Super Freedom Rock

Book Review: Paranoid: Black Days with Sabbath & Other Horror Stories

I felt compelled to “review” this book by author Mick Wall, as I thought it was quite good. I didn’t know who the fuck Mick Wall was, as he spent most of his time during the 70’s and 80’s in Europe writing for various music rags and hosting the cable TV show “Monsters of Rock” on Skynet there. Here in the states, we didn’t get the show or hear much about what was going on Europe for that matter, outside of reading my Circus and Hit Parader magazines, as a teenager in 80’s.

Wall’s book started-out rather slow, as I expected stories of debauchery and backstage shenanigans as he toured with Black Sabbath and other metal acts, but instead it took a deep-dive into his daily life as a Heroin addict, living in filth with another addict who was also in the music business, when Wall was either out of work, or often working as “PR” person for a major label. His detailed and rather dark description of his crippling addiction to Heroin was insightful and helped me understand what that must’ve been like…going through each day just to get a fix any way he could, and literally doing a lot of nothing and never going outside. Side effects included not eating (much) nor going to the bathroom for up to 2 weeks (#2 any ways) – it’s simply amazing anyone who is addicted to smack for any period of time is still alive, frankly. What a horrible toll it must take on your body, not just the drug itself, but the associated lack of nutrition and exercise has to have long-term effects on someone’s health.

In the 70’s Heroin was still a bit of a new phenomenon, although it had been around forever, no one really seemed to care much about their health, as everything was all about excess, and so many brilliant artists took it on without blinking an eye it seemed. Reading Wall’s accounts of how he survived various jobs in the music industry on a daily basis, I found fascinating…not caring about who or what he was writing about, and how the editors didn’t seem to either, as long as it sold copies and filled-out pages. Or his time in PR where he basically just shot-up in bathroom stalls before shows and admired the bands from backstage, while also helping other addicts out in bands and roadie types with their fix. The guy had so many opportunities with women and shunned them all, as the addiction left him practically impotent. Just a shell of a person.

The book really takes-off a bit when he finally breaks his habit, talks about his self-recovery, sickness, and embracing his writing for “Kerrang!” magazine, and later his TV role hosting “Monsters of Rock.” The number of famous musicians he interviewed, encountered and dealt with is impressive, and his story of how he first tried smack, and who introduced him to it, is well-written and accounted for as well.

I loved reading his very personal encounters with people like Stevie Nicks, Axl Rose, Ozzy, Jimmy Page, and others, over the years, what they were like, and how oblivious he was as to how popular he became as host of the TV show.

I’d recommend the book to any rock music fan, even if you’re not into classic rock or Sabbath, as the book really isn’t so much about Sabbath, but does circle around quite often to the time when Ozzy left the band and went out on his own, and his regular interviews, encounters and touring with the band, and later Ozzy’s early solo career. I eat this kind of stuff up and basically have read and plan to read just about every popular band and music biography I can get my hands on, from Johnny Cash to Motley Crue and Aerosmith to the Doors, the early 80’s LA Sunset Strip circus, I don’t care, it all fascinates me, love or hate the band’s music, it’s really not about being a fan of them so much as just growing-up during that time as a teen and remembering what it was like back then…very nostalgic and interesting.

The music industry has changed so much, no longer controlled by guitar-oriented bands and stadium shows with universal appeal, or dangerous intellectualism that affects social change and attitudes, it’s always great to read about a time when that was the case. Today music is splintered and cliquish, quiet and subdued, or corporate, empty and obnoxious. Fans need to go find the good stuff, it’s no longer presented to you on TV or radio stations. I suppose I’m a bit of a nostalgic lush for what is probably the greatest era of rock music – approximately 1978-1983. As much as I love 60’s music and the early 70’s dawn of metal, hard rock and punk, the crazy amount of varied creativity that spawned during those 6-7 years is beyond comparison to me. Wall’s book covers that era very well, all the way into the early 90’s, including his recollection of interviews with Bowie and Kate Bush, Morrisey and others – it’s a great read. 4.5 out of 5 stars – the abrupt ending being it’s only shortcoming. I look forward to reading more of Wall’s stuff.

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