Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dick Wagner – Not Only Women Bleed: Vignettes From the Heart of a Rock Musician (Desert Dreams Publishing)

Late in 2011, Rolling Stone magazine published their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time it was one of those rare issues that I held onto, more so because their choices were often laughable at best. As I started working my way through Dick Wagner’s new autobiography Not Only Women Bleed and learning not only more about his work with Alice Cooper, but some of his other credited and un-credited recordings, I pulled the magazine off the shelf and found that Wagner was among the missing on Rolling Stones clearly debatable list.

Not Only Women Bleed has everything you’d expect from a rock bio; great insights into the musicians early days, inside stories from the studio and the road and of course the lifestyle, some cool photos and did I mention chicks?! Yes…there are plenty of tales about Wagner’s interactions with the ladies.

Wagner’s approach to writing these tales, in a rambling series of short, easy to read remembrances makes this book a quick one to digest. Despite his chronicled excesses, Wagner clearly displays a long memory for even some of the more trivial interactions and encounters. In a few instances he recounts the same time period from different perspectives which can be both confusing and enlightening.

Wagner gingerly touches on Cooper’s decent into addiction and the impact it had not only on his ability to perform, but also on that of the members of his band. Wagner tells the story of a tour winding down where Cooper’s condition had his management team toying with the idea of sending a doppelganger roadie who bore a striking resemblance to the singer out to perform and lipsynch while Wagner played and sang off stage. So concerned about Cooper’s reputation with the fans and the possible disaster that might unfold, Wagner flat out refused the request. Cooper managed to pull it together and wrap up the tour.

While Wagner pulls back the curtain on sessions with Kiss and Aerosmith where his muscular playing was featured on recognizable hits, some fans might be disappointed that he doesn’t spend more time talking about his guitar work. I think on balance, Wagner hits the right notes all around.  Not Only Women Bleed is an entertaining romp that packs a musical punch in the form of a pair of music CDs including Wagner’s Full Meltdown.


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