When I was in 6th grade, I lived a pre-pubescent boys nightmare - having to go the middle school where my Dad taught at. It meant waking up an hour earlier then my 11 year old peers, trading in a school bus for a 45 minute car-ride and having an hour and half before school alone and another 2 hours after school while everybody else already bused home for pre-teen hijinx.
How a Christian group got me into Heavy Metal
I typically filled this time with: doing the homework I skipped the night before, napping since I was forced to wake up so goddamn early or – especially most afternoons – in the gym shooting hoops. My dad was the basketball coach so I had full access to the gym every morning and afternoon.
During that 6th grade fall, the volleyball coach – we’ll call him Coach Osbourne – who shared a coaching office with my dad started up a group called "Young Life". I was shooting hoops one morning and he invited me to come after school that day. He told it was a group about discovering Faith through group sports. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time but I had faith I could destroy everybody at a game of pickup. Bring that shit on!
At the time, my family wasn’t really churchgoers despite all being from various specks of the bible-belt. I went early in life but my constant authoritative challenges and uncomfortable questions made it apparent to my mom that church wasn’t exactly my cup of blood-wine. Therefore, I had more faith in my free-throw then the all-seeing magic man above who I hoped could not see through bathroom door…or bed-sheets.
My first afternoon of this "Young Life" group started with hand holding and a prayer. Ok, I don’t know what this shit is all about but I see a bag of basketballs so I know we’re about to get at it. Then Coach Ozzy had us sit on the bleachers and started reading something from the bible. I don’t remember what it was exactly but it involved lashes, snakes and a spanish guy named Jesus. Then (finally!) we spent the next hour playing basketball and dodgeball. Then we ended with another prayer (more jesus and some egyptians) and he reminded us all that we would meet again next Wednesday and would be watching a movie. Hell yeah! This following week would change everything!
I arrived to the gym after school that day and he directed us into one of the offices where a tv monitor and vhs player was set up.
He told us all we we’re going to watch a video regarding the evils of some music he called Heavy Metal?
Duh-duh-duh-naaaa went a loud ass guitar. Dum-tap dum-tap dum-tap went some loud ass drums. Loud scratch and the guitar again. Duh-duh-duh-naaaa
Some dudes shouting some words. Sweet ass guitar riff. The music ebbed and flowed with a building crescendo and then….HOLY FUCKING DRUM FILL
SHOUT AT THE DEVIL!!!!!
My god…what the bloody hell is this sweet beautiful sound?!?!
(Shout At The Devil from the Moscow Music Peace Festival)
The music died down, relegated to background music, and the screen filled with an upside down cross that was lit on fire. A man engulfed in red light screamed in front of it as some words filled the screen as demons suddenly filled the background. An ominous voice took over and expounded about some gibberish regarding the evils of heavy metal and that it’s the music of the devil. A smile spread across my face as I closed my eyes to focus all of my hearing on the slowly de-crescendoing music in the background. I needed more, I wanted more, the devil had it’s grasp and there was no turning back.
For the next half hour, a man in a tan 70’s suit went on and on about this devil guy and the music he created with hidden messages and subliminal tenants demanding I follow him and sacrifice small animals. I just heard awesome guitar riffs and pounding drums. This isn’t to say I didn’t go immediately home and find the most metal looking record in my parents collection (The Eagles "One of these nights" which was very much ‘not metal’) and spin the entire thing backwards looking for hidden messages from the passenger of the dark, but what mattered most was this sound I had never heard before and that I needed more of!
Music as a kid always felt "dirty" in that I thought my parents wouldn’t approve and that was half of the excitement. A friend gave me a Beastie Boys tape in 3rd grade and an LL Cool J tape in 4th grade that I secretly listened ad nauseum until the tape got caught in the spools and quit working. My first introduction to rock came via Run DMC’s “Walk this Way” and Aerosmith. I hadn’t heard guitars like that up until this point as riding with mom and dad for the first 10 years of life only gave me Conway Twitty and Sonny and Cher. I knew I liked it when I heard it, I just didn’t know what it was yet.
That is, until God introduced it to me and I instantly fell in love with this satanic scrumptiousness and consumed it in every way possible. My first ever haul (12 cassettes for 1 penny via Columbia House) yielded a treasure trove of audible delights. Def Leppard's Pyromania, Mötley Crüe's Dr. Feelgood, Metallica, Poison, BulletBoys, Guns n Roses, Huey Lewis and the News, Testament, W.A.S.P., Megadeth (holy hell those covers!!!), Ratt and Skid Row! And yes, Huey fucking Lewis…don’t judge. I listened, re-listened and re-listened until they quit working or I finally got the CD version many years, and a bunch of chores, later.
25 years later, I still close my eyes, take in and remember that glorious moment when I discovered Heavy Metal. I recall the moment it was all over, the credits rolled and I finally opened my eyes to a new world! A world where Coach Osborne was staring right at me with that enraged reddened face he got when students continually disobeyed his instructions and told me to get out immediately. I was not invited back the following Wednesday but that’s ok, I just received my newest Columbia house catalog and some new cassettes to buy. I don’t know who this "Dio" band is but this behemoth whipping a guy with a chain from behind a ominous mountain looks pretty cool.