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Awards: 1 04/122

The semiotics of early metal: earnest screeches and grime

Jul 2, 2011 • 0 comments • 2735 views

It's easy to take metal for granted. Glam bands like Metallica and Queensryche long ago made metal as pat and polished as the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace. But flipping by VH1 I happened to catch a grainy, 1972 video of Deep Purple. Ain't nobody gonna take my car/gonna race her to the grou-ou-ound! The desperation of Ian Gillan, the screeching — the commitment.



Oooh it’s a killing machine/It’s got everything...


My God the man was in earnest.


Today the king of metal, Ozzy Osbourne, is known by his practiced craziness. It's an act, a brand that serves him well in his reality show franchise. Original metal fans, a subgeneration of outcasts "that seemingly never felt at home," (in the words of journalist Nader Rahman), once thrilled to an unholy noise that threatened to bring down the world of the popular kids, administrators and gym teachers who tormented them. Now those metalheads are Silicon Valley executives in their 50sMegadeth and Mötley Crüe still play concerts and draw crowds, but who's going? Old white guys in black Dockers. It's just not the same.


But a note as we watch this document to early, heavy metal rockers: they were dirty. As in grimy. Physically unclean. Beads of sweat mixed with iron filings and God knows what. Stringy hair. Underwear not changed for weeks. Sometimes I think that hygene didn't really make it as a cutting-edge cultural phenomenon until like 1981.

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