Book Review: NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories

NOFXI distinctively remember the first time I heard NOFX in the 90s.

I was a friend’s house who told me there was a band I had to hear and before asking who, he immediately played NOFX for me.  The very second that music hit my ears, I turned into a fan.

I loved their crass style and catchy songs to the point I went out that same day and bought a handful of NOFX cassettes where I proceeded to memorize all of the songs.  I would listen to I Heard They Suck Live daily and even unsuccessfully looked for a pair of NOFX shorts as seen on White Trash, Two Heebs, and Bean album cover.

In 1996, I got to see NOFX for the first time live at a Warped Tour that was held on a gravel parking lot.  There is so much to this story I do not care to get into, but it was pretty much the day that I knew I would be a fan forever.

Last Spring, NOFX released a tell all (and  mean tell all) autobiography titled NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories.  With help from Jeff Alulis, the band all took turns telling stories of how they all came to be without holding back anything.

Chapter one started with a confession of the drinking of urine.  From there, the autobiography was everything  expected from to hear from the boys, but there was so much more that I was not ready for including the personal hardships, the suicides, and especially the murders that were revealed.

I loved how the book was split into various chapters by previous and current members.  Sometimes the chapters complimented one another’s recollections, while others were random for a moment and then touched back on something else said.  Where they were not exactly in chronological order, they followed suit enough where I never was trying to connect the dots.  It was almost like I was just hanging out with everyone in a room listening to random stories.

The content was funny, serious, and scary as hell at times.  Where a lot of the band spoke on the good times being in NOFX and touring the world, a lot was spent talking about severe drug abuse and the insane adventures they were involved in.  Reading various memories from original members and current members really encompassed all angles on the story of NOFX.

I loved reading about the bands they saw as kids and the bands they toured with.  Hearing them talk about Rancid and the Offspring signing to major labels while they held their own was interesting.  I was shocked to even learn that NOFX almost signed to a major label but collectively changed their minds and did things their way.

Of course the part where they all talked about playing at Eric Melvin’s aunt and uncle’s house in Aurora, OH stuck with me.  I grew up next to that city and wished to hell I could have seen them play outside in a suburban neighborhood.  Truth is, I was probably a bit too young then, but the best part about this story is that I actually became friend’s with Melvin’s cousin.  She introduced me to his parents once (if you’re reading this, hi Suzanne!)

Reading about Smelly’s heroin addiction and how he eventually overcame it was just intense.  At first, his stories were humorous and chaotic, but soon became almost uncomfortable to read, especially the ones he told as a full blown junkie who hit rock bottom.  One of his stores that had me laughing out loud though was about a stolen van and a kid who turned out to be Billie Joe Armstrong.  When the pieces came together a few chapters later, I lost it.

Fat Mike kept things unfiltered and entertaining.  I know more about his sex life now than I ever cared to, but I made sure I read all of it.  I was mostly surprised to read that he was not the biggest embarrassment early on (sans his singing).  It is crazy to have finished this book knowing that shortly after its release, he decided to chill out on things and go for treatment all because of his pal Tony Sly.  Fat Mike say seem like an a-hole on stage, but he is a family man and a loyal friend.  I really enjoyed reading his story from start to finish.

El Hefe had me cracking up many times with his stories, mostly when he first started the band, but the one thing in the book that I will never forget was the photo he shared with himself and Tori Amos.  If you read the book, I am hoping you know exactly what I am talking about.  I also appreciated learning how he grew up and became the man he is today.

The fact that the band members dropped their own moments of truth to one another in print for the first time just made this book so much more real to me.  Kept promises were broken and made public because they needed to heard and the autobiography was the perfect place to release.  The admissions clearly would open up healed wounds, but were probably never meant to be hidden forever.

Reading how they went from learning about punk rock at an adolescent age to becoming one of the most prolific bands in the punk rock community and beyond was just perfect.  Sadly, the road they traveled for 30 years to get there was not a smooth ride and not easy to read at times.  I especially appreciated not only learning about NOFX, but also other avenues by the band including Smelly’s motocross company, Melvin’s coffee shop, and El Hefe’s hot mess of a nightclub.

You really don’t need to be a fan of NOFX or punk rock for that matter to enjoy this book.  Their stories in this book will suck you in and Jeff Alulis did a great job putting it into print.

Granted it took me a little longer to finish this book than I wanted to, I will tell you that I read almost half of it in just two nights as I could not put it down.  I can honestly say I finished the last chapter with a smile on my face and even a bigger appreciation for the band who I’ve been a fan of now for over 20 years.

If you are just looking for a group of dudes telling you true stories from a punk rock, drug fueled life, NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories is a must read.  For the record, you will learn about the bathtub and it is a little nastier than you might think.

 

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