Tag Archives: Ozzy Osbourne

Bringing Metal to the Children by Zakk Wylde

Make no bones about it, this is a VERY different book to those that I normally review here! But the funny thing is, the content and all that it represents has gone a hell of a long way to making this blog, and ‘Portsmouth’s World War Two Heroes’ possible.

Zakk Wylde began playing guitar with Ozzy Osbourne in 1988, at the tender age of 19. He’s recorded 5 albums with ‘the Boss’, several solo albums, and an incredible 7 studio albums with his band Black Label Society. Not to mention live albums and DVD‘s. Suffice to say I’m a big Zakk fan – introduced to his playing by his work with the Ozzman, I quickly became a big fan of BLS. I’ve got some very happy memories of BLS related times. I was lucky enough to meet the man himself on their UK tour back in 2005.

This book, co-authored with Eric Hendrikx, is set out as a guide to world heavy metal domination. And it’s got an eminently suitable author as its a path that Zakk has trodden. Several times. To say that it’s a light-hearted look at heavy metal wound be an understatement- there is certainly something of Spinal Tap about it. Zakk sure has a lot of rock and roll stories, and he loves telling them. It’s almost impossible to know where to begin trying to sum up what’s inside. There’s plenty of swearing, and lots of shit, piss, ‘marital aids’, light-hearted questioning of bandmates sexuality and the like. Some of the touring tales had me in stitches – who the hell sets up a fishtank in the back of their tourbus, and casts baited hooks into it? How do you spend $30,000 dollars on booze in one month? And those are some of the TAMER stories.

One thing that has always really inspired me about Zakk is the way in which he quit drinking. Stories of his boozing are legendary – but anybody who drinks 15 bottles of Becks before lunchtime is going to hit a crossroads at some point. A few years ago Zakk checked into hospital with pains in his legs, and it was found that he had blood clots that had passed through his heart. Prescribed Warfarin, he quit drinking. No rehab, no excuses, no Thai meditation retreats, he just stopped. The funny thing, he did it in almost the same way that I did some years ago (no, readers, I was not an alcoholic!).

And that sums up the man, and his approach to life. One of his mottos is ‘Get it Fucking Done’. I couldn’t agree more. I get fed up with hearing excuses as to why something hasn’t been done, or people saying ‘I was I was…’ or I would love it if…’ – make it happen. If you’re trying and nothing’s happening, well you need to try harder. If you really want something bad enough – a record deal or, indeed, a publishing deal – work your arse off as if you will be sent to the burning depths of hell if it doesn’t happen. I try and write books the same way that Zakk records albums – write it, get it out there, and on to the next one.

So, all in all, not only a very entertaining read, but also with some very succint life lessons.

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Why we write

I spent 28 years of my life dreaming about writing a book. It’s something that not many people ever manage, let alone many 28 year olds. Unless you’re Justin Bieber, in which case someone writes your autobiography for you when you’re 16. But – thankfully – I’m not Justin Beiber.

Having written my first book, naturally I’ve been thinking about the future. When you dream about something for so long, and finally achieve it, what do you do next? Well, the obvious answer is write more books. But on a more philosophical level, the whole experience has got me thinking about why exactly we write.

As far as I can see, there are seven reasons to write:

  • To make money. Or, at least, cover your costs
  • To inform, educate, and entertain
  • To boost your CV
  • To write a wrong, or clear up a mystery
  • To argue, persuade or convince
  • To massage your ego
  • To win yourself brownie points with other academics

Of course, some authors are motivated by any combination of the above.

Unless you are in the fortunate situation of not having to worry about money – ie, you work for an institution and writing comes as part of the job, or you are simply minted – basic economics mean that you have to at least cover your costs. Unless you write the next Birdsong, you’re not going to make a fortune from writing history. Of course, it’s no good writing something that nobody wants to read, whether it is too niche, too boring, or simply, crap. No publisher will touch a book that doesn’t have the prospect of selling well. Which can be a double edged sword – some authors, clearly, end up writing books that sell, but don’t have much historical merit.

I must admit, ‘Portsmouth’s World War Two Heroes’ would not win me any academic awards. I doubt it would even do very well as a PhD thesis. But, after being on sale for a month it has probably sold more copies than many of my erstwhile lecturers ever will with of some of their books. And I think that’s a very important point – historians tend to write just for each other. No wonder much popular history ends up being rubbish – gifted historians tend to concentrate too much on academic journals, that only academics read. Is anything you write in a journal article really likely to change the world? Is it going to convince a 15 year old to choose a career as a historian? No, I don’t think so either. I know of more than one critically acclaimed history book that has actually sold pitifully few numbers. Whatever you write, or how important you think it is, if no-one reads it, what difference does it make?

I guess its similar to music. The Bay City Rollers sold more records in the 70′s than anyone else, but did they have any effect on music? Not really. Black Sabbath didn’t sell many records in the 70′s, but their musical legacy inspired a whole genre. There are probably hundreds of bands out there who are cult heroes to many geeky musos – you know, the arty types – who didn’t sell any records, hardly anyone heard of them at the time, and no-one can remember them now.

Historically, I guess I’m trying to plot a course somewhere between Bay City Rollers and Black Sabbath territory – credible, but appealing to normal people. I want people to actually be able to read it, but then I think it is very important to have things like a bibliography, and endnotes, so your work stands up to scrutiny and is useful to people.

I’m trying to think of a way of concluding this post, that makes sense. But having realised that I have basically described myself as a historical cross between the Bay City Rollers and Black Sabbath, I think I will simply leave it there.

Any other historians have any thoughts on the subject?

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