Lonn's Tale

(PR) As executive editor of the seminal rock magazine RIP from 1987 to its demise in 1994, music journalist Lonn Friend found himself at the very center of the music scene during one of its most prolific, profligate, and prosperous times. Bands with bad-boy attitudes, big hair, and an even bigger sound-Guns N' Roses, Metallica, Ozzie Osborne, M�tley Cru�, Whitesnake, and Megadeath-ruled the charts, but the period also saw the birth of the Seattle-based grunge movement and meteoric rise of bands such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana, whose multi-platinum 1991 release Nevermind effectively sounded the death knoll for the Metal era. From his privileged perch within the eye of the hurricane, Friend chronicled in the pages of RIP the successive waves of change that rocked the music universe, offering the world one of the greatest runs in the history of music writing, rivaling the best work of Lester Bangs and Cameron Crowe.

Now, in LIFE ON PLANET ROCK: From Guns N' Roses to Nirvana, a Backstage Journey through Rock's Most Debauched Decade (July 11, 2006; Morgan Road Books; Trade Paperback Original; $14.00), Friend provides readers with the ultimate all-access pass, one that takes them backstage, into the recording studios and luxury hotel suites, and onto the tour bus with some of the biggest stars in rock's storied history. Candidly recounting his adventures, friendships, and occasional run-ins with figures ranging from Alice Cooper to Axl Rose, from Slash to Gene Simmons, from Kurt Cobhain to Steven Tyler, and from Jon Bon Jovi to James Hatfield, Friend paints a vivid, you-are-there portrait of an era of unbridled excess and shares the personal story of one fan's struggle to navigate the treacherous world of sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll while keeping his sense of self-and his soul-intact.

"Elsewhere in this book, you'll probably get to places where Lonn talks about 'the scene,' stories, and so on, and he'll most likely use the phrase 'fly on the wall' to describe his place in that scenario," writes Lars Ulrich of Metallica in his foreword to Friend's book. "I appreciate the phrase and I appreciate his humility, but when Lonn was around, he was no f***in' fly on the f***in' wall. . . . Actually, come to think of it, Lonn was the least 'fly on the wall' guy/journalist who ever hung around, because of what he represented, what he stood for."

Born in 1956, the year that Elvis Presley broke into the mainstream with a strange new sound called rock 'n roll, Lonn Friend has spent his life and career immersed in rock music. During the summer of 1987, after five years of reviewing pornography and editing articles for Larry Flynt's raunchy skin magazine, Hustler, Friend approached his boss about his newest publication, RIP, a fledgling hard-rock magazine that was struggling to turn a profit and earn a readership. Friend's

promise and ultimatum was simple: Flynt could either hand him the reins to RIP as executive editor and watch the magazine succeed, or Friend would leave Flynt publications altogether.

In the heady years that followed, as musical tastes rapidly mutated from new wave to hair metal to grunge, RIP became the most influential rock publication of the day, one so saturated with street cred that the biggest bands of the day-along with their managers-vied to make the magazine's cover. Friend's own star was on the rise; he hosted his own spot, "Friend at Large," on MTV's Headbangers Ball as well as a weekly nationally syndicated radio program, "Pirate Radio Saturday Night," on Westwood One.

Befitting his name, Friend also befriended a galaxy of rock stars, who recognized in him a kindred spirit with a manic, yet singularly innocent, passion for music. Metallica invited Friend to the studio while recording their now-legendary Black Album; Guns N' Roses prompted him to introduce the band to 20,000 screaming fans wearing nothing but his underwear, Slash's famous top hat, and cowboy boots; Alice Cooper expounded on his Christian faith during his many golf games with Friend; and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden joined to deliver a house-crumbling duet at the RIP fourth-anniversary party and jam for the ages that urban legend would later crown the "Seattle party."

In 1994, Friend was wooed by music industry titan Clive Davis to join Arista as an A&R executive with a mandate to develop the label's roster of rock acts. He soon discovered, however, that his idealistic outlook on music flew in the face of how things got done on the inside, and, after three spirit-sapping years during which virtually every band he pitched-including Limp Bizkit and Eels-was rejected, his association with Arista came to a merciful end. "Clive's inflated sense of entitlement was representative of everything I'd come to despise about the record business," he writes. "Ego, power, greed-Babylon's holy trinity. Thanks, but no thanks. . . . Ultimately, I was not a record-company creature. I was a journalist, a music fan, who paid little mind to the industry's protocol or politics. I understood artists from an authentic place. I knew how to talk to them, on their level, without the invisible wall defined by the institution and suit. Hell, I didn't even own a suit."

Part oral history, part candid and humorous memoir, LIFE ON PLANET ROCK is an intimate, bittersweet look into the backstage world that makes the rock world go around. So too, it is the soulful chronicle of one fan's life odyssey and of his efforts to find himself amid the sex, drugs, money, and politics of "Planet Rock."

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