Memoir of a Roadie by Joel Miller

Full title: Memoir of a Roadie: Axl Said I Made a Great Cup of Tea… Scott Weiland Liked the Carpenters… & Ozzy Drinks Rosé by Joel Miller.

Most of you will approach this book like you’d approach the movie A Star is Born. It’s not high brow art. In fact, it’s guaranteed non-intellectual stuff. So why watch it? And why read this? Well, you probably know the reason already. It’s because everything that goes on backstage is part of a secret life that you want to know more about. Maybe the ending will suck. But it’s the ups and downs that are the best part of a roller coaster ride, not the clumsy dismount at the end. 

Joel Miller is an ex-roadie for Guns N’ Roses, Poison, Stone Temple Pilots and The Cranberries. Memoir of a Roadie tells the tale of how a family connection gets Joel the most amazing chance to go on tour with one of the biggest bands of the day. There’s no time to figure out what to do with your life when you’re trying to figure out what it is a roadie is supposed to do. There’s not much help from the fellow roadies, who are either too busy looking out for themselves or preoccupied with finding ways to wind up someone else on the crew.

Joel’s writing captures the excitement of being young and out in the “real” world for the first time. Like A Star is Born, the hero starts out in a state of innocence and moves on to one of experience. Becoming a roadie isn’t just about learning the ropes. The people he meets along the way change him a little bit at a time, until he starts to lose sight of who he is becoming. Before long he starts to feel like his life can never go back to the way things were before.

While back home I went out and got drunk with my friends. However, for the first time I felt like I did not fit in with any of them. The short time period I had been away had changed me dramatically. I had just jumped off a train which every morning I gassed up, spent the day gaining maximum speed, and sure enough at the end of each night the damn thing blew up. Every day was a steady, gradual build that climaxed in an explosion of awesomeness every night. The shows were always a new experience and each a test to see how much my body could physically take before breaking. While everything hurt, it hurt good!

Joel meets famous people along the way but there isn’t much backstage dirt here.  These are Joel’s stories and the celebrities are just passing through his life. The road crew makes a more interesting motley crew of characters anyway.  There are plenty of tales of wind ups and pranks with just enough technical detail thrown in to shed some light on this little seen world.

Because it’s all about music and coming of age, there is more than enough nostalgia here. Seeing things again in the rearview doesn’t always clear up who the good guys are. And that’s where we figure out this isn’t anything at all like A Star is Born. In fact, it’s a lot more like Cobra Kai. If you turn up the music you can almost imagine you’re there.

The book ends in a crash, with lots of drinking and fighting. But what did you expect? It’s a riot.