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DO YOU WANNA HEAR SOMETHING SO HEAVY IT'S LIKE HAVING A BRIDGE KICKED OUT BY A MADMAN?!
January 10, 2007 3:09 PM   Subscribe

"To me, I've always looked upon the stage as a much-hallowed place, a place of worship for real artists, as I said just before. That doesn't just stem from rock n roll days; to me, Judy Garland was a real artist, Al Jolson was a real artist, people like that gave their all and everything for the stage and most of them finished up dying for it as well. In my view, nobody should be allowed to stand on a stage unless they can present the total professional thing, unless they really can sing and really can play. Punk was a total anti-attitude towards music."NWOBHM: How a now-little-known nostalgic reaction to punk called the New Wave of British Heavy Metal changed the world.[much, much more inside]
posted by koeselitz (40 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
The commercial vise-grip that punk rock held on England at the end of the seventies was ineluctable. Everywhere, clubs that had played disco, dance music, and hard rock of any kind were caving in and becoming punk clubs, and the radio was flooded with the music of anti-authoritarian kids mimicking the fury of Johnny Rotten. The great heavy bands from the beginning of the decade had faded. Two magnificently heavy groups still stood strong amid the flood; but in general, those in England who loved the music that had developed over so many years under the headings of "hard rock," "progressive rock," and "heavy metal" found themselves left to their own devices, with their music ignored in the mainstream and unsupported by labels or clubs.

What did they do? They loved their own music in the only way they knew how. They put on make-up and built cardboard guitars to rock out with; they packed the few clubs that still supported their music; they flocked to concert-halls to scream for the few great groups in their genre that still soldiered on; and, most importantly, they formed bands by the many hundreds. Many of these bands only managed to record a single magnificent E.P. on a tiny label before breaking up; some became the supergroups of the eighties that revived the love of heavy music in the era of slick, water-down pop music that followed punk. Their music, and their fanatic passion for it, eventually became a parody of itself, and was eclipsed once again by punk rock in the popular mind. However, by then, their legacy had already been made: they had turned metal from a catchall term for a host of heavy-leaning rock bands to a bonafide obsession and ideology.

The lead link is a really great contemporary look at the scene from 1981 on a British tv show called "20th Century Box." You should check out, as well, the Wikipedia page on the NWOBHM, which is uncharacteristically good, and seems to have been written by somebody who was there. See the awesome Encyclopedia of NWOBHM for reference, and this good exhaustive article for another take, if you like. And, while there's a lot of good reading up there, rock's not really about reading, now is it? Here are some vintage videos of NWOBHM groups to whet your appetite. My suggestion: start with Holocaust; they're the best of the lot here, and one of the greatest metal bands of all time.

Angel Witch [allmusic.com] [nwobhm.com]
Angel Witch live in studio, circa 1980

Girlschool [allmusic.com] [nwobhm.com]
Hit and Run on "Top of the Pops," April 1981
C'mon Let's Go + Don't Call it Love French TV, 1982
20th century Boy some TV show, I can't tell
C'mon Let's Go German TV, 1980

Grim Reaper [allmusic.com] [nwobhm.com]
See You In Hell circa 1984
Fear No Evil circa 1985

Holocaust [allmusic.com] [nwobhm.com]
Heavy Metal Mania live 1981
Death Or Glory live 1981
The Small Hours live 1981

Samson [allmusic.com] [nwobhm.com]
Hard Times live 1980
Hard Times theatrical video 1980
Vice Versa theatrical video 1980

Saxon [allmusic.com] [nwobhm.com]
Wheels of Steel live 1980, with bonus clip of Priest playing 'Living After Midnight'

Tygers of Pan Tang [
allmusic.com] [nwobhm.com]
Love Don't Stay live 1981
Raised On Rock live 1981

and a special bonus: Judas Priest from The Old Grey Whistle Test, 1975:
Dreamer Deceiver (beware, Rob Halford can fucking sing)
posted by koeselitz at 3:10 PM on January 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


By the way, I had almost finished constructing this when I noticed jonmc's great post of three years ago on this subject. I'm not trying to one-up him here; I just figure the subject is worth a redux, what with the sudden availability of the awesome documentary above and the chunk of material on YouTube. But a special thanks is due to jonmc; without his excellent participation in my first post around here, I probably wouldn't be as obsessive about metal as I am now.
posted by koeselitz at 3:10 PM on January 10, 2007


garr. Flubbed a bit of the HTML there. Oh well, you get the picture.
posted by koeselitz at 3:12 PM on January 10, 2007


Koeselitz, I salute you. \m/
posted by slimepuppy at 3:15 PM on January 10, 2007


I'm blown away. You Rock.
posted by IronLizard at 3:18 PM on January 10, 2007


Isn't this essentially a one-link post?

I kid, I kid. Well put together. Lemmy couldn't have done it better.
posted by davejay at 3:24 PM on January 10, 2007


aw shi. i was just about to post this stuff too.
posted by wumpus at 3:29 PM on January 10, 2007


Priest Rules!
posted by eustatic at 3:31 PM on January 10, 2007


man, I never thought I'd see bands like Angel Witch, Grim Reaper, and Saxon being mentioned here! Killer post! \m/

"Where were you in seventy-nine, when the dam began to burst?"
posted by vorfeed at 3:33 PM on January 10, 2007


Great documentary, great post. Well done.

Heh. As I read your post I thought "I can't believe jonmc hasn't already done this!"
posted by languagehat at 3:33 PM on January 10, 2007


Man, even as a diehard punk rock girl in the '80s, I seriously lurved me some Def Leppard. I was recently talking to a buddy of mine from the old days, and we were delighted to discover that we each had secretly collected Def Leppard for years. I wonder how many of my other friends back in the day similarly had High 'n' Dry and Pyromania hidden behind all their Clash records?
posted by scody at 3:38 PM on January 10, 2007


I feel like no discussion of metal, however limited to the masters of NWOBHM, would be complete without this site.
posted by eustatic at 3:40 PM on January 10, 2007


Isn't this essentially a one-link post?

Breakin the law, breaking the law (duh duh)
Breakin the law, breaking the law (duh duh)
Breakin the law, breaking the law (duh duh)
(repeat to end)
posted by vbfg at 3:46 PM on January 10, 2007


\m|_ /// > < \\\ _|m/

ascii headbangin', yeaaaaahhhhhh!!!

This post gets 5 out of 5 massive E Power Chords, with a set of Cymbal Bashes and a THANK YOU GOODNIGHT!!
posted by zoogleplex at 3:47 PM on January 10, 2007


I wonder how many of my other friends back in the day similarly had High 'n' Dry and Pyromania hidden behind all their Clash records?

My guilty pleasure was Blue Oyster Cult and Quiet Riot. I had to hide those albums behind my Ska records.

Though we shouldn't feel guilty. They are a far cry from Hair Band movement that corrupted Metal in the late eighties.
posted by tkchrist at 3:48 PM on January 10, 2007


I grew up a punker, too. It's interesting to see that a lot of people who did had metal tastes, as well.

tkchrist: "Though we shouldn't feel guilty. They are a far cry from Hair Band movement that corrupted Metal in the late eighties."

I should say that I only briefly mentioned the fact that punk rock won in the end. When Nirvana surfaced in the early eighties, their punk-derived brand of teenage rebellion completely superceded what came before, and hair-metal bands were instantly seen as awful. (Skid Row weren't really half bad, but they fell prey to this sudden change in popular taste.) One of the things that has been lost because of punk is the memory of the whole legacy of rock; people have suddenly seen what is new as being what is best, and "old peoples' music" is derided as terrible. In essence, punk in part took it upon itself to destroy rock and roll; the early acolytes of the NWOBHM wanted to preserve the long legacy reaching back into the sixties. It's interesting to note, in this context, that the old masters of punk had already realized the value of remembering old rock by 1980.
posted by koeselitz at 3:59 PM on January 10, 2007


Oh, and one last thing, something I feel terrible for having forgotten: the quotation, as you'll notice if you watch the doc, is from the great record-shop-owner / dj / general supporter of the arts Neal Kay.
posted by koeselitz at 4:10 PM on January 10, 2007


*golf claps*

Great post, however, WHAT NO DIAMOND HEAD?!?!?

Sorry.

Anyway, I will also recommend Def Leppard's On Through the Night; I know that's a hard sell considering their later output but this album is total fist banging mania.
posted by The Straightener at 4:14 PM on January 10, 2007


Great post, fantastic ITV documentary:

"It's supposed to look like a guitar, but it's not really supposed to look like a real guitar."

Like an embryo Spinal Tap.
posted by Cobbler at 4:21 PM on January 10, 2007


I know. But there isn't any vintage Diamond Head on YouTube or Google Video. This is the best I could find, but it's not one of their best songs. This might stand in, I suppose.
posted by koeselitz at 4:25 PM on January 10, 2007


Ah, the memories. Yea, I was a punk in every meaning of the word, but yea, if there was some loud guitar to be heard I was there.

This reminds me of a time when I went from a "new wave" school to a "heavy metal" school. Guys on the back of the bus were smoking pot and listening to Black Sabbath on a huge boom box. I thought they all worshipped satan or something. (I was 11.) A year later I got my first Gibson Explorer kock-off. Rock On!!!!
posted by snsranch at 4:26 PM on January 10, 2007


One of the things that has been lost because of punk is the memory of the whole legacy of rock; people have suddenly seen what is new as being what is best, and "old peoples' music" is derided as terrible.

I agree with you with regards to the mainstream, but elsewhere it's a different story. Heavy Metal is very much alive and well, in new forms as well as in all of its traditional forms. Hell, I'd say it's much easier to find good old-school heavy, doom, thrash, and death metal now than it was in the late 90s.

As for pure modern heavy metal, allow me to recommend to you Slough fuckin' Feg!
posted by vorfeed at 4:29 PM on January 10, 2007


kock off? oh shit: "knock-off" (fake) oops!
posted by snsranch at 4:29 PM on January 10, 2007


I should say that I only briefly mentioned the fact that punk rock won in the end. When Nirvana surfaced in the early eighties,

Actually, the original metal won in the end, when Nirvana and other grunge acts surfaced, sounding almost to a band like knockoffs of "Paranoid"-era Black Sabbath.

Also, grunge is thankfully dead and Justin Timberlake is selling an ass-ton of records. I find the whole idea of people "winning" music strange, but if there are winners, they usually don't last long.

Grim Reaper
I don't think I'm alone in only remembering them for one thing:

BUTTHEAD: That guy won third prize at the pig contest at the state fair.
BEAVIS: 'Cause he's FAT!!
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:45 PM on January 10, 2007


Poor ol' Paul Dianno.
posted by TheLibrarian at 5:04 PM on January 10, 2007


drjimmy11: "Actually, the original metal won in the end, when Nirvana and other grunge acts surfaced, sounding almost to a band like knockoffs of "Paranoid"-era Black Sabbath."

First, it's not so much about sound but about attitude. Second, Nirvana didn't sound like Sabbath to my ear (no long crazy epics, no slow plodding bass) and even if they did, they weren't trying to sound like Sabbath, but rather like the Pixies and a few other post-punk bands whose pedigree when directly back to punk.
posted by koeselitz at 5:07 PM on January 10, 2007


what no jonmc yet ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:36 PM on January 10, 2007


It was Soundgarden that sounded like Old Sabbath.

Nirvana, I found them to be waaay more musically sophisticated than any punk band ever was, and more than most of their contemporaries too. Bashing on some songs doesn't completely hide the excellent songwriting and interesting chordal figures.
posted by zoogleplex at 7:05 PM on January 10, 2007


Holy CRAP that brought a lot back.

I was never a metal kid but I remember listing to Iron Maiden sessions on the Tommy Vance show on Friday nights while hiding under the covers so my stepfather wouldn't know I was listening to the radio.

And the Marquee. Christ, I remember the Marquee.

And Danny Baker presenting that docco. Even before he was fat, he was fat. What was he, seventeen?
posted by unSane at 7:45 PM on January 10, 2007


This FPP goes to eleven.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:29 PM on January 10, 2007


Wow - very cool post... nice one :)
posted by Chunder at 1:43 AM on January 11, 2007


I will also recommend Def Leppard's On Through the Night; I know that's a hard sell considering their later output but this album is total fist banging mania.


On Through the Night is one of the absolute most under-appreciated pieces of genius ever produced. I fully believe it still stands up today. I was proud to be the only one in my crowd who had both Pyromania and On Through the Night when "Rock of Ages" became an anthem. It's still in my vinyl collection.
posted by spicynuts at 6:35 AM on January 11, 2007


Well, as far as I'm concerned punk and metal aren't that different. I like them for different reasons and sometimes I like them for the same reasons: they're both loud and fast and nasty and aggressive. There's plenty of bands who occupied the netherworld between punk and metal as well: Girlschool, the Plasmatics, Motorhead et al. And Bruce Dickinson, the man who succeeded Paul Dianno as Maiden's vocalist used to roadie for the Clash. And I saw Maiden back in '85. They rocked the fucking house.

I've actually namechecked Maiden twice in my Vox 'Countdown Blog.' [self-link]

Also in your NWOBHM youtubery how could you miss this:
Motorhead & Girlschool - Please Don't Touch [check out Philthy cutting a rug! and Girlschool bassist Enid Williams was a hottie]
posted by jonmc at 6:44 AM on January 11, 2007


(and EXCELLENT post, koeselitz)
posted by jonmc at 6:46 AM on January 11, 2007


Second, Nirvana didn't sound like Sabbath to my ear (no long crazy epics, no slow plodding bass) and even if they did, they weren't trying to sound like Sabbath, but rather like the Pixies and a few other post-punk bands whose pedigree when directly back to punk.

Actually, Cobain is on record as being a huge Sabbath and Kiss fan, Soundgarden and Monster Magnet were very publicly fans of old school metal and there's plenty more connections. I actually enjoyed the grung era since there so many bands influenced by both metal and old-school punk that it made explicit that the two genres are more alike than they are different.
posted by jonmc at 6:57 AM on January 11, 2007


I think Soundgarden wore their metal influences much more on their sleeve than Nirvana, though. Soundgarden was always more bottom heavy riff oriented (see Loud Love, etc) than Nirvana, which was more melodic, even when they were loud and dirty. Perhaps that's the Kiss influence over the Sabbath influence. I never really felt like Soundgarden fit in with Nirvana, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees because they seemed much more rooted in metal (until their later albums) than Nirvana et al.
posted by spicynuts at 7:19 AM on January 11, 2007


What an outstanding post. Thanks.


Cobain is also on record as saying (to a British tabloid, I forget which one) that he didn't want long-haired heavy metal fans coming to his shows so he should just fuck off out of this thread.
posted by nowonmai at 7:25 AM on January 11, 2007


He's dead. He can't fuck off out of anything.
posted by spicynuts at 7:43 AM on January 11, 2007


Or he already fucked off out of everything.
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:49 AM on January 11, 2007


This is a great post. I'm no metal fan, but I can recognize Mefi awesomeness when I see it.
posted by jokeefe at 1:17 PM on January 11, 2007


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