It’s been a while since I reviewed a rock ‘n’ roll title, and I do note on the main page of my website that I love to blog about romance, reading, writing, and rock ‘n’ roll. So for today, I am giving you my thoughts on Hard to Handle by Steve Gorman, the former drummer of the Black Crowes.
Title: Hard to Handle
Author: Steve Gorman
Genre(s): Music, rock ‘n’ roll, autobiography, memoir
Length: 345 pages
Publisher Da Capo Press
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Black Crowes drummer and co-founder Steve Gorman shares the band’s inside story in this behind-the-scenes biography, from their supernova stardom in the ’90s to exhilarating encounters with industry legends.
Blurb: For more than two decades, the Black Crowes topped the charts and reigned supreme over the radio waves, even as hair bands, grunge, and hip-hop threatened to dethrone them. With hits like “Hard to Handle,” “She Talks to Angels,” and “Remedy,” their massive success launched them to stardom in the early ’90s, earning them a place among rock royalty. They were on the cover of Rolling Stone, MTV played their videos 24/7, and Generation X rediscovered the power of classic rock and blues by digging into multi-platinum classics like Shake Your Money Maker and The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.
But stardom can be fleeting. For the Black Crowes, success slowly dwindled as the band members got caught up in the rock star world and lost sight of their musical ambition. Despite the drinking, drugs, and incessant fighting between Chris and Rich Robinson — the angriest brothers in rock and roll, with all due respect to Oasis and the Kinks — the band continued to tour until 2013. On any given night, they could be the best band you ever saw (or the most combative). Then, one last rift caused by Chris Robinson proved insurmountable for the band to survive. After that, the Black Crowes would fly no more.
Founding member Steve Gorman was there for all of it — the coke- and weed-fueled tours; the tumultuous recording sessions; the backstage hangs with legends like Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and the Rolling Stones. As the band’s drummer and voice of reason, he tried to keep the Black Crowes together musically and emotionally. In Hard To Handle — the first account of this great American rock band’s beginning, middle, and end — Gorman explains just how impossible that job was with great insight, candor, and humor. They don’t make bands like the Black Crowes anymore: crazy, brilliant, self-destructive, inspiring, and, ultimately, not built to last. But, man, what a ride it was while it lasted.
I’m a casual Black Crowes fan, and I will admit the feuding and fighting between the two Robinson brothers always intrigued me, perhaps because I’ve never fought with my own sisters, and we get along famously. What would make two brothers constantly go at each other, not even talk to each other? The author never answers the question because he’s even baffled by the Brothers Robinson constant fighting when they should be happy about their success instead of arguing about it.
I will say this: I’d say the fighting stems from Chris, the elder Robinson brother, who set out, for some weird reason, to make his little brother Rich’s life as miserable as possible. So everything “dickish” that Rich does in this book, is meant for the megalomaniac Chris; however, the poor band gets caught in the crossfire. I give props to the author for sticking it out for as long as he did.
First off, I really enjoyed the writing style. Gorman has a knack for making the reader feel as if they’re sitting at his kitchen table enjoying a cup of coffee while he recants his years with the Crowes. The author doesn’t get too much into his backstory. He knows readers have arrived at his table to hear about the Crowes, and he delivers. I will admit it would have been nice to hear about the author’s life on a more personal level. I know he wanted to concentrate on the band and his time spent with them, but he’s the author. I wanna read his story. This is what made Heaven and Hell by Don Felder such a keeper, and a book I reread to this day. It’s Mr. Felder’s life story and contains a huge chunk of the Eagles. I was bummed the author didn’t do the same.
The author does give nice examples of how songs were developed, albums were recorded, and why everything went south for the band when they should have had way more success. He does skim over a lot of the fights between the brothers by doing more telling than showing, which was a disappointment. I mean, shit, what were they arguing about 95% of the time? Mayo is better than mustard on a sandwich? Who banged who’s girlfriend? Who go the most groupies? I have no clue LOL. I do know that Chris wanted total control of the band and there wasn’t a chance in hell Rich was giving his brother an inch. I guess it could be simply summed up to sibling rivalry?
Still, it’s a great read. I especially loved the look into the author’s struggle with success and his close-to breakdown in Japan. The parts with Jimmy Page were awesome to read. The author met many successful people that he speaks about, and he’s no name-dropper. He’s simply sharing what happened in his life.
The character arc in this book delivers. I enjoyed reading about the author maturing into a man. By the end of the books, he knows what he wants, and nothing’s stopping him. He reached the same pinnacle as Johnny Colt did–a member who left the band and is quite at peace with himself.
The author doesn’t delve deep into any debauchery the band members got up to while on the road. Stories about groupies and parties aren’t present, so if you came for the gossip on such shenanigans, you won’t find such stories in this book. And you know what? I found that refreshing. The author instead focusses on the band, how drugs, alcohol, greed, and power affected them, and affected him.
I’m not sure how the die-hard Crowes fans feel about the book, but if you’re a casual fan like me and enjoy reading music biographies, I highly recommend Hard to Handle. You won’t be disappointed.
Have you read Hard to Handle? If so, do you agree with my review? If you haven’t read the book, would you be willing to now?