Tuesday, May 21, 2013

STEPHEN PEARCY "Sex, Drugs, Ratt & Roll: My Life In Rock" (Book Review)

(C) 2013 Gallery Books

Sometimes it's frustrating to read the memoirs and autobiographies of famous rock stars. Quite often, the shine is taken off of the star, if you know what I mean.  While I have never had any illusions as to the sleaze factor of Mr. Pearcy and his Ratt brothers, that doesn't diminish the fact that when I had turned the final page on this book I felt a little dirty.  A lot of memoirs toss in some lewd and lurid details for shock value, but it was almost surprising to me that the pages to this tome weren't pre-stuck together at the printing press!  Seriously, there are more sex stories in this book...and in more detail...than in several of the other books I have read combined!  Now, I'm not a prude or anything, but, seriously...do we have to hear about what was done with a condom and a passed out groupie?  Do we need to be given graphic detail of what the bath house girls in Japan would do for a rock star and his entourage?  Maybe some people do, but I really don't...

What the reader is given here is a blow-by-blow (and there are various meanings to the term "blow" here...) of Pearcy's rise from his Mickey Ratt days to the height of fame during the 80's MTV Headbangers Ball years, to the band's collapse.  Pearcy's struggles when his original band left to form Rough Cutt are discussed, as are his deep friendship with Robbin Crosby, Crosby's plummet into drug addiction and HIV infection, and Pearcy's own struggles with addictions, multiple children by various women (two of which are "bought and paid for"), his failed marriage, stints in rehab, and his one true love...drag racing.  

To his credit, while the stories are cringe-worthy in many places, Pearcy doesn't make excuses for his behavior or try to gloss it over or sugar-coat it.  He admits that he could be an "asshole" when he was under the influence, that he had personal relationship problems with women, his bandmates, and other people who crossed the Ratt path.  Pearcy gives his own interpretation of stories involving Ozzy, Nikki Sixx (and the rest of Motley Crue), Vanity, the porn star Savanna, and several others, some of which have been heard before but from another person's perspective.  He discusses the band getting their big break as openers for Ozzy and then helping to break then-unheard-of bands Poison and Bon Jovi into the big time.  Pearcy also spends a bit of time talking about his post-Ratt bands, although only Arcade is given any real attention, with Vertex and Vicious Delite garnering only passing mentions (and rightfully so).    

Interspersed throughout the book are thoughts from various friends, bandmates (including Fred Coury from Arcade/Cinderella), and Ratt crew members who expand upon Pearcy's stories, share their insights, and sometimes even appear to pity Pearcy.  Much like Pearcy, these people don't gloss over much in the way of bad behavior, which adds a realness to this book that others don't always have.  Could these people be lying for Pearcy?  It's possible, I suppose, although the stories that are retold or enhanced certainly aren't the type of thing that I think I would want to put out their for the world to hear if I was simply making them up.  This also leads me to wonder how Pearcy's daughter, Jewel, reacted the first time she read a copy of this memoir (assuming she has).    

I didn't end up coming away with a better opinion of Pearcy once I was finished reading, but perhaps I have a better understanding of some things.  The rise and fall stories of the band as told by Pearcy are not far from the same stories told in Bobby Blotzer's memoir, which lends some believability to these particular Ratt tales, especially considering the strained relationship Pearcy and Blotzer both admit to having with one another.  The pain the band, and particulary Pearcy, felt when Crosby died also sheds a bit more light on the demise of one of the hardest working...and hardest partying...bands of the 80's hair metal scene.  So while I will never nominate Pearcy for "outstanding individual in the rock world", I do applaud the guts it likely took to retell some of these stories, as even the author seems to wince a bit when he looks back on some of the debauchery of his younger years and then looks forward at what may lie in front of him and his band.

Recommended reading for fans of the band, but I suggest keeping a large bottle of hand sanitizer nearby, as you may feel just a bit smudged and stained as you turn through the pages.  Perhaps the book should come pre-packaged with a pair of latex gloves for those who choose to read it...and a biohazard bag for storing the book in once it has been finished.  If there is a sleazy story Pearcy has left out of this book, I don't think I would want to hear it, as he covers plenty in this effort.

Co-Written with Sam Benjamin
309 pages

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