By STEVE MASCORD
IF Jizzy Pearl’s life is one day made into a movie – as it well should – it will open in a dilapidated, smelly apartment. “Hollywood, 1995” the subtitle will read.
In a hallway, a decades-old payphone will suddenly ring. Inside a nearby abode of one-room squalor, lying face-down on a futon, the washed up rock star with bleach-blonde hair will stir and then groggily rise from his alcohol-induced haze, before removing the multiple locks on an ill-fitting door and stumbling into the hall.
“I answered the phone and it’s this guy named Bobby Rondinelli,” the protagonist, now 54-year-old Love/Hate singer Jizzy Pearl, will perhaps recall in a voice-over.
“It turns out Black Sabbath is looking for a singer and they’re trying to track me down. And I’m first thinking that someone’s fucking with me. ‘Sure, it’s Black Sabbath calling. Right’.
“Then, when I actually realised it was, they said ‘we’re interested in seeing you’ and it just happened we were playing England in the next month or so and so I had those guys agree to meet me at JBs in Dudley – Birmingham, which is where they’re all from.”
Pearl, who likens his band’s 1990 UK tour to being in the eye of Beatlemania, had four years later lost his record deal with Columbia, was estranged from some band-mates and had returned to the squalid apartment block he was living in before Love/Hate was signed.
The buzz and hype surrounding the release of Love/Hate’s debut, Blackout In The Redroom, was already a faded, almost sad, memory.
“I was like the Unabomber,” he says during our chat in the coffee shop at the SouthPoint casino in Las Vegas at lunchtime, mid-week, with slot machines tinkling gently in the background
“Having a big record deal, it goes to your head. It’s called rockstaritis. It went to my head. It went to everyone’s head.. you just think you can turn water into wine and when that doesn’t happen, you board up the house and you just have them slide the pizza under the door for a year or two…”
It would be wrong to say Pearl (real name James Wilkinson, from Chicago) symbolises the rise and fall of eighties hair metal better than any. That distinction, posthumusly, must go to Jani Lane.
But if we’re looking for survivors, then the Las Vegas resident who will bring a new version of Love/Hate to the UK in March is our best example.. Jizzy Pearl used to have a crucifix made of beercans as a stage prop, once tied himself to a cross in front of the Hollywood sign and has warbled some of the most celebrated cock rock anthems ever during stints in LA Guns and Ratt.
If you want to know about band feuds, binges, groupies, drugs, the collapse of the record business, financial and legal shenanigans, he’s the bloke to see. Others may have known more about those topics – but as he points out to me at one stage of our lengthy and animated conversation, many of them are now dead.
Jizzy Pearl was crucified … then resurrected.
THIS reporter interviewed Love/Hate on that 1990 UK tour, when their caustic mix of metal, punk and pub rock had them tagged not just as contenders but as Guns N’Roses-in-waiting.
Blackout In The Redroom remains a gem of the era, multiple rungs above the sappy, formulaic radio fare that made some of Jizzy’s contemporaries gazilionaires. Buckcherry frontman Josh Todd recently said in an interview: “For me that record is right up there with Back in Black and Appetite For Destruction.”
Back in 1990, I remember a riotous and compelling Marquee show, an after-party at the St Moritz Club, press days greased by liquor and the band calling me “Donny Osmond” because of my short hair and (apparently) cheesy smile.
The Jizzy Pearl I meet today at SouthPoint also has short hair but remains slim, witty and fiercely intelligent. When I ask him to describe what his life was like last time we met, he – somewhat surprisingly – answers that he can’t.
“It’s hard to describe what goes through someone’s head when they’re in that microcosm of having a record coming out, working your whole life, starving and having no recognition and no money and all of a sudden praise is being heaped on you by the truckload,” he says.
“You’ve made this brilliant record, every chick wants to bang you, everyone wants to buy you a beer – especially in the UK where we were initially very popular and to this day still have a loyal following.”
But Love/Hate, like many of the bands that emerged at the end of the eighties, couldn’t trap the genie in the bottle long enough for it to grant any more than one fleeting wish. To record their second album, Wasted In America, they moved their operation to New York, where they thought they had an ally in the record company.
As they shared a loft they dubbed the Soul House, the members – Jizzy, bassist Skid Rose, drummer Joey Gold and guitarist Jon E Love – over-indulged in vices they previously didn’t even know existed, while their bills steadily mounted. The album includes the quirky “Don’t Fuck With Me” and some other good moments, but bombed.
To this day, Pearl and his compadres believe the decision to release “Happy Hour” instead of “Miss America” as the debut single sealed their fate and left them plummeting back towards the crumby sidewalks from whence they came.
“The thing is, we did the first record … you’re the record company’s best friend and you’re their favourite and then when the second record comes around and maybe you didn’t sell millions of records, the leash starts to get slowly tightened,” says Pearl, dressed completely in black.
“ …tour support, record company advances, merchandise … the record company can give you a lot but then they expect a return.
“When you don’t give them the return, then they start to question the validity of giving you all this money. This happens with every band. When the Wasted record came out, we had it in our head that one of our songs could be a big radio hit and we never got to know whether it did or not because one of our guys at the company chose this obscure song called “Happy Hour” to be the lead-off single.
“The record company isn’t going to say ‘I fucked up’. They’re going to say ‘you fucked up, how dare you have written that weird song?’. So, we were all set for a UK push for the song that we really wanted, called “Miss America” and they pulled the plug on the project. We’ll never know what might have happened.”
In his self-penning history of the band, written for the Love/Hate website, Jizzy describes his June , 1992 decision to strap himself to the Hollywood sign as the band’s career was falling apart around them.
“By crucifying yourself on the Hollywood sign you were making a statement that this is what it took to make it in Hollywood,” Pearl writes. “Any actor or musician can immediately identify with this feeling – years and years of unrequited labor only to have your hopes dashed again and again…”
Pearl was hauled down by law enforcement, and interviewed by a police psychologist who he told “I’m making a plea to the Rock Gods” .
“And the cop gets all serious,” the singer recalls, “looks me in the eye and said “Jizzy, there are no rock gods,”
In fact, Love/Hate could have been rock gods themselves. Now, they were just martyrs.
THE journey from the police interview room to the fetid futon took two years and was relatively straightforward. You’ve read the story in places like this often enough. Relationships in the band strained to breaking point, guitarist Love was the first to leave, money ran out.
Subsequent albums Spinning Wheel, Lets Rumble, Living Off Layla and Lets Eat were low-key affairs, with releases on independent labels often poorly-timed when it came to capitalising on pockets of interest.
Pearl’s return journey, to prosperous Vegas resident (“we just got a new puppy”), solo artist, author of three books and occasional member of other bands, seems to have come mainly as a result of pragmatism – the same pragmatism that brings a Love/Hate line-up to Britain in which Pearl is the only original member.
With him are guitarist Keri Kelli (Alice Cooper, Slash’s Snakepit), bassist Robbie Crane (Ratt, Lynch Mob) and drummer Matt Starr (Ace Frehley). At first, Jizzy speaks in generic terms about why this is the case.
“The short answer is that I’m the only one that’s still doing it on a regular basis – music. The other guys have jobs and wives and kids or for legal reasons, cannot go. So, when I do a tour, if an original member can do it – great. If not, I’ve got to use someone else.”
But when I ask if he can be more specific, there is no holding back.
“The drummer hates me,” Pearl responds. “I think that’s pretty specific.
“We tried a reunion in 2007 with all the original guys and it ended in a disaster because, for one reason, the guys can’t go on tour without their wives. So there’s that Yoko Ono factor. It also blurs the line between business and vacation and stuff. It exploded into a hardcore fight. We had a six-gig UK run and we almost went home after two.
“.In the nineties, three of the guys in the band got married and they started to have kids and that requires more of a financial structure than jumping in the gypsy caravan and going from town to town and so they – out of necessity – needed to get real jobs. It was a gradual process, it was an incremental process. Then, all of a sudden, I was the last man standing and since then I’ve done two stints with LA Guns and seven-year run with Ratt. I played with Steven Adler, done a bunch of solo records, written a bunch of books, so I stayed busy, myself, through the whole time. But, yeah, finances, that does kind of chip away at the fantasy of being a rock’n’roller.
“…when original members get together, it’s just a different dynamic and, you know, for those guys to be playing gigs every once in a while, it’s totally great and fun but the idea of doing a month with them … well, we’ve tried once or twice and it’s just been, you know, Krakatoa every single time.”
He says there’s zero chance of new material from the original line-up (Rose was the primary songwriter) and only slightly more possibility of them every being on stage together again. “…must confess, I like the control of being able to be the guy who says what goes. You know what I mean? When you’re in an original band, it is more of a democracy and stuff so … maybe in my old age, I’ve gotten a little more cranky.”
Pearl remains a striking presence on stage, with an impressive range and dynamic stage moves. He is blunt about why some of his contemporaries no long fare so well. “You just have to have your shit together. By that I mean, you gotta do your cardio and you gotta get your chops together.
“If your chops are together and you’ve been running every day and you’ve got your wind, then it’s basically … you can just do it. But if you don’t … which is why a lot of these guys from our generation just can’t hit the notes anymore – because they’re not doing what needs to be done. You know what I mean? Like situps, for one thing. Or stop eating so much. Or quit getting so fucked up on stage. Now that the era of YouTube is here, it’s really behoves everybody to have your shit together. That’s how I feel. It would embarrass me if youtube came out and I was at 60 per cent. It would make me want to work harder.
“I just assume that every single time I get on stage, I’m being recorded for posterity. That’s why you just have to have your shit together and be aware of these magical phones that can steal your soul.”
AS previously stated, Jizzy Pearl is the only original member of Love /Hate (Jon E Love played with the band recently in Vegas). He replaced Stephen Pearcy in Ratt and Phil Lewis in LA Guns.
So when I ask him for his response to the prevalent refrain from rock fans that a band isn’t real unless it’s all original members, I am totally unprepared for his answer.
“They’re totally right,” he says, letting his comment hang in the air for a while.
“…and I can totally understand where they’re coming from. If you’re talking about someone like Kevin Du Brow or Jani Lane then obviously that’s not going to happen anymore. I’ve stepped in as a substitute for a couple of bands and you’ve just got to deal with it. You do the best you can.
“I remember seeing Skid Row in Vegas and the new guy (Johnny Solinger) had been in the band for nine years and people are yelling for Sebastian (Bach) and I thought ‘let it go at this point’. If the guy’s been in the band for X number of years, you’ve got to let it go unless you’re just being an asshole and yelling for yelling’s sake.
“Original members, yeah, people want to see original members. But a lot of these bands with original members that are still together hate each other. Hate. I’m taking hate! They all have separate buses and the only reason they’re all together is that the money is so good. Frankly, that’s the only reason.
“A band like Love/Hate? The money isn’t … it’s not enough to make a living off of. I do Love/Hate these days for fun. I enjoy it but I wouldn’t want to tour in a van eight months out of the year and play dives every night and age in dog years.”
Crucifixion is a recurring theme; Skid’s Budweiser cross is long gone. “Skid couldn’t do it anymore. He was embarrassed to dance with a cross because of his kids. I mean, I totally understand because it’s pretty silly.”
Fans don’t want their rock heroes to age. Sometimes the rock heroes believe they won’t. But a band whose schtick relies on “it’s 1:30, stinking drunk, 50 cents in my pocket” and “rock queen, thirteen, buxom blonde, bad dream, let me touch your cookies” has to move on.
“When I first started out, and I can speak for the band, we used to drink a lot of beer for courage,” Jizzy says. “We were not your basic cookie-cutter rockstar persona. We were introverted and bookish – and scared, myself included.
“It took me a lot of beer to get the persona and get up there on stage and do the Indian war chant and of course, when you get the deal, beer is a celebratory ritual. Then, when you tour, everyone wants to party with you so beer becomes a male bonding ritual. Part of the reason we became popular in England was because of the drinking songs.
“But you gotta grow up and write about different things than pot and beer.”
Pearl’s band biography has been turned into a Wikipedia entry, which he is battling the site’s “warlords” to amend. “It’s like ‘you said you had a really bad drinking problem, I’m just posting what you said’. Well, mia culpa, you know what I mean? You’re right. You’re exactly right.
“I gotta own up to the fact that we all drank liberally. But everybody did. I mean, I could tell you stories of famous rock stars who pissed their pants every night, regularly. That wore diapers regularly because they were so fucking drunk.
“The eighties and the nineties, people got fucked up all the time. When we used to play in LA, there was this band called Motorcycle Boy. They’re lost in the … but back then they were semi-popular. The singer would be so drunk that the audience would have to hold him up because he was gonna fall. That’s how drunk people got all the time and it was accepted and it was cool.
“Times have changed. It’s not cool to be that fucked up anymore. It’s not cool to be on drugs anymore. A lot of people thought heroin was cool and, you know … they’re dead.”
The ringing phone in 1995 got Jizzy Pearl out of bed and he’s not going back to that bed. “I have the experience of having lost all my money so now I have money, I’m not an idiot with money anymore,” he says.
He’s not a member of Black Sabbath either, despite putting in one of the performances of his life that night at Dudley’s.” I did my best and after the show I was out in the audience trying to figure out if Tony Iommi was out there.
“He wasn’t. Guess I didn’t get that gig.
“Strike one, blond hair. To be in Black Sabbath, you can’t be a blond for sure.” Roll the credits.
“I’M NO MOOCHER”
JIZZY Pearl maybe releasing his own music these days but he says PledgeMusic and its cousin, Kickstarter, are not for him. “I am old school – because I’m old,” he says.
“I am a firm believer that if you pay for something, it means more to you. Music, the same thing. All my solo records were self-financed with me working crumby jobs all night to finance my own record.
“Kickstarter, in theory … ‘come share our dream and help us achieve our dream’ .. I get it in one sense. But in another sense, it turns people into moochers, where basically if you want my music then you’ve got to pay for it. Well, they’re going to pay for your CD eventually. Correct?
“But now they’ve got to pay for it twice. To me, where I come from, it’s just kind of not something that I … I wrote my own books, I financed my own books, I didn’t ask for money, I didn’t ask for money for my music.
“That’s just the way I was brought up. I don’t take food stamps, either. I’m not on welfare. I was just brought up in a different culture where you earn your keep and if you’re poor, you deal with it.”
JIZZY PEARL ON…
RATT: “I never thought I’d be singing “Round And Round”. It would never occur to me. But I ended up singing “Round And Round”. I did that for a lot of years. Those guys are very professional and it’s a very oiled machine and for someone like me who is kind of a clown after the show but takes his show very seriously, it was a great experience.”
LA GUNS: “LA Guns, I did twice. I tried to get Love/Hate back together in 1997 or 1998 … I tried to get everyone together then and once again, it exploded. Drugs and wives. So I got the LA Gun gig, all of sudden I was a back on a tour bus, we were playing big shows and I did a record. I joined LA Guns again and did two years with them and I did another record with them and it was time to move on. Sometimes it isn’t arguments and fights, it’s just you feel like where you are and where you need to be …. It’s time to move on.”
STEVEN ADLER: “This was 2003 and he was trying to … he wasn’t all there at that time. We had a couple of good years. Steven would bounce from sobriety to not and after a while we just decided it had run its course and he ended up doing Adler’s Appetite with a whole cast of characters.”
Filed for: CLASSIC ROCK PRESENTS: AOR