If you’re in your late 30s to mid-40s, reading this review and don’t cop to listening to a little Ratt or Bon Jovi in your teens; Slamming a Poison or Motley Crue cassette into your car’s tape deck, then you were either raised Amish or you’re very likely, completely full of shit. There is almost no way you could have been a teenager in the ‘80s and not spent a little quality time with the hair metal genre (even if you want to now refer to it as Glam Rock, that doesn’t make it any less of a guilty pleasure).
In Martin Popoff’s wildly entertaining stroll down memory lane (a walk reeking of Aqua Net and punctuated by the squeals of masturbatory guitar solos, naturally), The Big Book of Metal, he revisits the evolution of genre that defined the music industry in the 1980s from the very first hair metal record of the decade (the UK’s Girl, featuring Phil Collen, who would eventually join Def Leppard and Phil Lewis, a few years away from joining L.A. Guns) to some of the previously straight ahead metal bands who tried to cash in on the trend with a little bit of hairspray, bad lyrics and a lot of glossy over-production (Bad Company, Anvil and the list goes on and on). Fittingly, this massive coffee table book is crazy with garishly colorful pics and tour flyers.
The Big Book of Hair Metal is part encyclopedia, part scrapbook, breaking down the decade year by year with interviews from musicians, producers and label A&R folks who helped hair metal survive for so long. There are also sidebars, highlighting big events throughout each year. Popoff makes a good book great thanks to his frank and hilarious asides (he very much dislikes Def Leppard’s Hysteria). The book, appropriately enough, ends with the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind on September 24, 1991.
The Big Book of Hair Metal: The Illustrated Oral History of Heavy Metal’s Debauched Decade by Martin Popoff/Hardcover/224 pages/Voyageur Press/2014