Blaze Bayley: At the End of the Day by Lawrence Paterson
Available via BlazeBayley.net
A few of you might have noticed that I have taken to reporting a lot on Blaze Bayley (the man and the band), and this is partially due to the fact that I have long been a fan of his solo stuff (and his tenure in Iron Maiden). As I’ve stated before, I think that X Factor is a classic album and I will continue to defend that to this day (though, I will definitely also point out that it is poorly produced, as was Virtual XI, which in my book was also poorly conceived). In any case, I, like others who gravitated to the Blaze-era Iron Maiden, continued to follow him afterwords and were happily surprised by the quality of the material that his newly formed band BLAZE had produced. Since then, I have paid attention, with a heavy heart often times, to an ongoing saga of an excellent underground band getting ignored, fucked repeatedly by labels, management and finally crumbling under the weight of outside and inside pressures. For me, the collapse of BLAZE and the rise of Blaze’s current self-titled incarnation was shrouded in mystery as I was just a fan witnessing it from the outside, but much of what I did not know is now available in a book written by current Blaze Bayley drummer Lawrence Paterson entitled At the End of the Day (and conveniently available for Christmas!).
And a fascinating read this is. At the End of the Day follows the career of one Bayley Cooke from his early days in the band Wolfsbane, which incidentally got screwed over by Rick Rubin of all people!, follows the man through Iron Maiden, including new interviews with Steve Harris and Janick Gers and covers the heart-breaking story of his unceremonious boot from the band. While the Iron Maiden guys are still pretty tight-lipped about the whole affair (which from the outside seems like it was messier than the band will ever let on, something hinted at by Paterson), I think that there are enough interesting details to make the long-time fan feel a little more informed about the goings-on at the time.
The part which was of more interest to me than the Maiden stuff, which admittedly now is going on “ancient history,” was the rise and fall of BLAZE. For those who were privileged enough to actually get to experience this band in its prime (at least on record if nothing else), it is hard to explain the emotional attachment that the was garnered from the fanbase. I met a guy who was roadying for Porcupine Tree the year that BLAZE finally crumbled and his assessment of the band was that it was a real shame and that they were “good honest heavy metal.” That almost best explains it, BLAZE was good, honest heavy metal. But not only that, it was uniquely modern in a genre that is incessantly stuck in the 1980s because of Blaze’s own insistence on getting guys who were unknown English players, Steve Wray, John Slater, Rob Naylor and finally drummer Jeff Singer.
The three chapters that deal with BLAZE, for me, are the most important in the book. Paterson does an excellent job of getting information about the band by interviewing the older members as well as balancing Slater, Wray and Naylor’s opinions with Blaze’s own recollections. These help build a fantastic insight into the workings of the band and gave me, at least, a little closure about the way the whole thing ended. Unfortunately, in retrospect, it seems like the whole project was doomed to failure from the beginning. There are some small admissions in there that I think point to something the fans could never have seen coming but sort of spelled destruction even if the band had become more successful, such as Steve Wray’s dislike for Blaze’s style and lyrics. Basically thinking the entire concept of the first two albums was cheesy: how long did anyone think that was going to hold out? But all-in-all, one sees that there was a lot more going on than musical disagreements, the world was almost literally, collapsing around the band and Blaze himself.
Unfortunately, the next part of the story gets pretty sloppy and, at times, very sad. Paterson goes onto detail Blaze going through band members, meeting his wife and future manager Debbie and getting totally taken for a ride by some jackass wannabe manager (the man who released the infamous, foul-mouthed management releases to Blabbermouth). He details the entrance of Dave and Nico Bermudez into the band, Jay Walsh and finally himself at which point he switches to first person narration and the book, unfortunately, took a major downturn for me. Instead of being a narrative of the ongoing history of the band (which probably would’ve taken up about 50 fewer pages), Mr. Paterson launches into extended tour blog form. The outcome of this is not-so-good. While there are some really funny ongoing jokes (particularly the Ryan Air flying experience), the book is no longer a biography. Instead, it becomes far more stream of consciousness, introduces a huge number of people that are hard to keep track of, the details of about 45 venues and how their toilet services are and inside jokes that aren’t funny to anyone who wasn’t actually involved.
The sad part about this for me, is the story about the band getting back on its feet because of the hard-nosed and heroic Debbie and Blaze personally getting his life back on track after a major personal collapse gets lost in the shuffle. That, unfortunately, includes the very sad and dramatic part about Debbie’s unfortunate passing. It is, of course, fascinating to know how a band operates on the road and to understand how that all works, but the change in style really didn’t work for me and the band probably could’ve used an outside voice to tell them that.
However, for any fan of the band, this book is a must have. It exonerates my opinion that X Factor is an amazing record, by once again quoting both Steve and Janick as saying its one of their favorite albums (and Dave Murray has said the same thing in the past as well) and it covers things that have never really seeped out before. It includes great pictures, lots of laughs and things that you’ll never get a chance to read elsewhere. Despite being a little bit clunky style-wise, I still think that At the End of the Day is a well-done testament to Blaze, his career and his band(s, current and former).