Former Sydenham rock journalist reveals tales of meeting Ozzy Osbourne, Motorhead and Queen
PUBLISHED: 15:41 26 April 2013 | UPDATED: 15:41 26 April 2013
It was telling and re-telling the many stories of his years working in rock journalism that prompted Kirk Blows to publish a book chronicling them.
“I would tell people these stories, some of which are hilarious and others downright shocking, and they would tell me ‘you really need to write all this down’,” he explains.
A career spanning the mid-1980s to mid-1990s saw him edit the much-respected Metal Hammer magazine, among others, before leaving the industry to pursue a career in sports writing.
He describes writing Hammered: Heavy Tales from the Hard Rock Highway as “a labour of love” and, unlike the seven other books he has had published about West Ham United, he wrote it before seeking a publisher.
Kirk, from Sydenham, says he didn’t want the book to be about him but, rather, to tell the story of the burgeoning heavy metal scene in that era, through the prism of his experiences with its key figures. He cites spoof band Spinal Tap as an influence, noting “how ludicrous metal can be at times”.
As pivotal to the scene as its musicians, of course, are the fans – readers of magazines like Metal Hammer are known for their fierce loyalty even in the face of widespread critical disdain for the genre.
Kirk says: “Metal fans are extremely loyal, and they’re loyal to metal in general, not just specific bands.”
Much of the book’s material is taken from previously unpublished interviews.
Though lots of the stories are tales of typical rock’n’roll debauchery, many are surprisingly moving, most notably the account of an in-depth interview with Queen guitarist Brian May – the first after the death of singer Freddie Mercury.
“Brian spoke very candidly and it was clearly a very emotive experience for him,” says Kirk. “He’d always been a hero of mine and it was a privilege to spend time with him.”
On a lighter note, Kirk recalls a meeting with Ozzy Osbourne in Los Angeles during which the former Black Sabbath singer was “really in no fit state to be interviewed” due to the medication he was on at the time.
“I’d had this bright idea of doing a career retrospective, so I was asking him to remember things 15 years back and he couldn’t even remember yesterday let alone the early 80s!” he says.
The situation took a surprising turn for the better, however, when “Ozzy went to the toilet and returned as right as rain, completely lucid and suddenly on great form!”
Conducting interviews in these circumstances was an occupational hazard for Kirk, and he says it made his job very difficult at times.
“Everything revolved around drinking,” he commented. “You can’t expect bands like UFO to be sober for very long.”
Another story is Kirk’s fall-out with Lemmy from Motorhead.
The bust-up occurred after Lemmy’s bandmate, guitarist Wurzel, contacted Kirk wanting to spill the beans on his feelings of resentment towards the lead singer.
Kirk says: “It was a real dilemma – do I keep quiet to keep the peace or do I run with this story, which was journalistic gold, and risk upsetting Lemmy?”
In the end Kirk opted for the latter and was summoned to face the wrath of the singer in a hotel.
“He said I’d opened a wound between the pair of them that would never heal and that, in 17 years, no one had ever come closer to splitting up the band than me,” Kirk remembers.
The meeting, lasting several hours, took place on the record and was then turned into a follow-up article, which prompted Lemmy to telephone Kirk to thank him for being allowed to have his say.
Though he hasn’t specialised in music journalism for over a decade, like a true metalhead Kirk says he is still as devoted to the genre now as when it kept him up until the wee hours out on the road all those years ago.
Hammered: Heavy Tales from the Hard Rock Highway is available on amazon.com.