Empirically proving that -- no matter where you are -- kids wanna rock, this is Chuck Klosterman's hilrious memoir of growing up as a shameless metalhead in Wyndmere, North Dakotoa (population: 498). With a voice like Ace Frehley's guitar, Klosterman hacks his way through hair-band history, beginning with that fateful day in 1983 when his older brother brought home M�tley Cr�e's Shout at the Devil. The fifth-grade Chuck wasn't quite ready to rock -- his hair was too short and his farm was too quiet -- but he still found a way to bang his nappy little head. Before the journey was over, he would slow-dance to Poison, sleep innocently beneath satanic pentagrams, lust for Lita Ford, and get ridiculously intellectual about Guns N' Roses. C'mon and feel his noize.
Klosterman's highly touted debut has as much to do with Fargo, N.D., as the Coen brothers' slice of Americabre, Fargo. That is, nothing at all, really. Misleadingly titled to cash in on Fargo's cinematic mystique, Klosterman's memoir about growing up a sexually repressed metalhead, with a humiliating (mom-dictated) Richie Cunningham haircut is actually set in Wyndmere, N.D. Klosterman starts up with a bang ("You know, I've never had long hair"), shifts gears often (from memoir to music criticism, somewhat jarringly at times), and rarely idles. Ultimately, though, Klosterman, ironic throughout the book, does not write with enough sincerity to prove his thesis "that all that poofy, sexist, shallow glam rock was important." Granted, it's a daunting task to write a hymn of praise to the genre that spawned David Lee Roth so the author wisely stretches his pop-culture references like taffy. In the final chapter Klosterman, now an arts critic for Ohio's Akron Beacon Journal, quotes a friend's definition of a "guilty pleasure" "something I pretend to like ironically, but in truth is something I really just like" to explain how he really feels about glam metal. His closing summation of what metal means to isolated kids in the heartland will strike a power chord for many readers. (May)Forecast: Klosterman has tapped a gold mine. Fans of 1980s M"tley Cr�e, Poison and Ratt are pushing 30 and 40 and seeking a nostalgia trip. Also, Gear magazine will run an excerpt of the book along with a conversation between Klosterman and Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 30, 2001
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Excerpt from Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman
October 26, 1983
The worldwide release of Motley Crue's
Shout at the Devil.
It's easy for me to recall the morning I was absorbed into the cult of heavy metal. As is so often the case with this sort of thing, it was all my brother's fault.
As a painfully typical fifth-grader living in the rural Midwest, my life was boring, just like it was supposed to be. I lived five miles south of a tiny town called Wyndmere, where I spent a lot of time drinking Pepsi in the basement and watching syndicated episodes of Laverne & Shirley and Diff'rent Strokes. I killed the rest of my free time listening to Y-94, the lone Top 40 radio station transmitted out of Fargo, sixty-five miles to the north (in the horizontal wasteland of North Dakota, radio waves travel forever). This was 1983, which -- at least in Fargo -- was the era of mainstream "new wave" pop (although it seems the phrase "new wave" was only used by people who never actually listened to that kind of music). The artists who appear exclusively on today's "Best of the '80s" compilations were the dominant attractions: Madness, Culture Club, Falco, the Stray Cats, German songstress Nena, and -- of course -- Duran Duran (the economic backbone of Friday Night Videos' cultural economy). The most popular song in my elementary school was Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue," but that was destined to be replaced by Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" (which would subsequently be replaced by "Raspberry Beret").
Obviously, popular music was not in a state of revolution, or turbulence, or even contrived horror. The only exposure anyone in Wyndmere had to punk rock was an episode of Quincy that focused on the rising danger of slam dancing (later, we found out that Courtney Love had made a cameo appearance in that particular program, but that kind of trivia wouldn't be worth knowing until college). There were five hundred people in my hometown, and exactly zero of them knew about Motorhead, Judas Priest, or anything loud and British. Rock historians typically describe this as the period where hard rock moved "underground," and that's the perfect metaphor; the magma of heavy metal was thousands of miles below the snow-packed surface of Wyndmere, North Dakota.
Was this some kind of unadulterated tranquillity? Certainly not. As I look back, nothing seems retroactively utopian about Rick Springfield, even though others might try to tell you differently. Whenever people look back on their grammar school days, they inevitably insist that they remember feeling "safe" or "pure" or "hungry for discovery." Of course, the people who say those things are lying (or stupid, or both). It's revisionist history; it's someone trying to describe how it felt to be eleven by comparing it to how it feels to be thirty-one, and it has nothing to do with how things really were. When you actually are eleven, your life always feels exhaustively normal, because your definition of "normal" is whatever is going on at the moment. You view the entire concept of "life" as your life, because you have nothing else to measure it against. Unless your mom dies or you get your foot caught in the family lawn mower, every part of childhood happens exactly as it should. It's the only way things can happen.
That changed when my older brother returned from the army. He was on leave from Fort Benning in Georgia, and he had two cassettes in his duffel bag (both of which he would forget to take back with him when he returned to his base). The first, Sports, by Huey Lewis and the News, was already a known quantity ("I Want a New Drug" happened to be the song of the moment on Y-94). However, the second cassette would redirect the path of my life: Shout at the Devil by Motley Crue.
As clich? as it now seems, I was wholly disturbed by the Shout at the Devil cover. I clearly remember thinking, Who the fuck are these guys? Who the fuck are these guys? And -- more importantly -- Are these guys even guys? The blond one looked like a chick, and one of the members was named "Nikki." Fortunately, my sister broached this issue seconds after seeing the album cover, and my brother (eleven years my senior) said, "No, they're all guys. They're really twisted, but it's pretty good music." When my brother was a senior in high school, he used to drive me to school; I remembered that he always listened to 8-tracks featuring Meat Loaf, Molly Hatchet, and what I later recognized to be old Van Halen. Using that memory as my reference point, I assumed I had a vague idea what Motley Crue might sound like.
Still, I didn't listen to it. I put Huey Lewis into my brother's trendy Walkman (another first) and fast-forwarded to all the songs I already knew. Meanwhile, I read the liner notes to Shout at the Devil. It was like stumbling across a copy of Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible (which -- of course -- was a book I had never heard of or could even imagine existing).