Home News Book Review: Louder Than Words – Beyond the Backstage Pass by JOE MATERA

Book Review: Louder Than Words – Beyond the Backstage Pass by JOE MATERA

17 min read

Reading a Joe Matera book is like looking through a musical peephole where you are drawn into his world and that of your favourite musicians and artists. You feel an instant kinship as his words just speak to you. I couldn’t wait to get stuck into his second book ‘Louder Than Words – Beyond the Backstage Pass’ after thoroughly enjoying his first offering, ‘Backstage Pass – The Grit and the Glamour’.  It’s a joy to devour the tales of triumph and woe, the hard slog of touring and the inevitable clashes of personalities, not just between band members but also within the background hustle of the music industry. Whilst many focus on the glamour and shine of the industry, Matera’s books provide a great insight and education for anyone covering the realistic workings of the music industry.  With a Foreword written by the incomparable Bryan Adams, this was sure to be another enjoyable and juicy read.

Matera begins by opening his personal diary and delving further into his own musical journey.  With a career spanning many decades, it started with his passion for the guitar and the countless bands that he listens to, sees in concert and, in many cases, gets to interview as the years roll by. We, music fiends, get it and when moving from chapter to chapter, it’s an enthralling read, with numerous stories that keep you glued to each page. I have so many favourite moments from Matera’s global touring adventures, I can’t cover them all. I can only encourage you to buy your own book.

Travelling through Europe, Matera visited many small towns that artists don’t get to.  He makes you realise how fortunate big-city folk are with all the wonderful concerts we have access to.  The fans in small towns, although welcoming and hungry for gigs, miss out for many different reasons. This made me think of all the gigs I would never have seen if I was living somewhere more isolated. I just couldn’t imagine it.  It was lovely to read Matera’s account of touring ventures where the appreciation was on a more personal level.

When it comes to the stories artists tell between songs whilst performing, or in interviews, Matera’s book doesn’t disappoint. There are numerous tales from members of The Animals, The Doobie Brothers, America, Foreigner, 10CC, Kiss, the enigmatic Brian Wilson, along with many more. I can’t narrow down which are my favourites.  Just like reading Matera’s first book, I had my own personal connection to many of the stories by either being at the same gigs or one from the same tour but in a different city.  After reading Matera’s account of the Kiss Konvention in Melbourne a few years ago, I reflected on being there to meet my favourite drummer, Peter Criss.  We must’ve just missed Matera’s performance by a whisker due to standing in the long lines for autographs and photos.  Matera reminded me how genuinely charming and appreciative the Catman was when we finally got to meet him.  It brought a big smile to my face as he was a real sweetheart.

Matera then moves into the more modern day stories of bands formed around the turn of the century.  Although my musical taste tends to lean older, I enjoyed learning more about bands that I had heard of but never really listened to as I stopped listening to the radio quite a few years ago. The highs, but mainly lows, of how most bands didn’t make it is always a shame. I would prefer to hear the positive outcomes of younger musicians but, nevertheless, I relished reading about their youthful escapades during their tours and time in the studio. These are still stepping stones into the industry, a level that many don’t get to, and at least it’s something to have been a part of in this whirlwind life of music.

This leads into an in-depth story about the wonderfully unique rock legend, Billy Squier, who rose to fame and was then chewed up by the MTV era of the 80’s. I hadn’t read about this heartbreaking situation before, but again, it’s a realistic depiction of what can happen to your career even though you haven’t really done anything utterly unforgiveable. I really felt for Squier so I decided to have a look at the controversial ‘Rock Me Tonite’ music video to determine why it caused such a furore.  In the context of 80’s music videos, surely it was not something that should ruin a career? Matera covers this so well.  It’s as if you are sitting on his shoulders as an invisible observer, watching and listening to each and every artist who has contributed to these stories.

From Squier, it’s over to Abba. I love the different styles of artists that are mentioned in Matera’s books. Most music obsessives listen to anything and everything, as long as it connects with us, and we all know how much of an impact Abba has had on the musical landscape of Australia and around the world. This chapter is a jam-packed focus on Sweden and covers Abba’s success, that of their musical colleagues Roxette, Ace of Base and iconic Swedish guitarist, Janne Schaffer, among others. Matera outlines his links to the country over the decades, with his own music being produced in Sweden and his tours there. There are fascinating chains that tie artists together and that come about so organically. And just like that, as I’m watching MTV 80’s whilst writing this, Roxette’s ‘The Look’ has just begun. Talk about musical synchronicity!

Now we move onto another favourite story of mine, the brilliant Moody Blues and Matera’s interview with one of the voices of multiple eras, Justin Hayward. It’s musical heaven as Matera recollects this interview where Hayward looks back to their renewed 80’s success with much fondness. I remember how obsessed I was with my 45’s of The Moodies‘ ethereal and dreamy songs, ‘Wildest Dreams’ and ‘I Know You’re Out There Somewhere’.  This is what started me venturing back and listening to the old Moodies tracks, as well as discovering Hayward’s sublime vocals on the glorious ‘War of the World’s’ song ‘Forever Autumn’, which created this deep love affair. Such great memories are brought back to life while reading Matera’s book, I also recall seeing The Moody Blues and Justin Hayward solo on separate tours in Sydney. How lucky that we had the chance to live during this lifetime of musical richness.

This journey of Matera’s continues with a great chapter on The Korgis. Their hit ‘Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime’ is known far and wide. I then see the words ‘Baker Street’ and I can’t believe another song that I was obsessed with is discussed in this book! I heard that Gerry Rafferty song, with the swarthy sax, on the radio too, but sometime in the 80’s, and it was on my own list of ‘I have to buy this one day’, which I did as a teenager but on CD. Another enthralling story, and Matera just keeps me hooked as he goes into detail on these ‘City to City’ album recording sessions, with input from multiple musicians who were a part of this brilliant record, along with Rafferty. Matera then continues Rafferty’s story with a deep dive into his career post ‘Baker Street’ until we unfortunately get to Rafferty’s way too early death in 2011. From here it’s the final chapter where singer/songwriter/musician extraordinaire Bryan Adams is the focus as Matera’s continued enthusiasm and passion still jumps off the page. Covering his own love for Adams’ music, and then detailing Adams’ very long and acclaimed career, is a great way to end Matera’s wonderful second book as it leaves you on this musical high. I’m already thinking about what other stories Matera may have up his sleeve for a third offering.

The details in Matera’s books are fantastic! The background information of the artists, their songs and how they work, and what makes them tick, is always an inspiring read. To have some of your favourites featured within the book brought an extra sparkle for me. To learn more about certain people, and the path they took to create these musical masterpieces, is always a joy to read, even when the tale doesn’t always end on a positive note as most careers, especially in the music business, can’t stay at the top forever. This has been another fascinating and unforgettable written journey in the interwoven life of Matera’s musical passage from music-obsessed kid to music-obsessed adult and reflects the emotions and passion that binds us music lovers together.  It’s a book that belongs in every music lover’s library.

Follow Joe Matera HERE

© 2024 MARINA KNEZEVIC – All Rights Reserved

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