Thursday 29 September 2005

here we are now entertain us

I mentioned somewhere below that I was already a published author. This is something of an exaggeration, but I have had a few things published in a few odd places over the years. From time to time, I think I'm going to start sharing some of this juvenalia with you all. I will publish it totally as it was... so please feel free to laugh heartily at me (and my goodness, for some of them, I think that's the only sensible reaction).

Our first piece comes from that illustrious newspaper, The Camarthen Journal. I have never had the pleasure of living in Wales, but for a brief period in the early 1990s, I was a regular contributor to the "Young Camarthen Journal" section on a Wednesday. They paid me the princely sum of £25 per article, as I recall....

This one dates from Wednesday 18th August 1993. Other headlines in the paper that day were:

"Thieves target busy car park"
"Nightclub plan thrown out"
"Coracle races 'could be the last ever'"
"Store staff set for a fun day"
and my favourite, "Sheep dip warning"

Tucked away on page 14 was this little gem:

Heavy Metal or Simply Lead?

Heavy metal was the term coined in the 1960s to describe the effect that the music of Black Sabbath had upon the ears of a journalist who had gone to one of their concerts. He obviously did not like them.

The genre has never had the best of reputations but it has perhaps never recovered from that infamous incident when Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a live bat whilst on stage. Certainly such hard rock music has bever enjoyed the best of relationships with the press, provoking such sensationalist headlines as "Rock star ate my hamster" and the overuse of that old cliche about sex, drugs and rock and roll.

In the interests of research, your intrepid reporter decided to see what all the fuss is about....

The biggest complaint about the genre is that it is simply noise - well, yes I suppose that this much is true, but then again, the same is said by many people about rave music, which seems to consist mainly of car alarms and whistles. A practised ear, it seems, can pick out the lyrics with ease. Those same lyrics, too, seem to have advanced beyond the normal macho male posturing and are now more self-consciously "thoughtful": "Civil War" by Gun N'Roses and "One" by Metallica deal with the horrors of war, and the line "What's so civil about war anyway?" is a good deal more advanced that the ironically rather limited "Techno, techno, techno, techno" of 2Unlimited.

All well and good, but the fact remains that many rock starts are actually quite sad. W. Axl Rose is a prime example: Guns N'Roses are an uncompromising band that rose from the dross in Los Angeles to become adored by almost as many pre-pubescent girls as Take That. Despite this, however, Axl seems to consistenly provoke riots at his concerts by keeping people waiting for hours on end, and hurls childish insults at other musicians and journalists who dare to pass comment on the self-styled biggeest band in the world, most notably and childishly in that great anthem "Get In The Ring". Despite the alleged spontaneity of each wrecked hotel roo and smashed TV, the idea is not a new one and those who do this act little better than primadonnas. Entertaining, perhaps, but not funny.

Whether we like it or not, heavy metal is playing an ever greater part in the shaping of society with the advent of such bands as Nirvana and Pearl Jam. "Grunge" has well and truly arrived and is even beginning to hit the catwalks in Milan and influence the subject matter of Hollywood with films such as "Singles". The grunge phenomenon is both heavy metal and a reaction to it. Metal has tended to become something of a parody of all the things that once made it so influential in the 1960s and 70s with such bands as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Now the genre is perhaps lacking some imagination and can only benefit from a new range of influences: punk (Nirvana, etc.), funk (Red Hot Chilli Peppers, etc.) and rap (Rage Against the Machine). Perhaps it is this influx of new blood that aids the survival of such comfortable old warriors as David Coverdale and Robert Plant.

Grunge also shows a post-modern attitude towards its lyrics, and the likes of "Smells Like Teenspirit" have become immensely popular, and yet their lyrics seem to be deliberately unfathomable and the bands themselves are not about to explain them. As "Weird" Al Yankowich parodied: "The lyric sheets's so hard to find / What are the words? / Oh Nevermind!"

What of my investigation then? Well, after thorough research into the matter, I have decided that heavy metal will survive. The genre has been both fashionable (Nirvana) and unfashionable (witness the tasselled leather jacket, string vest and leather shorts of Bruce Dickinson, lately of Iron Maiden) and now in the 1990s it is as strong a force as it ever has been. As for me, I'll stick to Morrissey.... "Punctured bicycle, on a hillside desolate..."


Good grief.

There's more (and worse) where that came from....


  1. Hey Dummy, Get in the Ring was Duff's song.

  2. Hey anon,
    you comment on a four year old post about a 15 year old article I wrote and you call me a dummy? Sheesh.
    Wrong, incidentally.