A Conversation With Bobby Rock
Bobby Rock, the current drummer for Lita Ford, has a new book out: The Boy Is Gonna Rock. This exciting new memoir is about Bobby’s early years as a musician, with a focus on his time as the drummer of Vinnie Vincent Invasion. The book is receiving fantastic reviews from fans, and I look forward to reading it myself. Bobby was kind enough to speak with me about this new project.
You have a new memoir, The Boy Is Gonna Rock, is now out. What can readers expect from it?
It’s about the early part of my career, with a special emphasis on my first big gig – drumming for Vinnie Vincent Invasion. That’s the focal point of the book.
What’s the feedback been like from those who’ve already read your book?
It’s been great! The biggest compliment a writer can get is someone saying, “I couldn’t put it down. I started reading it and couldn’t stop.” There was somebody at the KISS Indy Expo who got it on Saturday and came by the booth the next day and told me he had already read the whole thing. He was with his wife and he said, “I had the light on until 4 a.m.” And she said, “I kept telling him to go to sleep.” He ended up reading it all in one sitting and it’s a 300-page book. Those are the kinds of things I’ve been hearing about it.
Have you kept journals over the years? How did you go about recalling everything that’s in the book?
I have a freakishly accurate memory, especially for things that happened a long time ago. I can link details with specific months and years, no problem. I can tell you where I was, what I was doing, key things that happened, for any given year or month. When we went into the studio to record an album, the first date of a tour – those kinds of things. I think one of the reasons why I can do this is because I went through rehab as a young kid, not an adult. So, I got all the weed and alcohol out of my system a long time ago, before I even started my career. I’ve been sober all of these decades since, and I think that helps. (laughs)
How did you wind up getting your gig with Vinnie Vincent Invasion?
In 1985 I spent most of the year in a club band touring a circuit all around the South and Midwest. Back then it was a vibrant time to be out as a professional musician, even on a club level. You could wind up in a city for five or six nights on a particular run, playing every night, three or four sets a night; and then you’d be in another city doing the exact same thing. You could essentially do that endlessly.
The band I was in was good but not great. It was fun but arduous to do that kind of touring, especially when there didn’t seem to be a future beyond playing cover tunes. I started thinking then that I needed to make a move to get to the next level. I noticed that another band on the same circuit as us was a band called Sweet Savage. They had just completed their first EP and had an independent record deal. I called their lead singer, Joey, and asked him about LA, since his band was frequently out there, and told him I was looking to make a move. I said to him, “Who should I talk to out there?” He said, “Here’s the guy you should call” and he gave me the number for Dana Strum, who had just worked on their record and he was now working on Vinnie Vincent’s solo project.
What happened then?
I found out that they had everybody in place but their drummer. I called up Dana and got an audition for the gig. This 22-year-old kid from Houston, Texas called up Dana Strum, left a message on his answering machine – some rambling verbose message. He must have found it intriguing enough because he called me back and we spoke for 20 minutes. Dana agreed to have me come out to LA and take a shot at it.
How was that first interaction with Vinnie?
It was cool. The audition was magical. Back in the day, Vinnie would make a big deal about how this kid showed up from Houston and blew them all away on the drums. For whatever reason, it actually played out that way. Vinnie was cool and mild-mannered. It was a nice vibe. The audition was initially supposed to be a 10-minute screening audition where each drummer goes in and plays on their own for 10 minutes without jamming with the guys. Robert Fleischman, their original lead singer, along with Vinnie and Dana, was sitting on the couch as each drummer came in and did their thing. They wanted to narrow down the field to three or four guys to come back later on for them to jam with. There were a ton of guys that auditioned. My 10-minute audition turned into more than 45 minutes. It was a mega-drumming showcase and I was hired on the spot. It was one of those rare times in life when the stars aligned and everything worked out.
What bands did you guys open for?
We did two months with Alice Cooper. Then we jumped onto a tour with Iron Maiden. It was great, man. It was a great opportunity for us to tour at that level.
Why did Vinnie Vincent Invasion break up?
It happened in phases. The first record didn’t do as well as everyone had hoped. When that happens, people started pointing fingers. Is it the manager’s fault? Is it the label’s fault? Is it the band’s fault? All these kinds of things. This led to the band members wondering what kind of a liability Vinnie could be for his own project. Whether he really was or not is a subjective question. A lot of it had to do with these really long, open-ended guitar solos he’d do which would last eight to ten minutes in a 40-minute set. There were certain things that would happen with fans and media from time to time too. There were some legitimate concerns regarding Vinnie and how he handled certain things. As we got into the second record, it became apparent that we needed to change management. We met with close to 10 top-flight managers and Dana would pull these guys aside privately and let them know about issues we were having with Vinnie. Then he’d tell them that the three of us were prepared to carry on without Vinnie, if need be. One of those managers pulled Vinnie aside and told him about this. Once that was revealed to Vinnie, it was the beginning of the end for the band. It created a permanent wedge between Vinnie and Dana. It created a ticking time bomb on the tour.
Have you stayed in touch with Vinnie over the years?
I haven’t. The last time I spoke with Vinnie was the fall of 1992. I’ve only spoken to him a few times since the band broke up in August of 1988. Only on two or three occasions over the phone during that time period did we catch up. Since then, there’s been radio silence. A lot of it is because he disappeared. My sense is that he prefers to keep distance between himself and his former bandmates, except Robert Fleischman.
The timing of your book is pretty much perfect, considering Vinnie just resurfaced this year. Was that done intentionally?
No, that was a complete fluke. I did a few blogs posts about Vinnie Vincent Invasion and there was a lot of positive feedback. So, over the past few years I started working on a draft and around last summer the news breaks that Vinnie is going to be in Atlanta. Originally, I was shooting for a Christmas 2017 release but I decided to put the breaks on it. I didn’t want it to interfere with what he was doing at that time, so I pushed my release back. It also gave me the chance to update the end of the book to include Vinnie’s return to the public eye. This helped make the book current and brought the story full circle.