Hey guys, it's time, as promised, for the first ever book review on The Sault Metal Scene, as I take a look at "Castle Stories: A Rock N' Roll Scrapbook", the first book by Wawa author (and metalhead) Duane Roy! Released in November 2009 through Alloway's Printing & Publishing, it's available to purchase at Hole In The Wall Books at The Wellington Square Mall, which is branched off from The Rad Zone, so you won't have to look far! This is the only local retailer that stocks the book. Online, you can buy it through PayPal at this location for $25 ($28 American), or if you don't have PayPal, try e-mailing Duane himself and see if that will work! The book is 294 pages long, and is all about concert memories, reflections, memorabilia, and stories from concerts that took place at Castle Farms, the fondly regarded castle-themed concert venue in Charlevoix, Michigan, which housed concerts of many different genres from 1976-1996. Now reserved typically for weddings and special events and expos, Castle Farms' unique castle motif and atmosphere helped it stand out in it's heyday, and the amount of major bands that came through there led to Castle Farms becoming a hotspot for music fans in Northern Michigan, especially a good number from the Upper Peninsula and Northern Ontario!
I'm not experienced in literary criticism, aside from book reports at school, so if something seems wrong or mistyped, my apologies! In my review, I'll try not to say too much about individual stories, because there aren't mine, these are Duane's, I don't want to pretend like I was at these shows (though it would have been nice!) I'll recap and outline things and hopefully, will convince you to buy it, because it really is worth reading!
"Castle Stories" begins with a warning for the easily offended (don't expect the stories to be "straight edge, so to speak), and an introduction on why Duane decided to write about his Castle Farms concert experiences. The answer to that question is, well, did you see any shows there? He outlines how, back in the late 1980s, he and his buddies would hear about a major show at Castle Farms, acquire money and tickets, and then make the 5 hour journey from Wawa to Charlevoix. It's in the introduction where Duane first references Sault Ste. Marie, as on concert trips, he and his party had to go through Sault Ontario, across the International Bridge, and then make it across the American border, where he invariably got hauled in once they heard he was going to Castle Farms. Luckily, he was never stopped from going, and made it to Charlevoix (after a standard taco break in Petoskey) to rock out with some great bands! The introduction also outlines a lot of the details of his trips that are expanded on in later chapters.
The first half of the book outlines the stories and memories Duane has from the 10 Castle Farms concerts he attended, between July 1987 and July 1990. His first story, and Castle concert, was Whitesnake, Anthrax, and Autograph on July 28, 1987, when he was a 16 year old Whitesnake fan (particularly of their first few bluesier albums), and when he heard Whitesnake would be in Charlevoix, he did what many full drivers license-less kids would do: Beg his mom to take him, as she did for the Ted Nugent show at Sault Memorial Gardens in 1986! So Duane outlines his trip with his mom in a rental car to Charlevoix, where after an hours long wait, he saw all three bands, highly praising the whole lineup! Among such notable details: A notable spat of car-related violence post-concert, an incredible drum solo from Tommy Aldridge, and his hours long search pre-concert to meet David Coverdale, or anyone from the bands, with no luck. His awe at his first show there is evident, and when he promised at the end to write this stuff down, he made good!
Second was his story of seeing AC/DC and White Lion there on May 29th, 1988, a show which he praised highly, just not the events before and after it. This time, he took a chartered tour bus from Wawa for the concert, which included his first use of fake I.D. to buy alcohol, and a huge traffic jam that threatened to make them late. He liked White Lion and highly praised AC/DC, and lots more interesting happenings occured here, including the absence of one AC/DC member, what one drunken couple decided to do mid-concert, and a confrontation with a drunken guy who wanted to pick a fight with Duane and his buddies. But the concert takes a backseat to what happened when they tried to get back to their tour bus. I won't spoil what happens, but it's unfortunate, and it keeps you reading! Also keep watch for a story from Wawa comedian Pete Zedlacher in this chapter! July 18th of that year was his next Charlevoix show, as he went to see Whitesnake again, this time with Great White as support. This time, hopping a ride with his friends' dad, they had a smoother ride there, aside from a muffler repair job in Sault Ontario. More focus on the music here, as he positively reviews the involved bands, especially Whitesnake, who I think he rated even higher than the first show! Duane and his friends were also introduced to cigars and a pretty girl during the course of this trip, not saying what happened though!
August 18th, 1988 was his next Castle show, as he went to see Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth do his solo show on August 18th, 1988, in the middle of a heavy rain. Poison played support, and Duane was luck enough to score Bret Michaels' autograph before their set! He talked of how the rain impacted Steve Vai's guitar playing, what happened when David couldn't get a light for his cigarette, and how they slept post-concert, and of course, the music! He gave noticeable praise to both bands, as did a very special guest who submitted a funny story about how he ripped his pants at the concert! Following this was his tale of seeing Judas Priest and Cinderella there just 5 days later! He recalls a story about hitting a "sacred tree stump", how he ended up wearing 6 t-shirts at once, and what having "the world record of hangovers" felt like! He doesn't speak too positively for Cinderella for his reaction then, but he glowingly remembers Judas Priest's set and all their memorable songs!
5 days after the Judas Priest show, Duane saw The Scorpions and Kingdom Come in his last show there of the year, with a surprisingly small crowd. He liked Kingdom Come, despite what many percieved as a Led Zeppelin ripoff, and then gave extremely high recollections of The Scorpions' set, particularly for "Still Loving You", though he noted that they sounded about as you'd expect from albums. However, this takes a secondary focus of the chapter as much of it revolves around a post-concert alcohol fueled encounter between Duane, his two friends, and three girls. Not saying what happens, but it's very interesting to read, and not G-rated! Next was his first show of 1989, when he saw Poison and Tesla on May 21st of that year. Among happenings on this concert trip: What happens when a girlfriend is added into the gang for the concert, what other girls would do to get backstage, and a guy spotted walking in traffic. Duane praised Tesla greatly, but didn't enjoy Poison nearly as much, mostly for what he perceived as the over-indulgent guitar playing from C.C. DeVille, though he did really enjoy their performance of "Every Rose Has It's Thorn"!
July 7th, 1989, probably has the best overall story of the book, as Duane recalls going to see Ozzy Osbourne, White Lion, and Vixen! This show actually has a small personal connection, as my Uncle Dan went to this show, he still has a white Ozzy shirt with him crucified & being tormented by demons (if I remember correctly) tacked up on the wall in his old house! Back to Duane's stories, the chapter details how, in exploring Charlevoix, Duane not only got to meet Ozzy's roadie and go on his tour bus, he also got to meet Randy Castillo, Zakk Wylde, and...Ozzy Osbourne himself! There's even pictures of him with Zakk and Ozzy in the book, one of which is on your right! The sheer awe and amazement is still prevalent even 21 years later! A story is also included in this chapter from Vixen drummer Roxy Petrucci about something creepy she saw in her hotel room! As for the concert, he liked Vixen, thought White Lion were lackluster, and he especially enjoyed Ozzy's set, as I'm sure everyone there did too! This is my favourite of Duane's stories, and you can tell he had a blast just recalling that day again!
August 23rd of that year gave us his penultimate Castle story, as he went to see Bon Jovi and Skid Row! He talked of the amazingly high amount of girls there, the huge video screens erected for the show, how Duane was mistook for a roadie, and how he ended up having a female schoolmate sitting on his shoulders! Pete Zedlacher contributes a story here also talking of a bit of a cocky remark from Jon Bon Jovi that got some boos. Duane loved Bon Jovi and Skid Row's sets, making sure to particularly praise fellow Canadian Sebastian Bach as well! Chapter 10 outlines Duane's final Castle Farms show, which saw Aerosmith and The Black Crowes take the stage on July 6, 199o! Before that though, Duane spent a paragraph talking about seeing Alice Cooper and Great White at Sault Memorial Gardens on New Year's Day, 1990. Foreshadowing to his next book, possibly? 1990 was a slower concert year, with a smaller attendance for Aerosmith, though he loved the whole show, especially when they played "Dream On"! Also of note here: A story from his friend Jenny about getting knocked over during the concert, and a guy with a deodorant deficiency at the show. Little did Duane know this would be his last show there, but his run sure ended on a high note!
After this, we come to "Your Stories", where Duane hands control of the storytelling to others, as they share their stories! Duane searched for a while to find the best Castle stories, wading through the various "Dude The Castle RULED" stories to come up with some really good tales! Sault Ontario's own Suzanne Fillion submitted a story about seeing John Mellencamp in August 1982 (as support for Heart), and getting to meet him at a McDonalds the afternoon before the show! Jill Kendall submitted a story about meeting Bob Seger at a Foghat show in 1984, and just what exactly she did to get a chance to meet him...buy the book and find out! She also has a short reflection on the Loverboy/Quiet Riot show with lots of pictures. Another Saultite, Susan Just Jakomit, submitted numerous professional photos from some Castle shows in 1979-80, as well as photos of the venue and Charlevoix!
Also included are stories from Castle Farms master chef David Phillips, who detailed some of the fancy custom food items he made for bands who played there, including Alice Cooper and Poison! Some cool stuff he made for them, as well as offering a list of the vast majority of bands that played there...amazing what kind of bands they pulled in, I'd have killed to have seen Metallica there in 1992 if I was older! Kim Reibel, daughter of Castle Farms' old owners, talked about her sister's dog and Heart meeting, and offered numerous photos and newspaper clippings concerning Castle Farms and related concerts. The last stories come from Rock 101 DJ Scott Cook, who reflected on the Whitesnake/Autograph and AC/DC/White Lion shows, as well as going to see Def Leppard in 1996 at the last major hard rock show there, and the post-concert afterparty! Duane closes this section with a short history section about Castle Farms, detailing it's birth in 1918 as a livestock/machinery showcase, and how it evolved into a legendary concert spot, plus it's current status!
The book closes with concert memorabilia, beginning with many pages of old ticket stubs, some dating back to 1978! Amazing some of the bands that were there...Iron Maiden, Blue Oyster Cult, the list goes on! Too bad it dried up to mostly country and reggae by the mid-90s! A section of live bootleg recordings is given next, including the covers and track listings for Alice Cooper and Metallica's shows there, followed by assorted pics of Castle Farms, shows, and concertgoers! A memorabilia section is next, featuring concert t-shirts, guitar picks, backstage passes, autographs, and more! Great to look at these, makes me jealous that I was born in 1989, not 1969! Before getting to thanks and acknowledgements, the book closes with an afterword that, I'll just say, is a fitting capper to the book. Why spoil the ending? Buy it, read it, and find out for yourself!
Overall, I found "Castle Stories" to be an extremely interesting read that effectively details the life of a teenage metalhead and his adventures in going to see these concerts! This is one of those books that is perfect to pick up, flip to any page, and still be engaged because it's not a constant narrative. That's what I've done for the last few months when school prevented me from sitting down to read it cover to cover. Duane might not have been there for the entire run of Castle Farms shows, but he's the absolute perfect guy to tell the stories of the ones he saw! He remembers them all with great detail, and he had some great adventures to and from the shows that add to the experience! He writes with clarity and he doesn't resort to "rocker speak" to accentuate anything (i.e. "WOOOO THAT WAS AWESOME") No, his appreciation and enjoyment is clear without doing that! The stories submitted by guests are all good too, you can tell he picked the best of the best, though some shows aren't mentioned that would have been cool to see reflections on, like Metallica from 1992 or Iron Maiden from 1985. But that's not Duane's fault, he only had what people sent him.
My biggest complaint about "Castle Stories" is the photographs. Not the lack of them or the ones that were chosen (there's a great selection), just the quality of them all is disappointing. In the printing process, they all turned out small and grainy, I don't think they do justice to what they really look like. Duane's Facebook group for fans of Castle Farms has many of these pictures in large clear quality, so click here to check them out too! But in terms of what is written, this book has very little wrong, it's a really exciting book that can transport you back to when you read newspapers and called hotlines for concert updates, and hopped in a beat up truck, popped a tape in, and rocked out all the way there! I imagine this book will play better with those of you who went to Castle Farms for a show, but even if you didn't, this is a worthwile document that will open your eyes to some of the great concerts that happened just 2 hours from here for so long! Oh how I wish I could have been at some of them, hopefully you'll have the same reaction. BUY CASTLE STORIES TODAY!!
So there's my review of "Castle Stories", once again, my apologies to Duane for taking so long to review it. School can be a pain sometimes! As you guys probably know, his next book will be about concerts at Sault Memorial Gardens with a likely similar format, look out for that later this year! I can't wait for it, hopefully you guys are anticipating it too! Tomorrow, I'll have my review of TONIGHT'S Lion Ride/Sense of Truth show, so keep your eyes peeled for that! Hope to see you guys at The Canadian tonight, it'll be a good one!