From 1979 to 1982, D.O.A. created some of the most visceral and vital examples of punk/hardcore music while also touring the world blazing a path that is still followed today. For that reason, I was immediately taken by the idea of a memoir from Randy Rampage the bass player of D.O.A. during that time period. Over the course of 34 chapters, Randy details his life with great candor before, during, and after his time in D.O.A. At the end of which, the reader is left with the unmistakable impression that Randy spent his life doing what he wanted and how he wanted to do it with little care of concern for anyone else or what they thought.
Randall Desmond Archibald aka Randy Rampage was born to a middle class family in Vancouver, British Columbia, 21 February 1960. By his admission, his upbringing was comfortable and without any great trauma or conflict. For the first three chapters, the reader learns that Randy was a middling student with little ambition, how he grew to love music, how his family supported him, how he met D.O.A., and how he became their bass played despite not liking the instrument. Additionally, readers also learn that while in D.OA. Randy appears to contribute little to the band beyond playing shows.
By his own admission, Randy helped little with songwriting on those seminal D.O.A. records released during his time in the band. He does not mention a single incident where he made a substantive contribution to the band on any level not involving live performances. In fact, the remaining chapters dedicated to his time in the band become a tiresome routine of drinking, drugging, screwing, fighting, and playing shows. Passages about his interactions with the other members of D.O.A. remain brief, filled with tension, and increasingly rare as the chapters pass. Not even news of Randy fathering a child after a brief tryst while on tour moves him to change his ways. Even a casual reader will gleam that Randy is solely concerned with Randy.
Undeniably, Randy was a part of D.O.A. while the reputation that still sustains the band was created. Additionally, Randy was part of the punk/hardcore scene at its earliest moments and thereby participated in laying the foundation for much of what those scenes are today. Beyond a cataloging of the women Randy slept with, the â€œassâ€ he kicked, and the years he wasted drinking and drugging, however, I Survived D.O.A. has little to contribute to the history of D.O.A. or the early punk/hardcore scene. The title of the book is deceptive as Randyâ€™s survival was never challenged by D.O.A., though the reverse appears to be true.
Given Randyâ€™s selfish behavior throughout his life â€“ lacking from this book is a single example of Randy doing anything for anyone else on any level â€“ the title of the book appears to more about threats to his exaggerated ego than any threats to his survival. From the first chapter to the last, the only unifying thread is Randyâ€™s unabated attempts to gratify his urges without any care for the cost to himself and others. The image of Randy that emerges after reading the book is that of a continually besotted letch who was along for the ride during a transitional period in music and as such has little substantive to say about that time but is saying it anyway.
In the end, I Survived D.O.A. remains a shallow, error laden, disappointing stream-of-consciousness-mental-dump by a self-centered addict whose story was helped little by two editors and a ghost writer. Randy reviews his life with no more depth or analysis that day-drinker at your local dive sitting at the bar regaling fellow drinkers with prideful exploits and tales of woe. If unrepentant selfishness, failure to learn from oneâ€™s mistakes, and a general lack of accomplishment are your fancy, then I Survived D.O.A. is the book for you. Fans of D.O.A. or early punk/hardcore hoping to learn about those early days you are better served searching out Joey Keithleyâ€™s I, Shithead instead of spending money on this book.