June 2014 | Rebecca Rego Barry

The First Heavy Metal (& Rare Book) Catalogue

Institutional collections of rare hip hop material -- check. Archives full of punk zines -- check. But can we say the same for heavy metal demo tapes, fanzines, and related ephemera? Not just yet, but The Book Shop in Covina, California, aims to change that with an assemblage of books, zines, photographs, flyers, posters, vinyl records, and more that documents the ear-splitting musical genre. In a catalogue that the ABAA bookseller will debut this week at the Rare Books & Manuscripts Society (RBMS) Preconference in Las Vegas, co-owner Brad Johnson writes by way explanation: "Metal, however, hasn't received its due. That this important segment of our culture has been neglected is inexplicable, especially at a time when so much in the way of source material, the building blocks of original research, is on the verge of being lost."

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 10.40.59 PM.pngMetal: The First Heavy Metal Catalogue is super fun to peruse -- check out the complete 132-card set of KISS bubble gum cards from 1978 (gum included), a later issue of the original demo tape for Metallica's "No Life 'Til Leather," and an Alice Cooper-signed and dated concert t-shirt. A collection of 70 backstage passes for metal and hard rock concerts between the late 1970s and the early 2000s, most printed on satin and showing original tour art from the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, and Motley Crue, is an incredible find. And sending this writer right down Memory Lane: the 1986 vinyl record of Poison's "Look What The Cat Dragged In!"

Between the musicians' memoirs, the fanzine collections, and items like the May 11, 1968 issue of Rolling Stone that contained the first documented use of the phrase "heavy metal," this catalogue makes a convincing argument as to the material's scholarly appeal. Books like Chuck Klosterman's Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (2001), of which there is a signed first edition here, and a 2011 scholarly article, "Collecting Heavy Metal Music" by Karson Jones of Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music, certainly help to bolster that position as well. As Jones writes, "The fact is that, regardless of how one feels about the music and culture of heavy metal, an increasing amount of social scientific and musicological research is being done on the subject. ... Research collections and archives are needed to support this study and teaching. These collections need to contain not only the academic literature and the seminal sound recordings, but also the visual art, fashion, and other ephemera that are inseparable from the metal experience."

In the catalogue's introduction, Johnson explains that the archives and artifacts listed in the catalogue would function as a foundation for a comprehensive collection devoted to the art and culture of heavy metal. The Book Shop is offering this collection en bloc for $40,000.