Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review: "Am I Evil? The music, the myths and Metallica" By Brian Tatler with John Tucker

1981 Woolwich Odeon: “After the show a seventeen-year-old lad appeared backstage and introduced himself in one of the strangest accents I had ever heard. He was Danish, although he now lived in America, and he explained that he’d flown all the way from Los Angeles especially to see his favorite band. Tired post-gig and vaguely confused, I just asked something like “Who’s that, then?”

“You guys, Diamond Head!” he replied, as if stating the obvious.

If it weren’t for that seventeen-year-old transatlantic traveler would this book even exist? I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s very doubtful. Yes Diamond Head were and are a highly talented lot who penned some extremely original and catchy Heavy Metal songs and their influence on Metallica (and in turn Heavy Metal as a whole) cannot and will not ever be questioned. But the deep Metallica association aside, there’s a lot more to DH than the four or five things most people know about them.

Basically to most people there's four or five things they know about the NWOBHM band Diamond Head. Those things would be, “Am I Evil?”, “The Prince”, “Helpless” and “It’s Electric.” Now, I’m not coming at you from a very different viewpoint, while I might know or have known more than a few other things about the band, my knowledge was always based around the Metallica connection. Truth be told, there’s many a reason behind that thinking and that’s something no one in their right mind would ever contest.

However if you ever wanted to know more about the band, reading Guitarist Brian Tatler’s book will get you about as close to being there as you could possibly imagine. You not only get an in-depth look at the formation of Diamond Head in 1976 but also the stories and inspirations behind some of their most influential songs. On top of that you also and more importantly get to live the journey of being in the once “hot tipped/on the rise” band and the harsh reality of when “on the rise” almost quickly became “where are they now.”

Of course the sting of the “where are they now” tag has been softened by the world domination of Metallica, but in reading ‘Am I Evil?’ you definitely get to walk a mile in Brian’s shoes. You get to ride the Rock N Roll roller coaster during the highest of highs and the unbelievably succession of lows while holding on to the only dream the author has ever known. You meet the people who had a hand in the day-to-day activities of Diamond Head as well as those who advertently or inadvertently helped or hurt the band in reaching for their goals.

The business side of Diamond Head is a story for the ages, I don’t want to give too much away here, but this book could also be almost a tutorial on the music business and an insight on whom to put in charge of the things most musicians do not want to deal with. There’s some near misses with management opportunities that if things had worked out, the story of Diamond Head would be a helluva lot different. Similar to the Anvil story the DH saga is littered with near miss moments that do not exactly help the band along. It’s eye opening stuff and while at times these things can be pretty painful; it’s definitely a large majority of the 250+ pages within.

Of the things not so painful are the ways both Lars Ulrich and Dave Mustaine (who both penned forewords to the book) constantly looked after Brian and the band and helped out in ways big and small throughout the years. It’s actually pretty heartwarming reading about the relationship between Brain and these two former band mates.

You can’t say one has been “better” to Tatler than the other, but in reading these pages every time one or the other is mentioned it benefits the legendary NWOBHM band greatly. From tours/gigs to helping out with lawyers and tracking down royalties owed, Ulrich and Mustaine have gone above and beyond and their respect and admiration for one of their main influences is nothing short of amazing.

So knowing what we know now, Metallica having sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000,000 albums worldwide and knowing their wide and vast influence on Heavy Metal and all its sub genres. We know what Diamond Head meant to the hungry and powerless Los Angeles based band in 1981 with some six DH songs in their earliest set lists. So it begs the question, without the two heads, Diamond and Motor where would that seventeen-year-old kid be today?

Are Diamond Head the second or third most influential band in heavy metal, right behind their countrymen Black Sabbath and Judas Priest? If you break it down, I mean really nit pick, there might be some truth to this question and answer. Think about it.

Bottom line, good book, very entertaining and an honest look at the band many thought would be kings. But even though they were never officially crowned, you won’t find an ounce of bitterness or venom from Tatler. Nice guys don’t always finish last.