When I first moved to New York City about 20 years ago, I didn’t know many people, and so I spent a lot of time by myself, exploring my East Village neighborhood, and just people watching. On Sunday afternoons, I used to enjoy sitting at a window table at the late, great 7A Restaurant, having a cheap, boozy brunch while watching the parade of tattooed rockers and rock star wannabes that would pass me by on their way to their mid-afternoon adventures. It’s true what they say that some of the best forms of entertainment are totally free.
Kirkis (I Love his Pants and Shoes!)
If you love people watching and also enjoy tattoos, as well as hearing the stories behind those tattoos, then you will enjoy checking out this new book called Tattoo Street Style, by photographer Nicholas Brulez. Once the mark of an underground subculture, tattoos have truly stepped out of the shadows and into the streets. In his entertaining new book, Brulez, the creator of the Tattoorialist website, searches the streets of Paris, Berlin, America and beyond for the most innovative and stylish tattoos in the world.
Above and below, a selection of Kirkis’s really fun tattoos!
Gengar, a Pokemon Ghost
Showcasing over 300 photographs of diverse people and their unique tattoo designs — from nautical themes to Video Game style and everything in between — this is an inspirational anthology of modern tattoo culture. The book features brief interviews with many of the 100 people photographed, as well as key information including the name of that tattoo studios responsible for each tattoo.
Camille’s Bow Tattoo
The tattoo facts say it all: the number of tattoo parlors in the UK has tripled in the last decade, and one in five Americans now has a tattoo — up from 14% in 2008. While tattoos may have become almost ubiquitous, there is still a lot of room for individual creativity and style, and you’re certainly going to see designs in these pages that you haven’t seen on anyone’s skin previously.
Above and below, more of Vincent’s tattoos!
I really enjoyed seeing all of these great photographs of people all over the world, not only out on the street, but in their own homes, just doing what they do.
Tattoo Street Style is a very fun book, and with the Holiday Season coming up fast, it would make a great gift for the tattoo aficionado in your life. With a cover price of $20.00, this high quality paperback book is available from Amazon.com for just $14.58! Click This Link to purchase now!
Way, way back, when I used to interview Famous People for a (meager) living, I acquired a valued reputation as a bit of a Rock Star Whisperer for my ability to get musicians to open up and talk about anything — even subjects or revelations that they had never made before to another journalist. This happened all the time. And while I take full credit for honing this skill through interviews with members of bands like Motley Crue, Duran Duran, Alice Cooper, The Sex Pistols and Led Zeppelin, I did have a couple of valuable mentors in fellow rock journalist friends who showed me the ropes when I was just an egg, and who taught me to me fearless. One of those friends was veteran rock journalist Vincent “Vinny” Cecolini, a Metal God in his own right, whom I have been friends with for twenty years. Vinny is the bomb.
Vinny has just published his first book of his collected interviews with some of the biggest names in metal and extreme rock, which is called Shootin’ the Sh*t — Volume One: Conversations with Rock Anti- Heroes, Icons & Metal Gods. Unlike typical collections of rock star interviews, Vinny’s first eBook is a compendium of conversations with artists that were conducted during pivotal moments in each of their careers. Plans for pop culture domination; The truths behind long-debated rock ‘n’ roll legends; the inspirations for — and true meanings of — classic song lyrics; the decisions for leaving and returning to major bands; the struggles with such un-rock ‘n’ roll experiences as fatherhood and maturity: these are just a few of the revelations contained within the pages of Shooting the Sh*t Volume One: Conversations with Rock Anti-Heroes, Icons & Metal Gods. Each conversation focuses on the artist and not the writer. This is a must read book!
“Fans want to read the artist’s words,” Vinny explains. “They want to read exact, contextual quotes. They don’t care about a journalist’s musings and meanderings. If they did, they would immediately flip over to a magazine’s reviews or editorial section.” As the title suggests, the author never treats his artist chats as paint-by-numbers question and answer sessions, but as friendly, naturally flowing conversations.
“Straight-forward interviews are the kiss of death,” Vinny continues. “When promoting something new, most artists are subjected to a cattle call of interviews. And nothing will bore an artist quicker than hearing the same sterile questions over and over again; nothing will frustrate or turn them off quicker than watching a ‘hack’ journalist stammering as he or she fumbles with a list of questions.
“If a journalist lets the conversation flow naturally, it may take him or her in a different direction than intended, but that is fine. Even if given an agenda by a publication (to talk about a new album, DVD or tour), eventually, the conversation will find its way back to topic.” This practice has resulted in a number of amazing chats with artists such as Neil Young, Meat Loaf, Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson and the late, great Ronnie James Dio. Metal!
During his 25-year career, Vinny’s work has appeared in dozens of publications including Hit Parader, Metal Maniacs and Bikini. He was also the head writer for cable network VH1 Classic during the short window when that station actually played music videos. Like many veteran journalists, Vinny accumulated conversations that, for a variety of reasons, had never been published. Shooting the Sh*tis Vinny’s opportunity to help these amazing and often highly candid conversations a new audience. The idea was born as the author lamented over an unpublished chat with a pre-American Nightmare Marilyn Manson.
Shooting the Sh*t Volume One: Conversations with Rock Anti-Heroes, Icons & Metal Gods is available now an e-book on Kindle now and will be available on other formats this week! Get it on Amazon right now atThis Link!
Do you enjoy meeting Famous People? I’ll tell you who does: my friend Geoffrey. Geoffrey has met more famous people from every possible facet of celebritydom than most actually famous people have met – I’d bet money on it. Go ahead and Google the name of a famous person and hit “Images,” and you’ll likely find a photo of that celebrity with Geoffrey among the first 5 results. JUST BEING SERIOUS.
Being almost singlehandedly responsible for reviving interest in the art of taking the celebrity selfie, Geoffrey has spent the past five years documenting his near-daily photo safari conquests on his wildly popular blog, According 2 G Dot Com, where he shares them with a global audience for the enjoyment of everyone.
Recently, because not everyone can figure out how to click on a hyperlink, Geoffrey wrote and published an indispensable tome for the celebrity–obsessed and social-mediaphiles who simply cannot stop Instagramming photos of their lunch, entitled I Won The Internet!: Daily Wit, Wisdom and Selfies, According to G. This book is outstanding on so many levels.
I Won The Internet! chronicles some of the encounters of Geoffrey as a “Modern Day Zelig” who has met a celebrity born on each day of the year (including Oprah Winfrey, Bono, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Morrissey, James Franco, Lady Gaga, Joan Rivers, Bryan Cranston, Jane Fonda and Ringo Starr) and presents his witty and uncensored one-liners and words of wisdom disguised as Status Updates and Tweets.
This rad book contains two sections of thoughtful and hilarious ideas for people to ponder and share online to make them the most popular person in their social media newsfeed. Geoffrey encourages readers to use this book as a guide to put them at the forefront of pop culture.
Know Thy Selfie
The third section is dedicated to Geoffrey’s unique Celebrity Selfies, which showcase only a fractional portion of his impressive celebrity selfie photos, and daunting autograph collection (30 years in the making). Using I Won The Internet! as a daily calendar, readers get the chance to view these superstars and legends-in-the-making in an entirely different light. The book features 365 exclusive color photographs of some of the biggest names in entertainment, music and art. Last but not least, I Won The Internet!‘s original cover art, which depicts Geoffrey as an adorable Cat Meme (because everybody loves cats!) was conceived and created by pop artist Troy Gua.
Pick up your copy of I Won The Internet! from Amazon Dot Com at This Link.
Hundreds of books about Art are published every year and it’s challenging for even hardcore Art enthusiasts like me to keep track of the best ones. But I don’t think I’ve yet come across a coffee table-sized Art book that I wanted to peruse cover-to-cover for hours in the way I do Art & Place: Site-Specific Art of The Americas — a comprehensive collection of public art, due out from Phaidon Press in November, 2013.
It’s unfortunate that, due to the (understandable) copyright restrictions on the hundreds of gorgeous photographs contained in the pages of Art & Place, the publishers would only allow me to post three images from the book, because the photographs collected for this impressive publication are simply breathtaking and make Art & Place a must-own for collectors and fans alike. Whenever I travel, one of my favorite things to do is photo-documen public art; whether that be sculptures, installations, random street art or works created from and within nature. Art transforms the perception of reality in a way mere words cannot, and this book does an amazing job of both visually demonstrating and verbally relating the ways in which art elevates life. If you also enjoy photographing site-specific works of art when you visit a new city, this book is an indispensable guide to making the most of your travel experiences across the United States.
Chupinas Mesa, Charles Ross, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Anton Chico, NM, USA Star Axis, 1976–, carved rock and masonry, H: 15.85 m / 52 ft 4 Star Tunnel Aperture
Organized geographically, Art & Place is an unprecedented overview of site-specific art across North, Central and South America from 10,000 BC to the present day. This one-of-a-kind book offers an in-depth and extensive look at major works from all periods that are inextricably linked with their site. From Isamu Noguchi at Storm King Art Center, Anish Kapoor’sCloud Gate in Chicago, and Donald Judd in Marfa, to the Toltec Warriors at Tula and the Moai Statues on Easter Island, all the featured works are specifically made for, or installed in, a particular place – whether that be a landscape, an interior or an urban environment.
Pacific View Mall, Dennis Oppenheim, Ventura, CA, USA Bus Home, 2002, painted steel, acrylic, 10.9 × 15.2 × 30.5 m / 36 × 50 × 100 ft
“Art made for a specific place can be the most spectacular, uplifting and exciting art you can ever experience, and artists of the Americas have provided us with some of the most outstanding examples,” says Amanda Renshaw, editor of the book. “I’ve had the chance to visit many sites, but quickly realized that it is, unfortunately, impossible to visit them all in a single lifetime. Art sites have become increasingly popular destinations. The format of Art & Place aims to bring some of the most extraordinary examples to life and enable most of us to visit these amazing places from home.”
Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Alfredo Jaar, Santiago, Chile Geometry of Conscience, Plaza de la Memoria, 2010, light installation, duration: 3 mins
Works in over 60 cities – from Albuquerque to Washington, DC, and from Baja to Rio de Janeiro
170 powerful and spectacular art works from North, Central, and South America
800 large-format color images depicting the artwork in its surroundings along with a descriptive text written by a specialist
All forms of art including carving and painting, murals and frescos, mosaics, altarpieces, tapestries, integral sculpture, stained glass, earthworks, land art and more
Renowned artists such as Richard Serra and John Sargent, Donald Judd and Henry Moore, alongside art created by ancient civilizations, Colonial settlers and 19th Century muralists
Maps pinpointing the location of sites and specially commissioned plans show the layout of complex sites
With the holidays coming up, I can’t think of a more appropriate gift for the Art lover in your life than Art & Place: Site-Specific Art of The Americas (Approx. 368 Pages; Approx. 800 Color Illustrations), available as a Hard Cover collectible for just $79.95. Phaidon books are available at all major bookstores and retailers worldwide, as well as online at This Link!
When I was in High School, our senior class was shown the documentary film Scared Straight, a cautionary tale in which a group of hardened criminals serving life sentences at New Jersey’s Rahway State Prison spend a day terrifying a group of smart ass juvenile offenders in an effort to deter them from pursuing a life of crime. I’m not sure if this film – which probably seems quaint in retrospect – is still part of the curriculum in a day when metal detectors are installed at the entrance of most schools (and I was never in any way what one might consider a delinquent kid) but Scared Straight scared the shit out of me. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would think going to prison was cool or desirable, but apparently there are kids who live with circumstances in which a prison sentence is an aspiration. I don’t pretend to understand that, but I think it’s important to be aware that such a mindset exits.
The teenagers featured in Scared Straight are the kinds of kids that musician and guitar teacher Buzzy Martin was working with – teaching music classes in an effort to promote his “Education not Incarceration” credo – in various Northern California group homes and juvenile detention facilities, when he was offered the opportunity to teach guitar to inmates locked up in San Quentin, one of the country’s most infamous maximum security prisons. Don’t Shoot! I’m the Guitar Man is the daily journal-style story of Martin’s three-year gig teaching guitar behind the walls of San Quentin, and it is not like any book I have ever read.
Before Martin’s episodic storytelling even begins, he devotes a chapter to setting the scenario of what San Quentin looks, sounds and smells like inside and out: describing how it is laid out logistically (which sections of the prison house which degree of offender), emphasizing the unchanging daily routine, explaining what the rules are and detailing the penalties for breaking those rules. For a person like me, who wants to stay as far way from incarceration as possible, his revelations were amazingly informative and engrossing, because what it’s like being “on the inside” isn’t anything that the average, law-abiding civilian would know or could ever imagine, no matter how much TV you watch. By Martin drawing you into that world before he ever starts talking about his weekly teaching experiences, the prisoners he met, taught and whose stories he got to know, the reader is able to easily sink into Buzzy’s world and experience his stories tangibly through his words. I had a hard time putting the book down, and once I did I couldn’t wait to pick it back up again.
During the three plus years that Martin taught guitar to the inmates of San Quentin, he moved between teaching in various units, including H Unit (which he calls “The Land of Lunatics”) housing inmates that will eventually be paroled, and North Block, where inmates serving life sentences will live out the remainder their days. His stories of these men — what they did to get locked up and what they’ve become in prison — are sobering and often as terrifying as any horror story. For those incarcerated who hope to eventually see freedom again, the joy and redemptive power of music that they experience in Martin’s classes might inspire them with to stay straight. For those who are serving life sentences, the music classes lift their spirits and give them something to look forward to. While Buzzy’s writing style is straightforward and very easy to read, it is nevertheless highly colorful and extremely compelling.
Through his descriptive details and his inclusion of the words of those he met at The Q (as the prison is referred to) his stories come alive with the grit, fear, degradation and violence that are part of daily life for these inmates. While some stories are uplifting, touching and even funny, many are also emotionally devastating, heartbreaking and harrowing: revealing the hopelessness and tragic waste of life that comes from ending up in a place like San Quentin. There is nothing glamorous about it. Don’t Shoot! I’m The Guitar Man, is the modern day Scared Straight, for sure. It’s a story I think everyone should read. Not surprisingly, the book is being made into a major motion picture to be released in 2013 (supposedly with Eric Roberts signed on to play Buzzy – woo!). I hope the filmmakers can do Buzzy Martin’s amazing story justice.
The Worley Gig gives Don’t Shoot! I’m The Guitar Man Four out of Four Stars.
Earlier this past summer, British music journalist Mark Blake published his book Is This The Real Life?, an engaging biography of the band Queen. Blake’s book is crammed with amazing personal information on the band’s members – Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, Roger Taylor and Brian May – in addition to chronicling their success as a group. Blake had a good deal of assistance in gathering his researched material from a guy named Peter Hince, who was a member of Queen’s road crew for over a decade, in addition to also being the personal roadie to both Freddie Mercury and John Deacon.
In October, Hince published Queen Unseen: My Life with the Greatest Rock Band of the 20th Century, his own memoir of his career working for Queen, and though it is a true “insider report,” it couldn’t be more different from the book Blake put together. In a way, the two books are perfect companion pieces; one being a book where you can read about obscure biographical details such as Freddie Mercury’s childhood in Zanzibar and his attendance at private schools in India, and the other in which you will read in fascinating detail about all of the blood, sweat and tears that went into taking a Queen tour on the road, how the band behaved backstage and what it was “really like” from behind the scenes to truly witness Queen’s rise to phenomenal commercial success.
While Hince’s book lacks a tabloid feel that you might expect from someone who seemingly lived, breathed, ate and slept the world of Queen from A Night At The Opera to the band’s final live concert at Knebworth, it is nevertheless a deeply personal page-turner, being one man’s intimate diary of a lost time in the music industry, spent working for one of the greatest and most renowned bands in Rock history. Certainly, no one else but Peter Hince could’ve written a book like this one.
Queen Photographed By Peter Hince
Peter Hince – who was affectionately known by the nickname “Ratty” – met the members of Queen when he was still a teenager, working as a roadie for Mott The Hoople, a band that Queen famously toured with prior to breaking commercially with the album Sheer Heart Attack. He switched camps in 1975 and immediately went out on the road with the band, learning from the ground up what it took to put a Queen show together.
Through Ratty’s wide eyes, we get to see the good, the bad and the ugly of touring the world with a rock band back in the days when music was all about the magic and before it became merely a product to be sold. What you get with Queen Unseen then is a kind of Almost Famous-style journey of going out on the road on a global scale back in the 70s and early 80s; a time when things like cell phones, Fed Ex and the Internet did not even exist. From a logistics standpoint alone, the stories revealed here are often hilarious and just as frequently horrifying, as Queen and their entourage dealt with differences in culture, politics, quirky personal demands, local laws and Murphy’s Law, which states that whatever can go wrong will.
Although Queen Unseen is being promoted as a book about Queen, it is really Hince’s own autobiography, which is deeply colored by his experiences living and working with the members of Queen – both as individual people and as a phenomenally successful rock band. There’s certainly no shortage of sex (trust me, Hince got laid as much as any members of the band), drugs and Rock & Roll misadventure in the book, but that all has to do with Peter’s own experiences and those of his fellow road crew rather than any juicy gossip about his employers. Although there are similar stories in rock books such as Hammer Of The Gods and Bob Green’s Billion Dollar Baby (a story of the journalist touring with the band called Alice Cooper), I haven’t really read another rock book that goes into such detail about a group’s stage show and everything that went into making it happen.
In a lot of ways, it’s not so much about what you don’t know about Queen, as it is about what you don’t know that you don’t know about the band. And that’s what makes Queen Unseen so much fun! It’s such a different take on the Rock & Roll story and Hince’s approach is amazingly refreshing. For example, one of my favorite parts of the book comes in one of the final chapters, when Queen are touring South America – a dangerous and potentially very violent territory for a Western rock band to stage a tour at that time. Remembering a few dates played in Caracas, VenezuelaHince offhandedly remarks that this was “the first place I had seen a dead body lying in the street.” Rock & Roll!
Roger Taylor’s Drumkit Photographed By Peter Hince
These days, Peter Hince works as a photographer, a career for which he left the employ of Queen to pursue, but his camera was with him the entire time he worked for the group, and many of his never-before-seen photographs are included in the book.
If you are one of the innumerable Queen completist collectors out there, the photographs alone are reason to purchase this book, but even if there were no pictures it would be a must-own read. Ultimately, what stands out about Queen Unseen is Hince’s complete lack of any exploitative intention with regard to the members of Queen and any off-the-record details of their personal lives.
While he certainly witnessed every aspect of their Rock & Roll debauchery first-hand, his intention is to relate his own experience, rather than to reveal the titillating, off-camera circumstances, embarrassing or otherwise, of those he worked for. There really is virtually no real “dirt” on the members of Queen to be found in its pages. For example, while Ratty openly states early on that Freddie Mercury’s sexuality was never any secret to anyone, he never reveals the names of Mercury’s lovers (save for Mary Austin, who was Mercury’s girlfriend for years) nor does he reveal anything that could be seen as personally harmful, despite the fact that he surely observed these guys in some of their most vulnerable moments.
While there were times I wished that Hincewould reveal something more personal with regard to whichever band member he’s speaking about at any given time, the fact that he respects their privacy 25 years after ending his employment with the group reveals a certain state of grace that ultimately serves to give his story even more credibility. In fact, Hince is so careful to respect and guard the privacy of Mercury, May, Taylor and Deacon that he doesn’t even reveal the names of their wives or children.
Despite his refusal to dish the dirt, his book is full of love and honesty that reveals an essence about the unarguably enigmatic Freddie Mercury – who Hince clearly deeply admired and cared about as a personal friend as well as a famous rock star – that made me feel like I learned something new about Freddie to take away with me that I hadn’t gotten from another Queen book.
For not making me cry until I got to the last page, The Worley Gig Gives Queen Unseen Five out of Five Stars!
Queen Unseen: My Life with the Greatest Rock Band of the 20th Century can be purchased from Amazon Dot Com or wherever fine books are sold.
Few true tales have the power to compel and transport the reader quite like the life story of a bona fide Rock & Roll Survivor. Of Rock’s innumerable legends with stories worth telling, so many of them – Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison; the list is endless, really – never lived long enough to write their histories in their own words. And of those that have written autobiographies, no one ever really gets – or takes advantage of – the opportunity to go back and revisit his or her life on the written page, updating the tale or adding details that were perhaps forgotten or too painful to tell the first time around. Cherie Currie, former lead singer of the teenage all-girl rock band The Runaways is an exception to that rule. In 1989, Cherie published her autobiography, Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story. Admittedly unable to even read the book herself until 2000, Currie – now more than two decades on the right side of recovery from a drug and alcohol addiction (she had to get a private detox room in Sacramento) that nearly took her life – decided that her story needed to be brought up to the present, and that certain traumatic experiences she’d lived through as a young woman, but wasn’t yet ready to re-live in the book’s first installment, needed to be told. Serving as the source material for the new film The Runaways, Neon Angel has been updated and recently republished byIt Books/Harper Collinsas Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway. For any true rock fan, and even those who read the 1989 edition of Currie’s book, I would strongly suggest checking out the updated version, because it is a pretty wild ride.
Because Currie quit The Runaways after less than two years in the band, and considering that her post-Runaways music career failed to take off like that of her band mates Joan Jett and Lita Ford, who enjoy successful musical endeavors to this day, not many people even know what happened to Cherie Currie once she left the band. What makes Neon Angel such a great read is the authenticity and vulnerability with which Currie imbues her narrative. While she engages the reader with fantastic and vivid tales of rock stardom enjoyed as a member of The Runaways, playing to hysterical audiences wherever they went, having their pictures plastered in rock magazines all over the world and meeting their own rock heroes such as David Bowie and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, the true story of Cherie Currie’s time spent fronting this history-making band is far from all fun and games. Without parental supervision or even proper adult representation, and too naive about the music business to understand their basic legal rights, the girls were robbed blind by Kim Fowley, the producer whose vision for The Runaways was that they serve as his own personal money making-vehicle. Fowley’s verbal and emotional abuse was relentless and based on some of the stories in this book it’s difficult to understand why criminal charges were never brought against this scumbag. Beyond that, there are enough “lost weekend” style drug stories to scare anybody straight, including harrowing tales of times that Currie put herself in harm’s way while under the influence of drugs that make it difficult to believe that she even lived to share them.
Most importantly, Neon Angel takes you inside the world of a talented and driven fifteen year old girl who went to from being a high school student, listening to her favorite records in her bedroom and hanging out with her friends at the local dance club to being an international rock star all before she reached her 17th birthday. Thanks to Currie’s inviting and down to earth narrative voice, the reader can empathize with her personal triumphs and tragedies in a way that allows you to really “get” what it must have been like to walk in her shoes.
Serving as both a cautionary tale and an inspirational true-life page-turner, The Worley Gig gives Cherie Currie’sNeon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway Five out of Five Stars.
Last summer, I spent a few minutes penning a witty foreword to a Rock & Roll Tell-all biography called A Shot of Poison, written by my friend Christopher Long. A Shot of Poison is crammed full of Chris’s true-life escapades and various forms of torture that he endured while working as part of Poison’s road crew for years and years. Since part of Chris’s duties involved being the handler/babysitter/whipping boy for bassist Bobby Dall, a good part of the book concerns what a Doucheasaurus Rex Dall is. But there is a lot of other good dirt that you are not going to know even if you are the world’s biggest Poison fan, and it was a fun read! Here’s what Amazon.com has to say:
“Underscoring life on the road, backstage and in the studio throughout the last 20 years, this biography paints a vivid portrait of the multiplatinum rock band Poison. Based on amazing personal experiences and encounters, this striking recollection spins tales of rivalry within the group, drug use and private recording sessions, revealing a side of the legendary act that will shock and intrigue even their most faithful followers. Proving they were just as vulnerable to the common pitfalls of most successful musicians, this investigation discloses a variety of private issues, from Bret Michaels’ reclusive behavior and the group’s possessive — and often psychotic — fans to their constant competition for the spotlight, notoriety and women. A review of drummer Rikki Rockett’s highly publicized 2008 arrest — taken from an exclusive interview with Rockett himself — is also included.”
What I can definitely tell you is that everything I suggested that Chris not put in the book, because it was so embarrassingly personal, is in the book. So, obviously he didn’t give a shit about maintaining any illusion of having a business relationship or friendship with any member of Poison once this thing hits the stores. Bridge burning! I hope it sells a gazillion copies. A Shot of Poison will be released in April 2010, but you can pre-order your copy now at Amazon.
Around the time that The Strokes were first being hyped-up-the-ass in the press as the Saviors of Rock – while simultaneously confounding my senses with their hopelessly derivative, shitty music – I found myself in the NYC office of that band’s publicist. This particular guy, who I’ll call Ken, because that is his name, had formerly worked as a publicist at the once mighty Atlantic Records and, in addition to working with upstarts like The Strokes, had maintained his relationships with some of that label’s artists. While being given a tour of the office, I ended up at Ken’s desk, where he had on display one of those Family Photo Holiday cards; this one depicting a couple, with the woman holding a small infant. I couldn’t help but notice that the man and woman in the picture, who looked to be in their late twenties to early thirties, appeared to be very gaunt and almost sickly. Honestly, they both looked like shit.
“I wonder who this could be?” I thought to myself. And then, because I am nosy, I picked up the card and read the inscription. A pre-printed message directly under the photo read “Merry Christmas from Scott, Mary and Noah Weiland” – Scott Weiland, of course, being Stone Temple Pilots’ sobriety-challenged lead vocalist. I remember being absolutely shocked at how completely wrecked Weiland looked; there was no way I would have recognized him had his name not been printed on the card. And, I thought, if his wife Mary was really a model (as I’d heard), I couldn’t imagine she was getting many jobs, looking as downtrodden as she appeared in the photo on their holiday card. Of course, I was already familiar with Scott Weiland’s ongoing drug problems. What I couldn’t have known at the time was that Mary Weiland was also battling assorted demons of her own.
I forgot all about that photo until a few weeks ago, when a copy of Mary Forsberg Weiland’s autobiography, Fall To Pieces, arrived in the mail. I finished the book in a few days and then lent it to Geoffrey to read. And we concur; we both love this book. Fall to Pieces – the title lifted from the name of a Velvet Revolver song penned by her husband – is Mary’s intriguing, brave and deeply personal tale of her own life that’s easily as complex and interesting as anything her husband could throw down, which is rare in the “rock wife tells all” genre of memoirs. But before Mary and Scott were ever a couple, Mary struggled through what might be called a “character building” childhood of parental divorce and financial destitution, ostracism by her peers, an innate predilection towards substance abuse, and undiagnosed mental illness. It seems the deck was stacked against her from a young age, but that makes her journey to hell and back all the more fascinating.
Mary and Scott in Happier Times
Through her own drive to make a better life for herself, Mary began a career as a highly paid print model while still in her teens. Through her modeling career, she met struggling musician Scott Weiland, whose job it was to pick up teenage models and drive them to their daily assignments. Mary fell in love with Scott at first sight and readily admits she knew in her gut as soon as she met him that the two would one day get married. Perhaps that’s a bit of a cautionary tale to be careful what you wish for, lest your wish be granted. Most of us who pay attention to the music press and gossip media know how the fairy tale turned out.
Tales of celebrity drug addiction, more often than not, fail to render much sympathy from the public, and I include myself in that demographic. They don’t seem to take their stints in rehab seriously at all; considering it more of a ‘get out of jail free’ card. I can never understand the motives of, let alone sympathize with, people who have seemingly everything going for them – talent, great careers, ass loads of money, fame, good looks, tons of friends, devoted significant others, every conceivable material luxury – but willingly throw it all in the toilet to be a loser junkie with a laundry list of “poor me” excuses that make me want punch him or her in the face. Please, spare me. The most refreshing aspect of Fall To Pieces is that Mary never lays the blame for her mental, physical and financial descent anywhere but at her own feet. Personal responsibility! I’ve read tons of biographies of famous junkies and this is the first one I’ve found that was not only wildly entertaining, but actually allowed me to feel significant empathy and compassion for its subject. Although few of us have lived the life of a gorgeous, jet-setting model married to a successful Rock Star, Mary Forsberg Weiland’s story ultimately presents a universal truth about struggle, failure, rebirth and triumph that anyone can relate to.
The Worley Gig gives Fall to PiecesFour out of Four Stars.
Led Zeppelin: Good Times, Bad Times
A Visual Biography of the Ultimate Band
By Jerry Prochnicky & Ralph Hulett
with a foreword by Anthony DeCurtis
Getting free stuff in the mail is fun, especially when that free thing is a huge coffee table book full of pictures of Led Zeppelin, the greatest hard rock band ever in the Universe of all time. I’ve spent a couple of days looking through this amazing and gorgeous book and it has given me a nearly unprecedented series of nostalgic thrills, because I love Led Zeppelin so much. But whether you just dig Led Zeppelin’s music, or you are a total completist collector fan geek for whom the members of Led Zeppelin are gods – like myself – trust me, you will want to own this book. Authors Jerry Prochnicky and Ralph Hulett kick off a fantastic chronological collection of over 200 rare photos with a very complete yet concise introductory overview of Led Zeppelin’s career – from their first gigs as “The New Yardbirds” to John Bonham’s tragic death, and subsequent band reunions featuring Jason Bonham taking his dad’s place behind the kit. So, even if you didn’t previously know anything about Led Zeppelin’s history before picking up Good Times, Bad Times you will be an expert by the time you gaze at a beautiful black & white photo of The New Yardbirds on stage at their very first gig on September 7, 1968 (41 years ago today) at the Gladsaxe Teen Club in Copenhagen. History!
No one who lived and rocked through the seventies will deny that it was arguably the best era for Rock & Roll that still had balls; and no band personified The Rock better than Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin! Whether the photo depicts the band onstage, backstage, recording in the studio, on tour, or at home, there are accompanying captions with the details of and history behind each picture. I never get tired of seeing shots of Led Zeppelin on stage and in action. But I really loved seeing pictures of the guys with their wives and kids. I loved seeing pictures of them hanging out with groupies at the Rainbow on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. And I also found a nice shot ofJimmy Page’sRobertPlant’s exceptionally hot ass as he gets out of a pool after being pants’d by John Bonham. Candid!
If I were you, and did not get this book for free in the mail, I would buy it as soon as possible or pre-order it from Amazon right now.
Led Zeppelin: Good Times, Bad Times. A Visual Biography of the Ultimate Band will be released on October 1, 2009 with a cover price of $35.00.