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Stick It!' Carmine Appice's rock and roll life

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'You're in Bangor, Maine? Wow. My very first gig out of town (Long Island, New York) with Vanilla Fudge, when we were called The Pigeons, was in Bangor, Maine (laughing).'

Veteran rock drummer Carmine Appice has been giving his memory a good thrashing as of late, compiling voluminous uncensored tales of recording and touring with Vanilla Fudge, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, Cactus, Ted Nugent and Ozzy Osbourne.

The result is 'Stick It!: My Life of Sex, Drums, and Rock and Roll' (Chicago Review Press, $26.99), a raucous, debauched and wildly entertaining account of what it was like to play a role in some of rock's craziest scenarios. The book is co-written with Ian Gittens with a forward written by Rod Stewart.

When psychedelic blues band Vanilla Fudge issued their debut album in 1967, they were an immediate smash. The album shot to number six on the Billboard chart and Appice quickly found himself on a rock rollercoaster ride.

'I was a conceited egomaniac,' Appice remembers with a laugh when asked how that early fame with Vanilla Fudge affected him.

'We were on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' when I was 20 years old. 50 million people watching. Girl fans all over you. I had cool clothes, a cool car a Jaguar XKE. The Ludwig drum company asked me to do drum-clinics for them and I refused because I was too much of a pop star (laughs).'

Appice says he began working on a memoir more than 30 years ago.

'When I was on tour with Ted Nugent in 1982, I was telling stories into a cassette player and ended up with twelve 90 minute cassettes full of stories by the end of the tour.'

Only a decade removed from his Vanilla Fudge days at that point, Appice says his recall of specific details were still sharp.

'The stories from 1966 and '67 were still fresh in my head by 1982 so it was good to get them out then.'

After handing the cassette stash to his manager to transcribe into some usable form, the project was put on hold after Appice's manager somehow lost eight of the tapes.

Timing is everything as any drummer will tell you; Appice believes that the early 80s was not the right time for a salacious rock star tell-all.

'It wasn't really hip or cool at that time for rock stars of my generation to write their life story,' he told me. 'I guess we hadn't been in the business long enough, you know? Now, the time is right.'

A sequence in Appice's book has taken on new significance in the wake of the loss of one of music's most revered icons.

In the early 80s, a freshly divorced Appice needed a temporary residence and bought into a house in Los Angeles owned by a friend who also happened to manage a young and innovative musician on the rise.

'I was on the road all the time with Rod Stewart but I stayed there for a while along with this young guy who was just coming up. It was Prince. He was very timid and very shy, a small guy and it seemed like I intimidated him. I was a loudmouth New Yorker, 6 feet and 180 pounds.'

Prince's then-manager recently contacted Appice to tell him how Prince really felt about him. 'She said Prince always loved you and respected you.''

Appice recalls a rough night when Prince opened for The Rolling Stones at the Los Angeles Coliseum and (in Carmine's words) was booed off the stage' by Stones fans who had little patience for sexy cutting-edge funk.

'He came back to the house and was very depressed. He was freaked out and in tears. Me and his manager talked him through it. When he started getting successful, I couldn't believe it was the same guy. He was outrageous on stage. They invited me to the premiere of 'Purple Rain' and I went backstage. It was a really great time for him.'

'Stick It!' is a quick read, jammed with wild tales of rock and roll excess. An active participant in the infamous Led Zeppelin 'mud shark' incident, Appice delivers that account in surprisingly vivid detail as he does his hotel-trawling nights as a member of the 'Sex Police' with Rod Stewart.

Of particular interest to musicians will be Appice's explanation of his technique, his friendship with a pre-fame Jimi Hendrix and working with the mercurial but brilliant guitar wizard Jeff Beck.

Humble, hilarious and shocking, 'Stick It!' is an absorbing account of endless rocking nights and hazy days recalled with sober clarity by a man who sounds almost astonished that he's still here, more than 50 years after that first gig outside of Long Island.

'We drove up to Maine in a Ford Econoline,' Appice laughed as he recalled that initial band road trip. 'It was the whole band, including the organ, all packed so tight into this van. None of us could even move. Bangor was our very first gig out of New York. Isn't that wild?'

Last modified on Wednesday, 18 May 2016 16:08

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