“[Heavy metal] has as one of its central elements the element of hatred” Dr. Paul King,
Live Buzz 93, in my country Malta, was my first Heavy Metal gig, and I couldn’t say I hadn’t been warned.
I knew that this went beyond skipping mass on Sunday, or doubting the existence of God, as I had been doing for a year or two.
This was the place where, according to videos we had been shown at school, the music, the sex, and the drugs are just a lure to something malevolent and larger than life.
That behind all this, lurking in the shadows, was the devil himself.
With bands called “Covenant” and “Beheaded” on the bill, paying money at the entrance felt like lifelong subscription to the Church of Satan.
If you’re 14 and brought up in Catholic Malta, before the age of the Internet, it’s hard to figure out that the videos we were being shown at school originated from Tipper Gore’s, wife of former US presidential candidate Al Gore, PMRC.
Little did I know this whole “Satanic conspiracy” was not the fruit of malign musicians who sold their souls to the one down under, but that of a political campaign, that used Rock musicians as scapegoats, and treated parents like idiots.
Yet, despite my initial caution, I knew that all the stuff they were telling us at school about Heavy Metal music was, basically, bullshit.
It’s 2019, I listen to and play Heavy Metal every single day. And I don’t even believe the devil exists, let alone worship him!
I know what Tipper Gore’s PMRC is though.
I know political opportunism. Elevating a trivial issue to alarming proportions in order to dupe the masses to fear the guy with long hair and tight jeans and use that as a stepping stone to the power you desire.
I also know guilt. I know what it means to tell kids the fruit is prohibited, when it’s actually there to be enjoyed.
Today, a Rock musician myself, I know the guys on the stage weren’t trying to drag me into some obscure world of violence and hatred. I know they wanted to connect with me through music, as well as have me appreciate their hard earned skills.
I know that the bad guys weren’t Dee Snider and Frank Zappa, who defended their reputation, freedom of expression and freedom of choice, but rather the ghastly lawyers and politicians gaining wealth and power by selling fear and guilt.
Which is why when a research team lead by Humboldt State University researcher Tasha Howe found out that followers of Heavy Metal in the 80s “were significantly happier in their youth and better adjusted currently” than their cohorts, 30 years later, came as no surprise to me, nor anyone else in the Metal community.
As a Heavy Metal fan, as a musician, as well as a former-guilt-ridden-teen who grew up and realized he has been cheated, I want to set the record straight.
These are the reasons why Tipper Gore was wrong. And Dee Snider was right.
This is exactly how, accidentally listening to Heavy Metal on radio helped shape me into the person I always wanted to be, and find the happiness I always craved for.
1. Sense of identity and belonging
How likely is it that you start chatting to the stranger next to you on the bus? Pretty small.
Unless you have a Black Sabbath t-shirt and he’s wearing Slayer! A conversation is very likely to strike up, possibly a friendship.
The reason is that Heavy Metal provides a sense of community only metal fans can understand.
This conforms perfectly with scientific studies of happiness, which place belonging to a community as one of the most influential variables that affect a person’s happiness.
2. Never Ending Supply Of Ear Candy
Music’s biggest role in our lives is altering our moods and – though I have to admit bias here – nothing does this better than Heavy Metal.
It’s the kind of music that makes your fist pump in the air without conscious effort, yet it’s also the same kind of music we listen to before we sleep.
3. Music appreciation
The maxim goes “sex, drugs and rock and roll” but that’s not quite true.
As regards to sexual indulgence and drug use, there are completely varying beliefs and lifestyles within the metal community – What we all agree on is the love for Rock n Roll!
We love music with a passion and want to learn about it. Which is why so many people in the metal community start learning their own instruments.
4. Avenue for rebellion
Anger is not a pleasant emotion and add to that, society doesn’t encourage you to express it so much.
Many people either up suppressing the rebel inside of them or else express their anger in ways they can harm themselves and others.
Heavy Metal, and its naughtier cousin Punk Rock, are the perfect way to express such internal rebellion without hurting anyone.
Yes, we love emotional ballads too, but “We’re Not Gonna Take It” right?
5. Artistic lifestyle
What do we like most about heavy metal?
The songs, the lyrics, the artwork, the gigs, the black t-shirts and the leather jackets, the guitar riffs or the catchy energetic melodies coming from the vocalist’s mouth?
Answer is, all of them combined. It’s all art to us. Even those of us who can’t play any instrument, are usually very knowledgeable about music and express themselves creatively in other areas.
6. It’s a lifelong passion
I find it amazing that I go to gigs today and meet the same people who were there in that first Live Buzz I attended in 1993.
They’re still attending gigs and some, bring their own teenage kids along.
Needless to say, as we adjust our lifestyles as we grow up and have more commitments, and we’re less likely to attend gigs as frequently as we used to.
However, if you ask a grown adult who was a Heavy Metal fanatic in his younger days if he stills listen to rock and metal music regularly, he’s quite likely to answer in the positive.
7. I’m making a career out of it.
Between working in factories and being the singer in Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne chose the latter.
I’m sure most people would choose the same (unless they’re Tipper Gore).
Though making it in the music industry is hard there are different ways you can make income from Heavy Metal – (which means you will have fun every time you work, to the extent you stop calling it work).
I don’t tour the world like Ozzy Osbourne but I teach people in Black Sabbath t-shirts to play guitar, play solos on other people’s records, as well as teach music through blogging.
I’m a far cry from being a rich Rock Star and at times I struggle with paying the bills.
But I do worry less than most people about planning for retirement.
Since you have no plan to retire when you’re doing what you love!
Conclusion: Never let anyone kill your dreams
Thankfully, Tipper Gore and the PMRC lost their war and we won.
However, keep in mind that back then, thousands of kids, as well as concerned parents, had imposed on them guilt and fear they didn’t deserve.
Whatever you do in life, whether it’s listening to Heavy Metal, other genres of music, or expressing yourself in yourself in anyway, and society is telling you not to do that, simply ask this question:
Am I violating anyone’s rights?
If the answer to this question is no, only one person should have the authority to decide if you will pursue that thing or not.
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