In recent days, we examined the trend towards everyone with a Marshall amp stack releasing a book of some form. And, unfortunately, many of those books haven’t been very fulfilling. So I wanted to close the discussion by mentioning some hard rock and heavy metal books that are interesting and different and worth a read. These titles are either self-published or from small publishers so they might have originally escaped your attention.
Off the Rails: Aboard the Crazy Train in the Blizzard of Ozz by Rudy Sarzo
With a resume full of astounding bands and musicians, Sarzo’s career is the envy of rockers everywhere. He played with Quiet Riot, Whitesnake, Dio, Blue Oyster Cult, and others. But he originally solidified his reputation while handling the bottom end duties for Ozzy Osbourne in the early eighties. During his time with the Prince of Darkness, he performed with the legendary guitar player Randy Rhoads who tragically perished in a plane crash.
Sarzo said that he wrote Off the Rails because so many people asked “What was Randy like?” as the years have passed. So he sat down at his desk, put the family Yorkie in his lap, and started pouring out the memories of his dear friend. Along the way, we’re treated to the inside scoop on the Ozzy organization as well. In fact, the release of this book initially generated friction between Sarzo and Sharon Osbourne.
Off the Rails benefits from two main strengths: Sarzo’s journals and his heart.
Early in his career, Sarzo was told to keep detailed travel and performance records for financial and tax reasons. And unlike so many of us who struggle to stay organized, Sarzo actually followed through on that advice. So he has extraordinarily detailed journals about every date, every concert, every hotel, and every travel detail. These records allowed him to write a book that feels very concrete, very authoritative. Unfortunately, the passage of time and the detriments of debauchery have dulled many rockers’ memories. As a result, their books feel vague and they only recite the stories you’ve heard a million times before. On the contrary, Off the Rails feels firmly rooted and detailed.
The book also benefits from Rudy Sarzo’s tremendous heart and warmth. I have met the musician and enjoyed my time with him immensely. So treat this paragraph as a disclosure of sorts if you would like. But almost everyone who encounters Sarzo feels calmed and comforted in his presence. In addition to being a tremendous musician, he’s just a fantastic human being. That warmth flows through the pages of Off the Rails and make it feel like more sincere labor, as opposed to simply being a coldly rushed product like some of the heavy metal memoirs.
Tales of a Ratt: Things You Shouldn’t Know by Bobby Blotzer
Known for keeping time for the hard-partying eighties metal band Ratt, Bobby Blotzer is a hard working man who stays firmly focused on his business. Tales of a Ratt covers Blotzer’s rise to fame, then his stint cleaning carpets during the lean years of the Grunge Era, and back to a measure of success with Ratt’s recent time on the festival circuit.
What makes Tales of a Ratt interesting is Blotzer’s willingness to share all the details of his business endeavors. There is the cliched MTV Cribs image of how a rockstar lives: Bentleys, Hollywood Hills pads, yachts, and Playboy playmates. Many musicians from previous eras want you to believe that they still live that lifestyle. While some of them have handled their money diligently and they do truly walk the halls of their gargantuan mansion, a shocking number of them of them have downsized to homes like where you and I live, but they don’t want fans to know that.
However, Blotzer opens the books and shares exact figures. “Over the course of my career with RATT, I’ve probably made $3 million with them,” he writes in Tales of a Ratt. He then explains the tax percentages, attorneys fees, and other deductions from that pile of money. He also explains the economics of the band. “Our budgets on tours were in the neighborhood of $130,000 per week. Now days, that money would probably be around $250,000 or even $300,000.”
Now, it should be noted that I criticized Vince Neil’s Tattoos & Tequila for feeling too much like a product and that he would prefer to be a big business mogul instead of being a rocker these days. What makes Blotzer’s business discussions different than Neil’s is that, as a reader, you get the sense that Blotzer is willing to do the work himself. He’s diving in and doing the dirty work in his business endeavors.
Blotzer clearly wants to improve his business. He is working on a follow-up book to Tales of a Ratt and has been actively promoting the title on his Facebook page and other outlets. So moving units is on his obviously on his mind. But in Blotzer’s case, it’s an admirable characteristic while Neil just seems mercenary in his book.
Snake Eyes: Confessions of a Replacement Rockstar by Stacey Blades
Axeslinger Stacey Blades has built a resume with eighties metal bands like Roxx Gang and L.A. Guns. A kid growing up in Canada idolizing some of the musicians he would later perform with, his book Snake Eyes is an interesting look at rockstars who travel by bus or rental car instead of private planes. From being hit by lightning as a child to encountering numerous career setbacks and relationship challenges over the years, Blades’s book illustrates a hard-driving work ethic and a total refusal to give up.
In the interest of full disclosure, Blades is a friend and I did read early drafts of this book. What kept my interest throughout all the versions was the hard work necessary to keep plugging in and rocking out night after night, regardless of the size of the crowd, venue, or paycheck. Blades just keeps moving forward, ripping off searing leads and crunching riffs.
Rock Star 101: A Rock Star’s Guide to Survival in the Music Business by Marc Ferrari
I have praised Rock Star 101 before. In this book, Ferrari a guitar player and businessman shares all the mechanics about the lives and financial interests of rock stars. He explains the difference between synchronization income and mechanical income, what to look for in terms of contracts, licensing, and other aspects of biz. You don’t have to be a working musician to enjoy Rock Star 101. Even if you a simple fan who wonders what it takes for your hero to get on stage each night, this book provides all the answers you need.