3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Far Beyond Driven,
This review is from: Relentless : the memoir [LegacyTitleID: 43459841]
There I was, some ten years ago, still reeling from the overwhelming experience of my first Malmsteen gig. I had brought my signature Malmsteen Strat and I stood outside the venue for two hours in the freezing cold and drizzle waiting for him to show up and sign it. When he finally did, our encounter was very brief. In the end, someone - April, his wife, I think - had to take my guitar unto the tour bus and they almost took of with it! I did get the guitar back and it's been one of my most prized possessions ever since. Yet that encounter was a highly ambivalent experience for me. I got to meet my idol, the man who had inspired my guitar playing more than anyone and whose material I had listened to obsessively for years, and he signed my guitar. Yet, he couldn't be bothered to exchange more than a handful of words with me, even though I had been standing there for two hours.
This event and this feeling came back to me when I read "Relentless: The Memoir". I was mildly stunned to find out that this stand-offish attitude to fans is deliberate on Yngwie's part. He wants to create or sustain the artist-fan mystique which he experienced with Richie Blackmore and the like back in his childhood, before the internet gave you access to every aspect of an artist's life. This seems deeply foolish to me, and counterproductive in that it is probably somewhat detrimental to record sales and fan devotion. But that's Yngwie's rationale for letting me stand in icy drizzle for two hours, only to exchange a handful of words with him.
At least I can console myself with penetrating some of that mystique with this memoir.
Yngwie Malmsteen is the Steve Jobs of guitar playing - so extremely driven, so super talented, so certain in his vision and talent that he both alienates scores of his peers and revolutionises his field.
"Relentless" isn't particularly insightful about the human condition or whatever, but it does give you Yngwie's story in his own words and with his thoughts about various subjects (Ferraris, the internet, family life, the state of rock music, etc.) in a straight forward way. I used to idolise the man as a teen so I really enjoyed hearing the story of his childhood and youth in Sweden, his rise to fame in America and his international fame and notoriety subsequently. He s a fascinating and complicated man. His single-minded drive to, quote, "blow himself away" with his guitar playing every day has made him the amazing guitarist he is, but it has also made him profoundly difficult, if not impossible, to work with - and his music has, in my opinion, suffered for it.
The writing isn't especially good, but then again, it's not supposed to be, is it? He's not a writer - and that's fine. The book could have done with a few less expletives, and the clichés regularly employed remind you that he's not a native English speaker. He makes some claims that seem a bit far fetched, if not factually wrong, like his father having received the Nobel Prize (my googling skills might be deficient, but I couldn't find any confirmation of that claim). I wish he elaborated more on some subjects, like his drinking (is he an alcoholic?) and, I'm kind of ashamed to admit this, his previous marriages.
Overall, "Relentless" was a highly enjoyable book, especially for an old fan like myself. I enjoyed the insight into his childhood, especially, and being walked through his discography. I enjoyed the end as well. Yngwie has had some hard times, some of his own making, others of circumstance, but by all accounts - by *his account - he is in a good place at the moment, with a stable family life and career that allows him to do what he considers the best work of his life.