Toronto’s Martin Popoff is to heavy metal what Alan Lomax was to American folk music. He is a chronicler and explorer of hard rock and metal, and probably knows more about the genre(s) than anyone else. He’s written book after book, following records and bands down paths that few others have traveled. Think you know something about Rush, UFO or Deep Purple? Read one of Popoff’s books and get back to me.
His latest offering, Ye Olde Metal 1977 is the fourth such installment in his series of the same name. Each YOM examines a year’s worth of “metal” records from bands and artists well known and obscure. As Popoff writes on his Web site, “For those not in the loop yet, what I’m doing with this is detailed examinations of classic old albums, using new interviews with guys in the bands, maybe a little available press here and there. These are examinations of albums that are way more exhaustive than any commercially viable (!) book would ever dare. You know me, I just love getting the stories, no matter how many people care anymore. This one’s expanded a bit with the photos, cool old ads, 45 sleeves and just general variation in images. The book is 247 pages, highest word count yet, full trade 6″ x 9″ dimension, and stuffed with trivia folks ain’t never heard before – I guarantee it.”
Ye Olde Metal 1977 dives into 18 albums (read records, not compact discs) from acts across North America and Europe. Popoff’s writing is free and easy, sometimes over the top like the music and personalities he profiles, but always entertaining. What makes Popoff’s books so much fun is his encyclopedic knowledge and willingness to mix things up. Who else would bring together Styx’s The Grand Illusion and Motorhead’s self-titled album in the same book? Or Ram Jam and The Dictators?
As well, who knows more about the rich rock and roll scene that existed in his Canadian homeland back in the 1970s? Acts such as Moxy may have made a lot of noise across the Great White North, but they did little in the U.S. And here in the States, Southern rockers Point Blank and Hydra enjoyed some regional success below the Mason-Dixon Line but were never a household name in say Boston or Denver, so it’s great to see these artists (and others) get some overdue time in the spotlight. I mean, really, when’s the last time you read or even heard about Goddo? Legs Diamond? Dirty Tricks? Or Rex? Here’s your chance.
Popoff provides a detailed road map of the respective recordings – breaking down each album song by song with descriptions and input from those who made the music. If the album art merits discussion or there is a cool story behind the recording, Popoff will let you know. He’s a music fan first off, and his enthusiasm for his subjects is contagious. But he’s also not above issuing some constructive criticism when warranted. If a record was produced poorly or features a lame cut, he’ll let you know that, too. Invariably after reading one of Popoff’s books, I make a trip to my local used record shop in search of albums that I’ve read and learned about. And this publication is no exception.
Ultimately, Ye Olde Metal 1977 is a fan’s fan book, and a reference you’ll return to again and again. It’s a cool read and limited to just 1,000 copies, numbered and signed by the author as well. Get yours here while you can.