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Monday, January 04, 2010

Book Review: Jackie Kajzer and Roger Lotring - Full Metal Jackie Certified

Jackie Kajzer and Roger Lotring - Full Metal Jackie Certified: The 50 Most Influential Heavy Metal Songs of the '80s and the True Stories Behind their Lyrics
2010 Course Technology/Cengage Learning
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Heavy metal fans are a special breed. Unlike pop fans who mostly spend their time trolling gossip sites and murmur brainlessly over who's prodding who in what orifice or who dresses better than the next, metal fans actually converse about the music. Wow, what a concept, eh? It's to the point I recently stood next to another metal fan in a record store (which is sadly holding a fire sale en route to its closure) who was on his cell spitting out CD titles to another metal enthusiast (assumedly with deep, underground knowledge given the impressive array of names I heard being uttered) to get his/her take upon them.

Though we're living in a cyber age where cell phones broaden instant communication along with instant gratification purposes, it reminded me of the old days, sitting on a stationary land line or sprawled in my bedroom or those of my friends tossing on vinyl and cassettes trying to squeeze opinions out of one another. This of course, crassly done through mouthfuls of Cheetos.

It went beyond that, however. It was crazy, stupid fun holding phone receivers up to our stereo speakers so our metal friends could try and decipher bars of music through the stretched-out squawk. Even more fun when our parents got pissed and forcefully reminded us how expensive the phone bills were, especially when we weren't responsible for paying them. They didn't understand, though; we had to seek answers amongst ourselves regarding the mystique of these records. Like an archeological find for the ages, each album we bought in the eighties was a treasure-in-the-making as we proverbially dusted it down from the eye candy covers to the pleasingly-popping wax grooves to the lyrical transcript which disappointed when the songs were about fucking (albeit those were the songs which rocked the hardest) while feeling we were elite witnesses to the future when the songs were more cerebral in nature.

Metalheads, punkers, alt rockers, we're all the same breed. First and foremost we're outcasts, which suits us fine, because the more people "get" what we're into, the suckier it is as a whole. That's your manifest destiny. We're all mutually protective of our music and only amongst ourselves do we permit line-crossing. Why? It's because we're all pinhead music lovers who'd rather sit for hours flipping vinyl over and over or loading up the multi-disc CD player in devout fascination. MP3's don't cut it for most of us. iPod? Hmmmph, whatever.

Dinosaurs we may be, yet the Dead Kennedys proclaimed "Give me convenience or give me death," and their anti-huckstering prophecy holds well-true today, more so for our generation than today's. We were on the mere threshold of life-easing tech, while those coming up in the world now have it all at their disposal. iPods are for those who'd rather cheat through the music consumption experience, those chained to the 20-25 songs spun in merciless repeat rotation by program managers held in check by corporate saboteurs. They care not about splashing out on a bed while letting your eyes dance quixotically across the futuristic cover of Iron Maiden's Somewhere in Time. They don't care who takes what guitar solo at what point in a power metal epic where tag team shredders sometimes need delineation and heroes' accolades.

They certainly have no interest in letting their minds be stimulated by covert lyrical content frequently written as double entendres, not when they can grab their crotches, spray faux tans upon themselves, chisel down their hair to each agonzing strand, throw on some gucci shades and pretend they're banging flubby-rumped thong divas to the tune of Pitbull. It's so hip to be metro these days...

If you're on the west coast, you're undoutedly familiar with Full Metal Jackie. Boasting nearly as much industry cred as the illustrious Malcolm Dome, Jackie Kajzer is in the business for the right reasons. Gander at her playlists for her syndicated radio show (strong in 22 markets) and you'll find Slayer, Motorhead and Anvil rubbing elbows with Carcass, Mastodon, Arch Enemy, The Haunted and Dark Tranquility, even Mayhem, for crissakes! Her spins are lovingly nudged by fan requests, but the fact of the matter is, Full Metal Jackie is a hardcore mofo in this industry with as much knowledge as you're going to demand from a highly-visible representative.

Aside from her broadcasting experience, Jackie originally managed Five Finger Death Punch and engineered their current representation by powerhouse P.R. moguls, The Firm. She currently enjoys a new post as a radio promotions manager at 10th Street Entertainment. Now Jackie issues her first book, Full Metal Jackie Certified and the immediate nuance erupting like metal on metal from this project is, this lady loves this stuff!

Give Jackie the lyrical content, which is the highest focus upon her book. Full Metal Jackie Certified hunts out the intended meanings of 50 well-known (and a few obscure) ditties from metal artists such as Judas Priest, Megadeth, Pantera, Ronnie James Dio, Twisted Sister, Overkill, Anthrax, Accept, Queensryche, Lita Ford, Glenn Danzig, Lizzy Borden, Dokken and even Stryper.

Jackie and her shotgun rider Roger Lotring not only sleuth out the songs' origins from their actual writers or affiliates, they usher in stories behind the songwriting as well as creating a historical overture to present the songs within a timetable context.

Many are well-known genre staples such as "Back in Black," "Breaking the Law," "18 and Life," "Crazy Train" and "You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll," while others are author-selected for their social impact or deep-rooted storytelling. What's especially fun is seeing Lizzy Borden's "Generation Aliens," W.A.S.P.'s "The Headless Children," Testament's "Practice What You Preach" and Helloween's "I Want Out" given just as much delicate care and adoring limelight as AC/DC's "Hells Bells," Ozzy Osbourne's "Suicide Solution" and Motorhead's "Ace of Spades."

Going one step further, Jackie and Lotring dip their ankles into the punk/crossover scene which bridged thrash to hardcore and thickened the eighties underground by spotlighting DRI's "Shame" and Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized." They even tackle Jane's Addiction's "Jane Says" to cover one farflung alternative end of the metal spectrum as they corner Matthew Sweet of Stryper to get his take on whether or not the band really is a Christian band, despite the allegations thrust against them in the nineties. Both Vernon Reid of Living Colour and Doug (now dUg) Pinnick of King's X testify about their best-known catalog cuts, "Cult of Personality and "Over My Head," respectively.

This book is the loving culmination of every Joe Headbanger sitting in a basement amongst friends during a time when 33 rpms were king and cassettes notoriously split apart after 20 or so run-throughs. Metalheads of the eighties shared the experience of the form, between other fans and the artists themselves. It was never enough just to strap on a Metal Church shirt and watch Headbangers Ball on occasion. To truly commit yourself to heavy metal, you were engulfed in it via every aesthetic.

That means Full Metal Jackie Certified comes packed with vintage photos from Mark "Weiss Guy" Weiss, the maestro behind some of the most memorable images spotlighted in Hit Parader, Circus and Rip magazines back in the day. This was, of course, before the print medium got devalued, when Gen X headbangers shared these glistening photos amongst one another out of plain view like a secret society before cutting them out and tacking them to their walls. You had to have been there...

This is where Full Metal Jackie Certified succeeds with honor. You're not reading a mere run-through of testimonials from your favorite faces of the day just for a nostalgic headbang to the tune of Prong's "Lost and Found." You're feeling why Dave Mustaine (who also penned the book's preface) projected such agony through "In My Darkest Hour." You're also held in astonishment as Mustaine nearly spiked an international incident in Ireland leading to one of Megadeth's most revered songs, "Holy Wars (The Punishment is Due)." You're laughing with former Ozzy bassist and songwriter Bob Daisley as he relays the real-life fallen cross-bearer inspiring his caricature "Jerry Sinner" in "Miracle Man." You're coming to the realization there was something far different and utterly tragic behind Dokken's "Kiss of Death" than an assumed love dump. You're also given morbid insight with Phil Anselmo behind Pantera's cryptic power haunt "Cemetery Gates."

From a personal view, I may have had to sneak into silent corners from my wife and kiddo to get some private time to blast through Full Metal Jackie Certified, but the happiest commendation I can give this book is it made me remember--just while my nose was plunged into it--who I was from ages 12-19 in the eighties after I was played Diary of a Madman and Killers for the first time and willingly vaulted into a scene which provoked my brain as much as my ears, eyes and to this day, smarting neck.

Get some!


Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

DPTH International said...

I'll have to check this book out. Sounds intriguing.

I should mention (not to be a prick, simply an alternate viewpoint) that I am an avid iPod user. The difference is that I have loaded every CD I own onto it. I've spent countless hours maintaining it so that any artist/album (even song) can be found with little effort.

I used to pick out about a dozen CD's and carry them with me everyday to work for my listening pleasure. With the invent of the iPod, I am no longer saddled within the limits of the selection I picked out the night before. I can jump to any album whenever the mood strikes me.

I feel so free now. CD's are still my first choice of purchase as I love to delve into the lyrics , album art and liner notes as every metal fan does.

However, once I get a bigger house, those CD's are coming out of their storage bins and up for display in a room negotiated for with my wife.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

cheers, anon

Dpth, I well recommend this project. It's unique, fun and very insightful.

I know I'm opening sores by slagging the iPod...I can see myself being forced into having one someday, but Tyrannosaurus Ray roars nay at this point :)

DPTH International said...

No offense taken here. Your points were extremely accurate and well made.

The iPod purchase was a compromise between my wife and I due to the volume of CD's clogging the living room.

However, since then I've gotten real used to carrying my entire CD collection with me.

Stick to your guns, Ray! but you're right. There may come a time when CD players are obsolete.