Review by: Alecia Stanton
In 2008, the Kings of Leon appeared on the scene in America, seemingly, from thin air with their single from ONLY BY THE NIGHT, “Sex on Fire”. HOLY ROCKERS & ROLLERS: THE STORY OF KING OF LEON by Joel McIver takes us on the roundabout ride to that point and beyond with this charmingly unpolished band of Tennessee brothers and their cousin.
The Followill boys’ beginnings have been somewhat of a legend; at very least, a PR dream.
Uber-sheltered sons of a traveling Pentecostal priest, the Followills were well acquainted with road life before rock star aspirations had even been dreamed up. Of the parallel between missionary and rock-star life, front man Caleb explains in the book “ In a sense, its kind of the same thing. We’re not preaching, but we’re trying to get a message across [through] all of our hard work. It’s hard not to view our audience as a congregation. We learned from our father how to put on a show.”
“Holy Rock & Rollers” gives readers the opportunity to grow with the band musically and personally, as it recounts the fruition of the Kings of Leon after the two eldest Followill brothers landed a record deal and recruited their cousin Matthew on guitar and youngest brother, Jared, on bass…regardless of the fact that he had never touched one!
The book then chronicles the Kings’ swift rise to success in the UK in 2001. The boys may have been embraced with open arms over the pond but in their home country, the Kings of Leon’s buzz was less than stellar. Trying to win recognition back home certainly wasn’t their only battle, either. A subtle change in the Kings of Leon’s music is addressed by Caled when discussing their album BECAUSE OF THE TIMES, “Because I felt the songs so strongly, I wanted to take the opportunity to actually sing them in a way I never had before…I always used to feel intimidated and tried to hide what I was saying in case people didn’t like my opinion.” Anyone who has followed to Kings can testify that at a certain point while listening to the aforementioned album, you think “Hey! I can understand what he’s saying!” so the explanation is more than welcome.
Along the way, we are given an inside look into the bands growing collection of allies and inspirations, their musical and personal development, rowdy in-band rumbles, album musings, and pure rock-n-roll debauchery.
Loads of quotes from each of the Followill fellas will make you feel as though you are intimate friends with them by the end of the book, like Nathan shedding light the boys’ simpler dreams “…We wanna be Legends of the Fall or A River Runs Through It…We wanna ranch and all share the same woman and fight over her. But we always fight over who gets to be Tristan. Every single time, and it’s always Caleb that wants to be Tristan…” or Matthews school days recollection, “I went to private schools, really tiny. Sometimes I would have, like, two people in my grade. [The educational system] was called ‘Paces’. You do your own work and read and answer questions and stuff. It’s all I knew. I had some friends in public schools and stuff like that, and what I was doing was a lot easier. And at the time I thought ‘This is great’, but then later I realized it was a bad thing because I wasn’t learning everything I needed to be learning.” The rundown of tour dates will have you exhausted in your seat. Organized by years, it paints a very clear picture of just how fast the Kings’ ascension happened. It is truly a fun journey that makes you feel as though you watched a high-intensity bio-pic rather than read a 200 paged book. What more could you ask for from a book about a rock group?
There is no doubt that the Kings of Leon have a story worth-telling, and author Joel McIver executes “Holy Rock & Rollers” in such a way that they are almost telling it for themselves. The best part is that the Kings of Leon story is far from over, and after reading the book, it is certainly enticing to cheer them on and watch what this band of Southern brothers do next.