Humble beginnings. Family hardships. The kid that got picked on in class. Doubts. Music as a savior. Amazing luck. Front Man Syndrome. Sex-Drugs-Rock-n-Roll. Fame & Fortune. Kicked out of the band. Break ups. Rehab. Regret. Success.
I’ve had a lot of time to read lately, and I’ve just finished a double header of rock bios. Which one am I referring to above? Both, actually.
At the core, both books are somewhat cliche novels of rock star excess and success. You hear this story so often that it makes me think, ‘damn, I wish my parents were poor when I was a kid so that I could now be famous!’. Or the more doable, ‘maybe I should start drinking more and taking drugs and I’ll have more creative success!’
So I have a little bias. Ozzy was the first musician I ever saw multiple time (3x before I was 18 I think). I became a music fan in the midst of the success of No More Tears. On the other hand, I have never been a Megadeth fan. Like several other metal legends that most metal fans worship (Dio, King Diamond…yes, I KNOW), Mustaine’s voice and my ears do not get along. However, though I’ve read this and that about Dave Mustaine, I knew very little about him or the band’s history besides they are important.
While Ozzy’s book made me like him more, Mustaine essentially confirmed everything that I’d heard and ignored over the years. At the end of the day it comes down to this: Ozzy is relatable; Mustaine is often just flat out unlikeable.
Here’s an example:
From I Am Ozzy:
“On Friday the thirteenth of February 1970, Black Sabbath went on sale. I felt like I’d just been born. But the critics fucking hated it….The important thing was that someone thought we were good, ‘cos Black Sabbath went straight to number eight in Britain and number twenty-three in America.”
“…Countdown to Extinction was a monster of an album, debuting at number two on the Billboard pop charts in July of ’92. I can remember getting the phone call and sucking in a big breath of air, and thinking, Fuck yeah! And then, after all of about five seconds, saying, “Who’s number one?” “Billy Ray Cyrus” “What?! Are you fucking kidding me? The ‘Achy Breaky’ guy?”
See the difference? Humble success versus smug success makes one book much more palatable than the other. Ozzy even admits to doing some more despicable things under the influence than Mustaine (hitting his wife, scaring his children), yet still ends up more likeable than Mustaine. I feel like there’s too much space dedicated to badmouthing former band members in Mustaine….while the stories may be true, it just gets exhausting to read.
That said, both books are spectacularly detailed stories that fans of either will truly appreciate. And because of both musicians’ imprints on the music scene at their respective times, the bios also serve as a history lesson. And beyond that, both books are nicely put together with photos to compliment the stories- though I do have to say Mustaine takes the edge in this regard.
And if the purpose of a memoir is to convey an artist’s story- and thus his true self- then perhaps both books do their job.