MAKING FRIENDS WITH CUR: HOW THE MUSIC INDUSTRY KILLED HEAVY METAL

The early 80s hit, and I was right there watching it happen. Rock and Roll had been defined, stadiums had been filled, and the trailblazers of the 70s were tired. The Stones looked tired. The Who were mailing it in. Zeppelin was not answering the phone. A band named Black Sabbath had a revolving door for singers while their real singer, having released a pair of honestly innovative albums, was out there touring, but it became obvious that scoring that crazy 80s cocaine had become his priority; we all knew he didn’t have another brilliant or even decent record left in him. It was a grim time for popular music.

1035x773-led-1800-1387308467In the English world, across the ocean, punk came and went, and that was fine. For every breathtaking song The Clash ripped off from a Caribbean or an American, there had been a pile of pretty kids in dog collars and make-up posing with the instruments they pretended to play while their albums proved they couldn’t play. Punk had evolved into New Wave, Post Punk and the New Romantic scene. From the point of view of this teenager, it was all shitty.

The music industry has a way of figuring out what the public (kids) want and filling that void. Quickly, in the 80s, they took notice of a few bands that had started merging what Black Sabbath and the first wave punks had started. This is now what critics and fans call the NWOBHM, The New Wave of British Heavy Metal. It was fast, it sounded good loud, and the fast part was particularly appealing. And, all the fucking album covers were stunning. In an era where you knew you had to get up to flip the record 22-26 minutes after starting the first side, it was a treat to sit and study the art work on the 12.375” x 12.375” cardboard sleeve in your hands

diamondheadWhen a good thing happens in music, the music industry acts fast. Within moments of something exciting happening, the flood gates open and there are 750 new artists suddenly with sound-a-like names, songs, and these industry posers are always a fuck of a lot prettier than the originals. So Iron Maiden and Judas Priest came and went and were replaced by a pile of guys from Los Angeles who thought the androgyny of the New Romantics could be crossed with the party rock west coast bullshit of Van Halen. All they had to do was play like Van Halen, but of course they couldn’t play like Van Halen. Try putting on a Ratt, Dokken, Cinderella or Warrant record; I dare you to tell me it holds up. Hair metal was ass and everyone knew it.

All those “authentic” NWOBHM bands, with their fast, loud records and great artwork, had to bring all of that to the masses. They had to create a performance platform for the huge football stadiums of the major cities, as well as the dingy 5,000 seat hockey arenas in the not-so-major cities. After seeing these bands, you wondered if playing the show or selling the stunning t-shirts emblazoned with that incredible album cover art work was their priority. They sold a fuck-ton of t-shirts.

iron_maiden_84The shows fabricated were pure Broadway theatrics. There weren’t any amps on stage; they were hidden behind the elaborate scenery. Motorcycles were hidden, smoke and lights never ceased, mascots on stilts pranced and play-fought with devils on stilts, feet went up on monitors for solos, and singers pointed at the crowd all while asking the masses if they were having a good time. After roaring back their approval, the crowd was then informed that they were better at watching the band than their cross-state/provincial rivals. It was tired. It was bullshit. I wanted my money back. I was done with metal. We all were.

Later thrash happened, and a lot of people never even noticed. It was louder and faster, and sounded great in a skate park. The bands didn’t dress like they were in a Broadway musical, they didn’t have lights and smoke, and instead of worshiping at the feet of drunk-ass Van Halen and the pretty-boy English fops, they took note of the real, lasting musical post punk movement of the 80s hardcore scene, where you didn’t dress up to play, you simply showed up and fucking played a pile of fast songs for people. It’s not marketable, it’s honest. NWOBHM may have started that way, but they lost out to the greedy shitty industry and ruined everything. – CUR