Zakk Wylde, Live in 1999
A friend of mine, Aaron, turned me on to Zakk Wylde in the mid 90s. I hadn't heard of him, but I knew exactly who he was talking about once he told me he was Ozzy's guitarist. That signature sound was unmistakeable.
Aaron told me about Zakk Wylde's new project outside of Ozzy's projects, called Pride and Glory. He explained to me that it was a Southern Rock feel with a few hints of heavy metal riffs thrown in here and there. Then he threw in, "The top of the CD is a picture of a giant, open beer can. It's f***ing awesome!"
I bought the CD the next day and listened to it non-stop for weeks. It got us through road trips from San Jose to LA and everywhere in between. From the opening banjo riff in "Losin' Your Mind" to the country/comedy song, "Hate Your Guts" I loved that album. My girlfriend, on the other hand...
In 1996, Zakk Wylde released a solo album called Book of Shadows that was more of an easy listening, marketable album. Don't get me wrong - it's a great album, but it;s not exactly what Zakk Wylde fans expected. Our girlfriends, on the other hand, LOVED the album... which made us love it, too.
Fast forward a few years and my girlfriend-turned-fiancee and I moved to Connecticut (that's another story). While there, we escaped Bristol, CT, for an evening in Waterbury (I think) to see none other than Zakk Wylde. My fiancee and I expected a few songs from Book of Shadows to be played, although I knew I was in for more of a Sonic Brew type of show. What we didn't know, however, was that we were on our way to a shitty, warehouse-turned-nightclub to see Zakk Wylde with no more than 100 people, max.
In a word: AWESOME!
My fiancee, to be honest, was kind of disappointed being that exactly ZERO songs from Book of Shadows were played at the show. I, however, LOVED the show. Having listened to Book of Shadows so many times, the final track, "I Thank You Child," was always a hint that, from then on out, Zakk Wylde was going to stick to metal. Sure enough, when we got to that shitty little club, that's what we heard.
At the time, I was working at ESPN as a Production Assistant. I knew there was a meet-and-greet autograph session after the show, so I decided to get Zakk an ESPN banner signed by all the ESPN SportsCenter anchors. I figured if he was cool enough to hang out in Connecticut after a show to sign autographs, I should be cool enough to get him something, too.
After the show at the meet-and-greet by his tour bus, there was a hoard of metalheads with stuff for Zakk to sign. When it finally got to our turn, I gave him the banner and said something lame, like, "Here, man. Awesome show!" He asked what it was, then he opened it up and truly looked stoked.
"Fuck yeah! I'll put this up in my workout room!" he said.
But the telling part of the story wasn't just that he's a cool, regular guy, it's what he signed for me that told me what he was all about.
First, I gave him Book of Shadows to sign. He did so with minimal reaction. But when I handed him Sonic Brew - his first return to metal after his plunge into the world of adult-contemporary, easy listening - his eyes lit up and got fired up. He signed the CD cover with a big, cursive, "Fuck Yeah!" alongside his name.
So, while he ventures back into his duldrum-sounding acoustic songs filled with depressing lyrics here and there, I think it's safe to say we have the Zakk Wylde everyone wants... no books, no shadows... the metal version.