Growing up as a metalhead in the ‘80s, my older brother taught me that when it comes to music, it is one’s duty not only to listen to a band, but also to become a fan of the band. There’s value in learning all of the members’ names, mining the band’s history for early singles, seeing them when they come to town and, if possible, shaking their hands after the show and so on. Thanks to him, I got in on the ground floor with bands like Nirvana, Metallica, Voivod, Mudhoney and Soundgarden, seeing many of them in small venues before they exploded. Toronto musician/columnist Danko Jones has taken this spirit of fandom to the next level. In his multiple roles (starting with his early years as a record store employee), he has had the opportunity to see some of his favorite musicians close-up, either by interviewing them or gigging with them, and he has compiled these encounters – among other things – in his new collection, I’ve Got Something to Say.
A good preface to the book is the music of Danko Jones’s eponymous band. Jones prides himself on carrying the hard rock torch, writing songs where the primary elements are power and drive, and the lyrics take a back seat to the spectacle. Rock doesn’t have to be more than that, and oughtn’t necessarily be, Jones argues in various passages in I’ve Got Something to Say. However, that’s not his universal mantra, as the opening essay, “Vibing for Thin Lizzy,” in which he delves into the underappreciated artistry of Phil Lynott, attests.
Other tributes to his fandom include: an entire chapter devoted to “the best band in the world,” Turbonegro; a devotional biography of Mule; reminiscences of the glory of The Jesus Lizard and Death Angel; and many mentions of KISS (all phases) and Black Sabbath (all phases). He lists all of the bands that he would include in a metal music festival He also expresses his distaste for tomatoes, awards shows and people who crowd in doorways.
On scant few of these topics does he wax philosophical. The book is subtitled “10 years of rock and roll ramblings,” and I found myself coming back to that warning every time I started to question Jones’s lack of depth or dearth of criticality. There’s a lot of journeyman Candide and not enough haughty Pococurante, and you may start to wonder why the book exists at all. If you’re bothered by this paucity of erudition, I once again direct you to the subtitle.
The most joyful and interesting moments in I’ve Got Something to Say are found in Jones’s encounters with those more famous than he. He tells of singing on stage with Lemmy Kilmister, selling a Nirvana record to Johnny Cash, interviewing “Beth” (actually Lydia, Peter Criss’s wife), muse for of the famous KISS ballad. The book is also full of illustrations – some in comic strip form and some just for decoration – by Michel “Away” Langevin from Voivod, Eerie Von from the Misfits, Damian Abraham from Fucked Up and others, and they do a fine job of breaking up the monotony of the text.
If you are the kind of person for whom the very words I’ve Got Something to Say elicit images of infanticide and unspeakable acts to one’s mother, you might enjoy the references and grumblings found within these pages. The chapters are short, designed with the bathroom reader in mind. You don’t have to know who Danko Jones is to enjoy it, but it helps if you’re the kind of person for whom rock and roll is life, and you grew up diving head-first into your passion.
Published by Feral House Books