Monday, July 23, 2007

Recreational Anger

I’m reading a book that’s pissing me off pretty badly, but I’m still rather enjoying it. It’s called Hell Bent for Leather: Confessions of a Heavy Metal Addict, and it’s by a British fellow named Seb Hunter. Hunter is a younger fellow than I, but with many similar musical experiences. He and I were both in bands as teenagers, although he took it much more seriously and took it further than I did.

The book is decently written, although it wanders about a good bit. There is some information that I didn’t know, particularly about the British metal scene. There are a few problems, though. First, even though Hunter claims to be a “Heavy Metal Addict” he clearly doesn’t have much respect for the genre. I don’t know if it’s because he wanted to be famous and never made it, or if he’s moved on to different music as he’s aged, but the work is full of snide comments and putdowns that he perhaps considers to be funny. I don’t find them funny. He is horribly dismissive of whole bands and even subgenres, but I think part of that is “style” over “substance” problems. He dismisses the band Krokus as worthless, for example, but while Krokus had quite a silly image (in my opinion) they put out some really good rocking tunes, including “Stayed Awake All Night” and “Screaming for Vengeance.” Their style wasn’t much, but there was some substance there.

Bizarrely, to me, he also dismisses Motley Crue while it’s clear that his strongest influences were the 1980s Glam Rockers. He likes/liked Ratt, Hanoi Rocks, Faster Pussycat, Poison, apparently unaware that none of those bands would either have existed or reached any level of fame without Motley Crue paving the way. Poison, of course, is laughable as a heavy metal band. There was nothing of heavy or metal about them. Again, it’s style over substance.

I wouldn’t personally call myself a heavy metal addict, but it’s by far the main type of music I listen to. I don’t mind seeing the field addressed with humor--I rather enjoyed the movie Spinal Tap--but I don’t find it funny when someone who claims to be an insider tries to gut it from within. I could care less what someone says about metal who doesn’t really listen to it, but I have to admit that it bothers me when 1) the critic is someone who seemingly has listened enough to the music to know better, and 2) when the focus of the criticism is on style over substance.

All right. Enough of my rant for the day.


Randy Johnson said...

I still listen to heavy metal at my age(nearly 58). I've enjoyed new bands as they come along. Some people don't understand my love for it either. I don't care. I loved Motley Crue's Wired and Shout At The Devil, but not much after that. I agree that most of the Glam bands were style over substance, although an occasional good song would pass through.

RichardS said...

I used to love HM back in my teens and early twenties. I was in groups too and even went as far as going to the Guitar Institute in LA (which was a big thing for a 20 year Brit back in '88).

Over the years I kind of grew away from the music a bit, other areas of life seemed to get in the way.

However, since discovering Youtube and the huge amount of old footage of bands on there, i've grown to love it again and I look fondly back on those days. I'm not so much up on the new bands, but the Van Halens and Def Leppards and the rest...brilliant!

Charles Gramlich said...

Randy, "Shout at the Devil" was way ahead of the rest of Motley but I thought they had a few good songs later, like "Wildside" and "Primal Scream." As for other glam bands, Ratt had a few songs I liked, and I liked some of LA Guns. I actually would consider Guns N Roses to be glam, at least early on, and I liked a lot of their stuff.

Richards, cool about the Guitar Institute. I played Rhythm guitar at times in my band but wasn't very good at it. Mostly I sang. I'll have to check out Youtube. I was a big fan of the early Def Leppard, although I'm heartily sick of their later "pour some sugar on me." Van Halen speaks for itself, of course. "I've been to the edge."

RichardS said...

I originally saw the Crue at Donnington Monsters of Rock in '84. They were pretty good as an opening act. Little did we know how big they'd become.

I like the Def Leppard stuff up until Steve Clarke's death. They seemed to lose the songwriting edge after that (IMO) and i've not liked anything much since then.

Van Halen are my big favourites. I've got heaps of old gigs collected. It's a pity about all that's happened over the past ten years.

I liked Ratt as well and i've been listening to some of their old stuff recently. They had a slick edge to them that was pretty cool.

GnR were just breaking big when I was in LA and you could feel that they were pretty special. You also got the impression that it might not last long!
There were so many good bands.

Cool to hear you played rythm guitar, Charles. I did rythm and lead. Bit of a flash devil....or at least I tried to be. lol.

RichardS said...

Oh, btw. A good fictional book about musicians is 'Espedair Street' by Iain Banks. Well worth digging out. It's got just enough weirdness about it, though it's a while since I read it.

Sidney said...

I can't believe he disses Crue! No one disses Crue.

Steve Malley said...

Comics and punk rock suffer from this phenomenon too.

As Less Than Jake sang, "Everyone here hates everyone her for doing the same thing that they do..."

It's a pity.

Charles Gramlich said...

Richards, yes, there was a bit of a darkness to the early Lep music that disappeared into poppy, lite stuff after Clarke died. As for Van Halen, I liked their stuff with Roth the best, although there is some decent heavy stuff from the Hagar years.

I'll check that book out. Skipp and Specter wrote a pretty good horror novel called "The Scream," that featured a hard rock band.

Sid, I know, man. I actually went to see the Crue last year on their Red, White and Crue tour. They came to New Orleans, which a lot of bands don't. Was pretty good.

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve, sometimes it seems that everyone needs to diss someone else for their tastes. I see this happening with the genres of literature alot. "How can you read THAT stuff?
It's just too bad when it's supposedly an insider who does it.

Lucas Pederson said...

I agreee with you there about Motley Crue. They sure did pave the way. And yeah, Poison isn't much of anything really, in terms of heavy metal.
It's like Metallica paved the way for more modern metal heads too. And Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, (however strange), Ozzy Osborne ie.BLack Sabbath, Motorhead. These are almost like the founding fathers of mordern metal music. All great bands.
As for heavy metal now days, well, some are very good, (Killswitch Engage,Mudvayne, Slipknot, In Flames, Tool), and some are mildly okay, (Hatebreed,Biohazard, Lamb of God). the probalem with these latter, I think, are so much screaming than actual melody and rythmic genius. I don't know.
Great post!
Oh hey, did you get my email?

Randy Johnson said...

Ratt's first EP and Guns N Roses' Appetite For Destruction are among early favorites of mine.

Danny Tagalog said...

Well, he is supposed to have written a book on his conversion to Classical music...

Charles Gramlich said...

Lucas, I've been listening to a fair amount of grindcore, which is what my son is into right now. I just borrowed his "All Shall Perish" CD. I still prefer the "doom and gloom" approach of Black Sabbath, though.

Randy, yes to both of those. I have them both. I didn't care as much for what Guns N Roses did after "Appetite."

Danny, that explains a lot.

miller580 said...

Am I missing something. I always thought heavy metal was metallica, slayer, antrax, king diamond, iron maiden.

I guess you could throw in some commercial acts like the crue and ratt and maybe even the scorpions.

But Van Halen? I'd put them in rock and roll really. Same as def leppard. But hey thats me.

I would put poison in the fluf category...again my opinion.

I don't's all become so convoluted these days.

Charles Gramlich said...

Miller, I consider Motley and Ratt glam metal, although they would could easily be shoehorned into a "hard rock" category. There's a lot of overlap between hard rock and metal to me. Early Aerosmith, Van Halen, Kiss could all be considered either rock or metal. At the extremes, Metallica and megadeth are certainly heavy metal. Guns n Roses and and Aerosmith would be rock n roll.

Randy Johnson said...

I've never heard The Spaghetti Incident. People tell me I'm lucky.

Erik Donald France said...

Charles, there's heavy metal in your words.

By the way, do you know if it's true that William S. Burroughs coined the word-combo?

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, I don't know that. I've always heard that it was first used by Steppenwolf in "heavy metal thunder," from the song "Born to be Wild."

Unknown said...

I must leave a word or a scream for AC/DC, who haven't even been mentioned here.

"She had a fast machine, She kept her motor clean"--How could you not fall apart with such an ode to love?

Some people think Frank Sinatra or Luther Vandross is the seductive singer. Nope. It's Brian Johnson, especially with his constipated yowling.

Beavis: Why does Brian Johnson scream like that? Butthead: Because he's constipated, because he'd old.

I have spoken.

Bernita said...

Dear me, even I have heard of Motley Crue.

RichardS said...


Brian Johnson is good, but Bon Scott was the man.