A headbanger's blog!

Sleeping in the Fire (of Pretension)

It’s always boggled my mind that, for a community who supposedly hates and derides the mainstream for its need to make everything pretty and marketable to the masses, there is an awful lot of emphasis placed on image. So many people I’ve met, even people I would consider to be close friends, seem to hate a certain band based solely on their looks. They look at a band and, without even hearing them, they’ve made a snap judgment about them. There are still others who hold certain “guilty pleasures” i.e. bands that they secretly enjoy but that they refuse to acknowledge because of the bands image.  This is also a travesty as this robs others from hearing that band’s music and possibly getting into it themselves.

As an example I present to you one of my favourite bands: Los Angeles, California’s Shock Rock madmen W.A.S.P.

W.A.S.P. Mk 1 Line-up (Clockwise from upper left: Blackie Lawless, Randy Piper, Tony Richards, Chris Holmes)

Founded by New Yorker Steve Duran (a.k.a. Blackie Lawless) who, after leaving Sunset Strip glam-rockers London, set out on a mission to shock people. Blackie had grown up watching acts like Arthur Brown, KISS, Alice Cooper, and The New York Dolls (for whom Blackie played guitar for a short time in 1975), and wanted to take that to the next level. He recruited a band of Hard Rocking misfits to create a Metal beast that would become highly influential throughout the ‘80s and beyond.

The problem was that this was a Hard Rock band in 1980s Los Angeles, and as such, they needed to look good no matter what they were doing. So they teased up their hair, wore platform shoes and occasionally high-heels, and applied some make-up.

Despite this, their show was still a raunchy, violent, gruesome example of Shock Rock, with the musical content of balls-out Heavy Metal. However, because of the need for them conform to some extent to the situation that was the L.A. rock scene, their musical chops and undeniable heaviness went largely ignored by most “true” metalheads.

Video courtesy of thehellion

Therein lies the point I’m trying to make. In a scene, a community, that seems so against the mainstream, should one allow themselves to fall prey to the same snap judgements that are the hallmarks of that portion of society? If a band’s image doesn’t fit or live up to an individual headbanger’s expectations of what Metal is, then they are all too quick to simply dismiss it without letting the music do the talking. Believe me, this is a damn shame. There are many bands out there that, while perhaps not looking the part, are musically more than worth any self-respecting Metalhead’s time: From Lizzy Borden to Love/Hate, Keel to Leatherwolf, Ratt to Dokken, and many others, there’s a lot of hard and heavy material to be had amongst all the glitz and sleaze. When it comes to image, these bands were merely products of their time and place. Trust me, they are miles ahead of Poison, Warrant, even G’NR in terms of sheer heaviness and musical chops.

So headbanging brothers and sisters of the world, it’s time to start looking past the first impression, especially if it’s visual. Like it or not, Glam is part of our history. In fact, many of the more extreme, more “true” bands of today probably wouldn’t even be around if it wasn’t their hair-farming ancestors from the Sunset Strip.


Video Courtesy of Peacemaker1992

This article is a slightly edited re-post of an article I originally wrote for Metal Heart; a blog I wrote as part of my college program’s web writing class. Check out all our content at Spine Online and espeically our collaborative webzine Bark. (Originally published 14/04/12)

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3 responses

  1. Well said. Case in point, those well known (and hilarious) before and after pictures of a little band called Pantera.

    15/06/2012 at 9:43 am

    • Exactly! it’s really sad how few people are even aware that there was a Pantera before “Cowboys from Hell”. Lead alone 4 albums worth. and it all kicks ass!

      15/06/2012 at 10:08 am

  2. Pingback: Drawing Lines – The Self-Defeating Division and Derision in the Metal Community | Matt Miller's Metal Militia Blog

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