Released: 2009, University Of California Press
Waksman is an Associate Professor of Music and American Studies at Smith College (Northhampton, Massachusetts) and this is his second book on popular music. I have a passing fancy in what academia is saying about Metal so I picked this book up a couple of years ago. The sub-title ‘Conflict And Crossover In Heavy Metal And Punk’ caught my eye but I was a bit turned off by the guy on the front who I later discovered is a punk rock guy by the name of Iggy Pop. I picked it up anyway and it’s not bad.
Waksman main thrust is that instead of seeing Metal and it’s in-bred, retarded cousin, punk rock, as diametrically opposed, he suggested there has been a shared lineage and heritage dating back to the 70’s. I don’t agree at all but he makes an interesting case. It’s debatable and he presents his points well with some research and without bias.
Waksman puts way too much emphasis on bands like Grand Funk Railroad and Iggy Pop. He dedicates an entire chapter to the Dictators and The Runaways which are mere footnotes in the history of Metal. He cites Motorhead as an early example of Punk/Metal crossover but that’s like saying the sky is blue. It’s not a stretch even though Lemmy himself has consistently said for three decades they are not Metal or Punk, they are just simply Rock’n’Roll. Waksman’s chapter on the NWOBHM is quite good and he makes some interesting points.
Chapter Six, titled Metal/Punk Reformation: Three Independent Labels focuses on SST Records, Sub-Pop Records and Metal Blade Records. I wasn’t really interested in the punk labels and they pretty much came and went without anyone noticing. SST Records is largely inactive today and Sub-pop got bought by MCA Metal Blade was really the only success story and remains a global independent powerhouse today. Waksman makes some interesting points about the DIY ethic and parallels the rise of the labels.
THIS AIN’T THE SUMMER OF LOVE, which I assume is a reference to the Lizzy Borden song from his 2000 album, DEAL WITH THE DEVIL (Metal Blade), was an interesting read but I just don’t have any interest in pop, rock, punk or grunge so all his cross-referencing and analysis didn’t really convince me of his theory. It’s a revisionist music theory, it even says so on the back cover, but that’s fine, it’s good to challenge pre-conceived notions and long-standing beliefs. Waksman does it well. Reading this book I couldn’t help be reminded of the old joke…
Q: ‘What do you get when a punk band, grows up, learns how to play their instruments and stops whining about foreign policy’?
A: a Metal band.
On a more serious note, if you are open-minded and tolerant of the genres spawned in Metal’s magnificent wake (Punk, alt.-Metal, grunge etc) then check out this book for a unique and interesting perspective about music history.