Books - A

ACCESS ALL AREAS: Stories From A Hard Rock Life - Scott Ian {260 pages, Da Capo Press}

If ya didn’t know, Scott Ian is the founding member and guitarist in one of the original ‘Big Four’ Thrash Metal bands - ANTHRAX. Have to say too, I quite like the ‘Spreading The Disease’/ ‘Among The Living’ era of ANTHRAX - I even went to see them on the ‘Among The Living’ tour which had the added bonus of NUCLEAR ASSAULT playing support. So, while this isn’t the usual kinda biography I would devour, it does have a certain appeal. It’s his second book too and, while it is autobiographical, it is essentially a selection of essays of random events that have occurred during Ian’s life.

All told, you get 23 tales from the life of Scott Ian. My favourite appears early on where, as an early teen, Ian was a rabid KISS fan. He captures that obsessive nature of your main musical love at such an impressionable age perfectly. Elsewhere, we get a hilarious tale of his encounter with the pop legend that is Madonna (actually, I should note that there are a lot of hilarious moments in the book; Ian’s a very witty story teller), another fan-boy-esque recounting of Ian’s appearance in The Walking Dead television show, a genuinely laugh-out-loud tale of ANTHRAX and a couple of Metallica dudes breaking into METALLICA guitarist Kirk’s studio in the early hours, a major wind-up revenge on Dimebag Darrell of PANTERA, a rather alarming tale of an enema contest backstage at Madison Square Garden following a NINE INCH NAILS show and another tale involving both MINISTRY and Steven Spielberg.

There are two long stories about Ian’s Poker playing which, while it’s apparent he has a distinct love and ability at the game, these chapters left me a bit bored.

The book is filled out with a few graphics to accompany the stories, but no glossy photo pages.

As stated, the book’s narrative and Ian’s ability to tell these tales is witty. There are moments of total hilarity (another involving punching R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe) that are recounted with energy and focus. It’s also clear, based on just these few tales, that Ian has had a notable life outside of ANTHRAX too; he’s partied hard, lived well, loved completely and comes over as a respected and well-liked person. Much of his narrative is akin to sitting down in a pub with the man, sharing more than a few beers and just ‘shooting the shit’. In fact, if Ian can talk as well as he can write, then the spoken word stage must beckon.

I won’t pretend this is high-brow stuff, and I am sure Ian would be among the first to debunk such a thought; while it’s well written, witty and Ian comes across as imminently likeable, there are still some distinct Spinal Tap moments that only Metal bands seem to indulge. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. However, there is no sense of sexism or misogyny that the likes of the risible W.A.S.P might indulge in.

This is simply an enjoyable read and one that fans of the band and the genre will enjoy even more than I - especially if they play poker too! (15.05.18)

AMERICA 51: A Probe Into The Realities That Are Hiding Inside The Greatest Country In The World - Corey Taylor {250 pages, Da Capo}

I imagine that, like myself, many of you have no idea who Corey Taylor is. Apparently he’s the singer in Slipknot and Stone Sour (yawn). He’s also a best selling author having written three previous books. He also swears a lot - to the point of tedium.

The inspiration for this book came from Donald Trump’s US election victory - a victory Taylor did not expect or desire. His opening chapter details this and poses the question: Just how did the United States get in this state?

From there he looks (maybe I should say rants), in a stream of consciousness style of writing at the Republicans under Ronald Reagan (who comes out surprisingly positively), white privilege, family dynamics, some of the places Taylor has travelled and the faults of both Democratic and Republicans alike. Most of his most vocal and vicious ire is directed toward Donald Trump.

I have to say, I only made it half way through before I got bored. I didn’t get bored because I agreed or disagreed with Taylor’s narrative, nor did I get bored by the subject matter. What I did get bored with was the continual use of the word ‘fuck’ - along with all its suffixes and prefixes (particularly the one where mother is involved). I’m no prude and swear more than I care, but when I read a book from a self-eulogising rock star who feels the need to put ‘fuck’ in every other sentence, it becomes a real fucking drag. Much like that boring talker who puts "y’know" at the end of every sentence - y’know? It gets stale, repetitive, cliched - y’know (get the picture?). It’s the kind of banal language which has lead the United States to the exact same place that Taylor is so disgusted by. How’s that for fucking irony, Corey??

From what I read, he made some interesting points and observations. It’s clear he has an energy about how he writes, but the whole, "I’ve had it bad... Real motherfucking bad... But now I’m a famous as fuck rock star... It can happen MOTHERFUCKERS.." spiel that he spouts also gets a bit of a drag - actually it’s a big... fucking... Drag.

Almost as much of a drag as the outpouring of expletives that litter every other sentence. (20.02.18)

ANORAKY IN THE UK: 101 Rare New Wave Singles 1977-81 - Tony Page {116 pages, DIY}
No, that is not a typo - that title is indeed correct and a rather natty play on words in my opinion. The title of the book pretty much says it all - 101 rare Punk/ New Wave/ Mod/ Power Pop singles from those stated years. And most of these are real rare - you won’t find any of the ‘big’ names here - no DAMNED, no CLASH and not even a whiff of a GENERATION X.
So, you get an A4 page dedicated to each record which includes full-colour scans of the cover and label - assuming said release had a cover. Yes, that does sound a bit anorakish, but that’s kinda the point. However, this ain’t no boring ‘facts only’ collegiate set of essays that eulogise the author’s own, wonderful, elitist record collection. Page injects a lot of humour, opinion and history into each piece, and includes a likely financial amount you’ll have to dish out if you wanna own any said piece of vinyl.
What’s featured? The nearest to ‘names’ are probably CRASS, THE MOB, TELEVISION PERSONALITIES, OUTCASTS, CRISIS, JERKS, RUDI and XPOZEZ with THE ZIPS, DISCO ZOMBIES (a personal fave in ‘Drums Over London’), THE FITS, ART ATTACKS and THE TIGHTS adding a few names for those in the know.  
Page’s dissection of each release really holds the attention and frequently amazes at the value of some of these (REACTA’s ‘Stop The World’ at £150 while an original of TVP’s ‘14th Floor’ can fetch a whopping £350!). He’s not afraid to call out some of the sexism of the day (check the DEEP THROATS piece) and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to some shit sleeve art (see the comments about ZIPS’ ‘As I Pass You By’). What’s even better though, is that often we’ll read a little bit about Page himself - be it saving a scrawny kid from a kicking at a gig by THE BOYS at the Marquee - only to get bashed up himself, tales of non-league football, being a flare-wearing Glam Rocker before Punk came along, his service as a shop steward, and being in a band that supported THE JAM on three tours (I think that would make an interesting book in itself).
Besides the records, there is a foreword from author Tony Fletcher (with whom Page shared a stage while in APOCALYPSE) before Page details the inspiration behind the book. There’s the odd grammatical error (brackets that open, but have no closing partner), but really, do we really care in a world where most of its populace can only txt...lol!! Ha... Fuck me... ROFL!!
It would be easy to think of this as a poor man’s version of Alex Ogg’s exemplary tome, ‘No More Heroes’, but that would be doing this book such a disservice. Page reflects on many records and bands that ‘No More Heroes’ doesn’t even acknowledge. Page has done maximum research on a lot of these odd-ball, one-off releases and seems to crave more knowledge if any reader can offer it. An admirable trait indeed.
I enjoyed each and every page of this, learnt a stack of stuff and can’t wait for volume two, which is already being worked on. (30.12.20)