Stairway To Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe (Book Review)
Released: 1990, Harmony Books
[Released 1990 / Re-issued in 1998(?)]
My first book review for Metal-Rules.com! I choose this review as a cautionary tale as this is one of the first and most recognized books on the topic of metal. You may have seen this lying around in used stores or your Public Library. You may have heard of Chuck Eddy, one of the most famous rock critics. You may have noticed that this book was recently re-issued. I tell you this only so you can avoid buying, reading or endorsing this book in any way. It has nothing to do with Metal. Be warned, it is ugly.
This is without doubt. THE WORST book on the topic of Metal…ever…period. I never thought that I would argue that someone’s subjective, personal opinion of an art form could be wrong, until I read this book. Chuck Eddy is completely wrong. There is no other way of putting it. Bold statement, I know. But Chuck Eddy’s opinions are wrong. He is grossly misinformed and completely clueless.
Let’s have a look.
The Top 10 “Heavy Metal” albums of all time according to Chuck.
1.) Led Zepplin-Zoso
2.) Guns 'n' Roses-Appetite For Destruction (Great album, not Metal)
3.) Alice Cooper-Greatest Hits (Chuck is the only person who I've ever read who qualifies Record Label contractual obligation, compilations as albums. This shouldn't even qualify.)
4.) Aerosmith-Toys In The Attic
6.) New York Dolls-New York Dolls (Glam Rock, not Metal)
7.) Lynyrd Skynyrd-Second Helping (Southern Rock, not Metal)
8.) Neil Young And Crazy Horse-Rust Never Sleeps (not Metal)
9. Teena Marie (WTF?)
10. The Jimmy Castor Bunch-Phase Two (Who?)
I'm serious, those are his picks for the Top Ten.
Other travesties included on the list of 'Metal' albums are..
Beastie Boys, Bryan Adams, Boston, Bon Jovi, Betty Davis, Miles Davis, Derek and The Dominoes, Heart, Billy Idol, Joy Division, Prince, Lou Reed, REO Speedwagon, Run DMC, Patti Smith, .38 Special, Velvet Underground, Who. Yikes!
Of the 500 albums listed about 40 albums are actually 'Metal' using any standard, conventional definition of the genre being employed in the last 30 years. If you are open-minded and an older fan of Hard Rock and Glam (bands such as Van Halen, Kiss, Aerosmith, Queen, Rush) and include them in your definition of 'Metal' (as I do) then the list expands to about 150 albums.
The actual Metal bands listed are...
Accept, Angus, Anthrax, Black Sabbath, Celtic Frost, Death Angel, Hades, Manowar, Metallica, Motorhead, Queensryche, Riot, St. Vitus, Slayer, Venom, Voi-vod. That's right only 16 bands. Sad.
Chuck was born in 1960 so he was only 29 or 30 when he wrote this book but he comes across as far older, cynical and jaded like most of the mainstream rock press. His criteria for inclusion is laughable...if it sounds 'Metal' it makes the cut... He suggests that bands like Bon Jovi are considered not-Metal by metal fans and considered Metal by not-metal fans so he includes them.
I'm not that much younger than Eddy and I see how over-time the process of defining a broad genre becomes increasingly difficult. The young revisionist kids of today who boldly declare that Slayer and Metallica are 'not-Metal' could actually learn something from this book to see how some people (Eddy) have such broad criteria for inclusion, based on their own listening experience in youth. The lesson being if you keep rewriting history, you risk losing the connections to the roots of what you currently enjoy. Having said all that I appreciate and understand why Eddy includes Zepplin, Hendrix, Deep Purple etc because they have a directly lineage that can be traced, but many, many (several hundred) of the entries in this book have no connections and no lineage to Metal. At all.
If you see this for 25 cents at a garage sale, consider picking it up as historical curiosity, but that's about it. As a serious book about Metal it's useless and should be avoided.
*Please note: For some reason the bulk of this review was rewritten in June of 2011, after it was discovered that the review was wiped from the database in the great crash of 10 years ago. I originally posted this review in 2002 and only recently discovered it was missing from our current database. I re-wrote most of it from memory.