My journey into Heavy Metal.
This one is going to be a long one, so get a beer or beverage of choice if you care to join me with what I’m going to write about. Music and people’s tastes in music is subjective, I know. What I just can’t deal with is the horrible crap people spend millions of dollars on that the corporate world shells out as good or thoughtful artistic “music.”
Quite a bit of the “popular” music in the world isn’t even written by the artists performing it but it is passed off as their own and most of the idiots that listen to it eat that shit up. The main targets for this “music” are 12-17 year old girls who the industry knows has disposable income to spend the manufactured garbage. Let’s also include the girls that dance to garbage at the “club” and those idiots who try to score them and therefore blast that crap in their cars. I shake my head when I see guys speed down the street blasting shit like The Black Eyed Peas.
I could go on and on but this whole blurb is about how I ended up going down the path to heavy metal, hard rock, and my own choices in music. Metal is a genre of music so encompassing, yet so divided. It’s so tolerate, yet so discriminating and I could write for hours on why it’s almost an oxymoron in itself. One thing is for sure, we know that at least those that write their own tunes deserve more than what the corporate world hands out, or should I say pays others, to hand out.
I guess the one positive thing to say about the industry that dishes out constant garbage is that it can hook people onto music, and allows them to discover how fake their favourite “artist” or “band” is. They can pursue playing an instrument (or two…or three…or MORE) and discover different genres. So for those reasons, and The Monkees (who I’ll refer to soon), there are positive aspects for having the crap that is out there exist.
I’ll also state, as a metal-head, I don’t like all forms/genres of metal. I don’t also like all the bands in certain genres of metal that I do like but what I will give the majority of them is props for being able to play, perform, and write their own music with integrity.
You always have to start out at point A to get to point B. I don’t know if it was my mom or my dad (most likely my mom, as I know my dad’s taste in music) that led me to learn how to work our record player by the time I was two. I’ll also throw in that I watched The Muppet Show religiously and the plethora of musical numbers and guests they had on there greatly influenced me: Alice Cooper, Elton John, Linda Carter (DON’T get me started on her and Wonder Woman – I LOVED her), Linda Ronstadt and more.
Another note of interest is the music featured in another show I used to watch religiously as well: The Hilarious House of Frightenstein (GREAT reference site). The Wolfman (a great nod to Wolfman Jack) and Igor would feature awesome tunes where they would dance to psychedelic backdrops. I LOVED every moment and most of the tunes as a child.
On the record player, I played The Beatles, Billy Joel, Supertramp, Bruce Springteen, anything from the British Invasion, Elton John, and more. Down the road, my mom bought me tapes from these artists, The Thompson Twins (STILL a favourite of mine and future music column focus), and even more that I don’t have room to mention. The main point is, I never listened to stupid, generic kids music.
I moved frequently as my dad was a police officer for the OPP and my mom was a registered nurse. I’d go into classrooms and the kids and teachers would be singing Rafi, (and because I was mainly in Catholic schools) Catholic songs, and other stupid crap that I couldn’t even buy into then. I had no idea what they were singing. When I changed schools, the teachers always asked why I didn’t know the songs and what I listened to at home. I’d tell them and always received confused looks.
Fast forward to more of the point of the article: what led me to Heavy Metal music as my genre of choice. I got to watch a lot of music TV here and there. I used to also watch a music based cartoon back in the day called Wolf Rock TV featuring the amazing Wolfman Jack. Think of it being an earlier Beavis and Butthead – a cartoon that would actually feature music videos – just with a G rating and no fart or dick jokes. I was subjected to different music that I used our VHS player to try and capture.
Fast forward again to when my family was stationed in Killarney Provincial Park for just over three years. This hick community had a small population and they didn’t have any cable TV. From what I remember, they had two or three over the air television stations. All the cops, though, had Satellite dishes and descramblers to be able to illegally watch anything on the satellite receiver at the time (oh, the irony). One of the stations I loved was Nickelodeon. They had good kids shows like Double Dare but their main fame in the 80s was bringing back an important musical group that I loved: The Monkees. I know the hypocrisy when I’m talking about corporate crap and my disdain for it today while referencing the Monkees – but bare with me.
I loved the tunes “by” The Monkees, and my mom found all her old records at my Nanny’s (my grandmother on her side, RIP), and gave them to me. I knew all the words, melodies, etc. Anything the show played that I didn’t have on record made me pissed off, because I wanted them all, particularly the song, “Valleri.” I still love this song (and the Monkees discography) to this day.
The cops’ sons in the community that entered the township were about 5-8 years older than me. They were allowed to have some Playboy girl centerfolds up on their walls! They watched horror movies that they subjected me to that introduced me into my love for 80s horror (yet another subject – but holy shit, Creepshow 2 was burned into my head for months as a 9/10 year old because of those guys). BUT they also listened to stuff while we played on their NES systems that I just went nuts for. But the cops’ sons (including us) also had MTV. I watched that all the time and probably could reference a bunch of bands that influenced me and got me wanting more and more music. But…hmm…it’s 1988 and what broke through on that station? OH YEAH! THIS:
I don’t recall HOW I got this on tape, but I did. I had a store bought copy of this on cassette. I think it’s probably because my mom bought it for me. She didn’t care what I listened to or watched because she made it such a key point of parenting to talk to me about important issues and the difference between reality, fake, life, death, consequences, sex, etc. I thank her for that.
I listened to this all the time. Back and forth to school on a Walkman. I knew the drumming, I knew the vocals, I knew the videos and I wanted more. I loved the “electric guitar” sound and the angst in the vocals (I didn’t know what that meant back in the day, of course, but the attitude spoke to me, although I think I was a pretty good kid). As the other cops’ kids got more into stuff, so did I. What was I exposed to next? THIS:
Holy shit. Suicidal FUCKING Tendencies and their album, How Can I Laugh Tomorrow…When I Can’t Even Smile Today. It was one of the most extreme things I heard in my pre-teen days at that point. I still love it to this day. “Trip at the Brain,” and the title track still kick ass and can easily go against anything new released today. I loved the intensity. I loved the drumming. I loved the vocals and the lyrics. I just dug everything about it. I wonder why it took me so damn long to pick up an instrument as I’m typing this.
What was next? Well, I got the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill due to MTV, Poison’s Open Up and Say Ahh.., and some other stuff. My mom had no problem getting me this stuff and paid attention what was getting my attention. My dad, on the other hand, did not. For a good report card, he bought me Phil Collins’ No Jacket Requred. The OPPOSITE thing you buy for your son who is watching/listening to what I was at the time . I think I gave it to my sis to go with her Milli Vanilli and Tiffany cassette tapes. A few months into the year came a big score from visiting my Nanny and Poppy (grandma and grandpa, folks) and the family up in good old Espanola. My cousin Ryan’s mom, Auntie Brenda, gave me two tapes that marked another milestone in my musical tastes. The first one: Metallica’s …And Justice For All
And the second being Guns N’ Roses’ Lies
Why did I get them? Well, although I was in grade five, my cousin was still two and a half (maybe three?!) years younger than me and these were given to him as a gift, but his mom wouldn’t let him have them. These pictures are my copies on vinyl and 1st press CDs in my collection. I was handed the cassettes back in the day but don’t have them anymore
Metallica’s guitar work blew my mind and this is where I really learned about double bass drumming. I remember hearing the chorus of “Master of Puppets” earlier, but besides, “MASTER! MASTER!” I didn’t really recall too much. To this day it’s still my favourite Metallica album although I wish Jason Newsted’s bass was in the mix.
As for GNR’s Lies, holy shit…I loved it. I loved all the songs and still do, but I had no idea about the scope of racism of what was being said in their song, “One in a Million.” These days, you take it for what it was: a snapshot in time.
My love for metal and rock and roll was in full swing and this is where I go back to The Monkees. Their newest album, Pool It, had come out just after I had been getting into all this stuff. I think it was out for about six months when I asked my mom if I could go down to the tape/record store that was in Espanola to buy the tape. I think tapes were like $10-12 at the time. When I was at the store, I glanced at all the new releases at the counter and saw this album:
Alice Cooper’s Raise Your Fist and Yell. There was something about this artwork that said “buy me!” I asked the guy behind the counter what kind of music it was, just to get some kind of assurance. He said, “it’s heavy guitar music.” Well, hell fucking yeah! When the guy said it had heavy guitar, that was all I needed to hear and I bought it.
About a month later, my mom asked me to put in the new Monkees tape and I had to tell her I didn’t spend the money on it and I bought Alice Cooper’s new album instead. She wasn’t that pissed but told me that if she was ever to give me money to buy something specific again, I would need to adhere to that agreement or stuff like that wouldn’t happen again. I understood.
Truth be told, and going back to the Killarney cops’ sons, I had on a dubbed cassette this album already:
Alice Cooper’s Constrictor had the theme from Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives on it and the boys played the shit out of this album while we played Ninja Gaiden, Pro Wrestling, and Indiana Jones on the NES. With this foreshadowing and my love for Alice Cooper on The Muppet Show, I knew my purchase would be a valid one.
This blog/article has been long enough, but when you see my love for metal on this site, it is there, and will ALWAYS be there, because of the long road and freedom I had to discover music. I know Alice Cooper is a collaborator with a lot of his music (and not a sole musician), but he knows that anything with his name on it had to meet his approval or else he wouldn’t sing or write for it…and the success or demise of an album rests with him. I have EVERYTHING this man has released, good and bad (and this could also be an article down the road), but thanks to Alice, my love for metal and being subjective to music is deep in my veins.
As I wrote this, I realized I could reflect on many other experiences and bands that got me into metal and the hard rock genre before I even got into grade seven. I’ll hopefully surprise you down the road that my experience with some rap in the 80s were just as satisfying that remain close to my heart to this day. Hell, I could even write a piece on how my love of heavy metal/hair metal brought me into the realm of death metal, then black metal. Life has been great with so much music and there’s still so much I haven’t discovered (and never will).