I love heavy metal from the 80’s. It is my all-time favorite genre of music, and I like all kinds of music. However, it is always what I go back to, time and time again. For me, there will never be better music than this – good ol’ Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Poison, Scorpions, Cinderella, Guns ‘N Roses, Skid Row, and a slew of others. Oh yes, I know this music is routinely derided, deemed devoid of any meaning or substance. It is often referred to as “hair metal” or “glam metal”, but understand this: we never referred to it like that. It was simply “heavy metal” or just “metal”. Sure, there was harder music like Metallica, Megadeth, or Black Sabbath. That was metal also, just not what I generally liked. I remember the term “New Wave of British Heavy Metal”, referring to Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, and other bands from across the pond. I don’t know if the metal coming out of Los Angeles had a specific moniker at that time. As far as the term “hair metal”, I can hardly stomach it. It demotes the music I love to something only as important as what’s on top of the band members’ heads. I was not even familiar with the term before the late 90’s, or even 2000, although I’m sure it had been around for a few years.
For teenage me in the 80’s, heavy metal was all the world. It was what I longed to be, but could not be. Growing up in a small, rural, conservative area, to conservative parents with high standards for both morality and academics, it was very hard for me to rebel on any significant level. When I was first introduced to this music by way of Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” in the spring of ‘83, I quickly became enamored with it. I gobbled up any bit of news, photos, or anything related to the bands I loved. Mostly, this came in the form of magazines such as “Circus” and “Hit Parader”. From these magazines I carefully cut out pictures of my bands, taping them to my bedroom walls. Within a year or so, my room was almost completely covered with images of long-haired, snarling, writhing musicians. I’m sure my mother hated all this, and I can’t say that I would have blamed her. I don’t remember her, or my dad ever saying much about it, however.
The reason I could hardly blame her is because deep down I know that it really is not the kind of music I should listen to. When I accepted Christ at the age of 15 in 1985, I began a slow change. Pretty soon I began to feel a disconnect from heavy metal. The images on my bedroom walls didn’t hold as much value or place for me anymore. Before long I realized they needed to come down – so they did. I also got rid of the metal albums I had, mostly LP’s. I remember leaning them up against the base of a tree in my backyard and blasting them into bits with a shotgun.
I wish I could say that was the end of the story, but it is far from the end. Over the last 27 plus years, I have wavered in my faith, and consequently my passion and desire for metal has waxed and waned as well. I have never been able to divorce myself fully from the music that I love. There have been, and are, times in my life when I really have no desire to listen to Motley Crue, or Poison, or Guns ‘N Roses. But then, circumstances will change in my life, leaving me in a state where I want to reach out and reconnect with all that I loved as a teenager. Perhaps my adult life has not been as fulfilling as I dreamed it would be when I was a kid, so I attempt to relive my youth in the music I dove into at that age. Whatever the reason, it has been a long struggle to try to find a place of balance in my life between the music I love and the Christian principles I hold close to my heart.
Recently I have been watching a lot of old metal videos on YouTube. It gives me a release and helps me relax and unwind. The world just seems a lot better when I have some loud 80’s metal on my headphones, and I can watch the videos I used to wait for patiently when all we had was MTV. The raw energy and feeling in those songs strikes a chord with me. I can truly relate to the drama, the edginess, and all the emotion gushing forth from the metal from that era. There is nothing better. In fact, it is hard for me to keep writing this, because I want to go plug in my headphones and rock out to some Skid Row or Motley Crue right now.
That is the struggle I have dealt with all these years – trying to do what I know is right in my heart, trying to keep my thoughts positive, and live my life according to how God wants, while at the same time longing to emote along with the bands I love – maybe even rebelling against society along with them.
Maybe that’s why I’ve always loved this music. I’ve never really felt like I fit in with society’s image of what I should be. Even though I’m academically talented and try to maintain high morals, maybe I never wanted to be and do these things. Perhaps in a different family, with different parents I would have lived a much different life. Maybe I would have been more like Judd Nelson’s character in “The Breakfast Club”, rather than Anthony Michael Hall’s character who he picks on.
This loud, raucous music spoke to me perhaps in a way that pop music never did. Eighties metal fit perfectly with me, solidly between the likes of Madonna and Michael Jackson on the one hand, and Metallica and Motorhead on the other. It was over the top, but not so much so that the whole ship went down. Being a Crue fan placed me squarely on the edgy side, but I was not so dark as a Megadeth fan. I could be rebellious while also maintaining my self respect.