LEYLA FORD RAMBLES ABOUT WHY ROCKSTARS SHOULDN’T RAMBLE
Andy McCoy, one of the founding members of Hanoi Rocks, wrote a book. In 2008. [Our own Corey Mitchell reviewed it in 2010. – Ed.] I read it pretty recently as it came to me with a bunch of Christmas/Hannukah/New Year’s loot. My family doesn’t celebrate anything, so we basically give each other presents because the year is over. Yeah, I don’t know. We put up a tree, too.
Anyway, I kind of dropped the ball on Andy, and that’s kind of a recurring thing these days, because every once in a while I get caught up on that “having a life thing.” I did finally read it, though, and I quite enjoyed it. To an extent. Now, I love books. Reading = fun times for me. I usually have three or four books I’m juggling and one of them is almost always a music biography. But Sherriff McCoy; Outlaw Legend of Hanoi Rocks goes on the pile of band books that really could’ve used a good edit.
A lot of bands and musicians have books out these days. I saw Ozzy’s the other day on display, and I think Scott Weiland’s wife has a memoir? Guess E! didn’t want her for Rock Wives. Not that I watch it. (Okay, I just want to see if Steve Stevens squeezes his wife enough, she’ll pop like a water balloon. But I digress.) There was Vince Neil’s book, which I couldn’t even get through one chapter of and I apparently wasn’t the only one. Nikki Sixx has a book of photography coming out in April, and I’m sure it’ll just be a collection of pseudo-gothic stuff that thirteen-year-olds who’re really into HIM will love (picturing a lot of skulls, taxidermy, and filigree borders). I’m also sure that I will probably own it before the year is up, as my loved ones have a habit of getting me anything that has to do with my childhood bands, whether or not I still like them. Which is why I have two copies of The Heroin Diaries, one signed by Monsieur Sixx himself.
The thing with almost half of these books, and especially Andy’s, are that they’re too disjointed. Okay, you write music, you compose songs. This does not necessarily mean you can carry a whole book. In the case of Sherriff McCoy, I might not be totally fair. It is a translation after all, and I do feel for the translator, I sincerely do. I’ve done translation work and still do on occasion and it is the most soul-crushing, slow-moving form of writing, ever. The thing with biographies, and books in general, is that they have to be a good story. Or composed of smaller good stories that add to the general flow of words. I love a good story, who doesn’t? My fucking day job is to edit them and help authors actually get out what they’re trying to say and push past the clutter.
It’s the same with interviews. You want to talk to someone because they have stories. I’m sure your die-hard fans really do want to know what the deep, meaningful process behind your latest album was, but most of us want to listen to convivial chatter and know the stories that come from recording, performing, and just being who you are. Which is why it baffles me when artists try to play off that question as “putting them on the spot.” It’s expected — have one ready to go beforehand!
But assuming, for the sake of argument, that the translation is the spitting image of the original, Sherriff McCoy ought to have found an editor. You let other people produce your music — this is the same thing. Andy McCoy(ly) refers to events, without expounding on them, ever. It’s done over and over again, and while that kind of cock tease might work in a review or excerpt, in the actual book, you finish what you’re saying. He interrupts himself, while talking about touring with Iggy Pop, to compare the natural high of performing in front of tens of thousands people with the high of being intimate with just one person. But then he adds a throwaway line, “Though I have had sex with three women [at the same time].” Dude, okay, congrats, and that’s some nice wink-wink alluding there, but fucking tell me how you got one woman to sleep with you, let alone three. Or just finish what you were saying about touring with Iggy Pop, because you trail off and I know there are stories there. If you don’t want to talk about these people, then fine, don’t mention it at all. But small tidbits just come off as bragging, and yeah, he has the bragging rights, but stand by your stories. Tell them properly, not as some after-thought. I like your stories Andy, I think you have some great ones, like when your grandmother attempted to buy opium at a pharmacy. Or when you highlighted Razzle’s death — I was really impressed at how dignified that was, and the quote about “Not suing Motley Crue because that would’ve been like trying to put a price on someone’s life,” was really classy and kind of moving (and then you’d sneak it shots at Vince Neil and call him a piece of shit, which was funny because I agree). But rather than inserting a sidebar that has nothing to do with what you were just saying, have a cohesive, linear flow. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be linear in chronological order; it just has to make sense from section to the other. When you jump from talking about how mean your first wife was to some tour in the middle of your career back to how your dad used to beat you without leading into each one, without clarifying anything, and then stick a sidebar randomly expressing your views on reincarnation, it’s just messy. That’s not how you write a book. That’s how you talk and interview someone. But, again, get someone to clean it up and organize it all.
It’s good to be involved. I usually won’t read a book if it’s just someone talking about someone else. There’s no shame in having a ghostwriter or a contributor. I want to hear the stories, and if someone can help express them, by all means, they should. I stopped reading Ian Christe’s book about Van Halen because it was basically a textbook. I don’t need an analysis of “Hot For Teacher,” because, call me crazy, but I think I get what it’s about. To be fair, I’m sure it was an in-depth and compelling read, and maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance, but I’d rather hear it all from the people themselves. The stories make the book. Tell me about the people involved. Tell me about the shit you got up to. Tell me about what the music means to YOU. YOU wrote it. The Dirt had a nice little anecdote about David Lee Roth snorting all of Motley’s drugs and not even pausing when a giant mirror cracked him over the head. That was a side note, yes, but it had a beginning, middle, and an end, and it made sense in the greater arc of the story. It’s weird but The Dirt is probably the best example of a music autobiography done right.
This is why I love groupie books. They’re nothing but stories. I’m sorry Bebe Buell, you might prefer the term “muse,” and I’m sure a lot of you were (especially the lady responsible for my namesake song, Pattie Boyd), but if it acts like a groupie, looks like a groupie, and, uh… smells like a groupie, well, by golly, it’s a groupie. They all start with a childhood, and a direct path that leads them from their little towns to Jimmy Page’s bed. (And apparently all paths do lead to Jimmy Page’s bed, because he’s in like 98% of ‘70s groupie books.) Andy McCoy’s book jumped from age five to his adolescence, and all of a sudden he was in Japan with Hanoi. What the fuck did I just miss?
Pamela Des Barres’ I’m with the Band is still the Bible of groupie books. It is so well written; it’s almost like a diary that traces back through all the events in her life that lead her to where she is. These women are nothing if not for their relationships with famous men. Andy McCoy: you ARE one of those men. Even Roxana Shirazi (whom I actually got to interview) wrote a cohesive body of work. Never mind the subject, but within the parameters I’ve set, it’s a book. It’s a story. I didn’t really like it because it’s aim seemed to be more to shock and offend rather than tell a story, and I write for the Internet so there’s really not a whole lot that offends me anymore (Except the idea of her with Dizzy Reed. Whyyyy woman, whyyy?! No one has that little self-esteem!), but even her story about doing it with the Buckcherry dudes right after her abortion isn’t just a throwaway piece of trash. It’s a story within a story that makes sense in the broader scope of things. Andy McCoy reflecting on how he will never live in a world without hate, and mankind’s obsession with money, is a small rant placed side by side with an anecdote about playing a club when he was younger. There are just so many random snippets thrown in there, it’s baffling.
Other than the technical mishaps that I don’t know, might just bug me because I’m attuned to that stuff, it is a good enough read. I loved Hanoi Rocks before I’d heard of Motley Crue and Guns ‘n’ Roses and it was interesting getting a glimpse into their past from the perspective someone involved. There’s a story in there about how Andy literally saved Erin Everly’s life (Axl Roses’s wife) after she overdosed on heroin because Steven Adler was a moron and shot her up when she’d never done it before. There are some really telling things in between the random lessons on how the music business is run. But the epilogue is all about the stories he left out. Then why are you writing a book? If you have a message (which he does, boy does he preach) then use your stories to highlight it. Don’t namby about for 100 pages just to say one thing. That’s what a song or an album is for.
Stories are why I’m really looking forward to certain people eventually writing books. Because it will happen. Axl Rose just turned 49 — milk that mid-life crisis some more! I would so read a Rose-penned book. Unless, it was just three hundred pages of him making excuses and blaming everyone else for his problems, which, honestly, it might be.
I also want my sleaze bands to write. Especially Crashdiet. Their first singer killed himself after forming the band, the second guy was a complete tool, and third guy is… well, he hasn’t done much yet, but I sure enjoy looking at him. Plus, I already know one of their stories, and it’s amazing. A friend of mine attended a show with their second singer (and current front man for Reckless Love), Olli, and apparently after the show backstage, he just kept screaming at girls that he had a porn star girlfriend back home, and that they should go find “Someone else to hump from the band.” God, I love egotistical singers. They entertain me like nothing else.
I want Steve Harris or Bruce Dickinson to write a book, too. I know Bruce can write. My gentleman friend tracked down an old copy of his novel, The Adventures of Lord Iffy Boatrace, and it was a genuinely funny and entertaining read. Like the literary result of Monty Python crossed with The Benny Hill Show.
Lemmy’s book, White Line Fever, is also a very good read. Kind of inspiring in a way — he had some really good quotes. I can’t remember them and I just spent half an hour looking for my copy to no avail, but I do remember agreeing with his general philosophies and history lectures.
Stories sell. That’s why a fucking fifteen year-old has a book of memoirs and a movie coming out. Good stories sell especially well. Like sleeping with a bunch of famous (or mildly famous) people. Or even just making up a truly interesting work of fiction. Take journalist Stephen Glass. Everything he wrote was a blatant lie. Now, if I were to just make up a bunch of stories (or, better yet, sex stories), do you think it would sell? Especially if I were featuring people that are popular now? I wouldn’t use names to avoid trouble (and I’d avoid actual sex because, well, a herpes-free existence is quite nice), but it would be so obvious who I’d be talking about, like, “This ginger was quite the mastodon in the bedroom.” Hey, I bet people would actually be okay with favorable lies. The Penis Chart exists for a reason. Hey rock stars: contact me if you’re interested in pursuing fake liaisons.
What I’m waiting for now are the movie adaptations. I actually wanted to adapt Pamela Des Barres’ story, but HBO beat me to it. Damn Hollywood, stealing my ideas. Oh well, it’s cable at least, so it’ll be no holds barred. There were rumors of Sascha Baron Cohen playing Freddie Mercury, and man, I think that’s inspired casting right there. I want to see the Lemmy doc, but I’m kind of afraid it’ll depress me. There is a movie about Andy McCoy too, The Real McCoy, but I haven’t tracked it down yet. I do have a suggestion if there’s ever a Sebastian Bach movie: Hartley Sawyer from TBS’ Glory Daze should play Baz. Fun fact: he graduated from my alma mater! I always get kick when I see a name or face I recognize, and someone I know playing a part in a Skid Row movie? That would make a good story.