Friday, March 16, 2018



I finished reading this book last night and, wow, do I feel like a Van Halen expert now. An expert on the behind the stage, behind the recording, behind the jumping, story that was VAN HALEN (not Van Haggar). A definite must read for any type of Van Halen fan or 80s music fan in general.

If all you are not a big reader - no problem, just read the first few pages. That'll give you a hit, a blast of the past. You'll be transported back to one of the greatest times in music history - an early 80s Van Halen rock concert.

I like my Van Halen loud - 11 loud.

Right from the first page this book took you to a completely differently time. Told through the words of Van Halen's manager, Noel Monk, he paints a vivid picture of the entire experience. He somehow manages to convey how it felt, how it looked, how it sounded...I could even smell that musty, smokey, sour, concert smell we all know (and love!!).
Who knew a rock'n roll manager could write so well?
Noel Monk opened the book with fantastic concert descriptions - really getting the high points of the decadent rock n roll lifestyle. And, the entire time he is throwing in some juicy bits of foreshadowing (whetting that gossipy appetite we all have) the downfall of the band. It's a nice recipe. One that makes you want more, and more, and more.

Team Edward!

The amazing thing about the writing to me is the authority Monk earns right from the get-go. His facts and opinions are not flashy, or controversial, they just reek of authenticity. He describes his first meeting with the boys of VH. Turns out they were late b/c of car troubles. The band ran halfway across town to make this meeting, showing up red faced and out of breath. Moss writes about the incident with little remark, he could have easily blown the entire thing out of proportion; made the faces redder, made the distance further, wrote that the band crawled in dragging each other then falling down exhausted while begging for a glass of water and a smoke. He didn't. Instead he focused on how humble the boys were, how genuine they seemed, and how impressed he was that they overcame their car trouble and put in some effort to make it to the meeting. That is the kind of writing that deserves some trust. Monk isn't out to impress us with exaggerated tales, the true story will do that on it's own. He is only writing to tell a story, tell us what happened...and I believe every crazy word of it.

Van Halen rocks jerkwad!

Monk had the great fortune of being there right at the beginning of the bands rise to stardom. He is assigned by the record company to be their tour manager - and boy that first tour was wild. He tells some pretty good backstage stories about the band trashing hotel rooms, drunken parties, and even an incident involving a couple of ladies and a bottle of ketchup...just the kind of juicy Rock N Roll stories I want to read about. Youthful, immature, energetic, and rebellious. Ah, to be 18 again :)

Eddie Van Halen and his axes

He also does a great job of describing the energy, the excitement, the personalities of the boys in the band. Again, you really feel like you are a roadie or something, right there along for the ride.
Monk also does a great job of baiting you to read more - you know the fun (and the band for that matter) is going to end badly, and Noel Monk plays right into your thinking by hinting at the future. The drugs and drinking are great in the beginning, but, they will end up becoming a problem later on...
Monk doesn't specify, just hints. These hints almost made me read the pages faster as I wanted to know right away how bad and screwed up, say, David Lee Roth really gets.

Van Halen or Van Haggar - two different bands

Noel has an interesting perspective on things. Being the tour manager his job is essentially to make sure the band shows up to their gig on time. So, he is the guy who needs to do the wake up call in the morning and drag the band onto the bus. Although he does have some fun and parties a bit with the band and crew, at the end of the day he has to be "the responsible one". Almost like a parent figure. And, he does mention a few times how childish the band behaves and he feels like the Dad. He relates a few stories on just how immature and young the boys are - the best is Eddie getting homesick in Europe. Big bad rock star touring the world, and behind the scenes is sobbing b/c he wants to go home. Interesting.

Invented to test the concert venues attention to detail

Noel Monk takes on the role of the band's manager about a year later and then the story shifts to his behind the scenes work - mostly about how he fixes a few money and contract problems. As with many bands in the late 70s and early 80s they were offered terrible contracts that pretty much made them slaves to the record companies. Being the bands manager meant Noel was given the task of dealing with problems the band had.  He shares some very interesting stories about the problems that didn't go public - everything from police encounters to paternity claims.

Anyone else had it hot for teacher?

Then things turn toxic. The drugs and drinking escalate and seem to riddle the brains and personalities of the band members. The stardom goes to their heads. The creative differences become fights as big as WWIII. Money issues, royalties, all things financial lead to screwy decisions. This is the part of the book Monk has done a great job of working you into a frenzy to read. How bad does it really get? How mean does Alex Van Halen become (pretty nasty I have to say)? How much cocaine does David Lee Roth suck into his body on a daily basis? And, what lame reason does the band give Noel Monk when they fire him as their manager?
You need to read this on your own. I won't spoil it for you. Like the rest of the book, it is not unbelievable, is is not puffed up writing, it is just the sad (and slightly insane) facts on how things went down.

Again, this is a book for any kind of Van Halen fan and any kind of 80s music fan. Van Halen made a huge impact on the music scene in the early 80s and Eddie changed the term guitar hero forever with his blistering solos. The story behind the band is so very interesting and a must read. I borrowed the book from my local library (I know, what a cool bunch of librarians we have), but, I'll leave a link to amazon below if you want to pick up your own copy. It would look cool on a bookshelf.

Book Link - Runnin' with the Devil: A Backstage Pass to the Wild Times, Loud Rock, and the Down and Dirty Truth Behind the Making of Van Halen

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