Welcome to The Saw’s Butcher Shop. And welcome back to The OG (aka, my dad). I talk to my dad all the time about history – you know I love the subject, and so does he. Another subject we both love is Metal! In our previous installment of this series, I had asked The OG to talk about the formulation of Metal and the context in which it was created. This time I’ve asked him to speak about it from a personal perspective. I know there are many perspectives of the 70s, but this is my dad’s personal perspective. In the history and context of development for him, this was his experience of the 70s.
Born in 1970
Metal came into existence in 1970 via Black Sabbath. I, too, came into existence in 1970, born in Endicott, NY. However, Black Sabbath (Metal) played no direct roll in my life in those days. My parents always listened to music. In general, music has always played a huge roll in my life. My mom listened to, what we would call, “Top 40” of the times. Every morning, getting ready for school, I remember the radio on and playing the past decade’s hits. My father was a fan of “Country and Western.” Today’s Country music is simply pop, for the most part. Back in the day, though, this genre had a distinct and definite sound and style. I remember my dad playing records from his collection of various bands and artists. In fact, my dad took me, my sister, and my grandmother to the first concert that I ever attended – Alabama! And because it was the 70s, Disco was huge. Saturday Night Fever, the movie and it’s soundtrack, were played continuously.
In the Context of Struggle
This is the context for my childhood, musically. My generation was conditioned in favor of the “Us vs. Them” mentality. The early 80s plainly and blatantly showcased this attitude in it’s development of Big Hair Rock and the anti-parental/authoritarian lyrics (see Twisted Sister, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”). But in the 70s, the unspoken struggle was internal. Life, as a whole, was a struggle in the “conditioning,” but it was in music that I found my escape. The battle was to find your own way; not to have the jobs your parents did, but a different one of your own. And musical taste was a huge platform in which to display your independence. My father always said, “You march to the beat of a different drummer.” So, perhaps, I was a little more extreme than the norm, but he nailed that one! A different beat driven by a different drummer was certainly what I was interested in!
In 1975 I was introduced to the most extreme and shocking band in the world, KISS. Some of the neighborhood kids had KISS records from their older siblings that we got our hands on. I have a picture of me from Christmas of ’75, holding my first KISS record – KISS Alive! It had been released a few months earlier, in September of ’75. My parents knew I loved them, and bought it for me. I was a 5-year-old KISS fan. And that obsession was evident through the end of the 70s and into the 80s for me. I have a pic of me in the third grade, with my first girlfriend, on my birthday, where my parents got me a shirt with Gene Simmons on it. I was proud of that! For my friends and I, KISS was it. As if there were no other bands. We knew the older kids were listening to Boston and the like, but with my allowance I only bought KISS records. Every single one!
My bedroom walls were covered with KISS posters, album sleeves, and magazine cutouts. I would have my own concerts, alone in my bedroom, playing a tennis racket, and only playing the latest KISS record. Yet, it wasn’t just the music that made KISS so attractive to me, it was their make-up and costumes. In the 70s, KISS were everywhere – always on TV, in magazines, and playing live somewhere. The music was simple, and there were certainly heavier bands, but for me Gene Simmons was fascinating! And he tapped into those forbidden, taboo subjects that kids in the 70s were conditioned to avoid. He looked evil and wicked. Which made him more appealing. I remember the KISS movie being released, and thinking it was the greatest thing ever! KISS played live on TV in the late 70s, which concert became the new greatest thing ever to me!
Little did I realize that, Internally, my identity was forming; more so, concretizing, a foundation that (right or wrong) I would build on for the rest of my life. Obviously, I didn’t understand the “conditioning.” But I did sense the struggle to forge my own way. And there was another variable at work at this time – for the generation in which I grew up, at least in that area in upstate NY, being “Cool” was the ultimate end-goal. From music, to the way you dressed, to the language you used, for someone else to describe you as “cool” was of utmost importance. A system was developing for me in which things were divided between Cool and Uncool. The lists were added to daily, but through the 70s, no other bands made the list. There was only KISS. Unfortunately, singing wasn’t cool to me (I know, the irony is blinding), and I never picked up an instrument (except in 5th and 6th grade where I played the trumpet, which WAS cool, but only for those two years). So, a fan is where I maxed-out. “Cool” hadn’t infected my education yet, so I was a good student in Elementary School. “Cool” would hit in 7th grade, when I hit Jr. High School. And sports in the neighborhood were “cool.” But not organized sports in Rec leagues or school.
Thus, through the 70s, I knew of no Metal. Internal struggles with the “conditioning,” and the obsession of being “cool” was aligning me, however, on a collision course with the genre. The 80s were the greatest decade to me, at least musically. KISS would no longer satisfy by then. And in the blazing speed and crushing power chords of Metal would I find a love that is going on 40 years, now.
But the 80s are the next installment. Until then…