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Sharpe-Young, Garry
Rockdetector: A-Z OF 80’s Rock (Book Review)
March 2004
Released: 2003, Rockdetector/Cherry Red
Rating: 5.0/5
Reviewer: JP

I’m going to state my involvement right up front to clear the air. I am a contributor to Rock Detector the world’s largest and most comprehensive heavy metal database. In addition, my company, JPW Metal Enterprises Inc sells this book. I tell you this not so that you will disregard this review as automatically biased but to give you perspective and be open and forthcoming. I have also reviewed all the titles in the series (Death, Black, Doom, Power, and Thrash) for the sake of convenience each review has a very similar structure because they are so closely linked.

Having said that, this book is the greatest book on the subject of 80’s rock ever! Many years ago the author, Mr. Sharpe-Young started a career chronicling the heavy metal genre. In the late 90’s the book “The Ultimate Hard Rock guide was published. (Click here for review) It proved to be a tome so weighty and a project so expansive that it evolved into what is now Rock Detector. This is now the 6th in the series.

A-Z of 80’s Rock is an encyclopedia pure and simple. No wordy opinionated reviews, just straight facts, text and minimal frills. The cover has a shot of Sebastian Bach and the back cover has a shot of Cherry Street, long standing and under-rated glam band.

I’m not keen on the title because I have never agreed with the term 80’s rock. Bands like Firehouse and Danger Danger for example were most active during the 90’s but get unfairly lumped into the 80’s. To me a musical genre cannot be defined by a chronological timeframe because there will always be more exceptions than the rule. I haven’t counted but my best guess is that there are more albums listed in this book that were not released between 1980 and 1989. Overall the title is not important and genre definitions are touchy at best.

After a short and articulate introduction by Mr. Sharpe-Young the book starts on Page 1 with Lee Aaron and ends on page 735 with Ztoyz. Writing a review of an encyclopedia is hard because there is really not much to say, but I will try. The font is clear and easy to read, and the text is not too small. The format starts with the band name, country of origin, line-up and a paragraph or two of simple info about the band. Next follows a discography in semi-chronological order with track listings. There are a few dozen black and white photos scattered about the book. This is by far the biggest book in the series.

One issue is the line-up info can be a little sparse. Keeping in mind it is virtually impossible to track who came and went from a band, let alone thousands of bands, many (most?) now defunct, so it is understandable. Sharpe-Young and co-writer Dave Reynolds opt for a very simple single “formal” line up description and lets the text space be used to chronicle the comings and goings from the band, which is more enjoyable to read than a list of names and dates. One day, I have no doubt Rock Detector will have the resources to list every member of every band, when they came and left, what instrument they played AND on which song, and who wrote what part of what song!

As for the caliber of information about metal bands contained within, it is top notch. It covers every major band in glorious detail and even includes bands you have never heard of like Last Lix and Kidd Comet. There is no CD included this time but there are more photos than ever before.

Regardless of definitions, this is the most comprehensive book on the topic ever. It has set the bar extremely high, so high in fact it may not even be worth the time, money or energy for a rival publisher to try to compete. They would just be duplicating what has been done. Extra praise to Cherry Red for publishing this masterwork!

I cannot recommend this book enough for everyone, casual fans, serious scholars or die-hard rockers like myself. There is so much to learn, this book will amuse and educate.

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