Books: Official Truth 101 Proof

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Rex Robert Brown really, really does not like Vincent Paul Abbot.

I have now given you roughly 25% of this book.  No, seriously, so much of it is spent calling Vinnie Paul names and calling Vinnie Paul out that there’s barely room for Rex to do the occasional halo polishing or tell any stories of rock n roll debauchery 1

Let me back up here.  Official Truth 101 Proof is the autobiography of Rex Robert Brown 2 bass player for 90s metal titans Pantera. It spends a few chapters giving us Rex’s background (born to an upper middle class family which saw its class dropped down multiple steps with the early death of Rex’s father, Rex became that kid, eventually finding the joined at the hip professions of music and low level drug dealing until his band got big) most of the book centers around the rise and fall of Pantera.

The problem here is, I’ve read The Dirt and I’ve read The Heroin Diaries and this is neither one of those books.  If you’re looking for crazy road stories with groupies and drugs and the like.  This is not the book for you.  This is odd given that the guys in Pantera who weren’t junkies were full blown alcoholics. 3

It’s not like they were saints, mind you. It’s just that they seemed to be dedicated to destroying hotel rooms and wasting money on the most ridiculous things in the world (like overnighting hundreds of cases of lemon pepper to Europe because citrus pepper isn’t the same thing 4). Had Pantera managed to stay together, they would have ended up on VH-1’s behind the music using the MC Hammer template of band goes out on tour, loses money due to own stupidity, repeats.

That being said, maybe that’s the problem, the story has been told so many times that it’s not that interesting anymore.  Or, perhaps, it’s because Rex isn’t telling the whole story.  So, what I’m going to do here is give my rating, then after the jump I’m going to  point out the giant, “wait, how did this not get discussed?” moment of the book.  This will use NSFW language, including the word that White people must never call Black people.  It will be, as the kids say, real talk.

Rex Brown’s autobiography is well written (you can hear the Texas drawl coming off the page) and mostly interesting.  But there’s just too much left on the table for it to be essential reading for all but Pantera fans.  Still, if you’re looking for a book, you could do worse.

Garbage Recommended Essential

For real, past this point there are swearing and racial and sexual slurs. You have been warned.

Early on in the book Rex talks about how they had a maid whom his mother called “Nigger Georgia.” 5 At some point in his life Rex realized that this was a truly jacked up thing to call someone.  I’ll just let him tell it:

…That’s the name I alwas heard being called in the house.  Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?  No wonder I’ve had provlems with that word ever since.  I grew to resent it because I didn’t feel that it was proper.  I didn’t realize this as a kid though – it wasn’t until much later in life that I came to know what that word truly meant, but that’s just what my mother said – she made it sound like a term of endearment: “Nigger Georgia this, Nigger Georgia that.” Nowadays I will never use the words “nigger” or “faggot,” nor will I allow them to be used in my house.  In my eyes, they are the foulest words imaginable.

Well, that’s pretty cut and dried.  In fact, it seems like a neat bit of foreshadowing. 6

So, yeah, while touring to support the Far Beyond Driven album, at a show in Montreal Phil went on a bit of a tirade during which he basically said that rap music was advocating the killing of White people, said “nigger” a couple of times and basically came off as a complete, racist douche bag.  This incident got a lot of attention from the press, the mainstream press even.  At that point Pantera felt (not entirely without merit) that the media was playing “let’s prove Phil is a racist,” and began video taping all of their interviews so that they could counter any negative spin.

What I’m saying is that this was a major change in band policy.

While touring with White Zombie in support of The Great Southern Trendkill 7 Pantera stopped at The Oak Mountain Amphitheatre in the suburbs of my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. 8 There were five Black people at that show.  How do I know there were five black people at that show? Because there were five Black people at that show.

In the middle of their set, Phil gets up and addresses the racial controversy surrounding the band by saying, “yeah, we’re from the south 9, we see things a bit differently.”  To which the crowd erupted in cheers.  Now, I’m a guy who can get wound pretty tight, so I make it a habit to try to let most things slide off my back, because if I don’t I’ll spend my entire life in a hate ball and that’s not good for me.  So, my demeanor is  pretty laid back.  You know what changes that? Having a White guy on stage go, “racism is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!” and having thousands of White people around me go, “hellz yeah it is!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I could tell most of the other Black people in the audience were having this exact same reaction.  How could I tell this?  Because, there were five Black people in the audience.

So, yeah, there’s this whole thing now about how Phil is a real mensch and he’s off the drugs and he’s really a nice guy and all, but, for real:

Fuck that guy.10

So, yeah, that whole thing was a pretty major period in the band’s history.  The allegations of racism, the doubling down on paranoia, the videotaping.  Surely a guy who hates racial slurs would have an issue being in a band with a guy who would get up on stage and use them.

Not mentioned.

Not once.

Maybe I got the abridged version of the book, but this didn’t make the cut in the copy I have.  That’s disappointing, because I was interested in how that whole thing played out in the band.  Also, if such a major piece of band history didn’t make the final edit, what else didn’t make the final edit?  I have a feeling that a much more interesting book is on somebody’s hard drive, but it’s not on mine.

  1. Except for stories of how Vinnie Paul couldn’t get laid.
  2. AKA Rex Rocker
  3. There may have also been cocaine involved.
  4. Citrus pepper is exactly the same thing
  5. As far as I know, she, Rex, Tom and Huck never went on any adventures down the Mississippi
  6. Or a total red herring.
  7. Texas isn’t southern, it’s the northern half of Mexico stolen from its rightful inhabitants.
  8. The same suburb that sued the US government over the Civil Rights act of 1964 and paved the way for southern states to, literally, almost immediately start disenfranchising Black voters.  Fellow southerners, really?  It’s hard to claim it’s all a stereotype and that it’s not 1963 anymore when you pull this shit.
  9. Well, you are and the guys from opening act, eyehategod, are but the rest of Pantera is from North Mexico
  10. No, for real; fuck. that. guy.
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  • I know nothing about Pantera’s history, except the guitarist played a weird green guitar and everyone started liking them once the singer started using a more manly voice. The anti-racism remarks by Rex seems like the kind of thing you throw in a book to get people to remember you more fondly and cover for your actual behavior.

  • G. Edward Jones

    It’s just such a giant hole in the book. The allegations were so persistent that when Washburn issued the Dimebag Darrell Southern Cross, it came with a statement basically saying, “we’re not racists!”

    So, yeah, c.y.a. moment or not, it was weird that he didn’t mention it.

  • Jeff Parsons

    I’ve read the book a couple of times and don’t agree with you. Phil’s racist comments are not Rex’s beliefs and this is the Pantera story from Rex’s perspective – nobody else’s. Let Philip explain his comments in his own book. As far as telling the whole story re: hotel trashing etc – do you know not think that’s all a bit cliche? Regardless – the book has sold barrow loads of copies and 95% of reviews are positive so somebody likes it

    • G. Edward Jones

      Jeff,

      I never expected Rex to explain Phil’s comments. However, this was the biggest controversy in the band when it was at its highest level of success. My experience at Oak Mountain happened *years* after the Montreal concert, so this wasn’t like some flash in the pan thing, this had a pretty long tail

      The story about “Nigger Georgia” only served to do two things, to make Rex’s mom look bad and to allow him to declare “I’m not a racist!!!!”

      So, given those things it’s odd that not a word was spent on the giant controversy when Pantera was branded as a racist band at the height of its success. It’s like if Wendy and Lisa wrote a book about their time with Prince and in the first chapter they said “we were in a couple of movies,” then proceeded to never mention Purple Rain but spend an entire chapter on Under the Cherry Moon (which has a criminally underrated soundtrack).

      Again, it’s not a bad book and I think if you’re looking for a rock n roll autobiography this one does a pretty good job, but I can’t help feeling like there’s a lot of stuff he didn’t tell us.

      • Jeff Parsons

        I don’t think Pantera were ever branded a ‘racist band’ and I think if that was written in the book, a lawsuit would closely follow. Can you show me where Pantera were collectively branded racist, please? Philip made the comments and – if you read Walter O’Brien’s passages in the book – it was a source of nightly concern to management as to what Phil was going to do or say next and this was one of many issues that Philip created for everyone.

        As far as the comments about the house-maid, that seemed to me as if Rex was merely painting a picture (albeit a deeply disturbing one) as to how things were back in the 60s, in Texas – nothing more, nothing less. At no point did he condone it.

        • http://www.afropunk.com/forum/topics/pantera-frontman-phil-anselmo

          also – http://lmgtfy.com/?q=pantera+racism (that’s not meant as an insult to your searching ability, it’s just an easy way to share search results)

          Nobody here is saying every member of the band is racist. But the public perception of them as a whole is such. When the leader of your band is branded a racist, is caught on tape making remarks that the vast majority of people find racist and your band is known for having various white-power groups in regular attendance… you’re going to get branded racist.

          Rex can be 100% genuine saying he is not a racist, that’s not coming into question. It’s just interesting that a very negative reputation that followed the band for years was not addressed.

  • Jeff Parsons

    and , as an aside, be careful who you are calling ‘full-blown junkies’. Philip was the only band member with history (well documented history) of hard drug use. You seem to be creating your own information here to fit your deeply lop-sided review.

    • G. Edward Jones

      I’m pretty positive that I never said “full blown junkies” I said “the guys in the band who weren’t junkies were full blown alcoholics.”. This was a reference to Phil’s well publicized heroin problem and the fact that everyone else in the band drank like fish, proudly. I also pointed out that there may have been cocaine involved, because Rex said he did cocaine.

      Phil was definitely labeled a racist. If the lead singer of your band gets labeled a racist and the rest of the band closes ranks around him and there is literally a “we’re not racist!!!!” portion of the press release for a signature guitar. I’m calling that the band and its management perceived the racist label as sticking to the organization, not just the guy.

      This was more than Philip talking shit about The Black Album while Pantera was trying to book a tour, this was a big thing.

      Yes, my opinion is lopsided, because it’s an opinion, that’s how they tend to work.