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The Big Book of Hair Metal: The Illustrated Oral History of Heavy Metal's Debauched Decade Hardcover – August 15, 2014
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"...a wildly diverse appreciation for some of the best in under the radar music" - New Noise Magazine
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"...wildly entertaining...Popoff makes a good book great thanks to his frank and hilarious asides." - neufutur.com
About the Author
At approximately 7,900 (with over 7,000 appearing in his books), Martin Popoff has unofficially written more record reviews than anybody in the history of music writing across all genres. Additionally, Martin has penned 57 books on hard rock, heavy metal, classic rock, and record collecting, including 2004’s Contents Under Pressure: 30 Years of Rush at Home and Away, Rush: The Illustrated History, and Rush: Album by Album. He was Editor In Chief of the now retired Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles, Canada’s foremost heavy metal publication in print for 14 years, and has also contributed to Revolver, Guitar World, Goldmine, RecordCollector, bravewords.com, lollipop.com and hardradio.com. Martin has been a regular contractor to Banger Films, having worked on the award-wining documentary Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage, the 11-episode Metal Evolution, and the 10-episode Rock Icons, both for VH1 Classic. Martin currently resides in Toronto and can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org or www.martinpopoff.com.
Martin Popoff has been described as "the world's most famous heavy metal journalist." At approximately 7,900 (with over 7,000 appearing in his books), he has unofficially written more record reviews than anybody in the history of music writing across all genres. Additionally, Martin has penned 44 books on hard rock, heavy metal, classic rock, and record collecting. He was editor in chief of the now-retired Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles, Canada's foremost metal publication for 14 years, and has also contributed to Revolver, Guitar World, Goldmine, Record Collector, www.bravewords.com, www.lollipop.com, and www.hardradio.com, with many record label band bios and liner notes to his credit as well. Additionally, Martin worked for two years as researcher on the award-winning documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage and on Metal Evolution, an 11-episode documentary series for VH1 Classic, and is the writer of the original metal genre chart used in Metal: A Headbanger's Journey and throughout Metal Evolution episodes. Martin currently resides in Toronto and can be reached via email@example.com or www.martinpopoff.com.
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Being an MTV weaned, headbangin' hesher who turned 12 in 1984, you can easily figure out I'm exactly the target audience for this book, that is, an adult who lived through this era and remembers it fondly.
Compared to American Hair Metal, the other high profile book on the subject, IMO, The Big Book of Hair Metal is way more shallow despite having more actual written content, since it tends to waste too much space on trivial band stories and minutiae and fails to weave a cohesive narrative regarding the movement's development, a big problem considering it's timeline format.
Basically, this is a collection of interviews the author had in his archives combined with period photos and memorabilia using a period teenybopper magazine like layout to great effect, but despite loving the book's overall look and feel, I still found too many annoying mistakes that should've been corrected before this book got into print, kind of baffling considering the author's pedigree.
Another big issue is how the book ends abruptly in 1991.
True, the rise of grunge killed hair metal dead, but it wasn't that fast, for some high profile bands, 1992 and 1993 were still good years business wise, IMO, 1994 should be the cutoff year, though examining some of the ridiculously tougher albums some bands put out well into 1998 while trying to adapt (very unsuccessfully, and in some cases, adopting a plain, grungier image I might add) to seismic music industry changes would've given the reader a much better view on the movement as a whole.
Even if I really enjoyed the book and found it somewhat engaging, mostly out of nostalgia, it kind of disappoints because most of its content is recycled and there's way too much filler. Another big problem is that the majority of the featured material was culled from the author's interview archives, some third (or fourth) tier losers get as much (or in some cases even more) attention than some of the genre's top dogs, Billy Childs(*) being a particularly bothersome example of this.
Hey, maybe that was the whole point behind this book, some kind of meta commentary about hair metal albums... I remember buying a lot of hair metal cassettes, back in the day, because I loved some video on MTV, only to find that outside one or two singles (which, btw, never sounded as good on my walkman as they did on MTV), most of them were just a waste of acetate... thank goodness mix tapes were a thing!
(*) Britny Fox's bass player, not that anyone cares.
While this is a great book, I did have a couple of problems with it. First off is the almost complete exclusion of Kix. While I realize that no book can be all things for all people, Kix has been at the forefront of listeners reevaluating the genre; their recent comeback album has done well for a genre that most left for dead. Historically, they were at the start of the pop-metal movement and their influence has been discussed elsewhere. They really should have been represented beyond a couple of brief "and those other guys" type mentions.
My second issue is that what constitutes "hair metal" is ill-defined. It's a subgenre that we all have an image of, but the details become fuzzy under close inspection. I never quite understood how progressive rock bands like Kings' X or Queensryche fall under the "hair" umbrella.
Other than that, "The Big Book of Hair Metal" belongs on the shelf of all hard rock libraries.