Book Review: ‘The Big Book of Hair Metal’ by Martin Popoff
Reviewed by: Roger Scales
Yes, this review will be 100% biased because its subject matter is near and dear to my “80’s Guy” heart but no it was not written for me, dedicated to me nor did I have any involvement in the creation of it whatsoever. However that’s not to say that I couldn’t have been added as a creative consultant or at the very least quoted in it somewhere! The Big Book of Hair Metal The Illustrated Oral History of Heavy Metal’s Debauched Decade is candid, funny, informative and is really one of the first truly year by year breakdown of the 80’s hair band genre in written form. The detail is what’s most encouraging about Martin Popoff’s take on this era in music of which he boosts in the book’s introduction that hair metal makes him “happy’. Why shouldn’t it? If you had a pulse from 1980-1991 (prior to Nirvana changing the culture within the industry) than you more than likely had just as many happy moments along the way listening to bands like Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and Dokken, as Martin did.
The book starts off with a prehistory of where these hair bands got their inspiration starting with the 1950’s, entering into the 1960’s and ending with the 1970’s. Popoff brings to light some of where these bands may have got some inspiration. Some of the bands like Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, or KISS are obvious. But you might have forgotten Suzi Quatro or Sweet or Angel or Starz. All of these bands played a major role in what would become the ‘Golden Age” of hair metal 1980-1989. One of the great strengths of Poppoff’s take are his own personal interviews just for this book. Big names like Bobby Blotzer, Rick Allen, Carlos Cavazo, Stephen Pearcy, Jay Jay French and many more. Also quotes from stars no longer with us like Kevin Dubrow and KISS manager Bill Aucoin also add some interesting thoughts as well.
The decline as described by Poppoff are the years 1990 and 1991 and although somewhat accurate really don’t tell the full story. Because if you use September 24, 1991 with the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind as the day “hair metal died” then you’d be wrong. Wounded?? Yes, no doubt that record changed the culture of the music scene and welcomed in the era of grunge. What about Hardline’s Double Eclipse, Damn Yankees Don’t Tread, Steelheart’s Tangled in Reigns, and Lynch Mob’s S/T record all came from 1992. Those are some of the best “Hair Metal” releases ever…for me. But after that the decline was in full downhill mode and just kept picking up speed.
The book is very enjoyable and a great recap of the 80’s and includes many rare photos, old t-shirts and several vintage tickets and promotional items. You will have a blast going year by year remembering the different albums, quotes from the artists who created the music and also from producers like Beau Hill, Mike Fraser and others. Pick up one up for that hair band fan in your life. Who knows they may even learn something or at least call to mind a great time in their life.
Purchase the book here