High ‘n’ Dry

Def Leppard’s video for “Bringing on the Heartbreak” made its debut on my parent’s betamax some time in 1984. I had left the betamax recording a daily video show that usually played pop songs. When I heard this piece, I was mesmerized. I had read about that band in the American rock magazines I was subscribed to back in my hometown of Caracas, but had not heard their music yet.

I replayed the song many times over so I could figure out the words, which were pronounced with a thick English accent. In the video, the singer was loosely tied to the crossbeams of a raft, seemingly crucified, expressing sorrow and pain by contorting his face. I often wondered why he did not jump off and get away. The boat was navigating at a snail’s pace on calm waters, making the getaway that much more plausible. But the man’s heart had been broken, and no amount of encouragement could make him break free.

Despite the strange imagery of the video, the music transcended and cut through my entire body, making me feel like I was floating. The heaviness of the guitar and beat of the drums possessed an immediate attraction, compounded by the singer’s powerful yet delicate voice. I pressed my ear against the TV speaker, feeling the sound waves shaking every molecule in my body. I wanted to jump inside the TV and join these pale long-haired men on stage and create mayhem with them. I wanted to be in the band. I wanted to play the bass looking cool, while the white smoke surfaced from the mystic lake and surrounded my denim-clad legs. I wanted to make the weird faces they made by pursing my lips and blinking at the camera. I wanted to stand back to back with the guitar player while sharing a microphone and singing backing vocals.

Soon thereafter an acquaintance loaned me the “High and Dry” album, which I recorded on a 60-min TDK tape. I would listen to it over and over again to learn the words to every song. The more I listened to it, the more I wanted to be in a band.

I continued to follow articles on the band, when terrible news hit the black and white pages of Rockline! magazine: their drummer Rick Allen had been in a horrifying car crash in which he lost his left arm. Many questions were raised after this tragedy. Would he overcome this? Would he continue to play? Would the band march on without their drummer? Millions of fans would wonder if their favorite rock band would go on or disband.

While this drama played out, I got my hands on “Pyromania” and was blown away. I prayed the band would set forth despite the difficulties. Surely a band so awesome and so famous could not hang it up. I pondered about this for hours on end, Walkman in hand, playing the Def Leppard tapes repeatedly.

The fans were not disappointed. Rick Allen’s determination, love of life and music manifested itself when the band announced he would continue playing in the band. They were working on a custom-made drum kit he could use with one arm.

By the time “Hysteria” was released, the band’s fame jumped to a new level, not only because it was highly publicized that a one-armed musician laid down the drum tracks, but also the songs were very easy on the ear; thus, dominating the rock charts for weeks. The songs were played even on Caracas radio. I was so proud of them. It genuinely felt as if a group of dear friends had made the big time.

And as Def Leppard rode deep into stardom, I bid them farewell. They evolved and triumphed and conquered the world. I would remember and cherish our time together but it was time I moved on as well. A gloomy, ugly, mystic, loud, obnoxious, aggressive sound had been floating around me for a long time, and it was summoning me to cross over to the dark side. It was time I gave in.

How Kiss Started it All

The first signs pointing to my future love for heavy metal began showing when I was a pre-teen girl in the seventh grade, living in my native land of Venezuela.

I have loved music since as long as I can remember. I also loved watching music videos so to keep abreast of the newest ones, I programmed my dad’s Betamax to record the daily video show at 11:30 a.m. aired in one of the four local TV channels. I’d come home from school every day straight to my parent’s bedroom to check on the day’s recording, and mom would be calling me to the table for lunch, annoyed that I still apparently didn’t understand the lunch routine.

Most of the videos shown were of popular songs of the day. But once in a while the video jockey, Musiuito, would play something completely out of whack and by doing so, he changed my musical life.

The video in question was Kiss’s “Love it Loud.” I had not heard a song that heavy before, with such force, and so rhythmic at the same time. The video began by showing a family quietly eating dinner in a nice suburban home. There was no music at this point. Suddenly a loud thud engulfed the home, it was the brutal bass drum pounding mercilessly, shaking the entire home, threatening to detach it from its foundation. The teenage son got up, walked to the TV, kneeled in front of it and the singer’s face – painted black and white – along with his long, red tongue covered the screen, his evil looking gaze connecting with the teenage boy’s eyes, and with mine.

I played the song intro over and over again. I couldn’t get enough of the initial drum sound followed by the almost religious mantra-chant “yeh-eh-eh-eh-yeah, ye-eh-eh-eh yeah” which pulled me further into the core of the hypnotic sound. Then I noticed the singer was playing an axe and for a minute I cringed, I was a little scared of these evil-looking old dudes. The video finale showed scores of teens walking toward the camera, eyes glowing, mesmerized by the calling. I felt like one of them.

As I replayed the video I increased the volume. The small TV speaker shrieked and the front panel of the TV shook and emitted a buzzing sound created by the panel door vibrating violently. I simply sat there frozen at the edge of the bed, eyes glued to the TV watching the Kiss guys do the thing they do best: kicking ass on stage, maneuvering their instruments amidst fire explosions and deafening sounds, all behind masked faces. A sudden feeling possessed my body. I felt that I wanted to be close to them. I wanted to befriend teens like the guy in the video. I wanted to be a part of whatever this was.

Soon after, either a neighbor or a schoolmate let me borrow the Kiss album Creatures of the Night; which contains the aforementioned song. Album in hand, I hurried home giddy from anticipation. Once in my room, I turned on the old three-in-one radio/cassette/LP player, opened the plastic lid, carefully removed the album from the cardboard cover and from its plastic sleeve, placed the LP on the turntable on side B, set the needle with surgical precision in the groove right before the first song, and cranked up the volume. I was about to experience “Love it Loud” through real sound speakers. I was so excited! My heart jumped at the first boom of the drumming. So I turned it up even more. I loved the how all the instruments blended together to create a concoction of sound, which mixed distortion, fire, mayhem, balls and awesomeness. I felt like I was the coolest kid on earth. The song faded out… but it didn’t go away. It faded back in again, the “yeh-eh-eh-eh-yeah” chant reappearing from the depths of hell to haunt my young ears.

I wanted to be on stage. I wanted to wear the singer’s boots and play an axe-shaped bass guitar. And I wanted to play music loud enough to make my parent’s coffee cups explode, just like in the video. I got stung.

Little did I know I had taken my first step into the “metaldom,” a heavy metal kingdom I would forever be a part of.

Introduction

This is a gutural blog, completely subjective, about my history with heavy metal. I hope that by reading my stories you connect and share your own experiences regarding the bands that move you, that give you goose bumps, about the metalhead community in your city, about what it means to be a headbanger. Up The Irons!