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NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub And Other Stories - NOFX with Jeff Alulis {368 pages, Da Capo}
There ain’t many bands that would open and close their official autobiography with tales of drinking piss. U2? Radiohead? Coldplay? Nah... They’re all piss-poor, but piss-drinkers? Don’t see it. Mention the name NOFX however, and suddenly all the boxes are ticked. From the off, that sets the tone for this, rather excellent, autobiography.
This autobiography is very much in the band members’ own words. Each member gets his own bit of narrative; some can be short and to the point, others are more rambling but they all link up to make quite an original and satisfying read - a bit like an extended oral history in fact.
Each member takes us back to their childhood, discovery of Punk and first show - Fat Mike’s is particularly funny and probably resembles the first gig of many of us. From there it’s onto the band, previous members (who also contribute - particularly guitarist Steve Kidwiler), recording of albums, touring and lots of substance use and abuse. Interestingly, each album up to ‘Heavy Petting Zoo’ is discussed relatively in-depth. After that there is little mention of successive albums.
There does appear to be a number of contradictions here, particularly between ex-members and Fat Mike. At the same time, there is some brutally honest writing from drummer Smelly who got involved with the Dog Patch Winos, became a heavy drug user and got himself into all sorts of debauched and dangerous dilemmas. The realisation of the depth of his addiction and his subsequent withdrawal from use is one of the highlights of the book. Elsewhere, we read of failed businesses that Melvin and El Hefe started in the wake of ‘Punk In Drublic’s success (a coffee shop and nightclub respectively), Warped tours, the relationship each member had with a parent (and, in most cases their passing), fatherhood, divorce, Rock Against Bush and Punk Voter and on to the Backstage Passport tour and Fat Mike’s transvestite tendencies.
The narrative from each member contains a great deal of humour too (not really a surprise I guess!). This can be from Smelly and assorted DPW crew doing things like Butterball (read the book to find out!), Mike’s S&M stories and general on-the-road partying. The way the narrative is presented also allows the personality of each individual to shine; Mike is without a doubt the captain, loud-mouthed, cynical; Melvin comes over quiet, genuine and rational; El Hefe a joker and ‘real’ musician while Smelly is an amalgamation of hot-headedness, addiction, bravado and stupidity which is juxtaposed against his post-addiction persona of responsibility, maturity and sensibility.
Those looking for scandal, yes you will read it. Those looking for insight, you’ll read that too. Those looking for a classic Punk Rock memoir, you will definitely read it.
The book is filled out with photos - many of which have not been publicly printed before - and a bunch of flyers, promo pics and magazine covers. It’s not a quick read, due to the small print and high page count, but it is a book that is hard to put down once started.
There seems to be a stigma in some parts about liking NOFX but, since I first picked up ‘Ribbed’ back in 1992, I have been a proud fan. So maybe unsurprisingly, this is highly recommended for the ardent NOFX fan. It also makes great reading for the more casual fan, or those with an interest/ obsession in Punk history (particularly that of LA) and even tour diaries as much of this is set on-the-road. It’s a genuine rags-to-riches Punk Rock story, testament to working at something you enjoy and proving there is reality behind the myth: Making a decent living from Punk Rock without compromising those Punk ideals. (11.07.16)