Reactions to Rock God Complex: The Mickey Hunter Story
“Mickey Hunter was a magus among musicians. This book guarantees him his rightful place in rock mythology.” Roy Grant, editor of The Four Kings fanzine and president of The Kingdom of Kings, the Crown & Kingdom fan club.
“While this book may be Mickey Hunter’s swansong it reminds readers, critics and fans alike, that the Crown & Kingdom legend is invincible.” Margaret Beubelle, American Guitarist magazine.
“There was never a time when Crown & Kingdom weren’t part of my life and there will never come a time when Crown & Kingdom won’t be a part of my life.” James Ronsarno, son of John Ronsarno, Crown & Kingdom drummer.
“This book proclaims the truth according to Mickey Hunter. But truth is a shadowy concept, darkened by misremembered moments and cloaked in the stubborn belief of what you think you know. All truth is story, but not all stories are true.” Philip Hall, Crown & Kingdom lead singer.
Foreword - False Start
Roy Grant, ed. The Four Kings fanzine; president of The Kingdom of Kings fan club
I was seventeen in the summer of 1972. The Vietnam War was over, at least for the thousands of young Americans who had been repatriated in boxes. It wouldn’t ever be over for those of us left behind: the survivors. My brother, Tyler, was killed a week before the Paris Peace Talks opened. He was one of the few ‘body not recovered’, left to rot in the jungles of South East Asia.
That summer held only the prospect of slogging through another hot July in my father’s hardware store with the dim notion that if I saved enough I might, come fall, escape to college and snatch up enough life for myself and Tyler. So I settled down to the drudgery that I thought was my lot.
Fortunately I had friends far less disposed to hard work and one of them, Guy Small, came into the shop and ordered me to down tools (a pencil and order pad onto which I was attempting to calculate the cost of three yards of chicken wire) and go with him to get tickets to see Crown & Kingdom who were playing in Frisco in two weeks’ time. I knew I’d get hell from my father if I left the shop. But I didn’t care. Something in the day, in the light itself, filtering weakly through the half-drawn shutters, seemed to be calling me to do it. I like to think it was Tyler’s defiant spirit.
That undertaking became the single most important of my young life. I was aware of it as we drove through the ’burbs in Guy’s beat up ‘55 Mustang. I was aware of it as we waited in line outside the ticket office, the sun scorching our bare scalps. I was aware of it when, the ticket folded inside my wallet, Guy and I went to a nearby bar and got the most drunk we could for five bucks. I was even more aware of it two weeks later when, my life savings of $23 in my pocket and a rucksack over my shoulder, I walked out of my parents’ place, got into Guy’s Mustang and made the drive with him, back to Frisco.
The Fillmore was packed out with guys in faded 501s and chicks jangling beads. Guy muscled his way to the front (he a was 6ft 2 line-backer); I followed in his wake. We stared up at the stage. Someone passed a joint down the row. I had my first whiff of weed. The air was charged with this phenomenal electricity. A rumble started up, building to a roar as thousands of young kids who’d been sold out by their elders and betters stamped their feet, clapped their hands and chanted the infamous words that would call down our gods.
And down they came.
The noise of the crowd stopped. It didn’t fade out. It just stopped. The lights came up. Mickey, Philip, Pete and John appeared, eyeballing us, getting our measure while we gazed back at them, praying for a miracle. Then Mickey struck a chord. It sang in a clear, pure voice; the miracle was among us and for us and of us.
They must’ve played three hours that night but it passed in a single heartbeat. What I carry still from that show, like a battle scar, is pure raw power reined in by four master musicians. The beat pounded in my chest, the notes sang in my ears, the lyrics poured from my lips. It was an ecstatic frenzy of passion, pleasure and pain that I hoped would kill me. It made me understand what it means to know you are alive. It made me want to live.
Crown & Kingdom were the greatest rock band ever and Mickey Hunter was their genius axe man but there was so much more to him than a guitar-playing mortal. He commanded the devils of music, conjuring chords so potent they earth-quaked my world. He was also someone who knew what life was for and lived it. He was on a mission to become immortal: a legend. He would succeed but only after conquering more in one lifetime than most of us could in a hundred.
When I was seventeen Crown & Kingdom’s music was the anthem to my life, my inspiration to live at a time when there seemed little worth living for. I idolised Mickey Hunter, he was my hero; the hero of tens of thousands of others like me. Once you’ve read this book you’ll understand what it takes to be an idol incarnate, what it took to be Mickey Hunter: Rock God.
All hail the king!
I reach for my gun. Tear it out of the holster. Level it at the man in the black hat. Pull the trigger. Bang.
A revving engine snaps me awake. The bang wasn’t me firing my six-shooter. It was that noisy bastard next door slamming himself into his car. I don’t care how many fucking goals he’s scored he’s a right wanker. I wait in the sledgehammer silence for him to crank up the stereo and race off into the night. He obliges and I hear my throbbing power chord matched, and then some, by Philip’s angry-young-man singing:
♪ The hope of Hell
And fury of the gods
We couldn’t see the trees
Hidden by the woods ♫
‘Trees of Eden’: our anthem.
Listening to John’s pounding drums, Pete’s steady bass, Philip’s wailing vocals and my shrieking guitar throws me into hellish darkness. The sound runs off into the night, fading not fast enough, as Arsenal’s top striker tears out of our suburban haven.
I can’t close my eyes now. I know I’ll have to watch It again if I do. That Night. The one I’ve tried so bloody hard to blank for three decades. There’s no fucking chance I’ll get back to sleep now It’s reared Its ugly head. My heart thumps. I try to suffocate It, filling my mind with anything but That Night. Did I remind Keira to book the Bentley in for a service? Is it today Meg wants me to take her to Christies for that Rossetti auction? I ramble on for a quarter of an hour before sacking it as a bad job. I never fucking manage to beat It. I get up, leave of the warmth of our bed and creep across the room without waking Meg.
I shuffle down the marble stairs, they’re bloody freezing on bare feet (wWhy did I let Meg arm-twist me on that one?) and go into the kitchen. I sit at the table, facing the night-black window, waiting for the show to start. At first it’s only a window. Then it becomes a movie screen. That Night explodes onto it with volatile energy. My own private screening of the feature presentation of my life. Sick to death of reruns but powerless to shut It down I watch, paralytic with fear. This time I’ve come into the cinema half way through the film. That’s O.K. though, I know the beginning by heart: me, Ronsey and Philip; a few beers and a bit of a smoke; reminiscing over the good times. Then the blow up. The slanging match. Me and Philip clawing at each others’ throats. Him yelling; me yelling louder. Us fighting. Me falling. The film plays on. The next scene’s this:
I’m on the floor, on my back. My legs are up, on the side table I tripped over in our fisticuffs. I’m out cold and drowning in an ocean of acid. Fucked up. Off-my-tits. Out-of-my-head and soon to be out-of-my-body. Jesus, here I go. With the shimmer of desert sunlight, I split. There are two ‘mes’ now. The copy, my ghostly twin, hovers a few feet above the original. Both ‘mes’ have long wavy hair, still dark, and no crow’s feet. We’re dressed in our period costume of flares and garish magenta psychedelic-print shirt. We are thin and pale, wasted by the chain of high-comedown-high-comedown that shackles our days and nights.
I scan the rest of the picture flickering on my kitchen window, an old cine movie playing on a knackered projector. Philip’s his younger self too, his blue eyes burning with anger, his blonde mane tossed back from his stone-chiselled face. Ronsey’s the age he’ll always be. He tugs at his thick beard and his dark eyes darken as the three of us play out the final act in the Crown & Kingdom opus. For a fraction of a second the frame freezes. I pray the reel in my brain has jammed and I’m spared the final Hamletian scene. But my memory kicks on. The screen flickers again. The figures return to life and start inching towards their tragic fates.
Ronsey goes to Philip, arms outstretched for peace, a ceasefire. Philip, in his blinding anger, pushes him, throws him with all his strength, out and down. Ronsey falls, crashing against the wall, his powerful body demolished like so much cooling stack with so little dynamite. He crumbles into my ten-quid-a-square-yard shag pile with its snarling mouthful of razor sharp glass teeth. He doesn’t get up. Nothing moves for an age. Then the real me sucks back the phantom twin with a whirling whoosh. I’m whole again, awake and up. Philip lunges at me. We fight on; fists flailing, fingers tearing, legs kicking. I get him off me and struggle over to Ronsey, shake him, try to lift him. I turn around. Call over my shoulder. Philip is gone.
The screen fades to black night. Imaginary credits roll up my kitchen window: Mickey Hunter as himself. Philip Hall as himself. John Ronsarno, as himself. Finally It’s over. For tonight.
So much for the promised soothing effects of camomile tea. I chuck the dregs into the sink. Christ, I miss black coffee. And Scotch. Both are better for the pain. My heart pounds a bass drum beat, each thud a fist punching out the inside of my chest. I wait for it to settle. Lately it’s taking longer and longer. After twenty minutes, when my heart’s finally stopped trying to fight its way out of my chest, I go upstairs and get in bed next to Meg.
She’s still sleeping. Her brown hair with its precious flecks of gold is spread over the pillow. I lie beside her and put my hand out. Her skin’s warm. I wriggle towards her heat, hoping it’ll melt the ice-hard memory of That Night. I press my lips to the back of her smooth white shoulder which glows in the darkness of the room. She stirs. I want her to wake but I don’t want to wake her. I reach around her with my arm, feeling her chest rise and fall with each easy breath. Her skin, soft and sagged just a little, is comforting. I press my lips harder against her neck. She stirs again. I move in closer, pulling her across me. She says my name into the thick bedroom air and turns to me. I kiss her mouth. Heavy with sleep, she doesn’t kiss back. I press into her more and she opens her eyes. Glints of blue flare up at me as she pulls away.
“Mickey, are you O.K?”
I nod and kiss her again. I don’t want to talk. I just want to hold her real warm body and forget the past. I pull her over me like a blanket. Hide beneath her. Keep my eyes squeezed shut. Don’t look and don’t think. Keep It locked out.
When we’ve made love she sleeps again, in my arms this time.
That Night sleeps too.