fights with Bell’s palsy. Someone not familiar with professional wrestling can still find an uplifting story in Ross’s memoir. This is a tale about a man that wanted to be a part of sports entertainment and made it to the top, via hard work, determination, and a strong will.
Overall, the book is a great read, mixed with humor and inspiration. I would have liked a few more stories dealing with Sting and WCW, but with Ross’s decades of experience, there are bound to be stuff passed over, unless he wanted a 1000 page book (my book has 319 pages without the afterward, which my copy did not have). There is enough background information about his younger years that make the book interesting, without drawing out multiple chapters, like some memoirs. The chapters are mostly short, which is something else I love about the book. The book ends in 1999; right after Ross announces the Wrestlemania XV Main Event between Steve Austin and The Rock. Those that follow wrestling would know that Ross has many years left to cover in his career, and maybe another book will be coming in the future, but just like in the wrestling business, Ross’s book leaves the audience wanting more, which is a good thing.
Slobberknocker; My Life In Wrestling by Jim Ross with Paul O’Brien will be released in October 2017.
A special thanks to Sports Publishing, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing for the Advanced Reading Copy.
My introduction to the world of comic books started when I was a kid growing up in the 1980s. I started collecting comics as a reward when my grade school would have Read-A Thons, where you would pledge to read so many books at a certain time, and the solicited pledges would pay you so much money per book. At the end of the session, you could get prizes, including comic book subscriptions, along with another school project where the student would sell subscriptions of magazines at a discounted price. It was at this time I had subscriptions to Marvel’s Star Wars and GI Joe comics, and I remember my brother having the Conan The Barbarian series (Yes you could get comics sent to your mailbox). I also would buy certain issues like The Transformers and DC Comic’s digest books, which had titles like “Batman The Brave and the Bold”, “Superboy”, and “The Legion of Superheroes”.
When I hit junior high school, another collecting habit started for me, along with a new love; Professional Wrestling. Many of my school mates followed wrestling (it was a huge thing in the 1980s as opposed to the product now), and my local newsstand carried several of the famous Stanley Weston owned magazines, like Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, Sports Review Wrestling, and even the WWF had their own magazine (along with some other non remembered knock off brand mags). I started trading off my comic books for the wrestling magazines, which also helped me in writing my own wrestling fanzine at the time. The comics were worn out and had writing in them, so they weren’t worth anything, and at that age, we didn’t think of keeping them for future use. Even though I still have my magazines, the few comics I have left are also worn out and were water damaged due to a basement issue, but I still enjoy reading some favorites like DC’s “Shadow War of Hawkman”, and the few Avengers issues, one where they battled on Mount Olympus.
Being a wrestling fan is not that different from being into comic books. Both have outrageous characters and villains, and the good vs evil story is always present. In the 1980s, comic books were not considered “legitimate “reading from our teachers, and neither was wrestling magazines, with the exception of one teacher I had, who encouraged me to read my wrestling magazines. When I started teaching high school English, I encouraged my students to read comics, graphic novels, magazines, Magma etc. Now comics are considered the norm and popular from the successes of movies to TV Shows. Many pro wrestling personalities are comic book people, from Jim Cornette and Jerry Lawler (who actually owned a Batmobile), to wrestlers like The Rock (GI Joe) and Batista (Guardians of the Galaxy) are used in the films. Former wrestler CM Punk and the late Ultimate Warrior also had their own comics or have written for comic companies.
I was brought into the comic world in the mid 1990s when my brother created his own comic, which was featured as AR Comics, and had a premier issue that took him to many comic conventions. His cover had a hologram cover, which you could move the book back and forth that made the characters jump out at you (A few years ago DC used this method- maybe my brother was too early for that to catch on). He also created a comic strip for the Kent State University daily paper, called “Hunt”, which featured my likeness as a weasel animal that wears a KISS shirt. The comic was popular among the students and was right on the same page as Peanuts and the other national comics.
Some of my favorite characters growing up in the comics was Batman, Superman, Thor, Dr. Doom (although I hated how he was used in the movies), The Joker, and Hawkman (once again, not a fan of how he was used in the few episodes I have seen on TV of “Legends of Tomorrow”). I was a big fan of a short run series from Marvel called Team America, which had the heroes riding motorcycles. I was also a fan of The X-Men’s Beast, being a mutant that read books (which is ironic now since most people don’t read anymore, and are considered mutants if they do).
A few years ago, I started getting back into the comics, and became a fan of the DC’s New 52 series “The Birds of Prey”. I’m sure purists have their problems with the New 52 series, but I really liked the story and the artwork. Right when I started to get into the series (I started in issue #28), the series was shut down. I also would get some novelty issues from Kiss and Alice Cooper, but the storyline wasn’t that exciting to me. I then started collecting for a Christmas gift the reboot of Marvel’s Doctor Strange for a friend of mine who was a huge fan of the character (this was before the Marvel movie came out). I didn’t think the artwork was that great (it seemed he had no face).
It wasn’t until recently I went to a local comic store for the “Free Comic Book Day” and picked up a few comics, like Dr Who and Wonder Woman, that I started to like where some comics were heading. There are two titles that I want to review that may peak your interest that I found very interesting.
X-Men Blue (Marvel Comics). This series just started in 2017 (As of the writing it is on issue #6), so there is plenty of time to get hooked on this series. As I mentioned earlier, I was a fan of The Beast character, and when researching the character, I found out that in one storyline, he leaves the X-Men to be a professional wrestler. This story involves the members in their younger selves in a separate timeline and the group teams up with their normal villain Magneto. The group is led by Jean Grey, and involves The Beast and some other pop up villains and characters in the X Men Universe. According to the Issue #1 front page, the storyline states :
Fearing a war among the mutants was on the horizon, Hank McCoy, A.K.A. The X-Man known as Beast, pulled the Original X-Men, including a younger version of himself, forward through time. Now they are trapped here. Separated for a while, Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Iceman, Beast and Angel have been reunited and are determined to show the world that they are the heroes they were always meant to be.
The comic is a great storyline, written by Cullen Bunn, having the younger versions of X Men battle people and encounter things that they know from the future. The artists, Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni, have some great work-better than some of the other comics out there. The book keeps you turning page after page, and unlike some books out there, keeps the reader wanting the next issue. Keep in mind that Beast is his younger self, not the furry blue creature seen in the movies, but that does not hinder the storyline. As mentioned before, the series is still new in the series, so finding them should not be a problem, and like many DC and Marvel Comics, a collection of the issues 1-6 should be out soon, if you want it in one collection.
If you are fans of other X-Men characters, there is also an X-Men Gold series that also is pretty new, with Colossus, Nightcrawler, Logan, Storm, and Prestige, with Kitty Pryde as the leader. I haven’t seen this collection or know what it’s about, but X-Men Blue is my pick for someone who likes the characters (of course there is the normal X-Men comics out there too), and would like to have an original story.
Deadman : The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love (DC Comics). I think sometimes DC Comics gets a bad wrap on its characters. Some people think of the characters like Batman from the 1966 TV Series (which I loved and wrote a blog here that you can find in the archives, with contributor comic creator Chris Yambar), or the Batman vs Superman movie (go see Wonder Woman movie and it will change your mind). There are some really cool characters from DC, and Deadman was one for me.
I first discovered Deadman in the 1980s from the previous mentioned “The Brave and the Bold” Digest series, where he teams with Batman. The character has recently been used in the DVD Movie “Justice League Dark,” along with Swamp Thing and John Constantine.
Deadman, whose name is Boston Brand, was a trapez artist who was murdered during a performance by a person called “The Hook.” His spirit is given power to possess any living being to search for the murderer. His debut was in 1967, so he is not a new character, but is not used that often (maybe the creators used the Dick Grayson family story to create a new character?)
“Dark Mansion” is a 3-issue series where Deadman is trapped in a mansion, along with female Berenice, who has the skill of being able to communicate with the dead. She has a complicated relationship with her boyfriend Nathan, who is a writer that hides in an office in the house while trying to write a book. The spirit in the house, named Adelia, along with another dark spirit shows up at the house. When the spirits show up, Nathan starts experiencing bad headaches. It is up to Deadman and Berenice to unravel the spirit, the health of Nathan, and find out why Adelia is trapped in the house.
This comic has an old gothic feel to it, from writer Sarah Vaughn’s plot, to artist Lan Medina’s wonderful work. The artwork is so good that it looks almost like paintings, which also helps the gothic dark look of the series. The glossy pages are just as wonderful that add to the comic. This book series has a Dark Shadows type feel to it, or a throwback to the early horror comic days. This is only three issues long, so the tale is wrapped up nicely without having the reader run back for a 20 issue arc before seeing how the mystery is unraveled. This was a wonderful comic series that had me spending a lot of time just staring at the artwork and taking my time getting through the book. Seek this out if you are a horror/mystery fan.
These two titles made me see that there are some good comics out there, besides the normal titles of Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Avengers titles. If you have not considered comic books lately, or are not sure what comics to look at, maybe these titles can help you start. Also, go to your local comic store. I’m sure they would be happy to help you out-that’s how I found out these titles-by visiting a local comic store, in my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio, called WatchTower Heroes, and just talking to the owner. Unlike some other comic book stores in my area, the owner was pleasant and very helpful in my choices. It is at WatchTower that the owner recommended me to these choices, which lead to me writing this page (for more information go to http://www.WatchtowerHeroes.com, check out their facebook page, or @WatchtowerHeroesComics)
Comics books have grown with many unique story lines and characters, not just the good guys and bad guys (there are still those out there), but there are many books out there that there is something for you or for gifts. Search them out and you may find something of your liking.
“Anyone who knows me knows the best way to ensure I do something is to tell me I can’t.”
Those words definitely describes AJ Mendez Brooks, who takes the reader through her life in her book “Crazy Is My Superpower” (Crown Archetype Books, 2017). Her book covers not only her time in the wrestling ring, but also how she overcame adversities through a rough family life and her struggles with bipolar disorders.
Brooks writes about her early life as a child moving from several apartments after being evicted due to her parents failures to pay rent and the normal bills, to living with friends and family members houses or apartments (with her whole family living in one room). She describes her parents marrying and having children at a young age as one reason for her growing up fast without a normal childhood, moving to motels and dealing with her father’s drug and alcohol abuse, along with getting toys that were brought home from the dumpsters.
Brooks , however, does not make the reader feel sorry for her upbringing, but ads some great humor in the book, such as the time she was in grade school and writes about her early story-time experience at school. She writes that “The only story-time experience I have ever enjoyed was last year, when I swiped Stephen King’s Cujo off my 1st grade teacher’s desk and began reading it out loud during recess.”
Brooks writes in most of the book how she found out her mother was bipolar, but they refused to discuss it, nor get treatment for it. It was only later that Brooks found out that she herself was bipolar as well.
Brooks writes about how she overcame her pre-wrestling days by having good grades that landed her into a prestigious college, only to find out her mother spent the money that Brooks was saving for the admissions fee. She talks about how her brother and sister ended up leaving the family after they graduated high school in order to get away from the lifestyle, leaving her to try and care for her family while chasing her dreams of school.
If the reader is looking for a normal wrestling biography, this is not the book. The majority of the book talks about her struggles with the disease, while at times, using humor or references to Pop Culture, such as comic book characters like The X Men, Harry Potter, and other 1990s TV Shows like “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” However, there is several chapters on her stay at the WWE’s Developmental League in Florida (FCW), where she gets several offers to move up to the main roster, only to have it yanked away from her. She ends up staying in FCW so long that she becomes the girl for all the other female wrestlers to have their matches with before they moved up to the main roster. She writes that she was so in love with her dream of being a wrestler that “Day in and day out, every second not sleeping or eating” was focused on wrestling or watching wrestling tapes in Florida.
Once Brooks made it to the WWE, she was put in storylines with Kane, Daniel Bryan, and future husband CM Punk, and discussed how management thought she was not only too small, but not marketable, where she ended up being so popular she became one of the top selling wrestlers in the company for merchandise. She writes briefly about when she and Punk started dating after being thrown together in a storyline, along with their friendship before they started dating, and finally their wedding where she writes, “And the rest of the story is just for us.”
Brooks discusses her friendship with former wrestler Kaitlyn (real name Celeste) and Brooks’ decision to retire after several injuries. She also tells stories of her love for animals, along with advice for women on various subjects via journal entries.
Normally the lack of wrestling stories would distract me from the book, but Brooks is such a great writer and combines humor into a serious topic that the book is wonderful. The book deals with someone embracing the disease and conquering it as best she could, along with overcoming her background without making the reader feel sorry for her (although it’s a wonder how she made it through some of her childhood). This book is a great tale of overcoming obstacles and ending up on top of the world, no matter how big the dream may be. Even if you are not a wrestling fan and have no idea who AJ Mendez Brooks is, this is a book that keeps the reader turning each page without slow spots in the book. Maybe Brooks will write more books in the future (maybe with more wrestling stories), because she has the talent to be just as successful a writer as she was a wrestler.
“Crazy Is My Superpower” is available now at any bookstore and online sites.
In his book “Beer Drinkers And Hell Raisers: The Rise of Motorhead” (ECW Press, out May 2017), Martin Popoff takes the reader through an entertaining and informative journey through the early years of the Metal Band Motorhead. The book focuses on the classic lineup of the band from 1977-1982, featuring members Lemmy Kilmister, Phil Taylor, and Eddie Clarke.
The book begins by examining the early days of how each member ended up in the band, including how Kilmister was a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, along with his time in the band Hawkwind. His trouble at the border in Canada led to his dismissal in Hawkwind, and started his creation of Motorhead, which eventually led to hiring Clarke and Taylor.
There are many entertaining stories in the book, including Clarke’s audition for the band, which he had to pay for the audition space, and was told (several days later) he got the gig when Lemmy showed up at his door with a leather jacket and a bullet belt. Clarke says that Lemmy told him that he got the gig, “turned around and off he went.” Other stories involve Lemmy’s first show where he played only 20 minutes, the band becoming the loudest band in music, and the band’s jokes with media reporters, including walking out on a female journalist, and an interview session that involved a fire hose.
The book follows each of the band’s recordings, with a track by track commentary about the songs, along with interviews by the early band members and fellow musicians that were around the band at the time. Popoff intertwines the interviews from magazines along with his own personal interviews to make the book feel like the reader is sitting right next to those speaking.
One of the most entertaining parts of the book is towards the end, where Popoff covers the breakup of the classic lineup. He gets the perspectives of Clarke and Taylor during each step of the separation, including the relationship between Kilmister and Plasmatics lead singer Wendy O. Williams, which had a major impact on the breakup. The flow of the book during this part feels like a VH1 “Behind The Music” episode, with the author doing a great job of getting as many sides of the story as he could.
The book, at the beginning, dealt a little too much on discussing the argument if Motorhead was a Metal Band or just a Rock Band, but the rest of the book was an easy and wonderful read. There are some great stories told by Dee Snider of Twisted Sister about Lemmy helping Snider’s band gain respect right before Twisted Sister’s major breakout. There is also a small part covering Clarke and Taylor’s music careers after they left the band, including when Clarke formed the band Fastway, as well as the last lineup of Motorhead before the deaths of Taylor and Kilmister.
My limited knowledge of the band Motorhead was their song “Ace of Spades,” Lemmy’s recording the entrance music for WWE Wrestler HHH, and seeing the movie about Lemmy, but Popoff’s book was such an entertaining read, it makes someone who does not know much about the band become educated, along with wanting to dig into the band’s recordings. The book is very detailed with the track listings going through the years, along with Popoff’s writing coming from a fan of the band, and not just writing a historical piece. A true fan of the band will enjoy this book as well as the casual one. Martin Popoff and ECW Press have a must-read book for metal fans in “Beer Drinkers And Hell Raisers,” whether or not the reader is a Motorhead fan.
A special thanks to ECW Press for the Advanced Reading Copy of the book. For more information about ECW Press, go to www.ecwpress.com.
One of the biggest bands in the late 1980s was Skid Row, who was known all over MTV for their songs “18 and Life,” “Youth Gone Wild,” and “I Remember You.” Singer Sebastian Bach was one of the most recognized faces in the hard rock magazines and on MTV. His recently released book “18 and Life on Skid Row” takes the reader through the wild ride the band had during stardom, along with his career after the band on Broadway and TV.
The lengthy book (424 pages) starts with Bach describing his early years growing up in the Bahamas, California, and Canada. His early childhood was one of a child loving to sing in a church choir until he discovered the band KISS in 1978 at age ten, which made him want to be a rock singer. The book goes through the time his father took him to see KISS on the Dynasty Tour and meets Jon Bon Jovi years later at a wedding which helped him find his way to the guys that started Skid Row, which he states that “Whereas the focus on my previous bands was more about the look than the sound, Skid Row was first and foremost about the sound. The Songs.”
The book takes the reader through the wild tours with Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, and being on the Moscow Music Festival. Since Bach was known for his partying, the band got in trouble with several bands who were trying to become sober.
Bach also talks about his friendship with Guns n Roses Singer Axl Rose, along with some wild times he shared with Rose, his relationship with a famous 1980s actress, and his friendship with original Kiss Member Ace Frehley.
Like any band from the 1980s, Skid Row also dealt with some business issues, like having to pay Gary Moore money for the name Skid Row, Bach not getting songwriting credit for some of the biggest hits, and finding out that even though their second album “Slave to the Grind” was the #1 album its first week on the charts, the band was in a short fall.
“If we blew up too many bombs, drank too much booze backstage, all the fun stuff would be paid for after we paid the management and accountants. We would pay to play if we didn’t watch the budget.”
Bach also states his side of why the band broke ties with him, saying that “Nobody really understands why we broke up,” and when approached about a reunion, he writes, “ People ask all the time why we don’t have a reunion?..the real reason we are not together, in my mind, is publishing royalties.” The story about the band breaking up with Bach over being the opening act for the KISS Reunion Tour is also covered in the book through Bach’s perspective. His thoughts on Skid Row’s “Subhuman Race” album (a favorite among fans years later) and why during that tour he realized the music world was changing are in the book.
Bach also takes the reader through his solo career in music, his reality shows for VH1, his appearances on the “Gilmore Girls” show, and his time on Broadway in Jekyll and Hyde, Rocky Horror, and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Overall the book is a great read for fans that like this era of music, however some things are just glossed over (but then again the book is long enough, some things had to be left out). One thing that is not covered in the book is how Bach feels about the lineup of Skid Row after he left the band, and there are only a few mentions of his former band mates Snake Sabo and Rachel Bolan after his time with the band was over. He also doesn’t give much in depth information about his solo touring, except mentioning a few of the albums (not much about the band members or road tales). There is not much bashing in the book, which is a relief to other books in the genre, and Bach even talks about how his partying affected his attitude looking back now. The inside cover of the book has a pull out mini poster of Bach, which to some may sound cheesy, but since he grew up in the era where albums were popular and buyers wanted things like that in the album, it is well suited for the book.
I saw Bach in 1997 on his solo tour in Boardman Ohio, and enjoyed his work, along with the band Skid Row after his departure. This book was enjoyable and worth the money to read about one of the most underrated singers of the time.
“18 and Life on Skid Row” is available from Dey ST. , which is part of Harper Collins books.
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Richard Sterban’s and Steven Robinson’s 2012 Book “From Elvis To Elvira” My Life On Stage” is an interesting read from someone who has been singing professionally for decades. Sterban is of course known for his time as a member of The Oak Ridge Boys, but his stories early in the book about working with Elvis provides an insight about Elvis that readers may not know.
I got the autographed book at an August 2016 Oak Ridge Boys show to add to my collection (I have Joe Bonsall’s books “From My Perspective” and “On The Road With The Oak Ridge Boys” on my Kindle), and read the book in less than 10 days. The book is just shy under 300 pages, and is full of text, which sometimes is not the case with self published or smaller book companies.
The book starts off with Sterban talking about his early childhood and his love for singing and Gospel Music. One story involves him walking home from a concert in the rain, trying to protect an album he purchased at the merchandise table hoping the cover was not ruined by the time he made it home. He talks about his early influences and his start in the Gospel Music Business. It was his involvement with J.D. Sumner and The Stamps that helped him get the job as a backup group for Elvis (One interesting fact is Sterban states that The Oak Ridge Boys was one of the other bands at the time that was rumored to be up for the gig as well).
One of the more interesting chapters in the book is called “Suite Life,” where Sterban talks about his time with Elvis. He discusses about Elvis’s hatred for singer Bobby Darin, and the time Darin showed up at the hotel Elvis was staying at, and Presley pulled a gun on Darin. Sterban tells a tale of Elvis throwing knives at the TV Speakers when Robert Goulet was on the television. However, the book is not a trashing of Elvis and has some lighthearted stories, including the time Elvis pulled a practical joke on the members of the group via a fake death threat that resulted in a fake shoot out, and the time Elvis had a golf cart race that lead out of Graceland and onto the highway in early morning. Sterban writes that Elvis loved practical jokes, but after his divorce with Priscilla, the all night sing along concerts after shows and the jokes that he was known for became less and less.
By the time Sterban joined The Oaks in 1972, he writes that Duane Allen and William Golden almost sold their publishing rights to the Gospel Songs and went to Johnny Cash to see if Cash would buy them. Instead of buying the only thing the group had left, Cash gave them a loan and allows the group open for them because Cash believed the group would be big. Sterban also details how the Christian Community gave the group backlash, and even walked out on shows when the group adding lights to their stage show, which seems unheard of now days with pyro and spinning drum sets are now added to many Christian Bands’ live shows. Even with the backlash, the group still stood by their faith, which Sterban mentions being a part of a Jimmy Buffett recording session that they almost walked on, but due to their contracted agreement, they recorded the record.
One of the parts I enjoyed most about the book is Sterban’s take on William Golden leaving the band and the Oaks replacing him with guitarist Steve Sanders. He writes that when Golden left, “If we only talked our way through those situations, it would have likely, saved us a lot of heartaches, but we just didn’t do it. Instead we walled ourselves off from each other and allowed perceptions to take us over.”
He also states that “Looking back, more than anything else, we suffered misunderstandings caused by a lack of communication.”
This honesty is rare in books where bands have to deal with member changes and usually becomes a blame game against the member who leaves the band. The reader who has followed the band knows that in the end Golden comes back into the band (and is still touring with him today), which from seeing their live show, one can tell how much respect the members each have for one another after so many years of touring.
The Steve Sanders part of the book intrigued me, because there is not much written about that time period and what happened internally. Sterban writes that “Steve was a talented singer-and a heck of a showman-but he fought the demons of depression and drink. They were equal partners in his troubles, his professional demise, and sadly, his premature death in 1998.”
Sterban also writes that “In the months leading up to Steve departing the group, we could sense the end was near. We knew he wasn’t happy-and we certainly weren’t happy.”
There is more on the Sanders era of the band in the book, not much, but it describes what happened when Sanders left the band, but in an honest way that is not bashing the person , and does not gloss over his contribution to the band which was still making hits after Golden’s departure.
The book is filled with stories of Sterban’s views on each member of The Oaks and their roles in the band, the political figures they have met and performed for throughout the years, his love for baseball, wine, cycling, and beaches. There is a story that involves the press confusing him being with a disco singer as well which is worth the read.
This book is overall a great read for anyone that likes music, whether it’s Country Music, Gospel, or early Rock and Roll. Even though Joe Bonsall seems to be the one member that puts out more books than the others, don’t bypass this one, because it was funny, entertaining and knowledgeable (Now will Duane Allen write one soon? We will have to see).
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“The word that is constantly used to describe me is workaholic…Simply, I’m asked to do things I can’t possibly turn down.”
This quote by Phil Collins is how he describes his career in his book “Not Dead Yet,” from his start as the drummer for Genesis to his exploding solo career in the 1980s and 1990s. When a person has had a career like his, the book should be an exciting (and in Collins’s case) and exhausting ride.
The 366 page book covers his early years growing up as a child actor, where he had parts in movies with Dick Van Dyke, The Beatles, and even on stage (unfortunately those movie scenes ended up on the cutting room floor). He also talks about the early years of him drumming in various bands, where Jon Anderson of Yes once gave Collins his number to join Yes before his Genesis gig, which he describes Genesis’s first U.S. tour that the band was already in debt before they hit the shore.
The Genesis years is covered in detailed in the early parts of the book, where singer Peter Gabriel almost left the band in 1974 due to a film project, along with the band’s refusal to put their next album on hold, which Collins states, “ So’ Peter’s back because of a better offer didn’t work out.” When Gabriel finally left the band and auditions for singers was held, Collins sang the parts of the demos for the new album. Collins says about trying out to be the lead singer, “ So I say ‘How about I have a go?’ And the rest of the guys shrug and say ‘Might as well.’” He states that band members Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks “later tell me it’s like one of those cartoon light bulb moments” which the band decided that Collins would be the new singer.
There are many stories about his transition into the solo career, all of which Collins claims that it was because he had some songs demos and the other band members also were doing solo work. His songs “In The Air Tonight” and “Against All Odds” were started as early as 1979, according to the book, which in 1981 (when Phil signed his solo deal), the record company did not want to release “In The Air Tonight” and settled on “I Missed Again” as the first single for the U.S.
Once the hits came in the 1980s, Collins was everywhere, much to the hatred of some critics and fans, especially with his double billing at Live Aid, but Collins states in the book that his other friends in the business asked him to be a part of the show, like Sting and Robert Plant. When he agreed to join Plant, Collins talks about how it turned into a nightmarish event that ended up trying to be a Led Zeppelin reunion, which Collins showed up to the event just to play some songs with Plant, and turned into a monster. Collins also says that Duran Duran was originally also to do both shows at Live Aid until they decided only to perform the U.S. part of the event.
Collins talks about his acting career after he broke as a solo artist, from the movies “Buster” and “Hook,” to his “Miami Vice” appearance. There is a funny story about Dustin Hoffman on the set of “Hook” that created more cutting room time for Collins. He tells tales about several actors ( He and Johnny Depp in a bar) and rumored projects that included a Dr. Who TV special.
The book discusses his failed marriages, his relationship with his children, and his later drinking problems, which “my pancreas is on the verge of shutting down.” His hearing loss and pain of decades of drumming is also discussed.
The book overall is a good read, with lots of honesty and comedy , such as when Collins made a deal as a child with his mother to go halves in paying for his first drum set, he states, “I will sell my brother’s toy train set..It’s doesn’t occur to me that I should have asked his permission.” There are great stories about his friendships with his Genesis band mates, the truth about how he felt when Gabriel left the band and his honesty with his career and failed family problems. For drummers, this is a great read, getting his point of view of both playing in a band and as a solo act, along with the medical problems he encounters, but the book is filled with great stories and is an enjoyable adventure. This is a great Rock and Roll book.
Collins, Phil. Not Dead Yet. Crown Archetype, 2016.
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My favorite Phil Collins video and song- “Do You Remember?” (1990)
“For those who believe Brian walks on water, I will always be the antichrist.”
Those words by Mike Love of the Beach Boys have not rung more true to many fans of the band. In his book “Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy,” Love, along with James S. Hirsch, tells his side of the turbulent history of one of America’s greatest Rock and Roll Bands. Lawsuits, fighting, and tragedies have been the backbone of the band, and this 422 page book covers it all through the lead singer’s perspective.
Love starts the book with his early years of growing up, and the closeness of him and Brian Wilson, although their fathers were at odds. Love claims that Murry Wilson was always jealous over the fact that the Loves had more money than the Wilsons, which caused conflicts throughout the families (Mike and Brian are cousins). The book walks through the start of the Beach Boys and how Murry became the manager of the band that started a dictatorship running the band, even charging the members a fine for cussing, showing late, or drinking. Love also discusses their early bad record deal with Capitol Records, where an album cost $3 at the time, and the artists received $.3 for each sale. Capitol got $1.80 for each album sold, plus deducted session time until it was paid off.
Even during the early years, the band had rotating members, although most people know the band as Love, Al Jardine, and the Wilson brothers (Carl, Brian, and Dennis). Al Jardine was never liked by Murry, according to Love (along with David Marks) because they were not family.
Love tells a story that when Brian played “Surfin U.S.A” to fellow artists Jan and Dean, Jan recognized the melody as Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” and wanted the song to record, saying that they were friends with Berry and could get permission to use the song. Wilson refused and gave Jan and Dean “Surf City,” which went to #1. Years later, Berry sued and won a lawsuit and got songwriting credits against Wilson.
Love states that he helped co-write several of the bands big hits and was never credited for the songs. Every time he asked Brian why he wasn’t credited, Brian claims that Murry “messed up” and would get it changed. Years went by, and it was never changed until Love sued (and won) Brian in court.
The book details the recording of the Beach Boys albums, including Brian’s strange methods, especially when he started doing drugs, along with some of the traveling stories throughout the years. Love talks about the rivalry with The Beatles, saying “The Beatles knew how to merchandise, not just with T-Shirts, stickers, and posters but with lampshades and lunch boxes and pinball machines. The Beach Boys? Uncle Murry made buttons that read ‘I know Brian’s Dad’” and “we lacked management.”
Love takes the reader through his various marriages, along with those from other band members, the media starting lies about his relationship with Brian, making him out to be the villain of the band. Love walks through the suing of Brian with the copyright issues, along with the slander lawsuit in Wilson’s autobiography, and the relationship of the band with Eugene Landy, who was brought in two times to help Brian Wilson’s health. He also talks about how his discovery of Transcendental Meditation influenced his life. He also walks the reader through the deaths of Dennis and Carl, and the relationship of the band and John Stamos.
Love details how the contracts worked in the record company and how he ended up being able to own the name The Beach Boys, while there are different members in two different touring bands.
The book is an interesting read, especially for a fan of the band for years. Regardless of what personally people think of Mike Love (and whose side people are on between him and Brian Wilson), the reader has to give the author the benefit of the doubt, and Love’s book is honest. He states his opinions of what occurred through his eyes.
The topics dealing with the record companies and the contracts is a great section of the book, which any musician should read about how the business works. The parts about the most recent Beach Boys reunion tour for the 50th anniversary is also a great read, talking about how the tour ended up being a loss in the U.S. overall. He also talks about how getting together for the last Beach Boys album “That’s Why God Made The Radio” was not what Love thought he was getting into. I would’ve have like a little more insight on one of my favorite Beach Boys Albums , the 1985 “The Beach Boys,” but maybe there is not much to tell. It seemed to be just passed over, especially since it was the first album since the death of Dennis.
The book overall is worth the read, especially since it is 400 pages long, which is rare for most books. Love has had a long career, which is why the book is so long. The book is not an “I wrote all these songs, and here’s why I hate Brian Wilson,” but talks about the one time closeness of Love and Brian, even during the lawsuits (At one point in the book he says, next to Brian, Carl Wilson was the most musical of the band). Do not let whatever personal views of Love distract getting a chance to read the book. This book has quite a bit of business errors and cautions that artists may need to read.
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Love Mike and James S. Hirsch. “Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy.”