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The New Wave of British Heavy Metal: Suzi Smiled - John Tucker

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Genre: Music / Stage / Screen / Author: John Tucker / Paperback / 288 Pages / Book is published 2006-05-25 by Independent Music Press

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      20.03.2012 20:20
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      Had the chance to be legendary but wasn't

      For quite a while, I had an online music shop and stocked quite a decent range of music books, a book that tickled my fancy one day was John Tucker's "Suzi Smiled - The New Wave of British Heavy Metal"

      At £11.98 on Amazon, it's not a particularly cheap book considering the amount of content you get for your money, the price does drop from time to time, so if you're determined to get it despite my panning of the title then it might be worth waiting for a good price at least.

      I would imagine that anyone buying a book about the not particularly catchy named music genre NWOBHM (the acronym of New Wave of British Heavy Metal and pronounced ner-wob-um) would at least have a general idea about what style of music it entails but to my surprise the author spends the first 40 or 50 pages discussing whether it's hard rock or heavy metal. At the same time he admits that no one really cares but if no one really cares, then why dedicate almost a quarter of your book to it?

      Despite being a leading expert on NWOBHM, the book seems to be light on actual information and there's quite a lot of waffling. Whether Tucker has put together the book badly or of the genre's musicians really are as boring as the book makes out, I don't know. Apart from Witchfynde and Raven, there's little in the way of band antics or interesting details on the scene. At one point the book has Jaguar explaining that the song "Axe Crazy" was about guitars not actual axes.. hardly a revelation. Fairly early on in the book, the author says that he will avoid talking about the so-called big 3: Iron Maiden, Deff Leppard and Saxon but still somehow ends up harping on about them quite a lot.

      NWOBHM was actually a fairly loose term for lots of metal acts with somewhat varied styles and it seems like the author and I have slightly different tastes, he raves about bands like Shiva and Girl, seemingly thinking of the latter as pioneering the genre. On the other hand, he brushes over bands like Witchfinder General and Sweet Savage without much of a mention.

      There's little in the way of breaking news to the music fan, it's very much like "Paul left the band and then Steve came in on bass and then we needed a new drummer" repeated in various formats for the majority of bands interviewed in the book. NWOBHM bands were generally relatively small acts on unreliable record labels and it wasn't all that profitable for the musicians involved, so line-up changes were common and I think the book tends to focus on that a little too much.

      Angel Witch, Jaguar and Diamond Head all get quite a bit of room in the book and Brian Ross seems to be one of John Tucker's favourites, a singer that I've never been particularly keen on. Lars Ulrich is perhaps one of the styles' most famous supporters, much of the early Metallica work was in fact covers of earlier British metal acts work. His choices and reasons for liking certain songs are brought up quite often in the book and one of the later chapters is dedicated to the band members' favourite songs and the reason why.

      The book finishes with comprehensive lists of the most important albums, singles and compilations by different music mags of the era and the author himself. I've discovered some decent music through this part but there's nothing particularly rare and I'm sure that an afternoon's Youtubing would culminate with similar results.

      I'd hoped that a genre that took the DIY ethos from the punk scene, added a few more chords, developing some of the all time greatest rock riffs in the process as well as encouraging bands from the unlikely musical destinations of Edinburgh, Hull, Leicester, Barnsley and Harrogate to put out their own work would be much more interesting than this book made it out to be. I'm therefore fairly disappointed overall and I read it fairly quickly as I was constantly in the hunt for the exciting part of the book, which never really materialised.

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