Mick Wall’s Best War Stories
Sex & Excess. Bust-Ups & Binges. Life & Death.
Mick Wall is one of the most famous rock writers of his generation. A contributor to Sounds and Kerrang! in the 70s and 80s, he also worked as a PR for Thin Lizzy, and was editor of Classic Rock. He was also, famously, dissed by Axl Rose in the Guns N’ Roses song Get In The Ring.
Wall has written a number of acclaimed rock biographies in recent years – on subjects including Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Metallica and AC/DC. His new book, Getcha Rocks Off, is a personal memoir of a career in which he lived the rock’n’roll life to the full.
Getcha Rocks Off is packed with war stories from a golden age of rock, and insights into the stars that made that music. Here are the highlights: the good, the bad, and the ugly…
Wall wrote many rave reviews of Iron Maiden albums in the 80s. He also wrote the official band autobiography Run To The Hills. But in Getcha Rocks Off he is scathing in his assessment of one band member. “Maiden’s singer was a pompous oaf named Bruce Dickinson. He never talked to you, but at you. It was not uncommon to signal for help whenever he had been babbling at you for too long. The man had talent, no doubt, but no one knew more than Bruce exactly how much talent. You were lucky to know him.”
In the late 80, Wall was in Los Angeles, and fully exploiting the hospitality of a band he couldn’t give a toss about. The band was Ratt, whose early albums had sold millions in the US, but whose career had peaked. At famous rock’n’roll hotel the Sunset Marquis, Ratt guitarist Warren DeMartini was playing the band’s new album to Wall. But the playback session quickly turned into a three-day cocaine binge in which they were joined by Slash, Lars Ulrich and a coterie of “chicks” and various other hangers-on. “The Ratt album was just my ticket to ride,” Wall said. “I’d happily give it five stars in return for this.”
While working as PR for Thin Lizzy, Wall was introduced to heroin by the band’s leader Phil Lynott. They were in the dressing room at the world famous London rock club the Marquee. Wall says he “recoiled in horror” when Lynott laid out the lines of smack. This was, he says, “taking a leap of unfaith into full blown rock star hedonism, replete with its nastiest habit”. But Lynott told him: “I don’t offer this to just anybody.” So Wall took a good snort, liked how it blew his mind, and later that night bought his first £10 “baggie” of the brown stuff.
Wall once asked the Motorhead mainman about a famous story that he believed was urban myth. It was said that Lemmy had consulted a doctor about his addiction to speed, and the doctor had told him not to stop taking the drug because the shock to his system would be so great that it might kill him. “Yeah, it’s true,” Lemmy said. “My blood had evolved into some sort of organic soup – all kinds of trace elements in it.” Wall asked if Lemmy cut down his drug intake following this diagnosis. Lemmy’s reply was typically dry. “I haven’t cut down so much as centralised.”
When Metallica were riding high in the early 90s with The Black Album, drummer Lars Ulrich had turned into a caricature of a flash rock star. This is something that Lars himself has freely admitted, but Wall’s portrait of him in this time is brutally funny. “Lars said he felt more like he was in Guns N’ Roses now than Metallica,” he recalls. “He even got a white leather jacket like the one Axl wore in the Paradise City video. Everyone took the piss – James Hetfield most of all – but Lars just didn’t seem to notice. Or care. He was fucking more strippers than Motley Crue, riding around in limos bigger than the ones Led Zeppelin used to. And if you didn’t like it, well, fuck you very much.”