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Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe by Mick Wall (2015)

Black Sabbath Symptom of the Universe by Mick Wall

Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe
by Mick Wall
St. Martin’s Press, 2015
400 pages

The most legendary of all heavy metal bands, Black Sabbath has a long history with and without singer Ozzy Osbourne. Noted rock author and former publicist to the band Mick Wall gives fans a rundown of the band’s ups and downs in Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe, how they evolved from the Earth Blues Band to the pioneering heavy metal masters, and the revolving door of singers, bass players, and drummers. The book not only holds the original lineup as the most authentic, but gives due respect to the Ronnie James Dio era as well.

The first post-Dio era, featuring singers Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes, and Tony Martin, was a dark time for Black Sabbath, and Wall does not hold back when addressing the dynamics of their relationships with the band. The return of Dio in the 1990s, and his subsequent departure when he refused to participate in Ozzy’s “No More Tours” farewell tour, paved the way for Martin to return to the group before the ultimate reunion with Osbourne.

Solo projects are not altogether ignored, though the focus is on Osbourne and Dio. From Randy Rhoads’ death to biting a dove’s head off to Osbourne’s relationship with Sharon, Ozzy is given more than his fair share of non-Sabbath ink in Symptom. Likewise, Wall delves into Dio’s solo recordings, though not quite as deeply.

The soap opera that is Black Sabbath makes for an interesting subject, as well as the ascension of Osbourne as a solo artist to heights that the band never imagined in the 1970s. Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, and the various other members of the band are recognized for the parts they played in creating and perpetuating the heavy metal genre.

While Wall’s opinions of various albums and performers are not hidden, they help to make the players more real to the reader. As with most rock biographies, foul language is an issue here. That said, Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe is highly recommended for mature fans of classic rock and heavy metal.

Learn more about St. Martin’s Press.

Purchase Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe by Mick Wall.

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Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre: A Biography of The Doors by Mick Wall (2014)

The Doors

Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre: A Biography of The Doors
by Mick Wall
Orion Books, 2014
512 pages

Jim Morrison is one of the most enigmatic figures in rock and roll history, and in the four decades since his death, there is as much myth as there is fact believed about the singer of The Doors. British music journalist Mick Wall sets out to separate fact from fiction and clear up the misinformation that has been widely accepted as accurate history. One such area of confusion deals with Morrison’s death: Wall refutes the long-standing notion that the singer died in a Paris bathtub, and presents the truth of Morrison’s demise.

Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre—which is subtitled “A Biography of The Doors”—is about Jim Morrison. The other members of the group—Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore—are each given a brief biographical sketch, but after that are generally only mentioned in relation to the singer. Make no mistake, this is a biography of Jim Morrison more than it is of The Doors, because without Morrison, The Doors would not have existed. That is not to discredit the musicians that provided his backdrop; Wall is very respectful toward them and gives them as much ink as is possible. But even after his death, they are simply overshadowed by Morrison.

Wall was able to secure some reluctant interviewees for his book, including Jac Holzman, Bruce Botnik, and Bill Siddons. Along with interviews with Manzarek, Kriger, and Densmore, and others who knew Morrison during his days with The Doors, Wall paints a picture of a larger-than-life individual who was made even bigger than that by posthumous biographies such as No One Here Gets Out Alive and Oliver Stone’s 1991 film. Wall tries to reign in some of the legend that is so ingrained in the minds of the fans, but it will be interesting as time goes on how much truth wins out over the more tantalizing tales that have been told.

Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre is a necessary work to understand who The Doors—and specifically Jim Morrison—really were. There are obviously sensitive themes and crude language throughout, so it is not recommended for younger readers, but adults should find it entertaining as well as enlightening.

Learn more about Orion Books.

Purchase Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre: A Biography of The Doors by Mick Wall.

Purchase music by The Doors.

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