Chuck Eddy is one of my favorite music critics. Ever. After enjoying his reviews and features and seeing his byline more than a few times in issues of Creem, Rolling Stone, and Entertainment Weekly, I bought the book pictured above the very first time I saw it sitting on the shelf at the bookstore (Waldenbooks?) at Park Mall in 1990. I began reading it that same night after I had put my pregnant wife and our two-year-old daughter to bed. Two days later, I finished it and started re-reading it again. It is still the most enjoyable, informative, yet maddening album guide I have ever read. I was astounded to see copies like mine with an original cover price of $14 going for up to $150 online.
Though our man Eddy later revised Stairway To Hell with a different cover and an added list of the 100 Best Heavy Metal Albums of the '90s, I've yet to upgrade. I said the book was maddening but if you read any online reviews of it, chances are you'll see a one-star review followed by a riff on either of these brutal truths:
- There are no Iron Maiden albums in the Top 500
- Teena Marie, Funkadelic, and The Osmonds, among other listed acts, are not even remotely heavy metal
To further illustrate my point on the uniqueness of Stairway To Hell, here are the book's Top 10 (of 100) Best Heavy Metal Singles Not Available on any of the 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums In The Universe:
- 10 "Do Ya" - The Move (1972)
- 09 "Fire Engine" - 13th Floor Elevators (1966)
- 08 "Bonzo Goes To Bitburg" - Ramones (1985)
- 07 "Once Bitten Twice Shy" - Ian Hunter (1975)
- 06 "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" - Elton John (1973)
- 05 "My Sharona" - The Knack (1979)
- 04 "Rock Box" - Run-D.M.C. (1984)
- 03 "White Rabbit" - Jefferson Airplane (1967)
- 02 "Surfin' Bird" - The Trashmen (1963)
- 01 "2+2=?" - The Bob Seger System (1967)
Honestly, are any of those songs tagged heavy metal in your digital music collection? Not in mine. I don't even have #9. Journey, Kiss, Bryan Adams, Charlie Daniels Band, Madonna, Sweet, Public Enemy, Michael Jackson, The Babys, Cheech & Chong, Neil Young, Madonna, Loverboy, Steely Dan, Spinal Tap, U2 and Janet Jackson show up later in that Top 100. For me, the inclusions and shut-outs are part of the book's attraction - Eddy does not play it safe but he stays true to himself. His writing is witty without being hipster-ish or smart-alecky and he's really readable no matter who he's writing about. He approaches all music and artists with the same ears-wide-open policy which is something you don't come across very often. If ever.
Later on, Eddy showed up in the pages of Spin contributing a regular retro-reviews column called Essentials. By coincidence, his column in the January 2009 issue was devoted to yacht rock albums. Eight of them to be more accurate. Here are those albums:
In a 2008 post, long-time blogger Tom Lane said this particular column of Eddy's spoke to him as he had fond memories of all the artists and their music as listed though he said if he had his druthers, he'd swap out the Holmes album because it "doesn't hold up with the other six" single artist albums. His substitution? Notably absentee Kenny Loggins and his Keep The Fire album. Or Nightwatch. Lane is cool with either one. Six years after that post, Tom Lane went on a Yacht Rock tear himself, posting his Top 100 Yacht Rock Songs in two parts and then returning in 2016 with his Favorite Yacht Rock Albums.