When Too Many Dreams Come True
The reviewing business is indeed a strange one, inevitably one thing leads to another, and another. Case in point this book. A few weeks ago I received a great solo album by Ken Hensley, for those of you not familiar with the name, Ken was part of the immensely popular 70′s band Uriah Heep. This album was titled Blood On The Highway, I had no information about it, had not even heard the name Ken Hensley in many years.
I really enjoyed the album, it was a finely crafted work, and one that clearly a great deal of thought had gone into its contents. It did not require a PhD in astrophysics to figure out that this was an autobiography set to music, the songs reflecting the up’s and down’s of being a rock star.
I mentioned this to my friend who had sent the album, â€œOh if you like the album you should read his book.â€ And in due course the book arrived on my doorstep.
About 40 pages into it I was going through bouts of Deja Vu. I knew the story already. I do so many interviews, that I wondered of perhaps I had interviewed Ken Hensley at some point, but no, it wasn’t that. Then it clicked, this was an almost identical story to that of Jock Bartley of Firefly. Two completely different people, two very different bands, yet incredibly similar stories, hard working musicians who find themselves suddenly at center stage, the good life rapidly consumes them, and then one day, the theater goes dark for them. What now?
Kens Hensley’s story is a poignant one, and Blood On The Highway is well written. It is also brutally honest. You can be at the top of the pile, you can have a Rolls Royce, you can have as much cocaine as you can stuff up your nose, as many women as you want, but are you getting rich? In a simple answer no. Indirectly you were merely an indentured servant to the record label. The lavish lifestyle came at a steep price, there was no free lunch. The five star hotel rooms, the booze on stage, the limo’s to the concert, someone picks up the bill, and inevitably it is the musician you pays, maybe not today, but soon.
A platinum album, a sold out tour, and yet you are still in the hole to the record label. The cycle becomes unbreakable. More albums, more tours, greater excess, and continue till you physically and mentally just can not.
What happens when the light fades? To quote from the Blood On The Highway Cd track I Did It All:
There’s a new face up on stage tonight
A new star on the door
A new name on the billboard now
Where mine had been before
How true that is. I have spent the past year or so chasing down interviews with people who in the 70′s were superstars and would not have given a lowly reviewer like me the time of day. Today they still gig, but today they play for a crowd of 50 to 200 people rather than the packed 50,000 seat auditorium. Also today they are happy to spend an hour talking to me. Few still drive Rollers, or Ferrari’s, fewer still travel with a huge entourage, and almost all of them lament about the deceptive business practices of the music industry in the 70′s and 80′s. This book should be required reading for any musician that has aspirations of getting a song on the Billboard Top 100.
Blood On The Highway is not all negative though, it contains some very, very funny parts. As the old saying goes, fact is often stranger than fiction. Ken Hensley aptly points out that no popular musicians biography would be complete without a Keith Moon story, and Kens is better than most, involving a 5 star hotel, and a stick of dynamite! Ken also has a delightful story involving Charlie Daniels (of The Devil Came Down From Georgia fame) and MTV. I guess I could sum the story up by saying ‘There is more than one way to skin a cat’.
Great book, if you have anyone on your Christmas list that is a fan of great music, and a great story, buy them Blood On The Highway, it is printed on high gloss paper, and there are photos on virtually every page, this is a must have for every Hensley fan. Actually buy them the CD as well!
Blood On The Highway Book. (Retail Info TBA)