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Heavy Metal (Book Review)
Released: 1998, Heinemann Library
This book is a bit of an oddity. HEAVY METAL is the first (and only, to my knowledge) children’s book about Heavy Metal. Back in the late 90’s, the David West Childen’s Book group in conjunction with Heinemann Library published a series of half a dozen books about rock music for kids. The series was entitled ‘Soundtrackers’ and I believe was intended to be distributed perhaps to schools and libraries as a simple reference guide for kids aged perhaps 8-14. It’s hard to gauge. The language is simple but there are references to people who died from suicide and drugs or alcohol (Bon Scott, Phil Lynott,) so it’s not for kids Grades 1-6 but probably for middle school or the British equivalent of Grades 7-10.
First published in 1998 the series was written by Bob Brunning. If you are not familiar with the name he was a founding member of the band Fleetwood Mac. In 1980 he formed a blues band and has been going ever since. I’m assuming he was contracted to write this series and having an old blues musician write a book about Metal was a bit of a mis-match. Unfortunately there are many, many little mistakes all through the book. None of them are critical and a young person in school would not recognize them as mistakes but as an adult (I’m reading a book intended for children, yes, I know) I saw some mistakes. Apparently, Dio sang on Black Sabbath’s TYR and Phil Taylor is still in Motorhead!
HEAVY METAL is only 32 pages long, it’s an oversize paperback and apparently was also issued in hardcover as well. It’s big, glossy paper, lots and lots of photos and little sidebars with information about Metal. It’s big, fun, easy to read and gives a very god overview of traditional Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. It’s all printed white text on black paper giving it a striking, almost magazine-like look and feel. Brunning’s age betrays him as he chooses to include Cream, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin in the book. The most current inclusions are Metallica and Guns ‘n’ Roses. That is certainly not a problem at all because all of the former bands were instrumental in the development of the genre, in fact all of his choices cannot be argued as to their merit for inclusion. Brunning explains what is a riff, what is a recording studio, the fondness of leather garments, and generally does a fine job describing many components of the genre. The book is anchored by a brief bio of 14 bands each with a limited and incomplete discography.
HEAVY METAL (aside from being a children’s book) is for curio seekers, collectors, and librarians only. As an adult Metal fan, don’t bother. I picked it up for a couple of bucks on-line and you might find a used copy in your local used bookshop. I’d recommend it to any kid and I’m probably going to force my kid to read it because at age 11 she is getting a bit too much into the saccharine teen-pop. The kid needs some education on the classics, so I’m going to be a mean father and assign her some non-school related homework!