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hm-brackett - id Brackett ll University Oxford 5 S E R P...

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Unformatted text preview: id Brackett ll University Oxford 5 S E R P 0.... R E N N U D R 0 F VA 0 m 0 VI W e N Dav MEG 56. Heavy Metal Meets the C0unterculture The thriving London blues-rock scene; the riff-oriented songs of the this “1 Kinks, the Who, and the Yardbirds; and the improvisatory flights of psy- chedelic rock gradually coalesced into a genre forming the antithesis of Hea the “soft rock” _of the singer-songwriters. Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and the low: Jeff Beck Group stand as the main intermediaries-progenitors of the scho . r-ne‘w genre, retrospectively named “heavy metal.”1 What separated z 0 bands, such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple, from :ppe their blues revival antecedents was not a lesser reliance on the blues 0.50” but, rather, a less reverent attitude toward the form. These new bands ago; were not so interested in faithful re—creation as in taking certain ele- Mend‘ ments—the tonality, riff—orientation, sexual imagery, sense of aggres- to the sion—found in some blues songs and heightening or refashioning them . for an audience that was less interested in folklore and more interested mews in visceral power.2 in metal, the peace-loving idealism of folk-rock and psychedelia also diminished in favor Of darker visions and expressions of crude sexuality that spoke to another aspect of the countercultural experience. _' The “power chor "—the root and fifth of a chord sounded without the third, but magnified by distortion in a sonic emblem of transgressive masculinity—joined forces with riffs played in unison by guitar and bass Led Zeppelin and a heavy “bottom” (bass and bass drum mixed up front, memorialized - by Spinal Tap in their anthem “Big Bottom”), to create a genre of unpar— LedZQppelin (At alleled volume, and one that found a large audience of working- and The popular for] middle-class white youths. The initial rumblings from England were aided and abetted by sheets of noise from late 19605’ American aggrega- tions, such as Blue Cheer and the highly political MC5. men as Cream ': leaving the Yarr rhythm section 2 The early 197os witnessed a dispersion of a hard rock style, as writ- B 'ti ers of the time lumped bands like Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad, n Shblues gm well or better th notably, its self- debut album. 1. This genealogy is borne out by Hit Pnrnder's Top 100 Metal Albums (Spring 1989) and Hit Parader’s "Heavy Metal: The Hall of Fame” (December 1982) reprinted in Robert Walser, Running with the Devil: 3. Lester Bangs Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press and Metal ,, in Anthem University Press of New England, 1993), 173—74. The account here is also indebted to Steve Waksman's timed ’Hisfmy ofRoi in Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping ofMusicoI Experience (Cambridge, Mass; the Gas Chamber" Harvard University Press, 1999), esp. p. 263,- and Walser s m Running with the Devil. Black Sabbath and _ 2. Walser, in fact, focuses on the concept of "power" as a defining feature of the heavy metal genre and traces this connection in the historical usage of the term dating back two hundred years (1319- 1-3)- Source: Record revi Stone LLC. All Rigi 266 Heavy Metal Meets the Counterculture and lggy and the Stooges together with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.3 New attitudes toward Showmanship emerged in the mid- 19705 with Kiss, and hard rock reached a peak of pop stylization with one-word bands—Journey, Foreigner, Boston, and Toto. Of these bands, the crown for longevity goes to Aerosmith, a band whose hard rock (and lead singer's lips) owed more to the Stones than to anybody else (note: critics often used “hard rock” and “heavy metal” interchangeably at this time). ure re y_ = «2:12»: 7 '~ 1’. 1“]:1‘5“?{’..' :.-.:.EL 2?. 0f Heavy metal spoke to class and age divisions in the audience: lower and '9 lower-middle class versus bourgeois and college students versus high "3 school students. The following entry features a record review of Led 5d Zeppelin’s first album that appeared in Rolling Stone and the response m 'of some readers to this review. This exchange reveals early public recog- 35 nition of divisions in the rock audience and a divide between part of i is the audience and the aesthetic of Rolling Stone’ 5 rock critics. John ‘5 9' Mendelsohn, the reviewer, compares Led Zeppelin’s album unfavorably ‘5' to the first album by the Jeff Beck Group, which had received positive re- i; views a short time before. - 1d ns 31 REVIEW or LED ZEPPELlN .ut john Mendelsohn . ______,____—.————————-—— ve ss Led Zeppelin ed ar' Led Zeppelin (Atlantic SD 8216) {Id The popular formula in England in this, the aftermath era of such successful British blues— fa men as Cream and John Mayall, seems to be: add, to an excellent guitarist who, since ’a' leaving the Yardbirds and / or Mayall, has become a minor musical deity, a competent _ rhythm section and pretty soul-belter who can do a good spade imitation. The latest of the “t' British blues groups so conceived offers little that its twin, the left Beck Group, didn’t say as 3d! well or better three months ago, and the excesses of the Beck group’s Truth album (most notably, its self-indulgence and restrictedness), are fully in evidence on Led Zeppelin’s debut album. Lift Parader's ‘th the Devil: 3. Lester Bangs wrote several essays exploring these interconnect-ions; see the following: “Heavy as and Metal,” in Anthony DeCurtis and Iames Henlce with Holly George-Warren'edsu The Rolling Stone Illus- 3 Waksmafl S trnted History ofRock and Roll (New York: Random House, [1976] 1992), 459463; "Bring Your Mother to if Mass” the Gas Chamber" (part 1), Cream, 4, no. 1 (June 1972.): 40ft; "Bring Your Mother to the Gas Chamber: Black Sabbath and the Straight Dope on Blood-Lust Orgies, Part 2,” Cream (July 1972): 47H. rnetal ' ed years Source: Record review of Led Zeppelin, by John Mendelssohn, Rolling Stone, March 15, 1969. © 1969 Rolling Stone LLC. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by permission. B i. 268 The 19705 Jimmy Page, around whom the Zeppelin revolves, is, admittedly, an extraordinarily proficient blues guitarist and explorer of his instrument’s electronic capabilities. Unfortu- nately, he is also a very limited producer and a writer of weak, unimaginative songs, and the Zeppelin album suffers from his having both produced it and written most of it (alone or in combination with his accomplices in the group). ‘ The album opens with lots of guitar—rhythm section exchanges (in the fashion of Beck’s "Shapes of Things” on "Good Times Bad Times," which might have been ideal for a Yard— birds’ B-side). Here, as almost everywhere else on the album, it is Page’s guitar that pro- vides most of the excitement. "Babe I‘m Gonna Leave You” alternates between prissy Robert Plant’s howled vocals fronting an acoustic guitar and driving choruses of the band running down a four—chord progression while John Bonham smashes his cymbals on every beat. The song is very dull in places (especially on the vocal passages), very redundant, and certainly not-worth the six-and~a—half minutes the Zeppelin gives it. Two much—overdone Willie Dixon blues standards fail to be revivified by being turned into showcases for Page and Plant. "You Shook Me” is the more interesting of the two—at the end of each line Plant’s echo—chambered voice drops into a small explosion of fuzz-tone guitar, with which it matches shrieks at the end. The album's most representative cut is "How Many More Times.” Here a jazzy intro- duction gives way to a driving (albeit monotonous) guitar-dominated background for Plant's strained and uncenvincing shouting (he may be as foppish as Rod Stewart, but he’s nowhere near so exciting, especially in the higher registers). A fine Page solo then leads the band into what sounds like a backwards version of the Page—composed "Beck’s Bolero,” hence to a little snatch of Albert King’s "The Hunter," and finally to an avalanche of drums and shouting. 7 In their willingness to waste their considerable talent on unworthy material the Zeppelin has produced an album which is sadly reminiscent of Truth. Like the Beck group they are also perfectly willing to make themselves a two- (or, more accurately, one-and—a— half) man show. It would seem that, if they're to help fill the void created by the demise of Cream, they will have to find a producer (and editor) and some material worthy of their col~ lective attention. JOHN MENDELSOHN ' 7 3-15-69 SlRS: Mendelsohn’s review of Led Zeppelin was a 100% lie. Pure bullshit. Never has there been such a great band since Winwood‘s departure from Traffic. Eric Charles Brooklyn, NY. SIRS: If I used your record reviews as a guide to my personal record purchases, I would have the worst pile of garbage in the history of record collecting. A few issues back, your unbelievably fucked review of Led Zeppelin. This, plus past re- views of Creedence Clearwater, Cream, etc. _ I don’t, know where the musical taste of San Francisco is at, but if your magazine is an indicator—perhaps you all ought to come east on your vacation this summer. Charles Laquidara WBCN—FM Boston, Massachusetts 5?. Led 2 The foilm peared in eral year Zeppelin’s gap betw- frorn critir the mid-15 in its focl about Plan Zeppelin’s ravaging g cluding hi. experience friendship a far cry fr wild men. review, Pa the feff Ber Led Zeppe albums wil 1. This interview was to convince readers of Pr "Iimmy Page, Part Three Page and Plant space to i Rolling Stone (March 13, ' interest in the occult, is 11 hallucinatory chronicle o Elusive Stairway to Heai 2. For a musicologica Dave Headlam, "Does tl' Music of Led Zeppelin,” Elizabeth West Marvin a' 313—63. For the most tho Fast, In the Houses of the 1 Press, 2001). ood as the mainstream this remark—made to a Tyme Productions its , a wedding of accessi— vhite racists and black mm of need; the only presses the enormous 11 environment where Iity as they knew it. In :llop 0f genteel north- : outside. There were a play. (That’s one rea- emerged from there.) a job, we better make : Rocky Robbins [one e it out here. Not that just had more initia- polis scene ought to ; center of pop music nism, as some critics impulses. The best n of the Times (album 3d albums, the Time nd high-tech adven- ility more and more flail to have its com- ;Ied out by critics of his ambiguous sex- 10 doubt that these O’Neal, a man who a Prince rather than flaming the victim, )‘Neal’s expression 1nd condescending artist to surface in States who has [ate himself to as to his dom- ossibly offend i a free plastic :en ’em up for wouldn’t do or iominant society, 1drix before him, The 1980s form of metal developed in the United States in the late 19705 with bands, such as Van Halen, recording catchy, hook-laden material that eschewecl the more arcane lyrics of their British counterparts. The gui— tarist for the band, Eddie Van Halen, developed the most significant ad— dition to rock guitar playing since Hendrix with his mastery of the two- handed “tapping” technique, enabling him to slur rapid-fire arpeggios that would have been physically impossible using conventional guitar “8W broac technique.1 “Tapping” would soon become standard practice among evenif thEi metal guitarists. Elli fOI If during the mid- to late 19705 heavy metal had been a very domlmon' popular “underground” phenomenon (in terms of media attention and hmkheads ' radio play), the early 19805 saw the genre emerge into the bright light ' OSbOIm‘er' 'i of the mass media. During the time that mainstream outlets were exacfg Wh ignoring heavy metal, metal bands were nonetheless filling arenas and metal igutfi selling millions of records. As the sound of metal became associated . ,, . . . . point, cor. wrth lower- and lower-middle-class white youths and suburban ennur, music. It 1T bands from both sides of the Atlantic began to build on Van Halen‘s respect." ' blend of pop books with guitar virtuosity. The result? “Lite—metal” or Halfor “hair-metal" bands, such as Def Leppard and M'otley Crile, began to I, bright Sam cross over i0 the pop charts, inflecting the legacy of Foreigner-Boston in the mid: et at. with a harder edge and a fashion sense derived from glam via narrowmh Queen. ity. Nevertl very much “This The following article by J. D. Considine was published in 1984 at a time don’t third: when media attention documenting the widespread appeal of heavy have to Spe metal grew more common. The two bands discussed in the article, aguitarist, Judas Priest and the Scorpions (the section on the Scorpions is largely much a ma deleted), do not hail so much from the pop end of the heavy metal spec- As a ht trum, although both bands nudged their way onto MTV during the tails, standj early- to mid-19805. Instead,'what this article captures is the emphasis Alive,” wk on visceral power and excitement and on an unironic seriousness about Quartet is s for some BE technique that Priest’s lead singer, Rob Halford, compares to that of Western classical music (much to the amusement of Considine).2 We N01 he- also hear a description of why heavy metal caught on in Britain from fer. Of @1111 Priest guitarist K. K. Downing and a few ideas about the appeal of metal Sklll-“Afun to its audience. . . - recordmg mine. He I: beats, stuff has and stu rock accent "He co No doubt a it. For some 1. See Robert Walser's chapter analyzing Eddie Van Halen's solo guitar tour de force, "Eruption," and its influence on subsequent heavy metal guitarists Malser, Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music [Hanoven N.H.'. Wesleyan University Press and University Press of New England, 1993], 67~10fl. 2. This connection is not as ridiculous as it seemed to some critics, just cited from Walser’s Running with the Devil. and it is the focus of the chapter Source: ]. D. C Priest and thl lte 19705 with I material that parts. The gui- significant ad- sry of the two- -fire arpeggios antional guitar ractice among 1 been a very . attention and he bright light I I outlets were ing arenas and me associated Iburban ennui, )n Van Halen’s ‘Lite-metal” or Zriie, began to reigner—Boston from glam via 1984 at a time meal of heavy in the article, aims is largely ivy metal spec- lTV during the 5the emphasis lousness about ares to that of onsidine).2 We in Britain from appeal of metal )LU' defame, "Eruption," and Devil: Power, Gender, and d University Press of New is the focus of the chapter PURITY AND POWER—"TOTAL, UNSWERVING DEVOTION TO HEAVY METAL FORM: Jqus PRIEST AND THE SCORPIONS 1. D. Considine No doubt about it, heavy metal is the Music Which Gets N 0 Respect. Oh, sure, the fans like it. For some of them, metal is the very marrow of their cultural existence. And there are even a few broad—minded critics who are willing to let the music, like any other dog, have its day, even if their appreciation is more sociological than musical. But for most folks, heavy metal is a musical moron joke, fodder for frustrated teens and dominion of dim—witted devil—worshippers. At best, the phrase conjures up the likable lunkheads of Rob Reiner’s satiric This is Spinal Tap,- at worst, the mind turns to Ozzy Osbourne, biting the heads off dead bats in Des Moines or pissing on the Alamo. In all, not . exactly what you’d call positive images. "You get narrow-minded critiCs reviewing the shows, and all they think about heavy metal is that it is just total ear-splitting, blood-curdling noise without any definition or point,” complained Judas Priest’s Rob Halford. "This is a very, very professional style of music. It means a great deal to many millions of peeple. We treat heavy metal music with respect.” I-Ialford paused to gaze out the window at the passing Texas countryside. It was a bright Saturday afternoon. Judas Priest were en route from Houston to San Antonio, smack in the middle of a nine~month American tour which had found the band playing to both narrow-minded critics and adoring heavy metal fans, the latter being in the distinct major- ity. Nevertheless, the question of heavy metal’s aesthetic worth is one which Halford takes very much to heart. Heavy metal, he insisted, was genuine art. “This might sound like a bizarre statement,” he said, leaping back into the fray, "but I don’t think playing heavy metal is that far removed from classical music. To do either, you have to spend many years developing your style and your art, whether you're a violinist or a guitarist, it still takes the same belief in your form of music to achieve and create. It is very much a matter of dedication.” As a herd of cattle receded in the distance, I tried to imagine Halford, in white tie and tails, standing center-stage in a New York recital hall to sing the celebrated art song “Eat Me Alive,” while somewhere in the Midwest, a leather-clad Robert Mann of the Julliard String Quartet is screaming into a microphone, asking a rowdy coliseum crowd if they’re "ready for some Beethoven?” Somehow the image refused to come. No, heavy metal isn’t exactly serial composition, but then again, art isn’t always a mat- ter of complexity. Sometimes, getting and keeping things simple takes as much or more skill. "A funny story, ” said Judas Priest’s Glenn Tipton, backstage one night, "When we were recording Defenders Of The Faith in Spain, this guy from South America came up, a friend of mine. He plays guitar—amazing things, rhythms, phrases, strange South American-type beats, stuffI couldn’t begin to play, much more complex than those Police things. Real sam— bas and stuff, and difficult as hell. All he wanted off me was to learn how to play things with rock accents. "He couldn’t play ’em,” Tipton laughs. “An entirely different feeling.” —-_.__—_ Source: J. D. Considine, "Purity and POWer— Priest and the Scorpions," Musician (September 1984), pp. 46—50. Used by permission of J. D. Considine. Total, Unswerving Devotion to Heavy Metal Form: Judas 373 374 The 19805 It’s that bone—headed simplicity, the art of knowing what not to play, that Tipton feels makes heavy metal so ultimately British. "To me, and I can say this honestly, there are not very many American heavy metal bands. There are some great rock bands, the best rock bands in the world. But it’s not heavy metal. The American bands are too sophisticated. And I think that’s it—English bands, like Ourselves, have that lack of sophistication which, I suppose, has to do with upbringing, the fact that we were born and raised poverty—struck. I think you can lose that out of your music, if you’re not careful.” In other words, great heavy metal .turns its limitations into assets, its insularity into a sense of community, and ends up doing everything art is expected to do. True, heavy metal is often musically limited, culturally reactionary and too damned loud, but at its best, it is transcendently so. Which is why, ludicrous as it may seem, Rob Halford’s analogy between heavy metal and classical music contains a grain of truth: both disciplines ultimately aim for the triumph of emotion over form. It’s Saturday night in San Antonio, the last night of the city’s annual Easter Fiesta. There’s a buzz of excitement throughout the city and a roar inside the Civic Arena. When the lights " go down for Iudas Priest’s set, 12,000 kids are on their feet, fists in the air, screaming. As a taped synthesizer growl drones ominously, the curtains part to reveal “the Metallian,” a twenty-foot high aluminum gargoyle who holds the drum kit in its left claw. Fog watts across the stage as the Metallian’s vari—light eyes scan the audience: then, in a blinding burst of flashpots, the members of Priest materialize, leaping headlong into the hyper—adrenal pulse of “Love Bites.” As spectacle, it’s pretty impressive. With the Metallian looming above like a malevolent building, Halford’s macho strut and the rest of the band’s leather-clad choreography seem less a matter of vainglorious posturing than an assertion of will, a dance against the demons of the city. Even at the end of the set, as the Metallian breathes fire through the final, crash- ing chords to "The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown),” it wields its menace almost in defeat, a vanquished dragon. Granted, that’s a lot of meaning to read into an elaborate prop, but it would be foolish to overlook the resonances of such devices. As Halford puts it, “When we use those props, people see them and they say, ‘Oh, what is this?’ But when they suddenly connect with the props, it’s a total unification, music and material object working together." The night before, in Houston, guitarist K. K. Downing had begun to explain his theory of heavy metal. "in certain parts of Great Britain, some bands started taking progressive blues and playing them in their own way. Heavy metal is our own blues, actually.” This "white man’s blues,” as Downing is fond of calling it, worked because it translated the emotional impact of American blues into a form that young musicians in Britain’s in— dustrial heartland could more easily understand. “It was more aggressive,” Downing said. "It’s a way of getting rid of your blues by expending energy And it’s a way for the audience to expend energy as well." This makes sense if you look at the music’s structure. "All the licks that we play,” explained Glenn Tipton, who shares the lead guitar role with Downing, "form around the blues. You get something like the lead break in ’Another Thing Comin’,’ it’s all blues stuff, all the same runs. Even the fast stuff.” Grabbing a guitar and practice amp, he plugged in. "Something like this,” he said, spinning off a fast splatter of notes, "is just from cadences like this.” He began to play a typical blues riff—up from the 7th to the tonic, up again to the minor 3rd, and back down to the tonic—and slowly sped it up, letting the syncopation bleed out as the figure turned into insistent eighth-notes, moving the pattern up the neck by half-steps. Pure metal, "and it’s all blues stuff.” 1 Exce whether surges w the back] cheer, gr: Of c- (much to but sits c in it. "A t tended, t' in a bathi "A it able to re way a gu cracked." Flasl' between ' in the far Herr von music an: because i hard to n seeing u: experienr I’ll be Call 1' the soul. ] ularity is level,” 5511 it back to “You human be experienc about. We Heavy Metal Thunders On! 375 that Tipton feels Except, of course, that the rhythm is completely different. Where American blues, ' whether country acoustic or urban electric, maintain an easy rhythmic bounce, heavy metal surges with almost mechanical regularity, pushing the downbeat instead of laying behind the backbeat. It’s not a party energy, certainly not dance music; it’s more like a football cheer, group aggression focused through rhythm and sheer volume. Of course, no football crowd could ever h0pe to muster a sound like Judas Priest’s 3 (much to the relief of Pete Rozelle). Despite the volume, Priest’s sound isn’t noisy or brittle, but sits comfortably in the midrange with a presence so great you could immerse yourself in it. “A total wallow,” Halford cheerfully admitted. And during the three Priest shows I at- tended, the fans did almost seem to be floating, reacting to shifts in dynamics like toy boats 5 in a bathtub. I .- -5 “A lot of the access and understanding of our music for so many people is that they’re able to relate to what we're singing about,” Halford continued. “Beyond the voeals, it’s the what not to play, any American heavy metal 1: In _ I ve y world. But it s not heavy ' the ‘ . that’s it—-English bands, 111;: lose, has to do with upbringing, fink you can lose that out of your iOns into assets, its insularity it; is expected to do. True, heavy It . oo damned loud, but at its best, lee ‘em Rob Halford’s analogy betw- ‘ I n - 1h: both disciplmes way a guitar makes you feel when someone hits a particular chord, the way a snare drum IS v Flashing back to Halford’s classical analogy, I suddenly realized that the difference 'f between the kid playing air guitar in his bedroom to "Rock Hard, Ride Free” and his father :1 " 1n the family room, conducting the last movement of the Symphonic Fantastique along with ’ \ Herr von Karajan, is not much more than a matter of props. That’s not to say that classical music and heavy metal are necessarily equivalents, just that the listener ’5 experience can be, ' ecause for both father and son, it’s a matter of release through pure sound. So it wasn’t ard to nod appreciatively when Halford concluded by remarking, "I just hope that, after _ eeing us for the first time, peoPle go away from a show fulfilled by what they've We like a malevole‘ xperienced.” [allian looming {‘bd Choreography see I’ll bet Herr von Karajan feels the same way. ‘ )andls leather-C 3- e a ainst the emo Call it another side-effect to adolescent glandular mayhem, or just call it zit cream for mm Of Km}: dafiouggh the final, eras. 6 soul. In any case, both Priest and the Scorps agree that the key to the heavy metal’s pop- tn breat 85 He " u it wields its mend larity is the power transfer between performer and audience. "We have a high energy n)’ evel,” says Scorpion Matthias labs, "and when the audience is great, they feel that and give te top but it would be f0011 u I _ I _ . [elabora _ Pflwilen we use those pro You can t analyze it much beyond the fact that there are 11,000 separate indiv1dual ford puts 1t; ddenl connect with , uman beings getting off on what you’re doing,” concludes Priest’s Halford, "each of them at when '51:? 5:1 gethezr” ixperiencing an emotional vibe and throwing it back at you. I mean, that’s what art is all ‘ twor g 0 ' ' =52 tK>je§JOWmng had begun to explain eat Britain, some -Pronged Crow because it transl . . ed I I .of calling 1t,worl< dam in Britam usi )rm that young In I "It was more aggressrve, f Lng energy. And it’s a way ’ structure-"All the licks that w: liar role with Downing, Aflorirltl flies S Another Thing Comm , it s a 1 a guitar and practice amp, he p ugg latter of notes, “is ' ' Sflfom the 7th to the tonic, up ag 72. Metal in the Late Eighties Glam or Thrash? The popularity of heavy metal could not remain underground forever: _7 Top 40 hits by Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, Ratt, Mtitley Crtie, and the " Scorpions and the growing ubiquity of metal-influenced guitar solos in the early- to mid-19805 presaged a full-scale breakthrough. One of the clearest signs of the change of status was‘the addition to MTV’s sched- ule in 1986 of a show devoted entirely to metal, “Headbanger's Ball.” This show reflected a change in MTV’s format as the video channel moved away from continuous 24-hour video flow into a schedule broken down into specialized time slots, as well as the recognition that heavy metal was now acceptable to the'demographic represented by MTV's audience. This development in the realm of music video was paralleled by increased radio play for metal bands, not only for the ever-expanding progeny of “lite-metal" bands, such as Poison and Warrant, but for bands that followed from the “harder” Judas Priest/Iron Maiden ap- proach. Earlier distinctions between British and American metal began to Ulrich-has erode, and a band like Guns ’n’ Roses (probably the most popular metal band, bub band of the late 19803) successfully combined several different strands Dokken) C of the genre. tour, aka Many of the bands of the “hard” heavy metal school were influenced co—"Monsi not only by earlier metal bands, but by hardcore punk, and they devel- - Durir] oped new subgenres of metal, dubbed “speed metal,“ “thrash metal,” of Woodst and (even) “death metal.” Within the heavy metal subculture, these lat- . Ulrich dor ter bands represented the “purer,” “non-commercial” strain of metal in only knov contrast to the “glam metal” hands. If one of the best examples of a pop- Singer/gu metal band in the late 19805 was Bon Jovi, then the clearest example of a 0119 Of the band that seemed to follow its own inclinations and respond to a core audience of metal fanatics was Metallica (which, by the way, went on to become wildly popular themselves).1 Another important issue related to heavy metal in the late 19805 was the public discussion of lyric themes: 2.1101 m Heavy metal lyrics had become a cause céiébre for their focus on teenage Madness in . England, 19 sponsibiiity Zappa’s :01 "Statement —'—"—_f——_ I I . . _ Writing (Ne 1. For a profile of Metallica on the cusp of mass populanty as they struggle w1th the contradlctlons engendered by their shifting status, see David Fricke, "Heavy Metal Justice," Rolling Stone, January Source: Rick permission 12, 1989, 42—49. 376 Metal in the Late Eighties problems and had come under attack by groups, such as the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), which claimed that heavy metal lyrics were responsible for teenage suicide.2 In the following piece, Richard Gehr portrays Metallica on the verge of moving from an extremely popular cuit band to a band with mass popularity, a topic that comes to the fore in the band’s comments about their “outsider” status. Particularly fascinating is the description of E Metallica’s songwriting process, one of the factors responsible for song inderground forever: structures that were unusuaily complex within the context of other metal l‘otley Crtie, and the of the time. Gehr also describes how the content of Metallica’s lyrics was enced guitar solos in ‘ one of the factors separating their brand of “thrash” from “pop-metal.” kthrough. One of the i " The highpoint of heavy metal‘s popularity in the late 19805 and ition to MTV’s sched- 5 early 19905 created a situation in which bands like Metallica could “Headbangers Ball.” simultaneously maintain “underground” status and experience mass popularity, a balancing act taken over by grunge after 1991. Gehr begins the article writing in the voice of the two members of Metallica who are profiled in this piece, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. as the video channel 1to a schedule broken ecognition that heavy 'epresented by MTV’s warm on - m- leo was paralleledfb: METALLICA r the ever-expan In ‘ Dand Warrant, but for l Richard Gehr ‘riestl Iron Maiden aP' I r nerican metal began to . Ulrich has recently risen from the sleep, dreamless or otherwise, of the very successful. His he most popular metal g band, billed fourth (between Led Zep wannaboys Kingdom Come and metal morons Iveral different strands ‘ Dokken) on the Monsters or Rock tour—aka. the "Fucking Monsters of Fucking Rock” ’ . tour, a.k.a. the “weekend” tour—has garnered at least as much critical oom-pah as their school were influenced T co—"Monsters," even Van Fucking Halen. _ i nk and they damp . ‘ During their non-touring weekdays, Metallica was ensconced in the bucolic environs ' pu ,: “ h 5h metal n of Woodstock, New York, feverishly mixing tracks for their fourth LP, . . . And Iusticefor All! Regjtculfu: these 1a; ‘ Ulrich doesn’t remember that the studio where they’re working is named Bearsville; he _ ” . f metal in only knows that it's several miles from the nearest watering hole. But when bleary-eyed rc'al Stram o . singer/ guitarist James Hetfield joins us a little later, he’ll helpfully add, "It’s out in the mid- besli exargtpéisa’gfiepgg dle of the forest up there. I heard something about The Band.” 1e c eare ; and respond to a core , by the way, went on to Iportant issue related to ‘ ‘CUSSion 0f lyric themes; 3 2' For more on censorsmp and ihe PMRC, see Robert Walser, Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Jr their focus on teenage 2 Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press and University Press of New England, 1993), 137—45; and Reebee Garofalo, "Setting the Record Straight: Censorship and Social Re- sponsibility in Popular Music,” journal of Popular Music Studies 6 (1994), 14:7. The transcript of Frank E Zappa’s comments to Congress on the issue are as edifying as they are entertaining; see Frank Zappa, "Statement to Congress, 19 September 1985," in Clinton Heylin, ed., The Da Capo Book of Rock and Roll Writing (New York: Da Capo Press, [1992] 2000), 501—08. - l ith the contradictions : sfigéi‘glfing Stone january ; Source: Richard Gehr, "Metallica," Music Sound and Output (September 1983). © Richard Gehr. Used by a us 1 , r ‘ permission. 378 _ The 19805 Ulrich and Hetfield formed Metallica in Los Angeles in 1981 as a hard-edged response to late—Seventies mainstream rock. inspired in equal parts by the so-called "new wave of British heavy metal” and by the Southern California hardcore scene, Metallica stripped away the gothic excesses of the former and expanded the shortform song structures of the latter to produce five- to eight—minute mini-epics of ear-shattering volume and mind— boggling speed. They compounded multiple riffs within single tunes, linking them with subject matter that rejected ”gonna-r0Ck-ya-all—night—long” HM cliches (not to be confused with “gonna-love-ya-all-nite-long” HM cliches) in favor of darker meditations on power, violence, aggression and death. Young and hungry, Metallica evinces absolutely no influence prior to, say, 1976. For example: an AOR "oldies" station plays quietly in the background as we talk. At one point, a strange expression passes across Hetfield’s face. He looks at the radio and, almost com— plaining, asks, “What’s this?!” The scrap that caught his attention was Leigh Stevens’s gui- tar solo on "FlélpMe Doctor” from Blue Cheer’s first LP, Vincebus Eruptum—arguably the finest heavy metal album ever recorded. Rather than subsisting as just another metal band from L.A., the group, which included lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Cliff Burton, moved to New York in 1983. After signing with Megaforce, they released their first LP, Kill ’Em All, whose leather-roots popu- larity kept them on the road in the United States and Europe for the next nine months. The band’s second Megaforce LP, a post-adolescent death trip titled Ride the Lightning, was quickly snatched up by Elektra and went on to sell more than half a million copies. As to the record's morbid theme, Ulrich says, “around then we were talking about capital punish- ment and had a lot of fucking thoughts about dying and death.” "We were putting ourselves in various situations,” adds Hetfield, "like the electric chair and cryonics.” Both make a big deal about how none of their records, including Lightning, is a concept album. "I think records reflect whatever shit you’re going through at that point in time,” noted Ulrich sagely. With the success of Lightning, Metallica’s stock quickly ascended. They were still a cult band, but they were a cult band like Pee—Wee Herman is a cult comedian. By the time Elektra released Master of Puppets in 1986, Metallica had welded shut their position in the metal pantheon, despite the fact that virtually no radio station dared to air their savagely sophisticated megawattage and they made no music videos. 7 Collectively, Metallica’s members thrive on their independence and outsider status, scorning anything short of total musical and personal autonomy. Ulrich describes Puppets, for example, as being about the dangers of "drugs, manipulation, anything that takes you over.” The lyrics' syntax may scan in the most bizarre of fashions—just try and parse lines like "Not dead which eternal lie/ Stranger eons death may die”—but the impact and emotion is unmistakable. What do you expect from a metal band, after all. Cole Porter? An American tour with Ozzy Osbourne following the release of Puppets nailed their appeal. The album has since sold more than 750,000 copies domestically and penetrated Billboard's Top 30. Sadly, bassist Cliff Burton was killed in Scandinavia when the band’s tour bus crashed that summer. Rather than fade into oblivion, however, the band resuscitated itself in his honor and added bass player Jason Newsted (of Flotsam & Ietsam fame). After touring Japan, they even returned to Europe and made up the dates they’d missed. For Metallica, writing and recording an album is an extremely piecemeal, even abstract process. Their songwriting begins literally in a garage, which Ulrich and Hetfield sift through riff tapes compiled by the four band members. "We’ve got riffs f riff and write it down “The riffs have far ”. . . Categories. . "Like, some shit i: tapes and try to find 1: skeleton of a song, we a title from a list of tit: After assembling Hetfield: “Then i. and this is little too 51 little faster. ” ' Ulrich and Hetfis tempos. . Hetfield: "First l’l our click track situatio have between 10 and I derstand it. Usually c within each eight— or 11 best at, to make it fit b "Putting down th- I tell that to other peo] After completing ' _ from standard proced1 “We record about guy in the studio at ar Building the click actually do it live.” Tl his scratch rhythm, Ul rhythm-guitar parts, I and vocals, "so we do: Metallica's last two LI differences between I Ulrich, is how "all the difference is the tends how the group discovi During their ’84 i extended stay on the c "really spread a lot of They met the mar first day in Sweet Silei pretty good and he w. point in time we had 1‘ on the first album [Pat of studio time instead I anything about the bet] some sort of happenin like the fifth member t Unfortunately, Ra ing . . . And Insticefor f. rd-edged response lled "new wave of Metallica stripped 1g structures of the plums and mind- linking them with :not to be confused titations on power, r to, say, 1976. For : talk. At one point. ) and, almost com- eigh Stevens’s gui— tum—arguably the 1p, which included York in 1983. After .eather—roots popu- t nine months. The the Lightning, was an copies. As to the wt capital punish— l, “like the electric htning, is a concept hat point in tune,” iey were still a cult adian. By the time ieir position in the ) air their savagely ace and outsider y. Ulrich describes tion, anything that fashions—just try may die"—but the ital band, after all. 'uppets nailed their 11y and penetrated ’s tour bus crashed citated itself in his me). After touring ed. neal, even abstract 1 and Hetfield sift Metal in the Late Eighties 379 "We’ve got riffs from years and years,” explains Hetfield. "On the road We constantly riff and write it down.” "The riffs have feels,” says Ulrich. "First we start separating the riffs into . . . ” ”. . . Categories. . . .” says Hetfield. “Like, some shit is strong enough to be the main idea of a tune. Then we go through the tapes and try to find possible bridges,'choruses, middle bits or whatever. After we have the skeleton of a song, we start getting a feel for what the song’s really like. Then we search for a title from a list of titles that fits with the riffing’s mood." After assembling the song, the group works it out on a demo. Hetfield: “Then Lars and I sit with the demos and go, Well, this is a little too fast here, and this is little too slow. We’ll play it live and see if it really grooves. If not, we’ll try it a little faster.” Ulrich and Hetfield next assemble a click track that schemafizes the song’s various tempos. Hetfield: "First I’ll lay down a scratch rhythm, then he’ll go in and do his drums. I think our click track situation is something unique from what other bands do because some songs have between 10 and 15 click—track samples, which really freaks pe0ple out. They can’t un- derstand it. Usually clicks keep the time steady, but we have many moods and grooves within each eight- or nine-minute song. So for every riff we figure out what tempo it sounds best at, to make it fit better with the whole thing’s overall feel. "Putting down the clicks for a couple of songs on JTusttce! took two days each. But when I tell that to other people they think I mean two hours or something.” After completing the click track, the group is ready to record. Here again Metallica differ from standard procedure by going after a full, “live” sound in the most roundabout of ways. "We record about as nonlive as possible,” says Ulrich. “There’s never more than one guy in the studio at any one point in time.” Building the click track, says Hetfield, takes "a lot longer, probably, than it would to actually do it live.” The recording procedure goes something like this: Hetfield lays down his scratch rhythm, Ulrich records his drum tracks, Hetfield returns and completes his final rhythm-guitar parts, Newsted adds the bass, then Hetfield and Hammett alternate leads and vocals, "so we don’t burn ourselves out.” Metallica’s last two LPs were recorded in Copenhagen’s Sweet Silence Studios. One of the differences between most studios in Los Angeles and their EuroPean equivalents, says Ulrich, is how "all that shit’s included. You don’t have to fucking rent anything.” Another difference is the tendency of European studios to employ an in—house engineer, which is how the group discovered Flemming Rasmussen. During their '84 European tour, the band decided to concentrate their energies on an extended stay on the continent, where they could tour, record an album, blitz the press and "really spread a lot of shit around.” They met the man with whom they would record their next three albums during their first day in Sweet Silence Studios. "Flemming had done some Rainbow stuff that sounded pretty good and he was supposedly a really happening engineer,” recalls Ulrich. "At that point in time we had had a really bad experience with an I-use-the-term-loosely ’producer’ on the first album [Paul Curcio on Kill ’Em All], and We were glad to have two more weeks of studio time instead of spending $10 or $15 thousand on someone who really didn’t know anything about the band. 50 we went in and did it with Flemming, and instantly there was some sort of happening vibe there. There still is, and it’s been growing stronger, really. He’s like the fifth member when it comes to recording.” Unfortunately, Rasmussen wasn’t immediately available after Metallica began record- ing . . .And justicefar Alli, so the band hooked up with Guns N’ Roses producer Mike Clinic 380 The 19805 for their first sessions at One on One. On Master of Puppets, according to Ulrich, "we booked studio time and fucking got all the decisions together way too early in the songwriting. But when it came time to go into the studio, we weren’t really ready.” With Iusticei', however, the situation was exactly the opposite. “This time around we didn't want to make any recording decisions until we had all the songs written. 80 we started writing in' October and it only took eight or nine weeks to write the songs. It went a lot quicker than we thought it would.” By January, they were ready to record, but Rasmussen wasn’t, having been unavoidably detained by a prior commitment to a band amusineg called Danish Pregnant Woman. But Metallica wanted him had, and did everything in their power to snare him, but to no avail. "We fucking tried everything, but there was no fucking way to get this fucking Danish Pregnant Woman to fucking give Flemming up. We offered to fucking fly engineers in at our expense, pay for studio time, anything, right? No. See ya. “So basically we were faced with the situation of whether we wanted to sit around and dwell,er fucking three months, let the fuckin’ songs get burned out, and kind of fuckin’ start hating things. We’re all sitting around on our couch going flump, we’ve gotta fuckin’ start doing something with our time." The decision was made to go into the studio with Mike Clink, get comfortable by wail- ing on a couple of Diamondhead and Budgie chestnuts, work out some B—sides and prepare for Rasmussen’s availability. But, according to Ulrich, “The Clink situation emphasized that we really can't work, or at least record, with anyone other than Flemming.” “Well, we can.” Adds Hetfield, "but it’s a slow process.” "We’d still be in there right now doing drum tracks,” moans Ulrich. Rasmussen finally came to the rescue, and the drummer and guitarist acknowledge that their time with Clink wasn’t totally wasted. Rather, it was just enough to loosen the group up and enable them to start recording Within a couple of days of Rasmussen’s arrival six weeks into their studio block. “If we’d started from scratch it probably would have taken us three‘weeks,” says Ulrich. Metallica mixed . . . And JIustice for All! with Michael Barbiero and Steve Thompson, whose credits include Whitney Houston, Madonna, the Rolling Stones, Prince, Cinderella, Tesla and Guns N’ Roses. Ulrich and Hetfield are optimistic about the collaboration. "Looking back," opines Ulrich, “I don‘t think we’ve been too comfortable with any of the mixes we’ve ever done." Hetfield agrees, adding, "I think the problem with a lot of people who specialize in mixing is they set up the mix the way they’re used to mixing bands, and everyone ends up sounding like those mixes. What’s great about these guys is they go out of their way to keep the band’s identity completely together." How does Justice differ from Puppets? "It’s a lot . . .” begins Ulrich. “Drier,” continues Hetfield. "A lot drier, and a' lot more . . ." "In your face," Hetfield pipes in again. “Everything’s way up front and there’s not a lot of ’verb or echo. We really went out of our way to make sure that what we put on the tape was that we wanted, so the mixing procedure would be as easy as possible and not like the old saying, ’We’ll save it in the mix.” “Puppets was very well recorded,” says Ulrich, "and had a very huge sort of sound, but didn’t really fuckin’ come out of the speakers and hit you in the face.” "Compared to Ride the Lightning it did,” Hetfield reminds him. "I don’t want to listen to Ride the Lightning,” groans Ulrich. “Flemming was in a reverb daze,” explains Hetfield. Did the experience of recording The $5.98 EP affect Justice’s sound? "I th Hetfield. llwe “We IlAnl joke flip} tial stock th "We "An so you h in certai: "Hc shoving Ulri easy to 5 two or t Lik. Van Fuc afternot eral tho cally or mates. 1 origins: that‘s tl B Jlrich, "we booked e songwriting. But sticel, however, the intil we had all the tine weeks to write they were ready to prior commitment nted him bad, and his fucking Danish engineers in at our d to sit around and (ind of fuckin’ start : gotta fuckin’ start rmfortable by wail- i-sides and prepare )n emphasized that It 1g. tarist acknowledge ough to loosen the lasmussen’s arrival r would have taken 1 Steve Thompson, Prince, Cinderella, allaboration. ortable with any of a who specialize in i everyone ends up if their way to keep and there’s not a lot we put on the tape .ble and not like the ;e sort of sound, but Postpunk Goes indie 381 "I think we were pretty pleased with the way it was so upfront and raw,” reckons Hetfield. "We learned something from that mix," says Ulrich. "We learned that the bass is too loud,” says Hetfield. “And when is the bass too loud?" chants Ulrich. Together: "When you can hear it!” Upon completion, . . . And justicefor All! will be another Metallica mouthful of super- charged riffs and vaguely upsetting lyrics just this side of deeply disturbing. Although they joke flippantly about its content, Ulrich and Hetfield obviously place much greater existen— tial stock in their work than your typical metal numbskulls. What’s it about? I inquire. "Walking your dog in the park,” quips Ulrich. “And not wanting to clean up after it,” continues Hetfield, as usual. “But there’s a law, so you have to. It's basically about independence and freedom, and how they are stopped in certain ways.” "How they’re very surfacey things,” adds Ulrich. “At a certain point they really start shoving those words in your face, but when you really start thinking about a lot of shit . . ”. . . how free is it?” concludes Hetfield. Ulrich goes on. "You have freedom of choice, but how many choices do you have? It’s easy to say you can make up your own mind, but you can only make up your mind about two or three different things." Like, for example, between Dokken, the Scorpions, Kingdom Come, Poison, Venom, Van Fucking Halen, and a skidillion other munsters of rock. Metallica prove it that Sunday afternoon in Foxboro, where they play an abbreviated, probably even mediocre set for sev- eral thousand curious complexions. No matter. it’s clear that Metallica embody an electri- cally overamped power and passion that rings a hundred times truer than their monster mates. Like free jazz, New York noise or even composer Krystof Penderecki, Metallica are original dynamos, weekend warriors outstanding in a very loud field of their own. And that’s the fucking truth. As stated earlier, the critical attention given to the initial wave of New York and British punk in the late 19705 surpassed its popular appeal. Punk, as both musical and subcultural style, nevertheless continued to spread, branching out into a variety of subgenres. As we have already seen, the most commercial ofthese branches resulted in the synth-pop “New Romantic” movement. A variety of underground genres, based on different regional scenes and supported by a loose network of fanzines, _ independent record labels. college radio stations, and clubs in urban areas and college towns, gradually earned the label “indie rock." The ...
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