Dozed off on the train on my way home, and when I woke up, just a few minutes before my station, the girl next to me smiled and said:
– I remember you from junior high!
I looked at her and I could have sworn I’d never seen her before. But I generally suck at remembering faces, which gets me in trouble as people probably think I’m a stuck up bitch for not remembering them…
She turned to my colleague, pointed at me and said:
– She was the only girl in the entire school, who was into heavy metal.
Well, okay then. Apparently she DID know me. :D
– So… I guess you’ve grown out of it now, huh…? she said and smiled.
Grew out of it? Of what? Being a metalhead? Are you kidding?
– No way, I’m still a rock chick, always were, always will be. Well it was nice to see you! I said, still not knowing who she was.
She said she used to be in a grade above us. Okay, that makes it even better. Back in those days you definitely didn’t socialize with anyone YOUNGER, that was very uncool. So, I must have left quite an impression if even one of the “older chicks” noticed and remembers me – from 1983!
My mind just wandered off to those days, when I started my walk home. 1983. Junior high.
I don’t remember much from that time really, other than being intensely crazy about heavy metal.
I was still a kid, trying to find my identity – which was especially hard being the only girl in school who was into metal. I had no one to share that with and I didn’t really belong anywhere.
I used to hang with the guys, which of course the other teenage girls in my class didn’t do, unless they wanted a boyfriend. So, I guess I was just…different. :)
There were very few female role-models for me. I remember getting into Rock Goddess but they were pretty much like guys… Same thing with Girlschool, guys with tits.
Then Lita Ford came along and that changed my whole world. She became my “guiding light” through the jungle of metal where girls simply didn’t belong back in those days. She was a tough woman, but still a woman. Not a dude-chick.
I was so in love with the whole heavy metal scene that I couldn’t focus on ANYTHING else. It was ALL about hard rock/heavy metal.
I would go and buy those cheap LP’s with cut-outs from Spain, cause I couldn’t afford anything else. I remember buying Scorpions “Blackout” and it had all the titles translated! Hang on, I’ve still got all that shit here…. Yeah, this is what it looked like:
I would sit and carve the names and logos of the bands I liked, on my school desk with a sharp pencil – leaving permanent traces of where I’d been. I guess you could call it an obsession, cause it really was.
My backpack was decorated with the same thing – the Judas Priest logo and a bunch of Van Halen and Def Leppard-buttons and patches.
I read everything I could get my hands on, any metal magazine – which of course would be from the UK or the US cause we didn’t have anything like that in Sweden. Until the music mag OKEJ came along.
I used to hang outside the newsstand every Wednesday morning when a new issue of OKEJ would come out, right before going to woodwork class. Then of course, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else all day, I would read that freaking thing, cover to cover, not missing a WORD! :)
And it had all these cool posters too. This was my first Judas Priest-poster, that was from OKEJ. ME – I looked dorky as hell, but the whole world of rock’n’roll was all still new to me. Before I “converted” to metal, I had been a BEATLES-fan…! Quite a transition to say the least.
My parents worried. This was not supposed to happen, they wanted big things for me, I was supposed to go to university and make something of myself. Not listen to that….noise.
Dad used to say that music wouldn’t “put food on the table” and I needed to focus on the IMPORTANT things in life. Well… When I got my first job writing about metal 5 years later, he couldn’t really use that as a motivational speech anymore. ;)
Eventually my parents accepted that this was my call in life. I loved the music, it was very important to me and I incorporated it into my life with a passion.
[14 years old, just started decorating my walls with ugly longhaired men dressed in black leather!]
And no – I never “grew out of it”!
I told the girl on the train, that there is nothing to “grow out” of – because metal is the ULTIMATE music in my book. There is no higher level.
Many are always going to think that classical music is fancier but when it comes to complexity, you will find a lot of those influences in metal as well, only modernized and better suited for electric guitars and amps.
She looked surprised but I walked away with a sense of pride. Yeah, I have to say that I actually felt proud to be remembered by someone, 31 years later, for being the only female rocker in junior high – and STILL BE that girl! :)
I don’t know what my life would have looked like if I hadn’t fallen in love with metal, but I’m so glad that I never had to find out, because I’ve really lived a life I could never have dreamed of when I was a kid- and I owe it all to rock’n’roll.
It’s the love of my life and will be in my heart & soul till the day I die. :)
Been thinking about how the life and image of rockers – or at least my interpretation of it – has changed over the years.
There were so many expectations and unwritten rules when I first discovered metal. Granted, I was a teenager, I would have sniffed out the “proper” behavior in any type of community, because you were so eager to fit in. But there weren’t many female role-models, so you became one of the guys.
There were a few “rules” that I remember from back then.
1. Thou shalt not listen to any other type of music because that is extremely uncool (see list of approved bands below)
2. Thou shalt be dressed properly
A) Denim jacket or vest, alternatively leather jacket, decorated with badges, patches and large back-patch of your favorite band to gild your creation.
B) Jeans must be stone-washed, dirty and have holes at the knees. Should be as tight as possible.
C) T-shirt with any metal band, doesn’t have to be your favorite band, but no matter what you wear, you must show to the world that you are a true ROCKER (it was like a religion, metalheads were supposed to spread the gospel much like Jehova’s Witnesses…)
D) Footwear: sneakers or boots
E) Accessories: Anything with studs, any kind of studs but preferably these:
You could never ever compromise with the above if you wanted to be cool. I remember walking around in a leather jacket, covered by a denim jacket – OPEN all winter, freezing my ass off (I’m pretty sure my lips were blue and purple every winter) because it was extremely uncool to button your jacket. Probably because you couldn’t show your metal t-shirt properly if you did.
Bands that were considered cool had to be butt ugly and preferably British: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Ozzy, Sabbath or even Def Leppard (their pre-Hysteria era…) or some got dispensation because they looked and sounded like brits, such as Accept or Anvil or something like that.
It just had to be “manly”, as masculine as possible. Which is why I still don’t really get how the hell MANOWAR could ever be considered the “manliest” band in the world, when they are any gay dude’s wet dream? I mean, seriously – check this out and tell me if that’s not a poster that would look great on any YMCA wall:
[Why would a straight dude want to look at another dude wearing a thong?!]
You really had to be careful what you said and did, what you wore, how you acted – because the slightest thing would make the other “disciples” think you’re not cool enough and not “a TRUE headbanger”.
Actually, some of that still lingers now, at my age (I just don’t give a crap nowadays, I sure as hell don’t need to prove to anyone how “metal” I am anymore). Like the detail that I don’t like beer. Never have, never will. “What kind of rocker are you if you don’t like beer?” is a line I’ll hear in the company of rockers if I say no to a beer.
At some point I even pointed out that metal to me is about choosing your own path, making your own decisions. How cool is it to just follow everybody else’s footsteps? If I want wine instead of beer, and have the balls to say so, regardless the comments I KNOW I’m gonna get – then who’s more metal? Drink your beer and shut up, loser. ;)
The expectations on what was required to be a rocker changed a bit in the mid-/late 80’s, but then people were divided into two groups: “Real” rockers and posers.
The so called “real” rockers were the ones who still wore their denim jackets and sneakers – and then, there was the “posers” who got into the glam-side of the genre and started spraying their hair, wear colorful clothes with glitter (preferably a neon color, pink, yellow, purple…) bandanas and (god forbid) MAKE UP!
[Still “gay”, but in a different kind of way]
As I was on the Judas Priest-side, I remember quickly taking sides against the glam era. I thought they were so embarrassing and so….sissy. I could have puked on bands like Poison, Pretty Boy Floyd or Tygertailz.
But all of that somehow merged as the years went by, because even our own heroes started looking like girls. Even Judas Priest and Whitesnake joined the band-wagon and started to bleach their hair or got bad perms.
And with bands like Skid Row or Guns n’Roses who weren’t old-school metal OR glam/sleaze, the whole scene became accessible to old-school and newbie-rockers. It’s like they were the glue that was needed to unite rockers again.
You could be, or wear, a mix between the old denim-style and whatever glittery you wanted to spice it up with. And it was cool as fuck with guys who used eyeliner and got that “I haven’t slept for three days” kind of look. It wasn’t “gay” anymore.
And speaking of gay, you realized how latently gay the rocker world really was, when Rob Halford came out of the closet. Dudes dug his S&M style for years, and women were pretty much banned in the world of metal in the early days. So you had guys strutting for other guys – and somehow they managed to call it “manly”.
Motley Crue were considered wimps when they first started to appear in magazines with their glam style. But in fact I suppose they were more “manly” than the dudes who were afraid of women back in the day. All of course depending on how you choose to define the word “manly”.
The kiss of death came with the grunge era. Suddenly, all the leather and spandex was out. The sloppy “homeless”-look was in. Baggy, plaid flanel shirts, hair mugs, the roadie-style cargo pants – all of it looked like it was from a Salvation Army dumpster.
Over night, everybody else became uncool. Unless you looked like you belonged in the gutter and listened to Nirvana or Pearl Jam, you had no right to exist in the metal world. It was the dark ages of rock in a way. Many people I knew cut their hair and desperately started looking for something else to identify with. I remember people being very confused during thir period.
The whole religion as we knew it, had been shattered. There were barely any non-grunge bands touring, all the rock clubs that had blossomed in the 80’s closed down, Headbanger’s Ball on MTV didn’t show the kind of music we liked anymore. Everything was just so depressing. The rock scene had been taken over by bands who hated themselves and wanted to die (Nirvana quote).
Eventhough metal came back even after those “dark ages”, fashion or expectations weren’t as distinctive anymore. You could look any way you damned well pleased, pretty much.
But it’s like any other religion, you want to support your beliefs, show the world who you are. So, go to any metal festival in Europe during summer-time, and you’ll notice that people still look like time stood still.
I’m still wearing rock t-shirts, but maybe to a more limited extent. I’ve ditched the denim jackets, and leather is cool to look at but it doesn’t keep you warm when it’s cold out – and when it rains.. forget it. :) Sneakers are still a part of my “rocker identity” but not because I’m trying to prove anything, I just think they are great for everything and still look cool (nowadays you can even buy them in leather and studs).
Metalheads still have the need to show who they are. We still want to be a part of the underground movement it once was, kind of like the punk era. It separates us from “the common people”. Even if we just choose a simple rock t-shirt or our true rocker jeans.
What has changed though, is that after all these years, metal has now landed a different image.Iron Maiden is no longer a band for sweaty young guys – it’s a respected, well known band that even non-rockers know. Bruce Dickinson is invited to speak on BBC news and whatnot, it would never have happened in 1983.
Ozzy is no longer the crazy, dangerous bat-eating madman, he’s the guy on TV who yells:“Sharon!! The fucking TV is stuck on the fucking weather channel!” and is a guest on “Ellen”.
Alice Cooper is seen golfing and supporting the republican party. Quite ironic that the man who has been anything but conservative with his art and music, is now a part of the establishment that would have tried to ban him twenty-thirty years ago.
Things have changed radically. Metal isn’t so shocking anymore. After the shock-rock era ofMarilyn Manson, and after the kind of old and outdated attempts by extreme death-metal bands to create headlines, metal is now almost as accepted as Bruce Springsteen.
And people listening to it don’t have as many rules to follow anymore. Look anyway you want, listen to whatever you like (cause even Bon Jovi is considered hard rock – or you can choose the crossover-bands that mix death metal with techno/pop, such as Amaranthe).
The boundaries are not as tight anymore, there’s not as much to prove as there once was. Back in the day you were fighting for your music to get recognition – but in fact, you didn’t WANT it to be mainstream. You wanted to be a part of that “misunderstood” group of people who were into metal. Because it was like a family of outsiders, and there’s just something appealing about that.
Many rockers who didn’t fit anywhere else, found their home and their identity in metal. Gave them strength in numbers, for sure. That’s probably why it’s still such a rush to be in the crowd of 20 000 people, chanting to our heroes’ classic songs, going absolutely crazy. Metal survived, through everything.
Now, when metal is on national TV (at least here in Sweden it is) it’s as if it’s not “our” music anymore. It’s become mainstream, more or less.
We are rockers and we stuck through it all. I think we’ve finally got something to be proud of. :)