Y&T sang “In The Name Of Rock’N’Roll” but if you wanted to find their music, you had to go to the heavy metal section of the record shop. You see, it was all one of the same, once upon a time. Hell, even Bon Jovi could be found in the metal section.
Metal music, much like the politics of today, was the very unpopular movement that took the mainstream by surprise in the 80’s. In the process it became a commercial behemoth. The record labels got rich and suddenly metal music went from the unacceptable to the acceptable. Isn’t it funny how billions in revenue from sales of metal music changed the people’s viewpoint.
But religious leaders hated metal. “Satan was on the loose”, they told their followers. These fanatics needed an enemy to push their sermons and there was no easier target than metal bands. The Government’s of the world sided with these religious group and certain factions came about, who also hated it, because of its anarchist lyrics and themes of violence, decadence and drug use. But the music got louder, the bands more popular and suddenly and suddenly the artists became as powerful as the leaders of nations. So it was only a matter of time before laws needed to be passed to censor or slap down the movement.
Society was suddenly at a crossroads.
How did the children of the baby boomers become so disobedient?
Why couldn’t these kids just conform to the system like their parents did?
A rethink of beliefs was happening.
Heavy metal bands questioned religion and made comments on politics. And the “metal fad” that most magazines predicted would die, didn’t. Instead, the message got louder. Metal music was alive in all parts of the world.
Music critics at first labelled it noise. Led Zeppelin’s first three albums (even though they are not metal, are still seen as influences of the metal movement) were labelled as disjointed and noise by Rolling Stone magazine. Black Sabbath’s first album was reviewed as a discordant jam that never finds it’s synch by the same magazine. However many years later, Rolling Stone would rewrite their own history and they put the albums in the 1001 albums you must hear before you die lists.
If you were a fan of heavy metal or hard rock, there was a system of persecution at play from unsupportive teachers, clueless leaders and an out of touch mainstream. But the music survived, it thrived and maintained a fan base for over 40 plus years.
Was it the roots to the blues that made metal appeal to the people?
Was it the borrowing from the Classical genre that made metal appeal to the people?
Was it the borrowing from the Jazz genre that made metal appeal to the people?
Was it the roots and upbringing of the artists that made metal appeal to the people? In other words, the majority of metal and rock fans came from the blue-collar social class. The people who keep the country they live in, running and producing goods.
It’s no surprise that the bands that would influence the metal genre the most originated in Europe. You had Led Zeppelin a supergroup of musicians who dabbled with the supernatural and borrowed from every genre known at that point in time. You had Black Sabbath, coming from industrial Birmingham with their sludgy and aggressive bluesy sound merged with the devil chord (the tritone) from classical music. You had Deep Purple who along with Led Zeppelin showed ambition and virtuosity in their music. If you go back further, you have The Beatles and Rolling Stones in the 60’s. ABBA and David Bowie showed the pop world how to write ambitious pop songs in the 70’s and pop music was never the same again. What the European artists did was introduce virtuosity into music that wasn’t there before.
Then there was UFO with their virtuoso guitarist Michael Schenker who would go on to influence all of the 80’s guitarists. Judas Priest, Motorhead and Iron Maiden flew the European metal flag in the early 80’s along with songs that sounded faster and more abrasive. A lot of critics called this a merging of punk rock with metal, however that wasn’t the case. I remember watching the Metal Evolution docu-series and Steve Harris totally disagreed with this viewpoint. As far as Harris was concerned, he hated punk music and he couldn’t see why he would merge the speed of punk with rock music to create the Iron Maiden sound. The U.S had Van Halen break through on the backs of the Van Halen brothers, who were born in Europe and grew up with the European technicality and the influences of classical music.
But metal had another genre hiding within which would go on to become bigger and more profitable. Its name became known as glam metal/rock. It was full of arena rock chorus’s, guitar solos by guitar heroes and “having a good time” lyrics. Combining the over the top glam look with MTV, proved to be a platinum move. Suddenly mediocre acts became platinum acts. A new cultural movement was born. The charts became a metal/rock paradise. Due to its crossover appeal, metal’s audience changed from male teenagers to include females, pre-teens and college teens.
While rock music in the 50’s changed society, metal music in the 80’s did exactly the same. And the world is better from it. I kneel at the altar of metal.