How I Came to Know the True Metal
My lady Stacey asked me a seemingly simple question the other day, the answer to which gave me pause:
“How old were you when you realized that you liked heavy metal music?”
And I had to sit and have a think, because it wasn’t an easy question.
My analytical mind drove through several interpretations of the question:
- What was the first Heavy Metal song I heard?
- What was the first Heavy Metal song I liked?
- When did I know that I liked Heavy Metal?
and so forth.
I thought about it.
Our neighbors down the street, the Chertows, owned an honest-to-$deity jukebox and kept it in the children’s play room. I was within age of two of that clan, and thus spent time there doing things that ten year olds do (mostly losing at Monopoly). The eldest daughter of the clan was maybe six years older, an honest-to-$deity teenager – and she absolutely loved that song. So one day, while we were playing (Lincoln Logs, I think), she loaded up the juke with that song on repeat.
I fell in love with it.
It was so very . . . primal. I’d never heard anything so raw and unpolished. So chaotic and angry. It sang to me.
But the roots of this go back further.
Now, Cold as Ice isn’t Heavy Metal. It’s Hard Rock. Clearly. That said, it’s a pretty heavy song. And Foreigner, they were everywhere in the late 70s. Of course, there was heavier stuff playing on the radio during this period, but my parents weren’t fans, and they’d always click the channel over.
Foreigner, though, they would listen to. And compared to the saccharine sounds that normally wafted through the station wagon’s speakers (Barry Manilow, The Carpenters, Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers – all of whom I love), it was downright apocalyptic.
It was then, I think that I first hear the Siren Call of the True Metal.
I could feel its voice deep in my bones, whispering dark prophecies:
“Brandon. There is something louder, angrier, faster. It is out there. You must find it. You will know it when you hear it, and through this shared sound you will meet your tribe. And it will be good. You will be welcome there.
“You will become melancholy when you ponder the loss of Randy Rhoads. You will feel strong and justified in your anger while listening to Reign in Blood. You will feel over-educated when trying to explain Iron Maiden’s The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner to others.
“Black Sabbath will become your solace.
“You will not be alone.
“Oh, yeah. Eventually, you’re going to find your real identity. Everyone’s going to stop calling you ‘Brandon’ and start calling you ‘Jorm’. But not for another 18 years or so.”
And so it came to pass that eventually I discovered Ozzy Osbourne. And through him, Black Sabbath, and through them, Dio. And then Slayer, and Iron Maiden, and Metallica, and so forth down the line.
Thirty-odd years later, I still listen to Foreigner. And I still remember that ride in my mom’s station wagon when the music world opened up to me.