Getcha Rocks Off
British music writer Mick Wall’s memoir, Getcha Rocks Off, opens with an anecdote about a three-day bender in Los Angeles with members of Metallica, Iron Maiden and Guns N’ Roses. The bacchanal culminates in Wall being barred from his own hotel room by security as a “Mr James” has taken residence there. Wall racks his brain to think of who “Mr James” could be before sneaking in via the balcony to discover that R&B singer Rick James has taken over the party Wall started.
This opening chapter sets the tone: obsessed with drugs, alcohol and sex, slavishly devoted to the hard rock and heavy metal bands of the 1980s, and wilfully ignorant of any music not made by white, heterosexual men with guitars.
The book traces Wall’s career as a rock critic, from his early days writing for British periodical Sounds as a means of getting out of the speed-dealing business, through to the peak of his fame as one of Kerrang! magazine’s mainstays and the presenter of a weekly show about rock music on Sky TV.
While Getcha Rocks Off certainly conveys that Wall’s progress from naive interloper to member of rock’s inner circle was an interesting experience, in reality it often fails to capture the reader’s interest. One can read only a certain number of anecdotes about taking heroic quantities of drugs and having sex with groupies before the thrill wears off.
There’s also the matter of Wall’s propensity to offend: Getcha Rocks Off deploys homophobic, transphobic and racist slurs in a cavalier manner. Worse still is Wall’s treatment of women, who seem to exist only to satisfy either Wall’s or his male friends’ desires. He writes that he was drawn to the hard rock of the 1980s because it was “devotedly non-PC” – in that sense there’s a hand-in-glove fit for the genre and its chronicler.
These shortcomings might have been ameliorated if Wall could write well, but the prose on display in Getcha Rocks Off is pedestrian at best and downright bizarre at worst. In a memorable passage he soberly records that groupies were willing to “wang dang doodle” his “ding dong doo”.
For a book by a music critic, Getcha Rocks Off is fundamentally uncritical. It sheds very little light on its famous subjects, and in its sheer callowness it hardly flatters Wall himself. SZ
Orion, 432pp, $32.99
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 25, 2015 as "Mick Wall, Getcha Rocks Off". Subscribe here.