Released: 2011, Abrams Image
I got this book as a birthday present and I’m glad I didn’t pay for it because I am pretty disappointed. I didn’t really enjoy it all and learned virtually nothing about Metal. Sounds harsh but let me explain.
Eddie Trunk is an American DJ who has been in the radio and music business in the New Jersey & NYC area for many, many years. He hosts a TV show on a video music channel called VH1, which is virtually unknown to anyone outside of the US. This book is his anecdotes and recollections about his career interlaced with brief overviews of 35 bands. Although it is not his autobiography per se, it is very much centered around Eddie and his experiences interviewing bands, meeting bands, listening to bands and so on.
Technically speaking, the book looks great. The book is an oversized paperback clocking in at 240 pages. It’s big bright and bold and will look great on your coffee table. It’s really well laid out, tons of cool, rare photos courtesy of veteran Metal photographer Ron Akiyama. Rob Halford does the Foreword and there is a long self-congratulatory intro penned by Eddie. Each band gets a few pages with each section following a format of a limited discography, a brief list of key (or classic) band members, lists of Eddie favorite tracks, and photos of ticket stubs, back-stage passes and so on. It is really quite gorgeous to look at.
Eddie seems like a friendly enough fellow a sincere and earnest fan but he comes across as pretty inexperienced about Metal in a broader sense of sub-genres and the scope ands scale of the global Metal scene. He lists 20 American bands and about a dozen bands from the UK but Motorhead and Ozzy have been residing and working in the States for so long they are practically American. AC/DC, Rush and Scorpions round out the list. Only one band from Europe and not a single band from Asia or South America! He has a brief appendix of ‘More Essentials’, each band awarded a sentence or two but again of those 27 bands, 20 are American. In his intro he blames space restrictions but I blame his lack of understanding of the global Metal scene. Triumph, Night Ranger, Kix and White Lion all make the cut as Essential and yet Helloween (Germany), Loudness (Japan), Sepultura, (Brazil) or Nightwish (Finland) don’t make the cut. My comments are not borne from personal displeasure that, ‘my favourite band didn’t make the cut’. His choices for defining essential are weak and poorly researched.
Eddie in his introduction says he deliberately avoided most genres of Metal so he can’t be faulted for that, because he stated it upfront, but it was still a poor choice to limit your representation of Metal to one or two of the dozen main genres and still call the book ‘Essential’. I can’t argue with his choices for inclusion for his book…it says Hard Rock right on the cover, but his inclusion of Poison, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Billy Squier and Cheap Trick betray his tastes.
Eddie seems pretty much stuck in the 70’s and 80’s. Not one single band on his list was formed later than 1986. That speaks volumes. The newest, youngest band on the list is Skid Row. Seriously. He seems pretty out of touch with anything in the Metal scene over the past 20 years. Ask him about stuff from 1970-1990 he’ll do OK, after that he is just out of his league. The book has many, minor technical errors and could have used some proof-reading as well. Die-hard fans of these little mistakes will pick on those quite readily and I could go on and list them all here but it would be a waste of time.
Eddie is an entertaining writer but his style is somewhat marred by a constant undercurrent of ego. He states at one point that he rarely asks for his photo to be taken (p. 118) and yet the book is loaded with photos of him posing with certain people from different bands. I stopped counting the number of photos of him with band members after a couple dozen! He has a story about how he is friends with so and so from band X and band Y. Let’s face it. Trunk is a US corporate radio hack with very little innovation or imagination in his programming but he has become a staple and the face of NYC Hard Rock/Metal realm. Accordingly, he wrote a book about himself and attempted to frame it as a list of his favourite bands he defined as essential. Great. More power to him but his book lacks journalistic integrity and Metal credibility.
Reading this I got the impression he tries really hard to be cool and fit in but misses many of the finer points and comes across as a bit of...well...a poser. He talks about Rush for example. He says he only got into Rush in 1980 with the album Permanent Waves. He was 16 or so at the time. Fair enough. He says he soured on them for most of the 80's and 90's. That's OK too. Then he says that they changed in 1982 and they were no longer the band he grew up with...what from 1980 to 1981? Two albums? He contradicts himself. Did he grow up listening to them or not? Does he like them or not? He says he liked Rush from 1974 to 1980 because they had 20 minute long songs. Well, two songs anyway. He says he went back and bought Chronicles, which came out (ten years in the future) in 1990. So we have to assume he meant he bought Archives (1978) and just got the name of the album wrong. The whole book is loaded with stuff like that. Maybe he is just not a detail-oriented guys, but simple things like names of albums and dates they came out should at least be accurate.
He also has a very unique perspective on what constitutes a band's 'classic' line-up. For each band there is a limited list of band members and one key list of the 'classic' line-up. Many of his picks are quite different form my experiences and people I've talked too. For example he says that Dave Holland is Priest's classic drummer even though Scott Travis has been in the band far longer, twice as long, (ten years longer in fact) and has recorded more songs and toured more. Trunk is one of the few people I've ever heard suggest that Bon Scott to be the classic AC/DC singer, compared to Brian Johnson who was in the band over 25 years longer than Scott was! Another example is Trunk thinks Taylor is Motorhead's classic drummer even though Mikkey Dee has been in the band longer and recorded more albums. As I mentioned earlier, Trunk really seems stuck in the 80's while all these bands, Rush, Priest, and Motorhead continue on making music and being relevant but it doesn't seem to register with him.
Another annoying point is that Trunk writes as if he was the only guy around championing these ‘underground’ bands when in reality the bands on his list are about as Mainstream Metal as you can get. He is proud of the fact he has been in radio for 25 years, and so he should be, but reading about it constantly gets dull. I can name half a dozen Metal radio shows off the top of my head that have been running longer than his; from Ito’s show in Japan, to Overdose in Belgium, to Quintana’s show in California to, the dude in Cleveland, to three shows in Western Canada all celebrating 25 years or more in Metal radio. I wonder what the programmers at WSOU 89.5 (in Trunk’s hometown of New Jersey) think of his show, seeing as they are also celebrating 25 years of Metal radio this year. His career is a wonderful accomplishment but not as unique or amazing as he makes it out to be. Trunk is probably not even really aware of these other shows and that many journalists, writers and radio personalities world-wide have been championing all these bands (and many more underground bands) for as long (or longer) than he has.
If you grew up in the NY area in the 80’s and know of Trunk and his career and/or watch his show where he chats with old rockers, this book will hold far more value for you. The rest of us can raise a skeptical eyebrow and smile politely, pleased for his success but smug in the knowledge that much of the time, he really hasn’t got a clue. I guess I should get off my little high-horse now. Apparently, Eddie is 6 foot 2 inches and 270 pounds! Man, I hope he never reads this book review, he’ll kick my ass! But seriously, I do hope that you at least consider reading his book. It’s easy to criticize and it’s not all that bad. It looks great, it’s cool, it’s fun, it’s covers the basics, but if you are a die-hard Metal fan, this book is really flawed. As our rating system says…’Has it’s moments but not worth buying or owning’.