Metal Health

Salt Lake City Weekly | January 31, 2005
Metal Health

What watching hours of VH1 Classic’s Metal Mania can teach you.


If you’ve ever spent a sick day or two off work clicking through your upper-end digital-cable channels with a mix of disgust (“I’m paying an extra 20 bucks a month for 24-hour golf and Davey & Goliath reruns?!”) and wonderment (“For that extra $20, I get to see DeGrassi: The Next Generation, like, 12 times a day?! Yeah!”), you probably know the pleasure and pain of VH1 Classic. Of all the programming blocks on this round-the-clock outlet of forgotten music videos from yesteryear, none are more tragic-comic than Metal Mania, which runs nothing but heavy-metal clips, mostly from the woeful era of ‘80s hair metal. Lessons you should have known then that are now all too apparent:

If you were into metal in the ‘80s, you were/are gay. This one comes from comedian Patton Oswald, who pointed out in a recent Comedy Central stand-up special that most metal videos featured a band rockin’ out in some sort of industrial plant that “apparently only manufactures sparks,” rubbing bare shoulders and admiring one another’s immaculate hair and perfectly ripped jeans. Meanwhile, miles away, hot girls were dancing on car hoods and waiting for some lovin’ from “the guy from Scritti Politti, becase we’re sure not gettin’ any from Jackyl with a Y!”

While we’re on the subject … Rob Halford. The Judas Priest singer officially came out of the closet in 1998, after over 25 years of fronting the band in leather, studs and a little motorcycle cap perched jauntily askew atop his buzz-cut. Not that it should have mattered, since Priest made dozens of videos in the ‘80s and ‘90s, each and every one gay with a capital G-A-Y (especially 1981’s “Hot Rockin,’” which had the shirtless members pumping iron in a gym, surrounded by gently lapping flames … Hel-lo?).

Iron Maiden made approximately 2,847 videos, and they all suck. There was nothing so gay about any of the videos made by Judas Priest’s British-metal brethren Iron Maiden—nor remotely interesting, either. Judging by their sheer Metal Mania ubiquity, these lunkheads must have lensed a clip for every song they ever recorded, and yet they could never seem to formulate a new concept beyond running around spandexed onstage and splicing in stock footage of Civil War flicks, crashing fighter planes and humping baboons. But never anything gay, mate.

Girls could not rock. Sure, the occasional genuinely ballsy ‘80s female rocker like Wendy O. Williams and Warlock’s Doro Pesch turns up on Metal Mania, but mostly all you get are the faux-slutty, powder-puff likes of Vixen and Femme Fatale—the big-haired, hipless mothers of Avril Lavigne and Hilary Duff. Nothing wrong with busty Barbies in heavy-metal videos, but women belonged on the band, never in the band. Hey, I didn’t make the ‘80s metal rules, Lita.

Some ‘80s metal bands were just indefensibly terrible. Look hard enough and there’s some merit to be found in most of the bands on Metal Mania: Catchy tunes, impressive musical skills, laudable mousse techniques, etc. But sensory travesties like Grim Reaper and Krokus should inspire even the most passive Radiohead fan to track down the label executive who signed and poured millions of dollars into such reprehensible shit 20 years ago and give him a Jack Daniels colonic while blasting Keel at him through a Bose Acoustic Wave. Even worse, the renewed cable exposure has generated enough retro-interest to get some of these crap-flingers out on the reunion road: “Tonight! VH1 Classic presents Helix! Live at the Iron Crotch Saloon!”

Going acoustic does not grant metal has-beens a second career as singer-songwriters. For some reason, VH1 Classic recently introduced “hosts” and “segments” into the once blissful stream of uninterrupted music videos, doughy 40-somethings supposedly “in-tune” with its audience interviewing bygone “artists”—you know, like the barely-formed zygotes with mics on MTV exchanging deep thoughts with Switchfoot. Invariably, the thicker/grayer rockers are hawking new “unplugged” albums and “stripped-down” promotional tours. Cut to Kip Winger on Metal Mania, plunking away on an acoustic guitar and urging the half-asleep studio crew of 10 to sing along: “She’s only 17! Come on, you know the words! Daddy says she’s too young, but she’s old enough for me! Thanks, I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble in Duluth on Thursday …”

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