Martin Popoff, author of Kickstart My Heart: A Motley Crue Day-by-Day, spoke with Alternative Nation about his recent books and also about his love for punk and alt-rock. Read below to see what they had to say!
In the Crüe book, ‘Kickstart My Heart,’ there is a quote from Nikki Sixx in which he recalls being able to tell that Nirvana was going to alter the landscape of rock n’ roll around the release of ‘Nevermind,’ which I found interesting.
Yeah, you always wonder how much truth there is to something like that, when you’re looking back. I can’t remember the exact quote and I’m too lazy to look it up, but there’s a significant difference about saying something like that around ‘Bleach’ or around ‘Nevermind.’ I mean, I couldn’t care less if they were going to alter the landscape or not, but I knew instantly the moment I heard ‘Bleach,’ that this was a cool, incendiary form of punky, heavy metal, and there were things that Kurt was doing on the guitar there that by some definitions were heavier than anything we’d heard out of any hair metal band. Plus the vocals, the lyrics, I don’t ascribe too much of pontificating about emotion or anger or intensity or energy on these things, but let’s just say the overall vibe was of anarchy, of a need to retool metal. Grunge was already a good three years old by the time ‘Nevermind’ was going to pop up on big huge bad Geffen, home of the bad wind that was Guns N’ Roses.
Although you seem to write primarily about heavy metal, do you enjoy
alt-rock and punk, as well?
Definitely, although alt rock can mean a million different things. And so
can punk, I suppose, and the only punk that I really care about and am an
expert on is the original punk of 1976 to 1979. I know and love all of that
up and down, and I can see having a few punk books in me. And I do indeed have a Ramones coffee table book coming out in the next few months. I’m gearing up to write ‘Who Invented Punk?,’ having done a whole bunch of research on that, and it’s a story I find fascinating. That will be the companion book to my insane ‘Who Invented Heavy Metal?’ book out last June, and I may even do ‘Who Invented Thrash?.’ Alternative rock, however? I just get carsick thinking about that term. I’m more interested in the meanings and the bands that fill up the spaces known as new wave and post punk.
After reading ‘The Big Book of Hair Metal,’ I felt like it was a good
companion piece to my book, ‘Grunge is Dead,’ as it sets the stage for what happened in the ’90s in rock music and was interesting to read what was going on concurrently in LA and Seattle throughout the ’80s and early ’90s. I seem to think that for the most part, there is “good glam rock” (the early to mid ’70s variety) and “bad glam rock” (the mid to late ’80s variety). Do you agree? Disagree?
No, couple things here. First off, the first glam rock, as it existed in the
UK from about 1971 to 1974, really has very little to do with the LA glam
rock of the late ’80s. They basically just had the same name. And even
there, few people call hair metal “glam rock.” That music from the UK was all over the board, and seldom heavy, except a little bit, Mott the Hoople,
Slade, and quite a bit, Sweet. The only thing they had in common was going for an androgynous look, along with makeup. To me, the more interesting comparison of good and bad is the quality of the originals from LA, wild card Van Halen, but then not wild card, Ratt and Dokken, and then the insipid nature of all the copycats through most of the rotten core of the middle ’80s (especially Bon Jovi), and then, what somebody could do a whole book on, the super high quality of the hair metal bands as they learned and matured and even got influenced by their own distaste for the ’80s, but also learning from grunge or other alternative forms of metal, stuff happening in California like Jane’s Addiction and Faith No More, and made what I think are pretty well, the best bank of hair metal albums, which arrived in 1992 1993, with 1992 being a particularly good year. Basically every crappy hair metal band from the ’80s made some of their best music in the early 90s, and then new bands like Love/Hate, Collision, Saigon Kick, I Love You, Liquid Jesus, even people like King’s X, Skid Row. I think this is one of the great unwritten stories of hair metal, how, once the pendulum swung to Seattle, a bunch of bands in LA were making really good music.
Finish reading the rest of the interview over at AltenativeNation.net
Steal Away the Night: An Ozzy Osbourne Day-by-Day aims to add to the shockingly slight representation of all things Oz-man in book form with celebrated metal expert Martin Popoff plotting the crazy 30-plus-year run of rock’s most adorable madman, day by day, milestone after milestone, the hirings, the firings, the rehabs and relapses, the bats, the doves, Zakk Wylde, and most seriously, the tragic death of Randy Rhoads in a fly-by-prank gone wrong.
Adding to the considerable textual substance of the tome (which promises to leave no Oz-related scrap of trivia unearthed) is a running oral history of the band, making use of Popoff’s extensive interview material with Ozzy plus various band members and producers (along with press quotes), augmented by an explosion of garish imagery culled from the band’s record sleeves, live shows, ads, and memorabilia. Indeed, Ozzy’s shock-rock visuals are some of the flashiest in the biz, making each page of Steal Away the Night: An Ozzy Osbourne Day-by-Day explode with heavy metal power.
On this date in 1976, Iron Maiden played their first-ever gig at St. Nicholas Hall in London. Their payment was only £5 back then! In honor of today, here is an excerpt from Martin Popoff’s 2 Minutes to Midnight: An Iron Maiden Day by Day:
Ah yes, Maiden. As much as we super-fans grit and grind our teeth at the ups and downs of Rod’s rock gods, we very much applaud the state of affairs that has the band slowly, methodically, inexorably over time overcoming adversity and just head-scratchingly becoming bigger and bigger as the years roll on. It is no less a victory for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal(NWOBHM) as it is for pure, old school heavy metal in general, as it is for working class rock ’n’ roll made with traditional tools. It’s all of those things, as well as a deeper concept: the idea that the band, in tandem with getting grand, has seeped into wider pop culture the way Kiss had before, and roughly at the same pace, in the same era and through the same yawning number of years, as AC/DC, Aerosmith, and even Skynyrd. Point is, regular non-rock folk understand references to Maiden, something that tickles the cockles of we, the patched-jean-jacket army that found something chaotic, danger- ous, and seductive about the self-titled first record, over and above similar propositions from the likes of Tygers, Quartz, Fist, Saxon, and even Angel Witch, the closest thing to a direct competitor Maiden had back in 1980.
Couple of other things at play as well, that have made Maiden the iconic army they’ve become. There’s the uniformity of merchandising, there’s the string of anthemic anti-hit singles the band has cranked over the years, and there’s the inspiring energy expended at the band’s live gigs, a leap- about that gets the point across that the band and their lockstep fans are fighting the same culture war together as one. And who are the villains in that war? Well, in many ways, it’s the same values put forth by the NWOBHM, in support of musicianship, against punk; only now it’s against synthetic, pathetic music made by computers and electronics, not the scrap ’n’ crap scratchings of one-chord wonders keeping blokes with jeans and long hair from getting pub gigs in 1976.
So this is the band we celebrate, with a twist, away from a standard narrative, mainly ’cos, well, the guys have always been well an’ good accessible, so their story has been told, not necessarily so much in book form, but through the piles of interviews in mags and on the net. With that in mind, I also appreciated and then leaned into the fact that Maiden’s career is one of event after event, milestone after milestone, productivity, side careers, reissues, major tours, singles with cool B-sides. And ergo, there goes a timeline with supporting quotes, along with contextual commentary, events outside of Maiden proper that color the times, an exercise with an academic bent just like the lyrics of Bruce Bruce and ’Arry.
The end result, one hopes, is like having an atlas to go with yer tales of travel, a reference work packed with facts and figures and most significantly, a sense of the sweep of time. The quotes, hopefully, makes this tome a nice read, and the yummy pictures (mostly provided by esteemed Maiden scholar and buddy from the DC area Dave Wright) help us all relive visually all this headbanging fun we’ve had living with Maiden through so many eras and arcs, from punk through NWOBHM, hair metal, grunge and hard alternative, into whatever weird context we’ve had during the last decade. Added bonus I was striving for were those little magic moments where you see, for example, what AC/DC or Ozzy were doing that same month, what Bruce was up to as a solo artist that same year that Maiden were struggling with Blaze, in other words, those interesting cross- hatches that are revealed through the timeline process.
In any event, generally speaking, the idea I was after was a reference book meant to be visited again and again as you listen and re-listen to Maiden’s music, as you get ready for the next time Rod’s charges invades your town, or as you check out interviews new and old every time Maiden do something of substance, which is often. Okay, enough from me. Time to turn up the calendar and let them triple harmony axes chop holes in your edbanged ’ead.
Here’s an end of the week treat for our readers – the first person to correctly answer these five questions (AND include their email addresses so we can contact them) will win a free copy of Black Sabbath FAQ, by Martin Popoff!
1. Why was the Dec. 1, 1973 release date for Sabbath Bloody Sabbath delayed?
2. What year did the earliest known cover of a Black Sabbath song appear on an album?
3. What band did Black Sabbath famously tour with on the Never Say Die tour of 1978?
4. Which band member is quoted as saying, “The only Black Magic that Sabbath got into was a box of chocolates”?
5. What band did Ronnie James Dio leave to join Sabbath?
Unlike any Sabbath book thus far, Black Sabbath FAQ digs deep into quirks, obscure anecdotes, and burning questions surrounding the Sabs. In a fast-moving, topical format, this book covers a tremendous amount of information, delectable to any Sabbath fan, but hard to find in a traditional biography. This rich history lives and breathes and shouts right here. And the voice behind it could not be stronger: Martin Popoff is a heavy metal expert who has authored over 30 books on the subject, including Doom Let Loose, which is widely considered the definitive biography of the band. In Black Sabbath FAQ, Popoff is like a rabid detective unearthing (and sometimes debunking) ancient lore, valiantly covering new ground, applying academic rigor, but then wildly sounding off with lurid opinion. The pendulum swings, and, though disoriented, the serious Sabbath studier is better for it come the book’s doomy conclusion. Dozens of images of rare memorabilia make this book a must-have for fans.