Tag Archives: biography

And something from the master…


You don’t have to be a child of Seventies Rock to be able to appreciate all Alice Cooper has brought to the world of rock and metal. From the stage show to the persona to the music to the classics, this man and his band have earned their spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Cooper once, at a show in the early 90s, I think it was. My friend was on the production staff; I spent most of the show backstage with her. But I made a point of seeing Alice’s set. It was everything it was cracked up to be — and best of all, it wasn’t slick and polished, like you’d expect after so many years. Nor was it a train wreck of drugs and addictions.

Neither was the man, himself. He was a kind, quiet, class act.

Just the sort to make me fall a little bit in love.

We’ll see how I feel after I read Welcome to my Nightmare, a new biography by multi-published rock biographer Dave Thompson. Maybe I’ll be inspired to create an Alice-like character who changes the face of rock and roll. Who knows?

Here’s a bit about the book, shamelessly — as always — lifted from the press release I saw:

“Drawing from exclusive and unpublished interviews with a variety of names and faces from throughout Alice’s career, the book follows Cooper’s tale from his life growing up as a preacher’s son in Arizona, through the early years of struggle in Phoenix and then Los Angeles, and then onto the roller coaster ride that has been the years since then. Includes interviews with original bandmates Michael Bruce and the late Glenn Buxton, drummer Neal Smith, the late Frank Zappa, manager Shep Gordon and producer Bob Ezrin. Includes tributes and recollections from many of the artists who call Alice an influence — from THE DAMNED and THE CRAMPS, to WHITE ZOMBIE and GWAR. Session players and songwriters who have made their own contributions to the Alice story recall their days spent with this Prince of Hell-raisers. The result is a story that alternately thrills, shocks, surprises and delights. Includes full discography and bibliography.”

That’s quite a roster of people paying tribute or, more hopefully, contributing great stories, anecdotes, and tales of wild (or not-so-wild) adventures.

This is one book that’s going to have quite a reputation to live up to… I can’t wait to read it.


Mmm. Phil Demmel


I’ve had a crush on Machine Head’s Phil Demmel since the first time I met him, back in the early ’90s. Back when he was in Bay Area band Vio-Lence. What a classy dude, always kind to the cool-assed radio chick. My sort of hot, too.

I’ve also totally been jamming to the new Machine Head single, Darkness Within. LOVE, love, LOVE that song! It’s about music as religion and it reminds me of an essay I wrote in college (that was good enough, my prof entered it in the college-wide essay-writing contest. The winner? Something with some long, dry, academic title. Of course) about the first time I saw Alice in Chains. It was the Limelight in New York City, a long-since-shuttered nightclub that had a long and fruitful previous life as … a church. Layne Stayley up on that old altar…

Yeah. In a setting like that, you get the idea of music as religion.

I’ve also been drooling on this here blog over the wordsmithing magic that is Joel McIver.

Phil Demmel + Joel McIver = Susan in HEAVEN.

If you can’t figure it out, Joel’s penned the first-ever biography of Machine Head. Okay, so Phil shares the spotlight with the rest of the band. I can deal.

What I can’t wait to do is read.


Susan’s Book Talk: To Live is to Die


Most of my readers know I consider myself to be a self-respecting metalhead. To that degree, I’ve seen author Joel McIver’s name around. I had yet to pick up one of his books — professional jealousy, don’tcha know — but when my friend Mary at BookHounds turned me on to To Live is To Die: The Life and Death of Metallica’s Cliff Burton, I knew it was time to stop being green with envy and take the plunge.
I got a copy from the good folk at Jawbone Press, and was off and reading.

The first thing that struck me was the energy in the narrative. That’s the best word for it: energy. There are other words that work well, too: enthusiasm, passion, depth of knowledge. McIver is more than a fan of this heavy metal world we both adore. It’s his life, and it shows.

And you ask why I’m jealous of the man?

If I have any complaint with the book, it’s that we really don’t get to know Cliff all that well. There are two reasons for this, of course: he was a very private person who didn’t let people in very easily (if at all) and, well, he’s a little hard to reach with in-depth questions. The guy is, after all, rather deceased.

Which truly sucks. I’m intrigued by Cliff Burton. By a guy who wore bell-bottoms when no one else would. By someone who had enough money to move out but stayed living in his parents’ small apartment. By a musical genius whose presence, all these years later, still hovers over the band he found success with.

I may not entirely agree with all of McIver’s statements about the twists and turns the Metallica musical catalog has taken since Cliff so rudely left the guys, but McIver makes me understand where he’s coming from. I can respect that, especially when it’s put forth with such enthusiasm and energy.

Best of all, McIver breaks down Cliff’s parts in each of the three albums of songs he contributed to. As a non-musician, at first I thought I wouldn’t care about all that gobbeldy-gook. More kudos need to head McIver’s way, however, because not only was it completely intelligible (and, to be fair, I did have a number of years of piano lessons and the high school drumline, so it wasn’t entirely a foreign language to me), but I found myself reaching for my iPod, pushing my headphones more securely into my ears, and listening hard for Cliff’s parts. Lo and behold, I could hear them. I got it in a way I never have before.

Needless to say, that led to a marathon of music listening, sometimes with the book open so I could follow along and sometimes (Yes, I’m going to admit this) on an exercise bike at the Hoity Toity Health Club. Hey, sometimes you do what you have to do and with the entire Metallica catalog on my iPod, how could I resist? Besides, people tend to leave you alone when you’re bicycling furiously, hands plastered to your ears and that distant look of concentration in your eyes.

While I’d been hoping for more details that would flesh out who Cliff really was, what I brought away To Live is to Die wasn’t so much about the man, himself, as opposed to the man’s music. And for someone who always focused more on the music than on the men (and women) who make it, that suits me just fine.

So I’m over my professional jealousy of Joel McIver. Mostly. Sort of.

Okay, I’m not even close to it. But I’ll certainly find a comfortable spot on his bandwagon and devour the rest of what he’s written.