Review Date: April 2020
Released: 2018/print on demand
While we are all fans of music to one degree or another there are those individuals who truly super-fans. These people want to contribute something back and share their love of a certain band or genre. Brad Groghan is one of those super-fans. Brad is an American and he is a true champion of Hair Metal. I’d like to get something out of the way. I’ve never liked the term ‘Hair Metal’. What does that even mean? Slayer and Metallica have hair..are they ‘Hair Metal too? However, Hair Metal is Groghan’s preferred term and most people know what you are talking about when you say Hair Metal so that is the term we will use for now.
Groghan is the founder and operator of the very large and popular Facebook group Hair Metal Music. He also runs a website under the same name. Such is his dedication to keeping the hair metal flame alive he has published no less than five books on the topic. In a very gene ours offer he sent them to me for our review and enjoyment. Over the next couple of months I’ll review all of them. They are listed below in order of publication.
-SOUNDTRACK OF OUR YOUTH
-DEMOS AND B-SIDES
-HAIR METAL ACTIVITY BOOK
-HAIR METAL HALL OF FAME
-METAL AND ROCK ACTIVITY BOOK
I’ll start with the three smaller titles this month, (March 2020). In case you are not familiar people can self-publish and print-on-demand books and that is exactly what Groghan has done. These are independent print on demand titles. There are dozens, maybe even hundreds of these print of demand activity book available on-line. It is extremely rare that this type of book is official or endorsed by the band, but fans make them all the time. All the bigs bands have been the subjects of these books; an Iron Maiden colouring book, a Judas Priest crossword book, a Metallica wordsearch and there are a ton of them. I usually don’t brother reviewing them of the Library of Loudness for two reasons. One there are too many! Secondly, what would I say for each review? They are all essentially the same thing, puzzles and games using Hard Rock and Metal bands as the topic. However I decide to review these as part of this series. Please feel free to enjoy all the books in this series of reviews.
This is the book that started it all for Groghans mini-publishing empire, THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR YOUTH.
Originally published in late 2018, this 450+ page paperback shot up the Amazon book charts (for similar books) quickly hitting the Top 5 best-sellers. There are still millions of people for whom Hair Metal was the soundtrack of their youth and this book is right up our alley. This was originally published under a pseudonym of Hall Laurel so if you go looking for it, search there.
The book is divided into a number of main sections. After a brief introduction explaining his methodology and reasoning for writing the book, the first major part of the book s a very brief synopsis of each year from 1982 to 2017. There are lists, lots and lots of lists; top performing albums, Top Ballads, Top Songs and lots of Billboard Chart info about the bands. Up next is a section with mini-reviews of Hair Metal books about three-dozen of them in total.
THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR YOUTH is anchored by a giant section of interviews, almost 50 interviews conducted exclusively for this book. What I really like is that the interviews are not with the big names you might expect. Sure there are some heavy hitters (Jeff Pilson, Billy Sheehan) but when was the last time you read an interview with Danny Vaughn of Tyketto, Lanny Cordolla of House Of Lords or Pat Fontaine of XYZ? The interviews are brief, casual and fun. Some of the questions are serious, others not so much, but there is a positive, supportive vibe in all of them. There are lots of cool pieces of trivia to be gleaned from them, like Kendall from Great White used to be a Triple AAA baseball player or that David Glenn Eisley’s wife and daughter are famous actresses or that Conny Bloom of The Electric Boys is a pretty decent tennis player and once challenged Lars Ulrich to a match! This book is a deep treasure trove of information, stories and memories. It is well researched and detailed.
This book is not beyond criticism however. I understand that this is Hair Metal and not a spelling bee but there are many little errors and typos. This book needs another good editing for those little mistakes.
The other problem is that Groghan is an American. This is not a problem in itself, America is a wonderful place as are it’s people but it is well known world wide that when it comes to culture and entertainment the USA is very insular and has very little appreciation of the cultures of other nations. How this becomes a problem for this book is that Groghan focuses about 90% on American bands. He really neglects or ignores some massive Hair Metal bands from around the planet and I know exactly why this is. I think he just doesn’t know or care about them!
The only non-American bands in his book got some sort of little recognition in the US, bands like Europe, Scorpions, Whitesnake and lesser known bands that had very brief impact on MTV and US Rock magazines or were signed very briefly to a major label and had decent distribution in the USA. I’m referring to bands like Sleeze Beez, D.A.D., Stage Dolls, TNT, Loudness, and Gorky Park, and a couple of others.
I’m not suggesting that he only likes or champions US bands, far from it there are a few European-only bands that slipped onto his radar like Wig Wam. However, pretty big bands like Krokus, Bonfire, Pretty Maids, Gotthard, Fair Warning, Thunder, Treat, and even mid-tier bands like Charade and Casanova get virtually zero recognition. Canada doesn’t much representation neither big bands like Brighton Rock, Lee Aaron, Kick Axe, White Wolf or Harem Scarem, just don’t get included. I’m not saying all those bands are top-tier in his perspective but they should have got some honourable mention somewhere based on objective merit alone.
One last noticeable band that could have been included… Dirty Looks! Big hair metal band, videos on MTV, major label, 15 albums and a career that spanned almost years seemed odd to include a smaller band like Sea Hags or Wildside. I’m not just complaining that he didn’t include my favourite bands, it just his focus is very American-centric. However one last caveat about my criticism is that the book is called the soundtrack of our youth and perhaps those bands just weren’t part of that soundtrack. It’s his book and he never once claimed this to be a definitive list.
The last criticism is that Groghan doesn’t seem to follow many of the new breed of Hair Metal bands. If a band has ex-members of an 80’s or 90’s Hair Metal band, for example Tokyo Motor Fist is mostly guys from Danger Danger, he recognizes them. However, the vast majority of new young bands who champion the 80’s sound don’t get mentioned. He acknowledges a couple of them (Sanata Cruz, Crazy Lixx etc) but again, this book is the soundtrack of his ‘youth’ not an exploration what is cool and new since 2010. There is a great book idea for him to do next, a look at all the bands, dozens of them, from the last 10-15 years that have that sound.
So really, despite the fact I spent some time criticizing the book, it comes down to a few typos, incorrect album names and dates, a heavy emphasis on American bands and mostly looking at older bands, so overall those are not really horrible or fundamental flaws! The depth of knowledge and information about what he DOES cover, more than makes up for it.
Groghan writes with enthusiasm and passion for the music he clearly loves. It might be a bit informal at times but he makes up for it in energy and dedication. Grogan captures the soundtrack of our youth extremely well. This is one of the biggest and best explorations of Hair Metal I have ever read.