In the past couple of months there have been countless reports, reviews and interviews about Simple Plan’s newly released biography “Simple Plan: The Official Story”. But let’s face it: 99% of the reporters probably aren’t regular Simple Plan fans, therefore are not the target audience and would never be able to properly tell what exactly is the book like for a fan. That’s why I decided to do a little review of the book from a fan’s (mine) point of view. Usually I feel like reviews are a very subjective matter and writing one about a Simple Plan CD would be very biased – but this is a book. Not a normal book, but a very special one. It incorporates everything I work with on this website every day – information and pictures. And I think it might be interesting for anyone who’s still wondering whether it is worth it to get this book to know how it’s been perceived by another fan.
I’ve been hearing about the “photo book” almost ever since I started being a Simple Plan fan in 2005. Even then I knew that once it’s out, I’d have to get it. But years went on and the band remained silent about this matter. That’s why I asked Chuck and Seb during the SimplePlan.cz interview in Prague in September 2011 if the book was still on and Chuck said it was a pet project of his and that he’d strive for it to be done one day. And almost one year later, it was out! Now let’s move over the 2 excruciating months of having troubles receiving the book while the Internet has started to be filled up with countless of images of the pictures and content that I had to stay away from in order to one day be able to enjoy the book like it was meant to be enjoyed. Finally on January 7th, it was here and I spent about 8 hours of that day and of the following one reading through the complete story of my favourite band.
First thing you need to know: the book is heavy. Like really heavy. About 1,5 kg. So walking around the city reading it is not really an option here. This book is made for crawling into bed with or laying it down on a coffee table and reading it from there.
I was just 2 pages in (after reading the introductory “Simple Plan warmly thanks” and Patrick’s prologue) and I thought: “This book should have come with a “Better get some tissues” warning,” because I could already feel tears falling down my face just after reading those first few pages. Having Patrick write the prologue was a perfect choice. Who else should have written it than the guy who has been there from the beginning. The guy who will never seize to be the “sixth member of Simple Plan”.
If you look at the Contents page, you’ll realize the book is divided into five main chapters: the first one (entitled “Back to the beginning”) capturing the long period from Chuck’s and Pierre’s first meeting of each other, through the Reset times all the way to the early beginnings of Simple Plan. After that the remaining four chapters all deal with each of the band’s albums, their recording process and the following tours. In between these chapters, the book includes a 2-page profile on each of the band members. All the chapters are filled with hundreds of pictures taken from day one till 2012 (that were chosen from about 40 000 pictures that the band and their photographers took throughout their whole career). The final pages of the book then feature a little tribute to the Simple Plan fans (including a couple of fans’ tattoos, that were submitted by SimplePlan.cz) and also a summary of everything Simple Plan have ever achieved and a list of every place they’ve ever been to (it’s just a little shame that the info next to Prague is slightly inaccurate, since the band did not visit it three times as the “3rd show” – Prague City Festival – has been canceled by the promoter of the event two weeks in advance).
As a fan who’s been tracking this band’s career for the past 7 years, it was obvious to me that I would mostly be interested in the first half of the book – the era I knew only a little about. This book made me realize I really missed out on a lot and some of the missing connections between the pieces of information that I had, have finally been revealed to me. For example I was very happy to read about the beginnings of Chuck’s and Pierre’s friendship as the strength of this friendship has always been somewhat examplary to me despite some of the “downs” they’ve had in the past. It was very enrichening to learn more not only about Roach, but also a little bit about Stone Garden as one of the predecessors of Reset and Jeff’s and Fred’s “involvement” within this band. I was quite surprised to read about the break-up between Pierre and Chuck in detail. Of course it doesn’t include everything as we know the guys still feel very uncomfortable talking about it, but the fact that some of the stories made into the book made the story for me even more real and true to it’s name.
Not only did I learn more about the “Reset times” but the early “Simple Plan times” were just as interesting! Seeing the actual names of other people who tried out for Simple Plan makes me think: “Wow, wouldn’t it be weird if there was a Luke in Simple Plan?”
I think that for the first time in my life, after reading the early Simple Plan beginnings part, I realized how different the attitude towards labels and music has been between Reset and Simple Plan. While the guys were in Reset, they mostly paid attention to learning how to play and to playing actual shows. But after Chuck, Jeff, Sebastien, and later with Pierre and also David started working on Simple Plan, almost from the day one they wanted this to be their actual job and to get signed to a major record label. It’s like as if Reset served as a “training field” for Simple Plan.
All the rejection letters from record labels show how much devotion Chuck put into making his and his friends’ dreams come true, to make them get as far as they could – and even further, which is a quality he possesses to this day. The details to which Kathleen Lavoie, along with everyone who participated in creating it (most notably Chuck Comeau), dived into, are quite astounding: for instance the story of Patrick’s role in Simple Plan getting signed, Mark Hoppus’ letter to Chuck or Mark McGrath’s words about Simple Plan – they all moved me quite a lot.
While I wrote earlier that I was mostly interested in the stories from the part of SP’s career that I “missed”, I was also wondering about the post 2005 era – what did I miss in that part of their story even if I was around? What are the things that fans cannot tell from the band members’ blogs on MySpace or later tweets? It was quite eye-opening to see that despite the feeling of being so in-the-loop with the news around SP, there are things that the guys just don’t share. That’s why I was very interested in the stories about the writer’s block the guys had before the self-titled album or about how this album flopped in the U.S. market.
There are many other things I’d like to say about this book but I don’t want to be too specific about the details as I believe you should read about those on your own if you decide to purchase it. The book offers so much more: so many incredible pictures that you will stare at for hours because you won’t believe how good they are. All that mostly thanks to the three marvellous photographers: Patrick, Chady and Sim. When you go through one page after another, you’ll also be amazed by the graphic design: the pages are colorful and well balanced with text and pictures that are put together in a form of a scrapbook: a work by no-one other but Simple Plan’s royal graphic designer Fred Jerome, who’s done a fantastic job on this project. So has Kathleen Lavoie by putting together all the information found in Chuck’s parents’ archives and combining it with in-depth interviews with the band members and other personalities important to Simple Plan’s story. The language is very likable and draws you in the story in a heartbeat.
All in all, this book is everything. Everything you ever wanted to know about the band – and even more. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been around for a while or just got to know them. This book will put you in perspective of what the guys are really like – their ups and also downs, what their goals are and how exactly they have made it to where they are today – a multi-platinum band with fans all across the world, while still staying together – not breaking up, being down-to-earth and doing everything they can for their fans.
And if you still need a little bit more persuading – 10% of the proceeds of the Simple Plan book go to the Simple Plan Foundation.
In case you need to know info about how to order the book, visit this section on SimplePlan.cz.