Metal and I seemed to begin as a way to fit in with friends in the village. Not those my own age, the older harder ones…and Cabbage. Obviously, liking heavy metal in one’s past should be embarrassing but as the other kids in my village would literally hunt the only mod in the village (I’m not making this up) down from time to time, it was the only option. However, I am still not entirely sure if that was the original impetus or what was. I was certainly still in primary school when I developed an interest in metal as I clearly remember wearing my light blue body warmer to school emblazoned with a Deep Purple and Gillan patch – possibly Saxon too. However, I did not own music by those bands.

It comes as no surprise that my inspiration has dried up when trying to write this section. Heavy metal seems to suggest just that. My bands are heavy and the lyrics are all balls – leave me alone! What was this all about then? Pre-pubescent rage over something I had no control over? Perhaps, or maybe it just sounds good to a 10 year old. It’s loud, seems dangerous and it naturally leads towards Dungeons and Dragons…which sadly it did. I think that I may have taken the idea that one had to choose to be either a mod or a rocker in order to enter secondary school. There were no primary ‘faces’ in Pant (my village with the ludicrous name – you didn’t need me pointing out that last bit, did you?) and the rockers seemed a bit scary so I probably thought it best to be on their side rather than attempting to confront them on a moped. Also, my primary friends were all off to a rival school while I and the children of my village joined together in going to Croeswylan. Perhaps if my mum had sent me to the village school in the first place, I may have ‘liked’ metal earlier or possibly come up with some better ideas about fitting in rather than basing it on Iron Maiden and AC/DC.

My first metal purchase would have been the ‘Heavy!’ compilation on KTel for my new Toshiba tape player. It came out in 1983 and the tape player was definitely from the first half of that year so – primary but only just. This was a time when I was slowly getting to know actual friends in my village for the first time having previously been an internal exile on the lawn of Rose Cottage in an effort to stop me socialising with children who –gasp- lived in council houses, which was seemingly a crime in my mother’s eyes. Well, they were okay if they were polite to her, did her cleaning or went to church and some of the women could have been nice but their husbands were lazy and so that dragged them down. Many were just considered thick. Many didn’t listen to heavy metal either, so why go on? Well, heavy metal seems to have uncomfortably been shoved into my tastes for about two years and this may have happened due to the slightly unnatural development that my internal exile had produced. Through being cloistered, I became someone who lacked early socialisation and so much of what has come since has been marked by distancing from those around me, inappropriate choices or behaviour and, for a while at least, heavy metal seemed to be an outburst of freedom from within my bedroom where I could listen to it. Heavy metal seems to be getting a bad press here and yet it is merely the first of many forms of music which really took hold with my personality. It gave me a sense of belonging to some extent, but it was more the poring over Kerrang and wondering what Accept sounded like that took hold. Had iTunes existed back then, I would have got in way deeper. I’m not entirely sure that is a good thing. I’d need to ask a cloistered 11 year old who likes metal and I don’t currently have access to one. Lets’ be honest, I wouldn’t want to meet one either.

So, ‘Heavy’, it featured some metal and some rather softer rock before finishing with southern rock. Like moist K-Tel compilations, it didn’t stick to the plot and there is no way that ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey was ever heavy regardless of its later re-emergence via The Sopranos and then Glee. ‘Wheel in the Sky’ would have fitted this tape so much better. However, it did have Maiden on it and Motorhead and well, not a lot of ‘real’ metal. Some choices were just bizarre as it seems that not even the Internet knows who the Ian Campbell Band who performed ‘Only One’ were and I have absolutely no memory of the song either except for discovering it on the tracklisting of this compilation. Who the hell were they? Is this actually giving me a buzz in much the same way that random tracks from endless tapes of John Peel still do? Probably. It is a worry that my interest in music seems to be sacrificing quality for obscurity at a very early stage. The compilation ended with Lynyrd Skynyrd and I like southern rock these days but thought it uncool for a very long time. Foolish boy/man, the Skynyrd should have been the track that I followed up on through the likes of Molly Hatchet who did make it into Kerrang along with AC/DC who also transcend the narrow trappings of metal to become classic rock – though the latter turned into a cartoon once they hired that Geordie with the funny hat.

Iron Maiden’s revolutionary ‘Piece of Mind’ tape came next. It was revolutionary because no mere mortal could get the tape out of the box because the artwork was printed back to front and the box opened backwards. This is probably not coming across to clearly…it opened from left to right instead of the other way and this somehow suggested that Iron Maiden were mad or radical or something. Either way, I liked ‘The Trooper’ because it was about war and stuff. I listened to this album endlessly but could not hum a single ‘tune’ from it now, even ‘The Trooper’. The only bit I can remember is the weird backwards voice at the start of one track. Apparently it was a studio joke aimed at the people who thought heavy metal contained subversive messages from the devil. What I really find hard to believe about this album is that it was recorded in the Bahamas. How on earth can a band be or feel metal if they are in the Bahamas? Either way, it has apparently been voted one of the best metal albums of all time and I have little or no memory of the music contained within its idiotic backwards tape box. Says a lot really. Another first from this era was Judas Priest’s ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ – my first vinyl album and possibly bought from Preedys though I can’t accurately recall. I think I quite liked it, nowadays I can’t remember why.

Am I really going to go through all the music I owned when I liked metal? Good lord, no! I should really have been listening to The Jam like other sensible young people of that age and era. Heavy metal had no real effect on my music collection other than a reticence to buy or even listen to anything that seems to link back to that era of my life, even Motorhead. There are various reasons to attend therapy sessions, but re-establishing my childhood link with heavy metal probably isn’t one of them.

I can only try to sum up the positives as I’m a bit confused by this era myself. Metal got me into obsessing over music and I still do that. Metal actually made me aware of what I was wearing for the first time in my life. Metal reappeared as an influence if nothing more in my love of alternative hardcore, grunge and some post-rock music too.

Metal also made me yearn for long hair and realise yet more frustrations with being curly haired – maybe this is why I gave up on it, still curly mods don’t really work either. I don’t know if this is a positive or a negative. My dad always claimed that my hair was curly because I never combed it properly as a child. It’s a good job he never became a hairdresser in Brixton.

Maybe I just liked it because my mother hated it and it was generally anti-church. It was a desperate attempt to become an outsider. I also became an Ipswich Town fan for life just before this time. I chose to support a team further away than London and where no relatives had ever lived…hmm…

Metal stopped me getting into The Smiths, New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen earlier and I do still kind of resent that even if Rush may have led me to Trans Am on some level. As for southern rock, choogling was to come much later. What teenage girl is going to be impressed by some spotty kid who reckons he’d like to eat grits and wears a confederate flag? Far better to listen to music about orcs and wear denim. Err…

I think that’s run its course really. Still too anecdotal by far, but how can I write seriously about myself at this time. You know, it would be much better if I’d just stayed away from music for a few more years and concentrated on being a football fan.

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