It’s difficult to take such a sound seriously when the musicians adorn spandex trousers, have long, sometimes permed, hair, and somewhat unfortunate views on women, politics and the world in general. A generalisation I know but that was my memories of the style in the 1980s. But then I was an indie-kid.
However, I need to, ahem, admit to something, I find myself watching films about heavy metal/ hard rock and all it’s myriad of sub-genres, and reading magazine articles about Metallica, Motley Crue, Led Zep, Motorhead and all the others. I’ll explain this later, but first, let’s look at the scene itself.
The first time I came across metal was as a young lad at the local youth club. There was a turntable on which a group of hipsters played The Specials, Madness, The Beat, Bad Manners and the Selecter, at the peak of the 2-Tone craze. Blondie might get a listen as Debbie Harry was the hottest chick on the planet, and the band were damn good too, and maybe the Police would get a turn or two. Otherwise it was Adam and the Ants.
But one kid would always try to put on Gillan, AC/DC or Iron Maiden. I’ll be fair, Maiden’s Run To The Hills is a great song, and I love Motorhead – how can you not when they play straight-edge punk ‘n’ roll with the lovely Lemmy at the front. But as far as I was concerned you could stick Gillan and Van Halen up your arse and the lad who was the main metal fan was a shitty fucker who had a face you would want to slap. I see him occasionally as a bouncer in a notorious club in my home town and I still, after all these years, want him to get a good doing from a nutjob who’s going to take that sucker who looked at his bird out and woe betide any bouncer who’s gonna get in his way.
I’d love to blame him for my aversion to metal but, frankly, if I hear Def Leppard, W.A.S.P, Twisted Sister, Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura, Pantera, blah blah blah, I turn numb. It’s cold, heartless music about subjects I can’t relate to with a penchant for black, and the grotesque.
In could go on and on, but you’d shout at me before I finished.
So, what about this interest in reading and watching about heavy metal/ hard rock?
It’s simple: the tales, the excess, the failures, the humour, the laddishness, the outrageous stage shows, the arrogance, the rebeliousness even, when that particular terms alludes to a refusal to conform rather than making statements about society’s failings.
While Iron Maiden albums are, surprisingly, absent from my record collection the likes of Doves, Kasabian, Franz Ferdinand and REM are all very much among the elite of that scattered collection.
All nice clean-cut boys who’s music has the seal of approval from their mums, but none of those acts could justify a decent book or documentary. How could you possibly get 20 pages of racy material from art-school boys Franz Ferdinand.
I prefer my rock’n’roll tales to be about working-class lads (and I use the male noun as metal is predominantly made by people with a third leg), who would be joiners or brickies otherwise, and who like to bite the heads of farm animals or have a trail of drugs, women and bottles leading to their hotel rooms.
One of the finest music docos is Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey which examines metal’s origins, censorship, Satanism, women in metal and the different elements to music. The highlight is the interview with Dee Snider of Twisted Sister who’s articulate and a good talker on Tipper Gore’s PMRC with-hunt.
Prior to seeing this, the only “metal” films I’d seen were Spinal Tap and the Comic Strip Presents … episode Bad News, both of which were mockumentaries of metal but brilliant nevertheless, although not without a considerable amount of truth. Apparently, the Metallica doco, Some Kind of Monster, is in the same vein, albeit totally unintentional, but I can’t comment having not seen as yet. But you film most ageing bands and you might get some of the same kind of madness. Take Dig, the doco on the rivalry between the Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre in which the slightly demented Anton Newcombe of the former makes the entire film with his unhinged antics.
On the reading front I have to mention Hammer of the Gods, the famous book about Led Zepellin by Stephen Davis even if the truth behind many of the stories are disputed.
Other books on my Amazon wishlist include The Dirt, on Motley Crue which even if it only covered half the antics of this lot, would be mesmerising reading; Michael Moynihan’s exporation of Norwegian death metal, Lords of Chaos, and, at number one, I Am Ozzy, by you know who.
I’m going to leave you now, I’ve found an old music mag with a feature about the ex-Sabbath frontman. Rock on.