Saturday, May 13, 2017

Tell me that part about Metallica again...

A few comments:
  1. No one has perfect hair rolling out of bed at such an early hour. No one.
  2. Metallica and the Offspring shouldn't be used comparatively since they're not in the same genre. Punk and metal are cousins. What good comes of comparing cousins unless your family is mean spirited and horrible?
  3. Christopher was always the wrong choice. Always.
I saw a rerun of this episode the day after I saw Metallica live and thought it was a sign from the musical gods that I needed to write about Metallica this week. What I find most infuriating about this particular clip is Christopher's immediate jump from an adult conversation (one he started about marriage and their relationship) to a childish dig on a band he doesn't like but Lorelai does. A band he probably doesn't think girls should like and therefore, because Lorelai does like said band, she is irrational and wrong about all things not just her choice of music. A woman can't possibly like Metallica. Or Black Sabbath. Or any other loud, aggressive music. Christopher is the worst.

My enjoyment of heavy metal music is one of those things people find amusing about me. When I say "heavy metal" I'm talking about more mainstream metal not the dark, dark stuff some people enjoy but you get my point. When this particular topic comes up in conversation or via the blog, people laugh. I remember a conversation with a male friend that went something like this:

Me: I saw Black Sabbath on tour last summer. It was an odd show; Ozzy looked like he was wearing pjs and he occasionally shuffled around the stage like he didn't know where he was. But the music was solid.
Him: You went to a Black Sabbath concert?
Me: Sure. I hadn't them live before so why wouldn't I go? I've also seen Def Leppard a few times, Metallica, and KISS. (Side note: we can argue levels of metal later.)
Him: Really? That just so weird. You're wearing a sweater with pineapples on it.
Me: I'm not sure what my pineapple sweater and my enjoyment of any type of music has to do with one another. I also really enjoy The Ramones. Is this problematic for you?
Him: I just imagine you like girl bands and I don't know, Beyonce. Girls like that type of music. You probably only like metal because you thought a guy would like you more. 
Me: (Pauses...scene in which I punch guy in the throat flashes in front of me as well as my favorite Clue quote.)
Me: As much as I love when guys explain music to me, we should probably go back to talking about work. There's less of a possibility that I'll punch you in the throat if we talk about work. 

(I'm not friends with this person anymore.)
I have a long relationship with Metallica. I grew up in the suburbs and my brother is a metalhead so I was destined to enjoy them. I've listened to this type of music since I was at least 9 years old. My brother is one of my earliest musical influences. It's from him that I learned about Metallica, Motorhead, Megadeth, GNR, Anthrax, Black Sabbath, and all the bands in between. He's also responsible for my spiral into hair metal bands. Face it, hair metal is a gift from the heavens and we should all just admit how much we love it and move on. He's my regular concert buddy when these shows come to town. We've seen Black Sabbath, Metallica, KISS, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper, and Def Leppard together. We are super critical of opening acts. We try to predict what the encore will include (we were half right for Metallica this week). In addition to the music itself, we have very dynamic conversations at shows about things like the psychology of the mosh pit. My brother is my favorite person. 

I've seen Metallica in concert twice (2009 and this past Wednesday). I own four of their albums. I know the lyrics to many of their songs. I follow them on social media. I sat through Some Kind of Monster, the mildly ridiculous documentary about the time the band went through group therapy while working on a new album (and Dave Mustaine from Megadeth probably cried off camera). According to James Hetfield's welcome at the show on Wednesday, I'm part of the Metallica family. And the Metallica family doesn't judge...probably.

Metallica is one of those bands that has always been in the my musical mix; sometimes they move to the front, sometimes they're the background while I enjoy other things. But they're never not there. I was thinking about this at the show this week. There is one song that is always front and center for me when I think about my relationship with Metallica. That song is "One."

My brother had a television in his bedroom when we were kids. He watched a lot of MTV and I remember watching videos with him on the rare occasion I was allowed in his room (we're six years apart) so he was a teenager at the time and I was annoying. In 1989, when "One" debuted, he would have been 15 and I was 9. The song is from the album ...And Justice for All. This album was the first Metallica album to reach any sort of commercial success; they were mostly an underground thrash metal band before this. It's also a fiercely political album; there are songs about the environment, censorship, and inequality. "One" was the considered an antiwar song (which I'll get into in a few minutes) and has the distinction of being the first Metallica song to get a music video. In case you haven't seen it:

There are three versions of the video: the above version (the original, long version), a shortened version, and a version missing the scenes from the movie. The original, with the film scenes, is the one I saw in 1989. The film scenes are from an 1971 antiwar movie called Johnny Got His Gun based on the novel of the same name. The film centers around a young man named Joe Bonham who goes off to fight in World War I and returns home as a quad amputee who also lost his eyes, nose, and ability to speak. He remains conscious of what's happening to him but unable to communicate with anyone. The film goes between hospital scenes and flashbacks of him with his family and in battle (and one where he imagines himself part of a freak show). Eventually, he remembers Morse code and begins to send an "SOS" signal to his nurses and doctors and repeats "kill me" over and over again. No one listens to him and he's left alone to an unknown fate. The film wasn't particularly successful, although Jimmy Carter used to show it to members of his cabinet when he was governor of Georgia, but became something of a cult classic after Metallica used in the "One" video. The band eventually bought the film rather than having to pay royalties every time they used the footage.

The video terrified me when I first saw it. Imagine being 9 years old and watching this. First, it's in black and white which is scarier than color film (it's the way light casts shadows in black and white). Then there's the war imagery, the guy hidden from view, the horrible dialogue from the film. It's a lot to handle. This is also the era of long-haired, scary looking Metallica. They all looked dangerous (yes, we can argue they still might look a bit dangerous). Metal is a very physical form of music and they all fit that part so well. James Hetfield and Jason Newsted (this was his first album with the band) were particularly creepy; they both looked like horror movie villains.

Then there are the lyrics. Now as a 9 year old, I was probably not paying as close attention to the lyrics as I do today but here's a sample:

Verse 1:
I can't remember anything
Can't tell if this is true or dream
Deep down inside I feel to scream
This terrible silence stops me

Now that the war is through with me
I'm waking up, I cannot see
That there's not much left of me
Nothing is real but pain now 

Or maybe you're more of a verse 3 kind of person:
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell
Landmine has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell

Even if I wasn't paying close attention back then, there are some lines that jump out and my 9 year old self would have heard. Let's not forget the chorus: "Hold my breath as I wish for death/Oh please God, wake me," not exactly the stuff of pop music (which is what I was listening to at the time). I didn't understand why my brother would like such scary things but he did. I didn't understand what it was like to be a teenager and the feelings of alienation and suburban ennui that marked the life of one. Metallica is defiant and that's appealing. They're loud and angry (also appealing). I wasn't a teenager so I didn't get it. I understood this about music later but at that time, I was a little kid who thought it was scary.

Of course, once my brother knew I was scared of the video he would use the information to his advantage, calling me into the room when it was on and singing the lyrics every now and then. Such is the job of a big brother. My fear didn't stop me from being fascinated by the band. I remember borrowing (stealing) my brother's cassette tapes and listening to them when he wasn't home. When other Metallica videos would come on MTV, I'd watch them even when my friends wanted to change the channel. I was hooked but I would never, ever admit it to my brother. I continued listening to my boy bands and pop stars until finally one day, I gave up and embraced my love of all things heavy metal and punk and loud. I credit hair metal for getting me over boy bands; why listen to NKOTB when you can listen to Poison? It was logical at the time.

So there was no boy I was trying to impress because at 9 years old, I didn't care about impressing boys. One day, I saw a really scary music video and I was never able to get it out of my head. I embraced the scary and became a lifelong fan. That's it. I know it's hard to believe that girls and women simply like things because we like things. Our job is not to sit around and think about all the ways to impress a dude with our love of some band. If I did that, I'd have spent more time in my life asking guys to explain Enya and Kid Rock to me than doing anything else, including sleeping. I have zero time for that. I'd rather spend my time listening to "Harvester of Sorrow," my fourth favorite Metallica song, and contemplating the psychology of the mosh pit.

This photo doesn't do the red light on the crowd justice. It was a super cool effect.

Clue meme

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