By Will Stroock
In that dark, dark winter of 1988, when I was 14 years old and simultaneously failing most of my classes, on permanent lunch detention (no joke) and was unable to get any girl to go out with me, I found a movement that knew my pain. It was heavy metal. These guys had the solution for those teachers who hated me and preps that cared about grades; the finger.
We all know the songs and videos and no recapping should be necessary, save for a few quotes, which will get the point across. Twisted Sister’s ‘Well all I got to say to you when you tell me not to play I say NO,’ and of course, ‘We’re right/we’re free/we’ll fight/you’ll see.’ Or Iron Maiden’s, ‘Lord give me the strength to hold my head up/spit BACK in their face.’ You get the idea.
OK, I wasn’t mister hardcore metal, I wasn’t wearing Overkill or Slayer T-shirts, in fact my early taste was to the lighter stuff like Def Leppard. I still remember the first time I saw the ‘Poor Some Sugar On Me’ video. But I liked hard stuff, Metallica & Ozzie, later Zeppelin and Maiden. Actually, the main character in my Gulf War novel, Sgt. Jake Bloom, loves Zeppelin and even has the runes painted on the side of tank.
Metal, at its best, is about freedom, but also it is about the disenfranchised. Go back and look at the ‘I Wanna Rock’ video, look at that fat, ugly pimply faced kid who is getting it from Neidermayer. You think he cares about the honor roll, or the pep rally? I know I didn’t. And let me tell you something, when you’re not ‘participating,’ when you just can’t make yourself care about your English homework, you’re invisible, you’re not even there.
Watch as Dee Snider and the band lead the students out of class and into the auditorium. This isn’t just music, it’s a revolution, and those T-shirts were the banner. Everyone knew who the metalheads were, and metalheads knew who they were. The music means something, its stands for something, I don’t think a lot of people got that (ironically, the only people who probably did understand were the dead heads, who were just as fanatical). On an episode of ‘That Metal Show,’ I saw Eddie Trunk ranting about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s reluctance to admit metal bands. He misses the point. When we want into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame we’ll break in and take it by force.
The only thing metalheads ever wanted from anyone else was space, a simple nod of respect, maybe for someone to say, ‘OK, your music isn’t my cup of tea, but I see where you’re coming from.’ We never got it. But you know what? No one knows who Cat Stevens is anymore because he changed his name, while Maiden and ACDC are selling out the arenas (I saw it with my own eyes), and the kids are wearing the same metal shirts I wore 20 years ago. Think about that next time you’re strumming ‘Peace Train,’ and screw you ’89 Grammys.
For all that that classic teen rebellion you know what the funny thing is? I’ve been a substitute high school teacher and a middle school social studies teacher. Today, I’m a college adjunct. I am the establishment. But sometimes, I wear an Iron Maiden tie to class.