When it comes to my interests, fashion is clearly a biggie, but even clothes take a back seat to the number one love in my life: heavy metal. It's my fucking favorite thing. I'm a fan of most of its subgenres from stoner to sludge to doom to speed to thrash to black to death, but I'm especially partial to the big hitters of the late '70s and the eighties, with a very special place in my heart for hair metal -- if it crawled the Sunset Strip from '81 to '89, chances are good that I know it and I love it.
Certain metal songs hold personal relevance for me and remind me of very specific moments in time, whether it was the first time I heard a jam or if something significant happened while I was listening to one or if something just reminds me of one, and I thought I'd compile a short list of moments from my heavy metal life.
The Number Of The Beast - Iron Maiden
I was 15 years old and trying to find where I fit in and I had this friend named Randy that I thought was such hot shit. He was two years older than me and got me into hardcore music, which was blowing up in Orange County at the time, and he had a car and lots of cool punk friends who didn't go to our high school. Plus he was straight edge and really polite, which meant my mom loved him and let me go with him to shows and stay out past 10:00 PM.
I remember it was a Sunday evening during a fairly cold month and Randy called me and asked me if I wanted to go get dinner with him and some of his friends at Taco Loco, which is a hole-in-the-wall joint in Laguna Beach popular with vegans for its tofu mushroom burgers. (Of course all these kids were vegan, one thing with which I never got on board.) After some begging my mom finally agreed to let me go, and before I knew it I was in the back of an old beater van with Randy and three kids I'd never met -- two dudes and a girl. They were all two or three years older than me and I thought they looked so cool and old and tough with their denim jackets over faded hoodies covered in band patches, Converse and super-pegged jeans and they all had huge plugs in their ears and piercings in their faces and the girl's hair had big chunks of white and red in it and I felt totally uncool and intimidated, but they seemed to think I was all right. I don't remember anything about the drive to Laguna or our dinner at Taco Loco or our conversation in the van -- all I remember is as we were hurtling north on PCH back towards Costa Mesa, the girl, who was driving, stuck a casette in the tape deck and suddenly the speakers were blasting "The Number Of The Beast."
I had never heard Iron Maiden before then and I was instantly hooked. Randy and his friends knew every word and sang along, making claws with their fingers and raising them above their heads, out the window, shouting at passing cars: "SIX! SIX SIX! THE NUM! BER OF! THE BEAST!" I felt then for the first time, maybe since I had moved to California four years earlier, that I was becoming a part of something, something that I really liked.
Slayer - Raining Blood
Randy introduced me to Slayer, too. After that night at Taco Loco he and I started kicking it with those same kids fairly regularly after school. After school got out Randy and I would walk together to his car parked down by the junior high school, and he'd blast Charles Bronson and Spazz on his jacked-up speakers as we drove past all the 7th graders walking home, then we'd jump on the 405 and tear down the freeway to Fountain Valley, where Randy's friends lived, just a couple of exits away from where we lived in Newport Beach, though it seemed really far away at the time.
We'd get to Fountain Valley and pick up one of the guys, I think his name was Bill, and then drive over and park outside of the other guy, Gregg's, apartment complex. Weirdly, I don't remember ever actually setting foot inside his apartment. The four of us would sit outside in Randy's little Honda and play CDs and talk about music.
One afternoon we were playing Cattle Decapitation -- I remember that really clearly -- and I said something about the sick blastbeats and that got Gregg on the subject of Slayer. When I admitted I'd never heard "Raining Blood" he leapt out of the car, ran inside his house, and emerged a moment later clutching a disc in his hand. "Crank it as loud as it'll go," he told Randy, and then that infamous opening thunder rolled through the car. It was the most metal thing I'd ever heard.
Randy switched schools the following year and I never saw him again. I think about him often, wonder what happened to him. I've tried to find him on Facebook but to no avail. I hope that one day I get to thank him for everything he introduced me to.
Def Leppard - Pour Some Sugar On Me
Completely cheesy, but I totally love this song and it'll always be close to my heart because it was playing the first time I met my best friend in the fucking world. I was 18 years old and had a new boyfriend (who later turned out to be a real creep, but that's beside the point) with this very tight-knit circle of friends whom I was keen to impress. I had met and made impressions of varying strength on most of them, but everyone kept mentioning someone named Jennie who was apparently visiting her family in Detroit and would be returning any day now, at which point -- I assumed -- the party would truly start.
I worked as a retail drone at Blockbuster Video then and usually closed the store, which meant that I didn't get out of work until around 1:00 AM, which was actually ideal at the time because one o' clock was when everyone was really kicking into high gear. After work I went over to the boyfriend's apartment and, as I was parking, heard the familiar strains of "Pour Some Sugar On Me" blasting from inside. When I walked into the apartment, the prettiest girl I'd ever seen was rolling around on the carpet, laughing this seriously infectious laugh and imploring everyone in her slightly Midwestern accent to pour sugar on her in the name of love.
It was Jennie. Instantly I knew we were destined to be best friends. Six years later we still are, and every time I'm with her and this song comes on I remind her of how we met and how no one could find any white sugar so she had brown sugar sprinkled on her in the name of love instead.
Mötley Crüe - Merry-Go-Round
This is a pretty stupid memory but I'll never forget it and I'll never be able to hear "Merry-Go-Round" again without thinking about it.
I was 21 and my relationship with the aforementioned boyfriend was at a total standstill and I decided to get away and clear my head by flying across the country to visit Ashley, whom I had known through LiveJournal for a few years but whom I'd never met in person, in Macon, Georgia. At the time she was the only person I knew whose love for hair metal matched up to mine, and when I arrived I met the guy she'd been dating at the time, this little 19-year-old who looked like he'd stepped right off the Strip in 1989, who worshiped at the altar of Tracii Guns. I'd never seen anyone like him in Los Angeles, much less in Macon.
While I was visiting, the three of us were pretty much a running crew, and I remember one morning we were sitting around the kitchen figuring out what to do that day and eating breakfast and listening to Too Fast For Love on Ashley's little boombox. "Take Me To The Top" had faded out and "Merry-Go-Round" was starting and Ashley was like, "Ugh, this song is so stupid," and skipped forward to "Piece Of Your Action."
The guy she was dating jumped out of his seat and cried, "It's not stupid!"
Ashley was like, "Yeah it is. It's a stupid song." She did a little deep-voiced impression of Vince Neil: "Merry-go-round and round...merry-go-round and round..."
Her boyfriend got really incensed and said "It's the Crüe! It can't be stupid!"
She was like, "Dude, I love Crüe just as much as you do if not more, but that doesn't mean 'Merry-Go-Round' isn't a lame song. It's a lame song."
It escalated from there to the point where her boyfriend stormed out of the apartment. We kind of looked at each other and laughed and went about our business and about 45 minutes later she called me over to the living room window and pointed down at the street. Her boyfriend had been sitting there in his car the entire time, seething. "He's probably listening to 'Merry-Go-Round' on repeat," I said.
Mötley Crüe - Dr. Feelgood
On that same trip, Ashley and I decided to drive down to Jacksonville, Florida, to visit our friend Prego. Once we'd arrived in Jax, we promptly got lost and found ourselves caught in the middle of the most terrifying lightning storm to which I've ever bore witness (and I grew up in monsoon-riddled Arizona, so it's not like I'm some kind of pussy about lightning or anything). We took refuge at a Kangaroo Express gas station, and when we went inside to ask the guy behind the counter for directions, I spotted a tray of cheap plastic lighters, each one adorned with the album art from Mötley Crüe's Dr. Feelgood -- the caduceus with the snake and the wings and the creepy voodoo skull. I didn't even smoke, so I had no use for a lighter, but we were both like "Score!" and snatched them up.
I smuggled the damn thing back to Long Beach with me on the plane and carried it in my handbag everywhere with me and whenever anyone asked me for a light I worked out this routine where I would sing "He's the one they call Dr..." and the person who wanted the light would have to sing "Feelgood," and then I would go "He's the one that makes ya feel" and they would have to go "all right" before I would let them use the lighter. It was pretty great for meeting dudes. Eventually I accidentally ran the Dr. Feelgood lighter through the washing machine, peeling off the label and rendering it useless, but I think of it often and fondly.
AC/DC - Highway To Hell
AC/DC's been my favorite band since I was about 17 years old, but shortly after I turned 21 and dropped the dead weight that was the aforementioned creep boyfriend, the band started to play a supporting role in my life, and not through any machinations of my own. After I dropped the dead weight I went on a bit of a tear, out at the bar nearly every night with my best friend Jennie, meeting a lot of questionable dudes and basically acting like a 21-year-old who just broke up with her long-term boyfriend.
During that time in my life I was really living up to my nickname -- Sara Rowdy -- and it wasn't long before Jennie and I noticed that it seemed like AC/DC, and specifically the album Highway To Hell (AKA the best album ever recorded in the history of music, but let's not go off on a tangent), was following me everywhere. I'd walk into the bar and "Girls Got Rhythm" would immediately start playing on the jukebox. I'd get in the car and "Highway To Hell" would be on the radio. It was kind of uncanny. Jennie decided that I was the wild-child reincarnation of Bon Scott, and for about six months I lived like I was.
I've settled down considerably since then, but Bon is still my total kindred spirit. I plan to get the eagle tattoo he had on his arm on my right arm.
This took longer to write than I thought. I have more metal moments, but I'll save them for another day. A KISS moment, a Priest moment, an Anthrax moment, maybe another Maiden moment or two...