Stick It! My Life in Sex, Drums, and Rock ‘n’ Roll
By Carmine Appice with Ian Gittins
Chicago Review Press, 288 pp., $26.99
As one of rock’s most storied drummers, Carmine Appice was a member of Vanilla Fudge; the hugely underrated Cactus; Beck, Bogert and Appice; and Blue Murder. He also thumped skins for Rod Stewart, Ted Nugent, Rick Derringer and Ozzy Osbourne. And his black Fu Manchu moustache is one of rock’s most visible facial-hair trademarks.
In this slim but wild ‘n’ wooly memoir, Appice talks frankly – very frankly – about his musical life over five decades. It should come with its own seat belt, because the ride is loud, fast and at times downright dangerous! Not surprisingly, coming from the man who just might have actually been the direct inspiration for Animal from the Muppets.
Appice's career was launched by Vanilla Fudge’s huge hit, a slowed-down, psychedelicized version of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” – though the hit single was actually a demo and only the band’s second take on the tune. On one Fudge tour, their support act was a young Led Zeppelin, for whom Appice tutored John Bonham on drum brands and advised Robert Plant to “move around onstage a bit more.”
In these pages, Appice is a bona fide, no-apologies-given rock-and-roll hedonist, as he gleefully recounts his booze-drugs-hotel-wrecking-sexual exploits in detail. He beds more than 300 willing ladies after just a year as a professional musician, and shares a joint in a hooker’s apartment with a mellow young guitarist named Jimmy James (later to became better known as…Jimi Hendrix).
His favorite period, Appice says, was as part of Rod Stewart’s band in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, when they were having a huge string of hits and selling out stadiums. The drummer even co-wrote the ubiquitous “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” with the “pineapple-haired” singer.
He details how the band and road crew would don uniforms as the “Sex Police” to barge into any hotel room of a tour member who was with a woman and cause chaos; Appice wound up at both ends of that law-enforcement exercise. And even though Stewart fired him from the band, they have since made up (as Appice did with the prickly, dickly Jeff Beck), with Stewart even writing this book’s intro.
Appice does do rock and roll history a favor in giving the most detailed account to date of the infamous Led Zeppelin groupie/mudshark incident that has passed into lore — though he says as a witness, not a participant. Still, the detailing of that episode, along with a perhaps even more bizarre later one involving the same young woman, is alternately titillating, jaw-dropping, disgusting and sad.
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Houston appears twice in the narrative. The book opens with Sharon Osbourne firing Appice from Ozzy’s band after a February 17, 1984, show at the Summit during the “Bark at the Moon” tour, purportedly for being too "big a name" and overshadowing her husband. Appice detailed the experience in a 2014 interview with the Houston Press. And earlier, on a 1968 Vanilla Fudge gig with Cream, Houston is the location of his first encounter with the infamous, large groupie “The Butter Queen” — with whom he would meet up again during another swing through Texas.
In fact, Stick It! is one of the most sex-drenched memoirs by a musician ever. So much that Appice’s current, long-lasting (and, according to him, only) girlfriend once actually created a computer spreadsheet to estimate how many women he’d been with over the decades. The best guesstimate – 4,500 — not surprisingly shocked them both.
In the cold light of 2016 armchair-reading judgment, that could come off as both insane and misogynistic. And while Appice admits (not quite convincingly) that he certainly could have treated his many assignations better and in hindsight was not proud of his actions in many instances, all the ladies were eagerly willing participants, offering treasures any young man would be hard-pressed to turn down against any moral quandaries amid ’70s hard-rock excess.
Like its author and his playing, Stick It! comes at the reader with full force and loud crashes. And that’s even outside the narrative about music.