It has been established that Black Sabbath, for all intents and purposes, invented Metal. In fact, the first guitar chord in the song, “Black Sabbath,” was always referred to as, “the Devil’s chord.” This chord was banned on all musical instruments, by the Roman Catholic Church, dating back into the Dark Ages. And Tony Iommi strikes the dreaded note, and the rest is history! We have also established that, though I was born the same year as Black Sabbath, I would not collide with “Metal” until the 1980s – 1982 to be exact.
So, going into the summer of 1980, my music collection consisted of KISS – every record, to that point. Growing up, we always loved summer vacation. There was no sleeping in until noon, or sitting around watching TV. I was up and out in the neighborhood every day; at someone’s house, playing some sort of ball, or riding bikes for miles (yes, at 10 years old). The summer of ’80, I was usually at a friend’s house, first thing in the morning, who had just gotten a drum set for his birthday. We would go down to his basement where he’d play the newest KISS song he’d learned; playing along with the record. Then we’d head outside for the day – finally returning home when the street lights came on.
Late that summer (1980), we were in the basement, listening (and drumming) to KISS, when my friend’s older brother began playing music on his stereo upstairs – a much bigger and louder “stack” than the record player we were using. At first, we were pissed that he was drowning-out KISS (and the drums!). But each day I went over to his house, and his brother fired-up the same record, for the rest of the summer, we would just look at each other and smile – we LOVED what we were hearing! My friend ended-up learning the songs on that record, too; this new, intense music that was more aggressive and more up-tempo than anything we’d heard. It was exciting! And this experience kicked open the door and expanded my record collection, eventually.
The record was AC/DC’s Back in Black (1980). In my mind, the music of AC/DC better-matched the intensity of my image of KISS’ appearance. Obviously, AC/DC didn’t have the visual appeal of KISS, but every song on that record was awesome. So, I kept my KISS posters, but listened to Back in Black. Through the rest of 1980 and 1981 (because I’m obsessive compulsive, which wasn’t a named thing at the time) this was the record! We began reading all the Rock magazines and learning of bands in England and Europe that were pushing the limits of the music at the time.
In 1982, (in what would become known as “The 2nd British Invasion,” and the American response) we became enamored with the trademark look and style of this “new” music. Twin guitars, attacking drummers using double base drums, darker bass lines, a siren for a lead singer, and more aggressive song structures and compositions. At the time, we called this music Hard Rock (my father, who hated my new music, always called it “Acid Rock” LOL). Another shift at this time was the fact that tapes (rather than records) became the mode in listening to music. Thus, listening to music became mobile, and much easier to manage. My cousin was a huge influence on my musical intake at this time, turning me on to MANY new bands and their newest albums. Our playlist from 1982 releases:
- Judas Priest – Screaming for Vengeance
- Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast
- Venom – Black Metal
- Motorhead – Iron Fist
- Scorpions – Blackout
- Van Halen – Diver Down
- Rainbow – Straight Between the Eyes
- Manowar – Battle Hymns
- Y&T – Black Tiger
- Black Sabbath – Live Evil
- Krokus – One Vice at a Time
- Rush – Signals
- Loudness – Devil Soldier
1982 was a great awakening, musically, for me. I couldn’t play an instrument (a little drums) nor sing, but I LOVED this “new” music, and it became the strongest driving factor in my identity. I (we) never dressed like KISS. I had a friend who loved Iron Maiden, later in High School, and he wore spandex; but most of us had not (yet) changed the way we dressed as of 1982. A few bands and albums changed the trajectory of my musical tastes, and spoke more clearly and directly to me in my development of identity:
- Iron Maiden – the first album I had heard was Killers. More than any other band, Iron Maiden was my favorite. Later, it would turn out, not only did they influence my love of “Speed Metal,” but they were a major influence of it in general. Their music is driven by the rhythm section – galloping bass and an insane drum attack (especially with Nicko McBrain on the throne). In 1982, Number of the Beast was released (Bruce Dickenson’s first with the band), as well as all the turmoil and drama over “666, the number of the beast,” which only drew us to them even more.
- Ozzy Osbourne – Speak of the Devil was released in 1982. This introduced me to the god-fathers of “Metal,” Black Sabbath. I loved Ozzy’s vocal style and cadence. And the music was incredible! I soon got my hands on Diary of a Madman, and my mind was blown!
- Twisted Sister – years before the commercial success of Stay Hungry, these guys went to England in order to break into the USA music scene of the time. Under the Blade (1982)is a VERY dark and heavy album. It was the first time I had heard “cussing” on tape!LOL I spent many hours with this record.
- Mercyful Fate – In 1982, another friend called me and said that I had to get to his house to hear a new band he had found. The record, Mercyful Fate, was an import. The music was (now) familiar to us, but the vocalist’s style and subject matter was very different. We would later learn about King Diamond, especially with the release of the great album, Melissa (1983). I was afraid of this band (and Venom, BTW), but the fear drew me to them.
So, at 10, I was interested only in KISS. Gene Simmons was a draw from a darker side of myself, and their music was not satisfying me as much any more. AC/DC spoke more to that other side of me, opening the door of my 12-year-old mind to ALL the bands of 1982. Meanwhile, my internal struggle (the “conditioning” of the times) and the daily battles of a pre-teen life were heavily influenced by this new music, and specifically by Iron Maiden, Twisted Sister (Dee Snider in particular), Ozzy, and Mercyful Fate (King Diamond in particular).
As we moved further into the ‘80s, MTV, legacy mainstream media (the “conditioning”) and commercial success naturally continued the evolution of this “new” music – in many ways softening most bands to a new “tolerable” level. They couldn’t stop the revolution, but they could attempt to control access, and what brand of this Hard Rock (Metal) was obtainable for the average fan. However, some bands – the more “extreme” bands – accepted the challenge and coveted the exclusion and alienation. So, a fork in the road, developed in the early 80s, matured in the mid-80s, and forged an even “newer” form of music – Speed (Thrash) Metal.
But that is a story for next time.