In the interests of furthering my musical education – or my inner maladjusted teenager, take your pick – I recently watched a BBC4 documentary on the history of heavy metal called “Heavy Metal Britannia”. It traced the origins of British heavy metal through the hazy days of influences such as Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly, the Yardbirds and Cream, to Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep and Deep Purple on to the embryonic beginnings of bands such as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest in the Stygian industrial wastelands of Birmingham, and all the way to the Eighties, when Judas Priest and Iron Maiden ruled the world, or at least the world of aural metal, the territory left over that the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen hadn’t conquered yet.
Documentaries such as this one usually pack some hidden agenda, a buried subtext in black or white – the team behind it either digs it, or doesn’t, but there’s rarely any kind of middle ground. So I won’t even get into my entire gripe about the craptacular songs they used to illustrate what BBC4 defines as “heavy metal”, quotation marks included.
What really made me wonder was a throwaway statement that was meant to be ignored, overlooked and likely forgotten. The speaker had a certain cringe in his voice as he said it, a twinge of
Since I am a thoroughly perverted, corrupt, filthy-minded female who pays attention, I caught it. I not only caught it, I had a long hard look – and started thinking.
Always a perilous exercise.
C’mon. Your curiosity is killing you, right?
Apparently, back in the day, back in the Eighties when I was (much) young(er) and still had a few illusions punk hadn’t killed off, metal was – a guy thing.
Well, blow my mind!
That’s right. Hair bands were for female delectation, which is why, I’m guessing, Brett Michaels turned it into his entire career.
REAL metalheads – the kind who took it seriously, the kind who lived for it, the kind who headbanged at every opportunity, the ones who wanted it LOUD, who liked it PROUD, who wanted nothing more than in-your-face-all-out-aural-Armageddon…were walking testaments to testosterone who preferred more of the same as their musical justification for existence.
Right. We fluffy-minded females were just around for the ride, because our boyfriends dug it, because the dudes were smokin’, because – ladies, let’s face it, it didn’t get hip for us until the Nineties, at least in any way we could admit to in public without blushing. Chris Cornell has a lot to answer for.
Misogyny and music have a long and interleaved history, and metal and misogyny no less. So let’s start with that one.
I hate, detest and loathe stereotyping, I hate orthodoxy, I hate, despise and disdain people who have an urge to pigeonhole everything and nothing into tidy, small-minded labels, roles and sub-cultures that are easily defined, easily grasped by the masses, and just as easily digested.
I hate it because I’m one of those irritating people who just happen to think that great music is great music and who gives a dipshit if it comes with corpse paint? Or even corpses, artfully deranged?
On my planet, music is music. Period. I like all sorts and all kinds, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve gotten darker. It’s the loss of all those illusions. It’s killing me, I’m tellin’ ya.
And wowee, here we go, wheel in the dank and dirty misogyny in all its gory glory – a long and distinguished list of dedicated testosterone bombs whom I dare not name wailing over w-o-m-a-n one way or another.
Once you get to the point where you can actually decipher the lyrics – and pick a genre, any kind of death, doom, thrash, grindcore, nu-metal whatthefuckever, there’s no lack of creatively phrased ways of stating, just as a former boyfriend did to my face one time, that women are the root of ALL evil. Whether it’s Danni Filth in “Nymphetamine” or Peter Steele’s brilliantly titled “I know you’re fucking someone else” (no hidden lights under THAT bushel, with the axe on the D train to Brighton Beach following, any day) – it’s all – bad.
Oh, for the misery we ladies so love to inflict!
What would music be without it?
What makes me wonder – just because I am that kind of pervert – is whether it’s misconstrued as misogyny when all I’m hearing are many different versions and flavors of that age-old standby –
That’s right. The entire devolution of male and female relations in eight words. And at least eighty thousand songs, some obvious, some not so much.
Meanwhile, since the misogynistic Eighties (take my word for that), things have changed. Gene Simmons once famously stated that women will not be able to play hard rock until they learn how to acknowledge that part of themselves that’s hairy and stinks.
Since then, many metal-minded women can do that quite as well as anyone, even with Hollywood wax jobs.
For which I, for one, am profoundly grateful. As profoundly grateful as I am for all the rest of them – the testosterone bombs bewailing or berating their harsh fates at the hands of the Liliths of this world.
Let’s face it – it gave us some spectacular songs.