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  1. #1
    Hang 'Em High Reckless Fable's Avatar
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    11.28.17 @ 10:56 AM
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    Default Book Review: "Edward Van Halen: A Definitive Biography," by Kevin Dodds

    This is my personal review of this book.

    ------------------


    Edward Van Halen: A Definitive Biography, by Kevin Dodds, is an attempt to chronicle the life and times of one most influential guitar players in modern history. The result is a disjointed and crowded collection of anecdotes, interviews and videos, interwoven with sporadic first hand accounts of the author’s experience with the band as a fan. As a huge fan of Eddie Van Halen who makes no apology of his preference for the first incarnation of the band with David Lee Roth, Dodds’ narrative too often veers into the tedious and endless Dave era versus Sam era argument.

    The Bad:

    Hagar Hatred: Dodds makes no bones for his distaste of Sammy Hagar. He begrudgingly admits the continued success the band had post-Dave, but produces long, back-handed diatribes primarily targeting Sammy’s lyrics. The author even admits that he stopped listening the band in the latter part of the Hagar years. While the opinion is certainly a subjective one that anyone is entitled to have, his portrayal of those years as a biographer is so overwhelmingly focused on this that it is was like dumping a pound of pepper in the middle of a cioppino stew. The analogy is entirely one-sided, as from his perspective, Hagar’s lyrics killed Eddie’s music, while Dave’s bluegrass forey, which has been ripped to shreds by many other fans, was simply Dave keeping the VH brand alive. Very biased and shallow.

    Minimalizing Michael Anthony: Given the tone and tenor established during his take on the Sam years, it was predictable that he would gloss over Michael Anthony’s contributions. Again, another subjective opinion, but as a biographer, very little attention was paid to the motivations of why Edward would replace the most personally approachable and easy to get along with member of the group after 30 years and with his son. In describing VH’s first show with Anthony, “They were simply firing on all cylinders. Wolfgang’s performance was at a level where no one should have missed Michael Anthony at all.” That's an outright falsehood: lots of people did miss Michael Anthony and this assumption was a lazy, broad-based conclusion that gives the reader little insight into what was actually happening at the time.

    Editor: A good editor was sorely lacking. At 420 pages, this book is far too long. Rather than embracing clarity, much of that narrative was lost in meandering obfuscation. The biggest sins were unedited transcriptions of interviews and YouTube videos that provided nothing to the overall narrative (I found myself skimming or skipping long segments). There are also a lot of cringe-inducing, forced adjectives and metaphors than come across clunky at best and cliché-ridden at worse. Another set of eyes would have really improved this work.

    The Good:

    Dodd was faced with an enormous challenge: building a story about the band without any first-hand source material whose subject is a legendary recluse. Almost everything came from 3rd hand sources. It was a valiant effort to collect much of these sources in a central place for future reference, especially given the Eddie and the band’s recent attempts at rewriting or covering up the past.

    The book had two powerful personal moments. One was the revelation of Dodds’ own struggle with alcoholism in relating to Eddie Van Halen’s substance abuse issues. I found it very emotionally touching as well as insightful. The other was a personal anecdote of his brother, who was also a huge Van Halen fan, who got to meet Eddie in person. Tragically, his brother died shortly after that chance encounter. It was a haunting depiction or something truly horrific and deeply personal.

    Passion: no one is going to question the impact Eddie Van Halen has made on Dodds' life. The passion comes through loud and clear and, regardless of his personal views, it is was enjoyable to read the childlike wonder Van Halen produces for him even as an adult.

    Conclusion:

    A great biography is written not just as a chronology of facts and stories, but one that finds a clear narrative about the subject that takes the reader beyond the surface. In understanding Edward Van Halen, one must not only gain insight from the self-made musical genius who rewrote the rules for rock music beginning in 1977, but also the deep insecurities, severe substance abuse and self-destructive tendencies that were intertwined by his overwhelming generosity, love for his family and his seemingly shy and demure expression away from the spotlight. While the anecdotes and stories are there, Dodds ultimately whiffs in trying to connect all the dots into a clear narrative that helps us to understand this compelling, yet classically tragic figure.

    2 out of 5 stars

  2. #2
    Atomic Punk CaboChris's Avatar
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    12.09.17 @ 12:23 AM
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    Default

    Good review RF. Thanks for taking the time and your opinion.

  3. #3
    Atomic Punk
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    Love 'em all! (esp. F.U.C.K)
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    12.04.17 @ 04:15 PM
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    Default

    Yes, thankyou, RF.

    Unfortunately, the reported 'anti-Sam' stance does put me off a wee bit, especially the tired old "cheesy lyrics" argument.

    Naturally, Kevin's own personal views of the lead singers are going to be implicit in the narrative but, I just believe that a biography needs to adopt a more balanced and impartial perspective if it's to give a true and accurate rendition of events. And, to be honest, if I invest in a text marketed as a 'biography', then that's the kind of approach I'm after.

    Plus, I admit that I am more of a Sammy Gal than a Rothette - and, although I'm fully aware of Sam's failings, I don't really want to read a book that just perpetually bashes him all the way through - so, I'd have to think carefully before making a purchase, I'm afraid.

    I will look forward to others' reviews and see if they can persuade me to change my mind!
    I'm FEMALE...Deal with it!

    "Whatever you do, wherever you go, there you are..." Edward Van Halen 1986

    "You spend the first part of your life trying to make your mark, and the second part just trying to cover up your tracks"... Weesfreewheelin, 2012

    "Life's too short to stuff a mushroom"... Shirley Conran, 1975

    "You turn if you want to...The LADY is NOT for turning!"...Margaret
    Thatcher, 1980


  4. #4
    Eruption
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    12.10.17 @ 05:23 PM
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    Default

    Very helpful! Thanks for posting the review.

  5. #5
    Sinner's Swing! AJW's Avatar
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    12.06.17 @ 03:05 PM
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    Default

    I disagree. 4 out of 5 stars.

  6. #6
    5150
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    02.26.13 @ 07:34 PM
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    Default

    I was actually just about to order my copy.

    I look forward to seeing it for myself.

    RF,

    What did you think of "Everybody Wants Some?"

  7. #7
    Good Enough JakeK21's Avatar
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    10.26.15 @ 12:38 PM
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by FredSavage View Post
    I was actually just about to order my copy.

    I look forward to seeing it for myself.

    RF,

    What did you think of "Everybody Wants Some?"
    I know I'm not RF, but I think "Everybody Wants Some" is a good read for a description of the band's entire career. It's not really biased, but I can't help but feel there is a little bit of jabbing at the Hagar-era, but all-in-all I enjoyed it.

  8. #8
    Forum Frontman It's Mike's Avatar
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    12.10.17 @ 05:36 PM
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    Default

    I got me a feeling that Kevin won't post a link to his review in this sig.

    The quote on Wolfie is something special. I'm one of his bigger backers in this place and I couldn't say that without laughing.
    Last edited by It's Mike; 11.27.11 at 05:21 PM.

  9. #9
    Eruption lmr5150's Avatar
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    08.06.17 @ 05:19 PM
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    Default

    I should be getting my book in the next week or so. I am anxious to read it. I think it will be good. However, I am not sure that there can ever be a definitive autobiography without cooperation from Eddie, or at least a lot of people close to him willing to go on the record. Otherwise, it is a rehash/collection of information already in the public domain - not that it's a bad thing.

  10. #10
    Baluchitherium
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    11.25.17 @ 04:30 AM
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AJW View Post
    I disagree. 4 out of 5 stars.
    Why do you think this book is worthy of a 4?

    "The shit I read on this site." -- Dave's Dreidel (Nov 6th, 2013)

    "Don't ever confuse talent with fame." -- Bob Lefsetz

    "There's very little greatness in this world, but in the crucible of quality there's a special corner reserved for Van Halen." -- Bob Lefsetz

  11. #11
    Emperor of VHLinks.com Brett's Avatar
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    12.10.17 @ 05:42 PM
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    Default

    So basically it reads like all of Kevin's posts here. Wow, I don't think I can take 420 pages of that. A little objectivity would probably make for a better read..but to each his own. Well within his right to say whatever he wants, just not something that would interest me. I've gotten my fill of "Sam's shitty lyrics" and "Dave vs. Sam" here for 12 years...so I'm done with that. Thanks for the review RF...at least gives a good idea what the book is like. I applaud Kevin's effort and time it probably took to write it. Not an easy thing to do. Van Halen is obviously a very personal thing to him and that's cool.

    I think it's also very hard to write a bio on Ed without being able to talk to him and his family.

    In Kevin's defense, I doubt I could sit and write 420 pages on Van Halen, and I was a journalism major. LOL.
    Webmaster
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  12. #12
    Good Enough Kevin Dodds's Avatar
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    09.15.17 @ 08:03 AM
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    Default

    Hey all -- as I expected, the harshest treatment would come from the biggest fans, and I know that completely goes with the territory. I did this -- and I put myself out there for the compliments as well as the criticism. The plus and the minus -- it is what it is. I don't want to piss anyone off, I figure this should be a place to celebrate Van Halen. I totally understand that following Van Halen can be maddening, for sure. I am new to the whole message board thing as you can tell, so having been accused of giving Edward a "blow job" was a little shocking to me, but I suppose it shouldn't have been.

    I apologize to anyone that feels my assessments of Sammy Hagar's contributions to Van Halen's music has been underplayed and maligned. I saw VH with Sammy no less than four times when I was teenager in the 80s and in '92. Twenty years on, I have ended up prefering classic Van Halen to the Hagar era without apology. The whole Sam versus Dave (very tired, I know) -- that actually plays into Edward's life quite a bit. It would've been not so accurate to not chronicle Ed's career and his life relative to his professional interaction with those two.

    I'm just a lifelong fan of Edward's that decided to give a go a trying to capture his entire life in one single, cohesive text. And I have been following the guy forever. This is a picture of me on the left when I was 12 in the fall of 7th grade in 1984.



    That other guitar player and I still play guitar together in bands to this day because of the July 1984 concert we saw in Houston. We wanted to play guitar like Edward. We didn't want to sing lead like Dave or Sammy, we didn't want to play drums like Alex, we didn't want to play bass like Michael. We wanted to play guitar -- like Edward. So I naturally followed him.

    My brother worshipped Sammy Hagar. The greatest day of his life was meeting Eddie and Sammy in 1992.



    My brother was a huge influence in my life and in bringing VH to our family. He died about five years after this picture was taken, so all of this VH/EVH/Sammy stuff means a hell of a lot to me. (That's my brother's widow on the right.)

    Again, apologies to the Hagar fans and loyalists, I just prefer the VH sound with Dave on vocals. And I don't think that's any huge crime against humanity in the grand scheme of things.

    And to be fair -- there are parts of the book where I feel like I am absolutely brutal to Ed, almost moreso than anyone has really written so far. But you'll have to be the judge of that. Greg Dwyer, who interviewed Eddie six times, told me he thought I "kept it real" even though it was evident how much I admired him. I appreciated that.

    I just hope some of you guys enjoy it as just a cool read on the man, that's about it. I don't expect it to change anyone's life or opinion, and I sure hope it doesn't make anyone too mad either.

    Peace to all VH fans, period.

    KBD3

    PS. I performed "A.F.U." at my 11th grade talent show.

    PSS. Check out my son when he was 4 rocking out to "Unchained":

    PSSS. And here he is playing "Jump" a few months ago:
    Last edited by Kevin Dodds; 11.27.11 at 06:09 PM.
    Author of Edward Van Halen: A Definitive Biography. Available on The Official Van Halen Store website (*preferred seller*), Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, eBookShop.com, and iUniverse.com.

    Official Van Halen Store link: http://www.vanhalenstore.com/page/VH/PROD/B60

    VHND article: "Edward Van Halen: A Definitive Biography" Is a Must-Read http://www.vhnd.com/2011/11/10/edwar...s-a-must-read/

    “I’m very excited, you know, to be makin’ music with my son, my brother, my new brother [Dave]… It’s, it’s the shit. That’s all I can say.”—Edward Van Halen, August 2007

    Edward Van Halen: A Definitive Biography Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Edw...61217513921920

    VHLinks forum topic thread : http://www.vhlinks.com/vbforums/book...rd-t53329.html

  13. #13
    Summer Nights in Cabo SNIC's Avatar
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    10.19.17 @ 06:44 PM
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    With books and movies, I always have to read/see them for myself. Been too many times that I have listened to critics who felt one way about things, and then I experience it for myself and feel the total opposite.
    Last edited by SNIC; 11.27.11 at 06:20 PM.
    Artists I Have Seen: 1D, 38 Special, Aerosmith, Alabama, Bad Company, Bad English, Billy Squire, Bob Seger, Bon Jovi, Boston, BTO, Cheap Trick, Chicago, Chickenfoot, Cinderella, Daughtry, Dave Matthews Band, Default, Def Leppard, Dio, Dokken, Drowning Pool, Eagles, Earth Wind & Fire, Eddie Money, Eric Clapton, Farenheit, Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner, Garth Brooks, George Strait, Glass Tiger, Heart, Huey Lewis and the News, Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffett, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Joe Bonamassa, John Mellencamp, Journey, Keel, Kingdom Come, Kings X, KISS, Kool and the Gang, Krokus, Lionel Richie, Little River Band, Lou Gramm, Loverboy, Los Lonely Boys, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Metallica, Michael Bolton, Nickelback, Night Ranger, Paul Stanley, Peter Frampton, Pink Floyd, Poison, Red Rider, REO Speedwagon, Santana, Sammy Hagar, Shinedown, Steely Dan, Steve Miller Band, Styx, Ted Nugent, Tesla, The 1975, The Black Crowes, The Roots, The Wallflowers, U2, Van Halen, Whitesnake, Zac Brown Band, ZZ Top

  14. #14
    Hot For Teacher OctobanAnimal's Avatar
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    01.28.12 @ 11:10 AM
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    I'm really looking forward to getting this book Kevin. Predictably, I think it will be more favorable to those who prefer the Dave era. Just like if somebody who is more of a Sam fan wrote more from that perspective, it wouldnt be as pleasing to those of us who think the Dave era superior.

  15. #15
    Sinner's Swing! AJW's Avatar
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    12.06.17 @ 03:05 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metal Marc View Post
    Why do you think this book is worthy of a 4?
    This is why.

    What Kevin said: "And to be fair -- there are parts of the book where I feel like I am absolutely brutal to Ed, almost moreso than anyone has really written so far. But you'll have to be the judge of that. Greg Dwyer, who interviewed Eddie six times, told me he thought I "kept it real" even though it was evident how much I admired him. I appreciated that."

    You will have to be the judge for yourself though dude. Everyone has their opinion. Have a good one.

 

 

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