Cover Image: Don’t Call It Hair Metal

Don’t Call It Hair Metal

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Don't Call It Hair Metal is a deep dive into the hard rock bands of the 1980s.  The book contains a lot of interviews and content about what some who grew up in the 80s may consider to be legends.  For me, I know of a lot of these bands but being just a kid in the 80s I don't have that nostalgia/legend factor as I would if this was more 90s bands, but it was still an interesting read for me and kept my attention! If you were into the 80s scene then I think you'll absolutely love everything this book has to offer.  It's also written by a musician and music teacher and I think that helps make it flow better as well. 

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.

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As an 80s kid, this is the music of my childhood. I loved hearing all the stories from the actual artists as well as someone that lived the music too. This was a very cool read.

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Thank you Net Galley for providing this book and allowing me to read it in advance. I was unable to personally get into this book but that is the power of reading. There’s books for everyone. I know someone else will adore it!

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“But in the end, don’t call it hair metal. It’s only rock’n’roll. And I like it. I think you might too.”

These days I’m not exactly an melophile. As a pre-teen/teen I spent pocket money on cassettes (and later CD’s), I bought Smash Hits magazine, watched Video Hits andCountdown, and listened to the Top 40 on the radio, fingers poised to press ‘Play’ and ‘Record’ to make my own mixtapes. I went to a handful of big act concerts, saw some smaller bands in pubs, and went clubbing all night. I even dated a bass guitarist in a heavy metal garage band who tried to teach me to play Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. But then I got married and had kids and for the next decade or so The Wiggles and High 5 played on repeat. All this explains, I think, why my taste in music tends to be stuck in the 1970’s and ‘80’s. From the pop hits to the power ballads, the one-hit-wonders to, yes, hair metal, I love it all.

In Don’t Call It Hair Metal, Sean Kelly defends the integrity of the hard rock bands whose sartorial style of big hair, spandex and leather outfits, makeup and showmanship, belied their musicianship. As a musician himself, he writes with authority as he explores the influences on their sound, defined by the combination of a traditional heavy metal sound with elements of pop-influenced hooks, guitar riffs, and shreds, it’s evolution as the look and sound captured commercial interest, and its eventual decline in popularity. Commentary from iconic musicians provides insight into, and reflection on, the era of the industry, including both its music and its culture.

Among the many bands Kelly makes reference to are Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Whitesnake, Skid Row, Stryper, Warrant, Def Leppard, LA Guns, Slaughter, Kiss, Cinderella, Poison, Europe, Guns N Roses, and Motley Crue. I ended up browsing through YouTube searching out well remembered, and forgotten, hits to watch the performances with new appreciation, and fond nostalgia.

I appreciated the moments that Kelly wrote about his own connection to the music, because for me songs are almost always tied to memories. I have to admit, a lot of the technical information in this book went right over my head, so I think perhaps it’s best suited for readers conversant with musical knowledge to extract full value from it.

While I may not know much about music, I know what I like, and whatever Kelly, or others, wants to call it, I’ll continue to enjoy playing air guitar and belting out the lyrics whenever Livin’ on a Prayer, We’re Not Gonna Take It, or Paradise City, play.

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Glam rock/hair metal (I say hair metal affectionately, I promise!) is my absolute favourite music genre, so I knew I had to read this book. Some of my friends over on Twitter might recall that I said this book was written for me, and it really was. Thank you Mr Kelly.

So, inside we have lots of interviews with iconic music legends, about their creative process, or other musicians or what they thought about the scene at the time, some info about the bands/artists mentioned in the book, what Kelly thinks they sound like (x meets x with x, I'm not doing it justice, it's way more creative and at times funny, but when you really think about's true), the kind of impact they made, which other bands they inspired, as well as the author's personal story (how he got into rock, heavy metal and beyond).

All of that made for a very entertaining read, more so because I love almost every single band/artist mentioned in the book, and there were no boring parts.

The ONE thing that could make this even better is a playlist of all songs mentioned at the end. I don't know if the final version will have it or not, but if not I figure I can always go back and make my own.

I also wish it was longer, because I didn't have enough (but when it comes to this genre there's no such thing as enough).

I'm looking forward to whatever Mr Kelly puts out next, I'll definitely be reading it.

*Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review*

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3.5 Stars

When author/musician/music teacher Sean Kelly was a young spud growing up in Canada he was bitten by the Hair Metal bug. He learned of these bands through rock magazines like Creem, Hit Parader, and RIP, to name just a few. We are kindred spirits, because I also used to subscribe to all manner of rock mags during the late eighties (still have them!). Like Sean, I would peruse the posters, color photos and articles, getting intrigued by certain bands just by reading about them. There was no internet, cellphone or YouTube, so further exploration would entail actually buying the album, cassette, and later... CDs. MTV's "Headbanger's Ball" was another avenue to enticement where bands such as Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Skid Row, Stryper, Warrant, Ratt, Dokken, Def Leppard, LA Guns, Slaughter, Dangerous Toys, Cinderella, Poison, Europe, Kingdom Come, Motley Crue and so many others- pouted and pranced in their videos with their hair sprayed out to there, wearing makeup, leather or stretchy animal-printed pants, boots and high heels. Other bands followed such as Queensryche, Guns n' Roses, King's X, and White Lion until the 90s hit and in came the Seattle sound revolution, consisting of bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. These flannel shirt clad bands lent a seriousness to their presentation that left the 80s Hair Metal bands with a kind of stigma- much like disco hatred post seventies.

The author defends his undying love of the Hair Metal art form, while being annoyed that he even has to defend it. With Kelly's excellent and artful writing style he offers a full-bodied account of the historical musical influences that informed these Hair Metal bands, while crafting their own personas. Interspersed in the narrative are interviews from these 80s so called Hair Metal band members, intricate accounts of iconic albums and their recording techniques, as well as their struggles/challenges when the music industry began to turn their back on these bands.

I noticed some other reviews complaining that this author talked too much about himself, but this did not bother me. As a fellow Hair Metal devotee, we had shared experiences I revelled in. Also, since he became kind of a famous musician himself (Helix, Crash Kelly) that wound up in bands supporting some of these acts, he has skin in the game and the cred to talk about it. He is friendly with a good number of these musicians, and had his dream come true by being selected to perform in a Christmas musical on lead guitar with his hero, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister.

I really liked how he ended the book with photos of band memorabilia and advertisements where he explained a bit about each band or album and what he loved about them. Overall, this was a pleasurable and informative nostalgia trip that I shared with Sean, so well done!

Thank you to the publisher ECW Press for providing an advance reader copy via NetGalley.

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I was a goth in the 80s and I'm not a huge fan of metal.. That said I like to learn about the different genre of music and this was a well researched and entertaining book.
Many thanks to the publisher for this arc, all opinions are mine

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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher ECW Press for an advance copy of this book on big hair, big guitars and songs about going round and round, foolin and even about the winds of change.

Music can unite people, usually against music they don't like. Rap is crap. Disco albums should be blown up. Modern music is all autotuned. Those Beatle boys need haircuts. What's with all the guitars. Frank Sinatra called Elvis "ugly and degenerate". And the 80's was all about big hair and shredding guitars. People have been criticizing music since the first cave man put his or her lips together and whistled. And the last two humans fleeing this dying planet will probably be fighting over the song choice on the Artificial Intelligence radio. Saying a form of music is bad says more about the person than the listener. I was a Rush fan before the Foo Fighters made them cool. I think songs only start getting interesting at the 8 minute mark. I've heard the complaints. Sean Kelly likes his songs with a smell of Aqua Net. And he is darn proud of it. Don’t Call It Hair Metal: Art in the Excess of the ’80s Rock is a love ballad to the heavy rock music of the 80's and 90's when bands partied hard, played harder, teased their hair, and refined what could be done on stage, in the studio, and their effect on music today.

Sean Kelly begins the book with a personal story of loss, and like many of us turns to music for consolation. Kelly plays a song from the band Mr. Big, a supergroup from the 80's. Supergroups were music bands made of members of other musical bands that came together. Not a choice one would have expected, mostly as the band is really known for only one song. However Kelly describes why this song is perfect, how this band contributed much in music, and too bad if someone doesn't understand. I knew at this point I was going to like this book, even if we differed on song selections. From here the book roves over the musical landscape looking at early influences, bands that should be better known, and even better stories about the music and behind the scenes in the studio. Kelly is part of the music industry and interviews a varied group of people, from fans, to musicians, critics to people in the business.

The book is about the music, and Kelly never forgets that. The best thing while reading this, if on e-reader is to get a music account going, because Kelly offers a lot of music to listen to. And while one might go, ughh those guys suck, Kelly is very good at parsing a song, the writing, the attitude, and even more how and why people listened to it in such a way, that ears will demand another chance to hear them. The art remains the same, and a lot of these songs do hold up. Being a book on music there will be differences, but even the Beatles had some clunkers. Kelly is from Canada, so there might be a few bands that were bigger in the Great White North or Japan, that might be new to listeners, but again that is part of being a fan. Always finding new tracks even when one things that all the songs have been found.

Recommended for 80s rock fans, or music fans in general for the writing and the interviews. Especially the studio information. Most of these bands will still be on the classic rock channels either on Sirius or on terrestrial radio. This book will make you want to check them out. If one is lucky enough to have hair party on. I look forward to more works by Sean Kelly.

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To this day, hair metal is one of my favorite things to listen to. I would've appreciated more in-depth interviews and a little less about the author, but it was an enjoyable read filled with nostalgia. There was a lot of "filler" material that could've been left out to create a more satisfying look back at this era in music.

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(I got a free preview of this book from NetGalley. I hope more proofreading was done on these "uncorrected galleys" before this went to print.)

I read just about everything I can get my hands on about the music I grew up listening to, and author Sean Kelly is almost exactly my age, so this is very much a trip down memory lane, even referencing the same music magazines I read. However, he actually learned to play the guitar (a process I didn't get very far into) and has been a professional touring musician, so his view on the hard rock/hair metal/etc. of the era comes from a very different point from mine. I don't know anything about playing techniques or recording processes, so sometimes discussion of those things went over my head. On the other hand, I did learn some things too, and it's a refreshingly different kind of "behind-the-scenes" from most rock music books, which focus on personal drama.

I enjoyed the book (particularly once I cued up music of the appropriate years for each chapter) even if I found it less of an easy read than most music books because some of it dealt with different aspects of how music is created.

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This was supposed to be a love letter to heavy metal and the scene that dominated the 80s, but it didn't really read that way. It was fun and nostalgic, but I wish the interviews would have been more in-depth. There was a lot of filler in the book that I could have done without, but overall, a fun read.

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This book would have been better if it included more stories about the bands and less stories about the author's life.

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Received arc from ECW Press and Netgalley for honest read and review,this review is my own.
I must admit to bring that age when Hair Metal meant a whole lot to me growing up, and I look back on it with love and fondness and now a lot less hair!!
It is an interesting read and brought to light the start of what and is hair metal, I liked some of the band's from this vein, but liked a lot heavier ones a well, so I could relate to it.
A thrilling read for fans and people.who are interested.

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In the summary they say this is a love letter to heavy-metal but throughout the book it looks more like a love letter to heavy-metal magazines as we are told about precushions drum beats electric guitar riffs ET see I am not downing the book because I love that the interviews were great I just wish when mentioning someone that he would at least tell us why this person‘s opinion was important or apropos to the topic. It was a great Jaunte down memory lane and one I totally enjoyed the only negatives of what I’ve mentioned already and the rest was all gravy and all good! I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher but I am leaving this review voluntarily please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review.

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This is my childhood and youth then on to hard rock and grunge!! If you love music and history and a little nostalgia then this book is for you. Great Job on this!
I just reviewed Don’t Call It Hair Metal by Sean Kelly. #DontCallItHairMetal #NetGalley
[NetGalley URL]

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This was ok. It’s a genre book, so it’s weird to see an author set up an argumentative stance to something readers won’t disagree with. He’s very proud of his rock roots and should be.

The interviews in here are really interesting. I wish there were more. There’s a lot of author chatter and I wish there was less of it. In the part the book that covers the “history” include a long list of pedals and effects that doesn’t add anything to the book, and with no explanation of what they do, it’s just useless page filler. There’s a lot of that.

Like I said, this book was just ok.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy. All opinions are my own.

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More than a treat- this is a feast, a banquet for anyone who wants to reminisce or to learn more about this exciting period in music’s history. The author provides a mix of their own analysis and observations with the perspectives of musicians and producers of the time, making for a balance of input which is really engaging,

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Don’t Call It Hair Metal by Sean Kelly was received directly from the publisher and I chose to review it. The author, unlike many authors on this type genre, was an actual band member of several bands over the years. The book, to me, was written in the style, like I was having a long conversation with him. What I mean is it was written not in an encyclopedic manner, such as: this band did this, this band did that. The author mentioned bands I had long forgotten and bands I would disagree that they were as important to the genre as he mentions, however I was a poor young man growing up and had AM radio and could afford one record/8 track a quarter, if that. If you, or someone you buy gifts for, grew up in the 80's and listened to rock music (now referred to as Classic Rock or even Oldies), this would be an excellent book to buy.

4 Stars

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