Richard Cosgrove: ‘I Was A Teenage Rock Fan’ (book review)

To be released on August 2, 2021 (New Haven Publishing Ltd)

In writing for many outlets on music, whether it is for the Retro CD/DVD Reviews here on Sleaze Roxx or my personal blog page, one philosophy I embrace is that music is not just about the songs, but the memories you have when hearing the songs. We can remember who we were with or where we were when we hear certain songs or artists in our lives. A song or album can bring something that is special to us individually, regardless of what others may see in the music. A song that someone may hate, may mean something else to another person struggling through life issues which helped them in the process. That is why reviews are subjective mostly in music, because one person interprets the lyrics one way as opposed to another.

Richard Cosgrove‘s book I Was A Teenage Rock Fan details his first experiences listening to certain records and seeing bands in concert that helped create his love for music, especially the 1980s hard rock genre. Born in England, his parents moved to Canada for a brief time, where he first heard the album Destroyer by KISS at his parents’ friend’s house in 1976. He was in awe of the record upon the first listen, being a fan of the classic horror films like many of us KISS fans. Shortly after, his family moved back to England, where Star Wars became his love, until the day his friend played him the first W.A.S.P. album in November 1985 hearing the opening “I Wanna Be Somebody,” which spoke to him musically and lyrically. After this experience, Cosgrove became a rock music fanatic, buying many albums with his spare money and starting to experience the concert and dance club scenes.

The writing takes the reader through the many albums he purchased with his buddies, along with him deciding to pick up a guitar (and later a bass guitar) to be like many fans in the 1980s wanted to be — a rock star like his heroes. Yes, the journey was one in a million, but he still wanted to dream. He didn’t ignore his daily duties of bringing in an income, working several different jobs, including one where he got to read the British magazine Kerrang!. The magazine became his main source of information, along with getting printed in the letters section when Ozzy Osbourne cancelled a show he was attending.

The book is basically the author telling stories of him going out and buying many albums, his expansion into the thrash metal genre along with the glam rock of Bon Jovi and Poison, while hanging out with his friends drinking beer at clubs and concerts. He also started several rock bands where some failed to even get out of the practice area, which one rehearsed in a school for the deaf. Also mixed into the chapters are historical stories about bands like Mötley Crüe and historical musical events like the PMRC Congressional Hearings (which dealt with putting warning labels on records) and the Moscow Music Peace Festival.

As someone who knows how hard it is to pitch book ideas and get them published, I respect any writer who can get work out there, either self-published or in the traditional way. However throughout reading the text, I was constantly thinking ‘Where is the book heading?’ The writer names albums and bands, but where is the emotion on how these songs made him feel, besides the first few ones mentioned like W.A.S.P.? It is basically filled with topics his friends would talk about hanging out at the pub or at a party. The general reader, especially one from another country (I’m in the U.S.), would have a hard time with this. I do not know the buddies he associated with, and writing about buying countless albums, while seeing many shows, does not totally come off as something many fans will run out to buy.

The historical parts about the PRMC and Moscow Music Peace Festival are just facts that the readers can find on various websites, and topics like Vince Neil‘s car crash (where the author writes he read about in the magazines) is just that — facts. Although the Ozzy no show and a part about seeing Mötley at a concert, where singer Vince Neil walked off the stage after a fan threw something at him, is entertaining and interesting, the rest of the writing is just about buying records, drinking alcohol, and playing in some struggling bands. This reviewer has played in many bands in my local area, along with getting to open for a few national acts (even some band members played with national artists as well and toured), but my stories would not relate to a big audience outside of my area or group of friends, more less be relevant to place in a book for many people to buy.

Some of the stories about the writer’s friends are nice, but they lack the interest of a general reader who is a stranger to the author. The writing basically lists buying albums and brief facts about songs being released in the area, without an in-depth reason on how the music made him feel. It is a bunch of ‘I bought this album released in 1986, and we played it,’ and ‘I went and saw this band at this club or venue and bought a shirt.’ These are not actual quotes by the author, but this gives the idea of what is relayed. The reader is left pondering throughout, ‘Does the author meet any rock stars?’ ‘Does something happen where he leans on certain songs to get him through a situation, or do crazy things happen in his bands while playing at shows?’

The text is an easy read in regards to page and total length (about 220 pages, with the chapters being around three to five pages each), and some of the chapters are just the historical stories where some readers who already knows the tales could skip over. The most interesting segments is reading about which bands and albums were hits (and misses) over in another country. Tales about how some the albums, songs, or bands made the writer feel, are far and between, and are just segments of album titles that some friends of music list buying for the most part and writing some years and places the concerts were held. The lack of detailed emotion will turn off some readers.

This book will find its general audience, mostly regionally, but it may have a hard time finding a bigger audience, especially for us readers outside the area from where the writer resides.

Reviewed by Lance Lumley for Sleaze Roxx, July 2021