|Life on Planet Rock|
I'm a sucker for bio books. I'm not sure what it is, but I find that real life stores are always more interesting that fictional ones. It helps if I know who the person is, but even that can be dismissed if their life makes for an engaging story. And know him or not, Lonn Friend has led quite an interesting life.
You don't edit one of the biggest metal magazines during one of the most extravagant and debauchery-fueled times in rock and roll and not walk away with a few stories to tell. And while I have a good feeling that Friend, editor of RIP magazine from 1987 to 1994, is keeping a few of his stories under his hat, his book Life on Planet Rock retells a good number of amazing ones.
Holding the helm of one of the most important metal magazines will allow your eyes to see more than most people are privy to… actually, it probably allows you to see things you should never see. Friend was smack dab in the middle of it all, from the frightening highs of hair metal to the dirty clubs that birthed grunge. Call it luck or a keen sense of his surroundings, Lonn Friend and his crew at RIP seemed to always be at the right place at the right time when it came to covering mainstream heavy music. And while his first book is full of stories that will make even the most casual fan of bands like G n' R, Metallica, Aerosmith, and Kiss entertained, Life on Planet Rock is much more than a tell all book on the scene. It's a tell all book of Friend's life.
Starting with his childhood, retelling a very special night when he first saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, Friend takes us along for the journey that is his life. Beginning at an early age, Lonn was taken in by music the way I think most music lovers are. It started with the radio, then moved to buying 45's at a local record store in sunny southern California, then LP's, then listening parties with friends. As evident by his tenure at RIP magazine, he loves music. No, he devours it, lives and breaths the stuff.
While the core of the book focuses on the years spent working under the Flint publishing empire, Friend, with a keen sense of timing in tact, flashes back to his younger years with vivid detail. It's the flashbacks (like his falling in love with prog rock by way of early Genesis albums) that really make these pages endearing to the reader. He could have easily blown through 400 pages of grade A Sodom-and-Gomorrah-style backstage unveiling, but he didn't. Instead he paints a realistic picture that, while it does boast a good amount of glitz and glamour, also shows us the sacrifice and pain that comes with a life on the road following bands for that big magazine-selling story.
This is a book that has its fair share of laugh out loud stories, but it's actually just a book for music lovers by a music lover. Sure, it might help a little if you have an interest in the genres of music that are covered within its pages (everything from hair metal to rock and roll to grunge), but in the end, it's just a guy who loves music and loves to write about it… even if he seems to have a love affair with the word "iconoclast".
- Jake Haselman | 2006-08-18