Mick Wall began his career in 1977, at the age of 19, when he began writing for the weekly music paper, Sounds. Initially covering the nascent punk scene, by 1978 he had started to write more about bands like Thin Lizzy, UFO and Status Quo. He had never suffered the hang-ups about '70s rock music that so many British music writers did in the aftermath of punk. Plus, he admits, travelling to the Hammersmith Odeon in the back of a limo with Thin Lizzy was simply “much more fun than being squashed-up in the back of a transit van with The Lurkers on the way to play a pub in Bradford” - the highlight of his rock-writing career until then.
In January 1979, he accepted a job at an independent PR company called Heavy Publicity, later becoming a partner in the firm; dealing with such clients as Dire Straits, Black Sabbath, REO Speedwagon, Thin Lizzy and Journey, to name a few. It taught him about the business and afforded him the kind of insights - and access - to the major artists he would never have enjoyed merely as a writer. By 1981 he was the press officer at Virgin Records, during the company's first flush of success with the arrival into the UK charts of then new acts like the Human League, Japan, Simple Minds, Culture Club, Gillan and others.
The yen to be a writer had never left him, however, and when the opportunity arose, in 1983, he began working on a new title some of his old colleagues at Sounds had earlier launched as a one-shot and had now turned into a regular monthly magazine. Devoted entirely to heavy metal - an idea then unheard of in that pre-niche market - the magazine was called Kerrang! (after the sound of a loud open guitar chord). Over the next eight years Mick Wall became the magazine's best-known and most popular writer, helping build the title into the world-beating brand it is today; from the first monthly of its kind (there have been several imitators since) to where it is now: the biggest circulation music weekly in the UK, with its own satellite TV station, radio show, website and officially Kerrang!-branded tours, albums, merchandise and much-publicised annual awards ceremony.
It was during his time at Kerrang! that Wall first began writing books, beginning with the official biography of Ozzy Osbourne - Diary Of A Madman, published by Zomba in 1986 (and later the same year in America by Cherry Red). Glowingly reviewed in both the broadsheet and tabloid press - Rock Book of the Year in the annual Virgin Encyclopaedia - it was also serialised for three days in the Daily Star.
Since then he has been the author of several other rock biographies. For a full list of titles see below but most notably, perhaps, his unauthorised biography of Guns N' Roses, The Most Dangerous Band In The World, first published in Britain by Sidgwick & Jackson in 1991 (and in America, in updated form, the following year, by Hyperion) - the idea of which so incensed GN'R singer W. Axl Rose that he wrote a song about it, 'Get In The Ring', from their 1991 zillion-selling 'Use Your Illusion II' album.
More recently, Wall's semi-fictionalised memoir of working in the music biz in the '80s, Paranoid: Black Days with Sabbath & Other Horror Stories - first published by Mainstream in 1999 (now into its third edition) - also received a lot of attention. Described by The Times as 'dark, twisted and frequently hilarious', The Telegraph and The Guardian also offered lavish praise, the latter claiming: 'The heroin scenes make Irvine Welsh look like the Teletubbies.'
His latest book, When Giants Walked The Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin has been a huge hit all over the world. Described by The Sunday Times as 'the most complete account yet' and by the Daily Telegraph as 'a book that can only be descriebd as definitive'. The mass market paperback version of the book is published in the UK, with new updated material, in October 2009.
It was also in the mid-'80s that Wall began presenting his own weekly rock show for the then fledgling, pan-European Sky TV channel - a 60-minute dose of videos and chat called the Monsters Of Rock Show. It began in 1985 as the lowliest item on a cheap menu of game-shows, old comedies and endlessly recycled pop videos. By 1988, when it ended - along with all the station's domestic music programming, in the wake of the new affordable Sky dish and the incidental arrival with it of MTV - it was the most popular music show on the channel: more than 5,000 letters were sent in protest at its demise. But then it was playing to a captive audience, unable to access such music at a time when it was undergoing a huge resurgence of mainstream interest as new albums by Guns N' Roses, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden and Bon Jovi all now routinely went to No.1.
It was also at Sky that Wall began to write and produce his own documentary shows: 60-minute specials based on face-to-face interviews he filmed with major artists such as David Bowie, Elton John, Little Richard, Boy George, Bob Geldof, Phil Collins and others. In 1988, he was Consultant Editor on the documentary Heavy Metal, for the BBC2 Arena series; and in 1989 he co-wrote and presented an award-nominated 40-minute documentary for Sky One on the Moscow Music Peace Festival, starring Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne, and others.
It was also in the late-80s that he began appearing on radio. First, in 1987, as a regular pundit on the Sunday afternoon Andy Kershaw Show on Radio One. Then, in 1989, as the presenter of his own weekly Saturday night show on Capital Radio, the Mick Wall Rock Show.
He left London, however, in 1990 to spend more time in Los Angeles - a city he already knew well - leaving Kerrang!, Capital Radio and Sky TV behind to start a new life presenting and editing what was then billed as 'the world's first heavy metal video magazine' (Hard N' Heavy) and writing for American magazines like RIP, Faces, and Billboard.
Returning home to London in 1992, he began presenting a weekly Friday night show for BBC Greater London Radio (GLR), while also regularly deputising for Tommy Vance at Radio One. He also returned to Kerrang!, where he was hired to help bolster the circulation of its previously ailing sister title RAW. He also spent some time in the mid-'90s working in PR again, enticed back by the prospect of working with clients such as Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, The Band and Steve Earle.
Meanwhile, he also continued to write books and began contributing regularly to Mojo and other newspapers and magazines. That came to a temporary halt, however, when, in 1998, a contact at Dennis Publishing offered him the opportunity to help put together what, for shorthand, was simply called the “grown-up version of Kerrang!”
The result - a hurriedly thrown together 84-page test-run disguised as a one-shot called Classic Rock - sold over 25,000 copies. Two months later the second issue sold nearly 30,000. Future Publishing bought the title and launched it as a full-blown monthly with Wall as editor in February 2000. Within three years, its circulation had risen to over 50,000, as the mag became a 132-page fixture on newsagents' shelves, making it the UK's fastest growing music title in 2002.
Having spent years building the title up, Wall resigned as editor-in-chief in 2004 in order to return to full-time writing. Since then, as well authoring the best-selling biographies of Status Quo and John Peel, he has also contributed the extensive booklet notes for the recent lavish Led Zeppelin DVD; along with similar jobs for Motorhead's 5CD box-set on Sanctuary, Rhino's acclaimed 4CD Black Sabbath box-set in the US and, similarly, their 4CD Deep Purple collection.
Latterly, Wall has also become one of those talking heads that crops up regularly on various Channel Four Top 10 shows and the BBC's Liquid News, not to mention several satellite TV documentaries, from MTV's now infamous Behind The Music series to such televisual alco-pops as Sky One's Pop Stars Behaving Badly. More seriously, he was delighted to act as Consultant Editor on director Chris Wilson's excellent 2002 BBC1 documentary, When Rock Ruled The World; and again, when he appeared in his acclaimed 2003 follow-up, There's Only One Rolling Stones.
Aside from his various book projects, in 2004 Wall accepted an invitation to write full-time again for Mojo, contributing acclaimed articles on Thin Lizzy singer Philip Lynott and Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. In 2006, however, he was invited back to Classic Rock magazine, where as well as reviews and features he now contributes a monthly column, titled War Stories, and writes and presents the official weekly Classic Rock radio show on the Rock Radio network - which can be found on the internet at www.rockradio.co.uk
In 2007, he published W.A.R. - The Unauthorized Biography of W. Axl Rose, editions of which have subsequently appeared in America, Australia, Japan and many other countries around the world. His latest book, however, and the one he is currently most proud of is When Giants Walk The Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin.
Mick Wall continues to write for numerous newspapers and magazines around the world, including The Times, The Mail On Sunday, Music Week, Guitar World, Metal Hammer and many others. He is also a contributor to the BBC World Service arts-programme The Strand. He currently writes and presents the weekly Classic Rock Magazine show on Rock Radio, broadcast every Sunday in the UK from 2pm - 5pm
The rest of the time he tries to live as quietly as possible with his wife and three small children in Oxfordshire.
Mick Wall, London, July 2009
Mick Wall’s Timeline
1977 - 78
Small-time freelance contributor to the weekly music paper, Sounds, writing about bands few if any people have or will ever have heard of, and being told off for writing, in the words of editor Alan Lewis, “like an ex-NME writer.”
1978 - 79
Still getting nowhere reviewing shite bands no-one has ever heard of but also now working for Step Forwards Records working with such 'punk legends' as The Cortinas, Chelsea, Alternative TV, The Police, The Fall and loads of others. Only allowed the rubbish, though, like poor old Chelsea, who I actually thought were quite good.
1979 - 80
Working for - then quickly promoted to partner in - independent PR company Heavy Publicity. The company specialises in hard rock and heavy metal bands like Wild Horses, Journey, REO Speedwagon, Dire Straits, Black Sabbath and others. First proper job and insight into the actual music business. Sex and drugs and rock'n'roll.
1980 - 81
Disillusioned with music biz, man, now working as dishwasher in 'posh' burger bar Crusts, in Ealing, where nobody knows me and life is very easy on £10-a-night and all the beer you can drink. Eventually crack and go back to freelancing for Sounds, this time writing actual features.
1981 - 82
Tempted by the prospect of an expense account and car, which I haven't learned to drive and never will but which looks nice parked outside, I return to full-time employment as a PR for Virgin Records, working with Gillan, Human League, Japan and a ton of others I can no longer remember.
1982 - 83
Sacked from Virgin for 'wayward behaviour' after taking unplanned - and unannounced - six-week 'hiatus' in order to 'get my head together', return once again to freelance writing, this time for Flexipop magazine, covering top stars of the day like Dollar, Bucks Fizz, Duran Duran and other history-makers. Manage to combine new career path with bouts of dishwashing, furniture removing and general layabouting.
1983 - 91
Finally find a long-term home at Kerrang! where I rule the rocking world for the next eight years. In this time I also start to present my own weekly TV show for the fledgling Sky, called the Monsters Of Rock Show, write my first books, do my first radio shows, get my first proper newspaper stories published, and make myself a new home in Los Angeles where I briefly become Big In America.
1992 - 93
Disastrous spell at early version of Metal Hammer, where the company is being run by thieves and vagabonds. Eventually manage to get away to work for...
1993 - 95
... RAW magazine, where I am roundly loathed by all the staff (bar the editor, my old mucker Jon Hotten) for daring to write stories that help the magazine sell enough copies to keep them all in jobs. They are all music fans and think they are somehow in the music business. They are not. They are in the magazine business - just.
1995 - 96
Back working in PR for Rock Hard PR and Work Hard PR - two names for the same company. A good time had by Wall doing his best for Yes, Motorhead, Fu Manchu, Steve Earle, The Band, Willie Nelson and many others.
1996 - 98
Back writing yet again, this time for a succession of one-shots (all the rage in the mid-90s before the 2.0 internet kicked in) including stuff on the Spice Girls, Prince Edward's marriage, Phones 4U or whatever the fuck they're called, and suchlike. Also get to do some football writing.
1998 - 2004
Editor from second issue onwards of Classic Rock magazine, working with some of the old music enthusiasts from RAW, some old warhorses from Metal Hammer and Kerrang! and one or two largely clueless newcomers. It is uphill all the way trying to turn this would-be fanzine into a monthly magazine of merit, but we get there in the end. I leave before I kill someone. Or myself.
2004 - 06
Writing for Mojo. Great joy. While it lasted. Unfortunately, mistaken belief that I had never heard of the Beatles (or Dylan or the Stones or anyone else outside the worlds of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest) mean I am never quite in that thing they call 'the loop'. Eventually decide, fuck this.
2006 - present day
Return to writing for Classic Rock. Like coming home. Especially as my successor, Scott Rowley, and old mate-stroke-new-publisher, Chris Ingham, make me feel most welcome. Good to be back, all living happily ever after. Now better known as a best-selling author, low-rent journalist, obscure radio presenter, TV scrounger, website whore and overweight four-eyed father of three. Or as The Guardian, The Times and the Daily Telegraph all recently and variously described me: 'road-hardened'; 'veteran rock writer'; and, my favourite, 'legendary, lived-it, done-it, rock scribe'. May yet return to dishwashing, however...
© Mick Wall 2006-2009 | All rights reserved | Contact Mick Wall at email@example.com