Hammered: Heavy tales from the hard rock highway by Kirk Blows

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Hammered: Heavy tales from the hard rock highway by Kirk Blows

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Category: Entertainment
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: John Van der Kiste
Reviewed by John Van der Kiste
Summary: A selection of interviews by the former editor of Metal Hammer with various hard rock and heavy metal stars including Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, and members of Motörhead, Deep Purple and Queen. An entertaining read if somewhat short on depth.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: June 2012
Publisher: Plexus
ISBN: 9780859654852

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Kirk Blows is the former editor of hard rock journal Metal Hammer. Just to confuse, he is also well known as a sports writer and an authority on 'the other Hammers', namely West Ham FC. However this book is nothing to do with sport. Instead it devotes its attention to a brace of his interviews with various hard rock luminaries. These took place for the journal some years ago, and have now been revised and updated for book publication.

Veteran performer Nick Lowe, who can always be relied on for a brutally honest and reasoned quote, once singled out rock stars as the dumbest, thickest people there are. After reading this volume, Nick, I won't argue with that. There are of course some shining exceptions to the rule. Which renowned guitarist has a PhD in astrophysics, and has co-written and published books on astronomy and stereo photographs? (You will find his name further down in this review). But with the majority of guys and occasionally girls, such as ex-Runaways singer/guitarist Lita Ford, either they are sending themselves up and playing along with the image of sex, drugs and excess all areas, as well as total dumbness, or else they really are...well, not really potential Mastermind champions.

The interviews are divided broadly into eight thematic sections. 'Feuds And Fall-Outs', 'Boys On The Booze', 'Chemical Capers' and 'Sex On The Brain', to mention but four, are predictable labels for what the interviewees are talking about. Occasionally the conversations go into some depth, but sometimes they're less than a page long. One of the longest, spread over nearly nine pages, is devoted to Motörhead, in which front man Lemmy replies with anger and sadness to a published piece in which guitarist Würzel had bitterly attacked him and the group, scorning his boss for a host of heinous activities including recording a ballad on the previous album – you don't really associate Motörhead with ballads, do you? – and turning his back on his British fans by moving to America. There is a happy ending of sorts, in that after the interview Würzel is forgiven, records two more albums with the group before leaving, then sits down to pour himself a pint of Guinness and drops dead with a massive heart attack. In paying tribute, Lemmy acknowledges that at least he went with a smile.

The same section has a potentially interesting but rather less insightful couple of pages in which Ian Gillan discusses rather superficially his long-running differences with Ritchie Blackmore, responsible for a bitterness which meant there was rarely room in Deep Purple for both at the same time. Talking of Purple, later in the book Glenn Hughes, who was briefly their bassist in the early 1970s, talks revealingly of how he went down the road to drugs hell and fought his way back after embracing religion. On a similar subject, Joe Elliott and Phil Collen of Def Leppard have a few sombre thoughts about their former guitarist Steve Clark and the alcoholism which killed him.

The serious moments are few and far between. One, and surely one of the best reasons for reading this book, is for the first full-length interview given by Brian May (you spotted him, the one with the PhD) after the death of Freddie Mercury, as he muses on the last few years of the man whom he says stirred up hatred in people, but at least got a reaction from everyone as well, as on life without Freddie. There is naturally some humour to be found, such as in former Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson’s invitation to meet for an interview. He leaves a signed scrap of paper pinned to the front door of his west London home to say he’'s in the pub. West London has more than one pub, Brian, but fortunately our intrepid (and thirsty) scribe eventually stumbles – in more senses than one, we expect – on the right hostelry, after a few pints at the wrong ones naturally. Elsewhere Joe Walsh reveals another pitfall of the life of an oft-worshipped guitarist. You try signing a wet cocktail napkin and see what it looks like five minutes later!

If you like your music loud and you want to read about what goes on in the minds of various members past and present of Iron Maiden, Metallica, Kiss, UFO, Fleetwood Mac, Guns’n’Roses, Judas Priest and Status Quo, plus individuals such as Ozzy Osbourne, Henry Rollins, Meat Loaf, Michael Schenker and Alice Cooper, this book is entertaining enough. However, be warned that some of the articles and interviews are so short and scrappy that they say nothing of any value, amusing though they might be. In fact, after reading the whole book in one go, I found it curiously unfulfilling in a way. There are only so many times you can read about your heroes’ preoccupation with various indulgences and rock’n’roll, especially when they tend to dwell more on the former theme. OK, we all know that even in hard rock there are accomplished musos who take their craft seriously, behind the Spinal Tap-like image and the apparently endless devotion to partying. But if you're looking for anything in the way of musical analysis, you'll need to keep looking.

If you're interested in the subject then youmight enjoy Totally Wired: Post-punk Interviews and Overviews by Simon Reynolds

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