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Book Review: Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock And Heavy Metal by Eddie Trunk

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Very few radio disc jockeys ever achieve much in the way of fame and fortune beyond their local markets. Sure, there is “King of All Media” Howard Stern, and back in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll we had such characters as Murray The K and Alan Freed. But in terms of household names, these are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Through his stubborn promotion of heavy metal and hard rock through the years, Eddie Trunk has become one of the most respected non-musicians in the field. His unwavering loyalty to the form brought him out of the swamps of New Jersey radio and into the largest market in the States, New York City. Despite his “perfect for radio” appearance (the guy is pretty chubby, as he readily admits), Trunk’s That Metal Show on VH1 Classic has become one of the biggest hits the station has ever had.

For all these reasons and more, Eddie Trunk holds a special place in metal fan’s and musician’s hearts. So much so in fact, that for his 25th anniversary in radio, Judas Priest played an invitation-only party for him at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York. In fact, Rob Halford even wrote the Foreword to his new book, Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. While there are tons of these types of collections on the market these days, Eddie brings something different to the task. Rather than simply offering short biographical sketches of the major bands in the genre, as most do, Trunk adds his personal reflections about the groups. It makes a big difference.

Most fans know the basics about groups like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, but reading stories of Eddie’s personal encounters with the artists adds a whole new dimension. This type of writing could have easily degenerated into name-dropping and starfucking, but he does not come off that way. As a fan, his reactions mirror that of what any of his listeners would probably feel. It is a fine line to straddle, but Trunk makes it work.

The book contains 35 entries, arranged alphabetically. These include Metallica, Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, and Iron Maiden – just to name a few. But the ones that are obviously close to Eddie’s heart are the interesting choices. I don’t think I have ever seen one of these books (especially one with only 35 artists) include Billy Squire as one of the essentials. But it Trunk’s his book after all.

As mentioned previously, it is the personal reflections that make the book a cut above others. One of the unfortunate tendencies of those who consider themselves musical “experts” is the snob factor. Most rock/metal fans of a certain age cite Ozzy-era Sabbath as one of the first groups they got into. Not Eddie though. His honesty in telling us that it was the 1980 Heaven And Hell album with Ronnie James Dio that first turned his head is refreshing. He goes on to explain that only after hearing that one did he go back and get the double-LP best of collection We Sold Our Souls For Rock ‘n’ Roll, to get familiar with the Ozzy years.

Dio’s passing in 2010 was keenly felt by his legions of fans, and Eddie Trunk was no exception. His many contributions to music are honored here with entries on Sabbath, Rainbow, and his own Dio band. In one of the sadder moments in the book, Trunk talks about hosting one of the memorial events for RJD. With a mixture of pride in being chosen for this honor, and profound sorrow at the occasion, he takes us there.

Besides recounting the basic facts of each performer, and his personal reminiscences, Trunk adds a couple of other intriguing elements to each chapter. One is “Eddie’s Playlist” in which he ranks his favorite tracks by each group. His choices may or may not mirror the reader’s, in most cases mine were completely different. Comparing yours with his is actually a lot of fun. For example, who but Eddie Trunk would pick “Child In Time” as Deep Purple’s greatest song? Or “Hear About It Later” as Van Halen’s? My favorite has to be his number one choice for UFO. Eddie goes for Strangers In The Night “whole album, top to bottom.” I could not agree more with one of the most sadly overlooked double-live records ever.

Another cool bit is “Underground Classic” in which he singles one of a band’s (or a solo member’s) most obscure records for special praise. Left-field selections here include Van Halen III with Eddie Cherone (formerly of Extreme), and Carnival Of Souls by KISS. Finally there is a “Did You Know?” section with little known facts about each act.

All in all, Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock And Heavy Metal is one of those rare guides to music that actually has something new to say. It is a refreshing change from the standard fare, and recommended.

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About Greg Barbrick