Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dick Wagner: Not Only Women Bleed - A First Rate Rock Read


Dick Wagner pulls no punches, leaves no skeletons in the closet, and as always, delivers the goods with his sensational new autobiography, Not Only Women Bleed. If you like true tales of rock and roll, this is the book for you.


Wagner uses the same sensibilities here that he displayed for decades as a bandleader with the legendary Detroit rockers, Frost, to his stints as part of the Butch and Sundance of guitar teams with Steve Hunter - they went from Lou Reed's greatest ever live band to The Alice Cooper Band, while also supplying the best pinch hitting appearance in rock history on Aerosmith's Train Kept A Rollin' (Steve Hunter plays the incendiary intro solo and Wagner followed that with the live sounding vicious middle section). Wagner also supplied the guitars for Peter Gabriel's first solo hit, Solsbury Hill, Kiss's Beth and other tracks on the band's Destroyer album. As a writer, he supplied the music for most of Alice Cooper's post Billion Dollar Babies hits, including, of course, the mega-hit, Only Women Bleed, referred to in the books title. He goes straight for the throat, takes no prisoners, and leaves no witnesses.

Alice Cooper tells me: "The last time I saw Steven Tyler, he says to me, 'How's the dynamic duo? And I said, "Who are you talking about?" And he said, 'Hunter and Wagner.' You know, he still refers to Hunter and Wagner as the two best guitar players in America."


Instead of boring the reader with unnecessary segues, dull passages, and inconsequential drivel, Wagner keeps it lean and clean as he presents his life in a series of vignettes - a brilliant method that could serve as a template for rock autobiographies. I read this in one sitting, literally unable to set it down, or to stop being amazed, and as often as not laughing my ass off. Mind you, it's not all laughs. Wagner was the classic '70s rock success/casualty - for every gold record and sold out tour, there is a tale of drug riddled depravity and nightmares of cocaine, sex, and alcohol abuse. This is an incredibly entertaining read - you run the gamut of emotions - sometimes you'd like to smack the shit out of the guy, sometimes (more often than not) you wish you were a fly on the wall as rock history is written in real time, and other times you want to give the author a big hug.

The great thing is that the story comes out so unexpurgated that you know it's as real as the author can remember. There may be different opinions on what may have transpired in some instances, as there will always be, but you never get the impression that Dick is dodging bullets, or pulling the wool - no, this is so real it hurts. A lot, and almost as often as you'll find yourself laughing out loud.

It's very tempting to insert a bunch of hilarious, informative, shocking, and heartfelt excerpts into this review, but I'm not - I want you to buy this book and find them for yourself. Take my word - this is as real as it gets, and it is worth every dime, even if Wagner hadn't gone the extra mile to include two whole CDs of music. Not Only Women Bleed is the rarest of rock autobiographies - it tells you what really happened.

Dick Wagner isn't the most famous guitar player on the planet, but he's always been amongst the best. Take this trip through his past with him though, and you'll not only know him (and quite likely dig him for his heart on the sleeve honesty), you'll also have a much clearer picture of such artists as Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, Aerosmith, Kiss, and probably another 30 or 40 rock legends along the way.


I remember exchanging a few e-mails with Dick back in 2007, and he mentioned several times that he was seriously considering writing it all down and putting out the story of his life - I had no conception that it would be this great of a read. I've been no saint in this life, but I've also not been a complete sinner - you always wonder how a life well lived will read, and I must say that this book in an incredible primer. Wagner comes full circle from being a young guitar star who's maybe a bit full of himself, to full blown jet setting, drug and sex addled superstar, to humble but still outspoken gentleman who isn't afraid to tell the truth and offer it up. It's an incredible ride, and I hope you buy this book and take the trip for yourself. It's kind of like the original movie version of M.A.S.H. Lots of ups, lots of downs, lots of tears, but a helluva lot more laughs.

Congratulations, Dick - long may you run, my friend.

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David Rana said...

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