I was a teenage dirt-bag, baby.
Forgive me for departing from my usual all things Korean commentary, but I'm feeling a little retro lately.
I went to middle and high school during the 80’s. As you know, there are the usual cliques and classifications of teenagers such as the Jocks, the preppies, the “popular” crowd, the nerds, and at the bottom of the heap were the dirt-bag stoners.
I belonged somewhat to the jocks (played on the baseball team), the nerds (kept my grades up and played D&D) and the stoners (listened to heavy metal and partied on the weekends) and had separate friends from each group.
Eventually I found myself and became the full fledged nerd I was genetically programmed to be, but every now and then I like to think back to the “dirt bag stoner” part of my life. I listened to heavy metal music constantly and played a mean guitar in a shitty garage band (well, I wasn’t good enough to say that I played a “mean” guitar, perhaps “played a slightly grumpy guitar” would be more accurate).
I hated the pretty-boy glam rock bands that came out in the 80’s: Motley Crue, Ratt, Whitesnake, White lion, Poison, ad nauseum. My kinds of bands were groups that I could relate to: dirty, ugly and socially inept. I’m talking Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, etc. These were the kinds of dirtbags that society labeled (accurately) as losers who would never amount to anything in life and one day in their bleak adolescence they looked in the mirror and realized they were far too ugly to ever get laid and were destined to a life of loserdom unless they became rock musicians.
After high school my acne finally cleared up, I got a decent haircut, put on a clean shirt, found a personality, stopped saying words like "dude" and "killer" and finally started to get laid on a regular basis. But during high school Beavis and Butthead type dirt bags were my people and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for them. Though my musical tastes have broadened since then, I still like bands centered on aggressive guitars.
So, without further ado, I’d like to pay homage to my favorite bands of the past: the ugly heavy metal bands.
Oh, dey ugly all right. I like how their blonde guitarist has that “moon face” look that marijuana abusers seem to develop. Iron Maiden brought on fast, heavy and fierce music that was ideal to bang your head to while holding the “devil horns” sign aloft in a satanic salute. They also had the “Eddie” mascot with its evil and grotesque appearance that dirt-bags are proud to display on dirty T-shirts hanging on their skinny, malnourished torsos. Oh yeah, good memories of kicking around the old hackey-sack in the park with other long-haired greasy losers while Flight of Icarus and Number of the Beast blasted away.
Peace of Mind was their best. Number of the Beast was great too (ooh they are so eeeevil!). They started to lose it in Powerslave and have since refused to die despite putting out crap.
One thing you will notice about heavy metal bands is that they do not know when to quit. I think it is because they just don’t have the brains to do anything else. Have you ever heard of a former heavy metal star going on to become a successful businessman, producer, or anything? Nah. They most likely bum around in bars until they run out of beer and cigarette money and then get “the band” back together and go on a reunion tour of small, dirty bars and State Fairs.
I was totally into Black Sabbath, even though they had already peaked and were headed towards a slow and humiliating death (are they still putting out CDs?) years before my dirt-bag days began (Ozzy had already gone solo and they were with Ronnie James Dio; hands down ugliest vocalist in the history of heavy metal). I didn’t care though. I listened to their old albums over and over and over again (all their albums with Ozzy are good, except for that "experimental" Technical Ecstasy disaster). Black Sabbath had everything us socially-retarded and confused dirt-bags loved: songs of morbid depression, a touch of satanic mystery (though, to Ozzy Osbourne’s credit, he never did take any of that seriously), and that Heavy as God’s Dick sound that physically forced you to bang your head to the pounding rhythm. I proudly wore their satanic T-shirts, hoping that some popular and religious preppy girl who would otherwise completely ignore my existence might notice me and fear that I was involved in the occult (negative attention beats the hell out of being completely ignored).
I like Ozzy, but not so much his music for the past 10 years. Nonetheless, he is truly the Elvis Presley of Heavy Metal.
The ugliest heavy metal album cover of all time.
What the hell were they thinking?
Blue Oyster Cult
They really were more of a rock band than a heavy metal band. Some of their songs were simply “gay” (not homosexual gay, the "just not cool" gay), like “Debbie Denise” from the Agents of Fortune album and “Celeste the Queen” from the same album as “Godzilla” (can’t remember the album name). The genius of BOC though, was to give themselves a Satanic image that all of us anti-social teenage dirt-bags fell for.
All their old stuff is good, but they peaked with Fire of Unknown Origin. They then put out a live album to suck up the money while they were on top and didn’t have a hit single since. They did put out some good stuff later (Club Ninja, and especially the Imaginos album written almost exclusively by their drummer), but their time in the spotlight was long past.
Now these guys were good and ugly. Check out the guy in the white T-shirt next to Angus Young; how much you want to bet that AC/DC's road crew got more groupy pussy than him? They were more blues-rock than heavy metal I’d say, but rock they did. I saw these guys in concert twice and those were two of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Angus Young in his silly schoolboy outfit bouncing around the stage had contagious energy. Bon Scott was their better vocalist, not in singing talent (which is not really a requirement for heavy metal dirt-bag bands anyway), but just in charisma and style. He died the way all dirt-bag heavy metal/rock stars should die, by getting insanely drunk and choking to death on his own vomit.
Judas Priest brought in the idea of having not just one but two lead guitarists, complete with speedy harmonized “killer” solos that brought out the air guitarist in many a dirt-bag stoner. Strangely enough, the lead singer, Rob Halford, was known to be gay (totally into the gay biker look) but the usually homophobic stoners let it pass. Halford was arguably the best of the heavy metal singers (though Dio had quite a powerful range as well). All the old stuff is classic up through Defenders of the Faith.
The last and in some ways the best of the ugly heavy metal groups. Look at their greasy hair and acne scarred faces: faces even a mother has a hard time loving. And how about old Cliff over on the left; even the drunkest and skankiest of drunk skanky chicks wouldn't go near that guy at a kegger. A perfect match of the ugly stoner kids who idolized them. They freshened up the heavy metal sound by adding elements of punk and hard core. They remind me a lot of young Black Sabbath: loser kids from broken families without any musical training that somehow stumbled on to a new sound that influenced a whole generation.
Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets are their best. Justice for All falls into a rut, but the “black” album was solid. They experimented with some new sounds since and obviously their one-trick pony has long since keeled over, but every now and then they still put out some decent music (No-leaf clover from that silly “symphony” CD and the Unnamed Feeling from their latest effort).
And the rest
Honorable mentions to Scorpions, Deep Purple (dude, do you know what "smoke on the water" means?) Aerosmith (old, not the new), Nazareth (killer album covers dude!), Accept (Udo!!!), Def Leppard (2 armed drummer version), Van Halen (Roth, never Hagar) and Ted Nugent. They were all good and certainly ugly, but just miss being put in into the Ugly Heavy Metal Guys Hall of Fame.
And what about the Mighty Led Zepplin? I excluded Led Zeppelin from this tribute not because I didn’t like them (every true dirt-bag stoner worshipped them), but because they actually had a higher level of true musical talent than my typical beloved “dirt-bag” group. The range and depth of their music was impressive and, despite the “heavy metal” label, I would put their songs up against anyone. And besides, Page and Plant really didn't get that ugly until they hit middle age. Sorry, but I've got to maintain a high standard of criteria here.
Ugly Heavy Metal Guys: We Salute You!!!
Comments on original post
Great post! Memories. check out my blog for more comments.
Posted by: Jeff in Korea | May 06, 2004 at 10:03 AM
Thanks for the trip down memory lane, PP.
Iron Maiden was the shit and still is. I still put on some of their songs from time to time. I saw them live on the Somewhere in Time tour in 88 or so. An amazing group!
I also liked Ratt and Dokken (saw them both live as well). Accept was great.
And I still remember the moment when I was sitting on the bus to go home and a buddy of mine slipped a pink tape through the bus window that had a dub of Ride the Lightning. Changed my life. I started listening to heavier stuff at that point...
Posted by: Brian | May 06, 2004 at 02:26 PM
Thanks Jeff, I left a message on your blog (how could I have forgotten to include Rush? Will my dirtbag Canadian friends ever forgive me?)
Brian, I must confess that I owned both Ratt and Dokken albums, but those guys were nowhere near ugly enough to meet the stereotypical standards. By the way, it was just one listening of my older brother's "Sold Our Soul for Rock and Roll" Black Sabbath album that changed me for life.
Posted by: Scott | May 07, 2004 at 06:48 PM
Killer blog, dude! ;-)
Seriously, that was a wonderful trip down memory lane. I think I have seen nearly all of these bands live sometime or another, but I can't be entirely sure due to my many altered states of conciousness at the time...
To answer your question "What the hell were they thinking?" in reference to the Black Sabbath "Paranoid" album cover art, I quote the following from http://www.briworld.com/quad/music/bsparanoid.htm ...
Hmm… we have a guy in white with a neon sword and shield. Everything seems to be dark except the person himself. War Pigs was originally to be the name of the album, but the producers changed it to Paranoid.
To quote Ozzy (taken from the CD inset of REUNION): " 'That album title had nothing to do with the sleeve. What the fuck a bloke dressed as a pig with a sword has got to do with being Paranoid, I don't know, but they decided to change the album title without changing the artwork,' moans Ozzy."
Posted by: b1g | May 24, 2004 at 02:37 PM
Thanks for the info b1. That pig get-up doesn't come out that clearly. Certainly makes a lot of sense.
Posted by: Scott | May 28, 2004 at 04:56 AM