A Journey Into Metal : A Story from Hair Band Heaven

From an early age I was raised on Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, The Beatles and Rolling Stones. While the musical tide of the times may have been changing in the late 70’s with bands like Led Zeppelin, Kiss, The Sweet, Alice Cooper and Aerosmith. Growing up in my house Elvis was still the King. But as most kids do we stray, we we find our own path. Musically we look for something that’s not our parents, we look for something that speaks to us, that moves us in only the way music can. Something to which you can throw your fist in the air and scream, from the very depths of our soul........this is my rock n roll!!!! Like our parents did before us, and like our children will hopefully do in the future.

Here is my story……………

Like many of you out there, my journey into the world of hard rock and metal started at a young age with the introduction to “Double Platinum”. The first album I can remember picking up out of the record store bin and looking at in complete bewilderment. What was this platinum coated gift from the gods? In what seemed to be endless rows of vinyl records, imports and posters, Peaches Records in Toledo,OH. was my introduction to a rock-n-roll paradise. So be it, on this day and on this trip to paradise………….I was introduced to KISS!

“Double Platinum” was a double album jammed full of some of the best Kiss music ever! From Strutter, Love Gun, Hotter than Hell, Cold Gin, Detroit Rock City, Beth and so many more great tracks! Laying the needle down in the groove and experiencing that music was a revelation to me. It wasn’t just the music, it was also the packaging and image that is as much a part of Kiss as is the music. The “Double Platinum” record was a double album and as such the record jacket unfolded and you were presented with the raised images of of our mighty make-up heroes Gene, Paul, Peter and Ace. While I spent endless hours with my older brother listening to the records, and pretending we were in fact in the “hottest band in the world”. We also found that by placing a piece of paper over the images and lightly taking the side of your pencil and rubbing it over the image, that the image would come through on the paper ( We were 5 and 7 and easily entertained) it’s also a trick I taught to my daughter when she was around 6 years old. We used the same vinyl record from my childhood, that I will someday pass down to her and hopefully her to her kids.

Now you may be thinking Kiss is what got this guy hooked on metal, but you would be wrong. They where my gateway drug so to say. It had been a few years from the time I first heard and laid my eyes on the spectacle that was Kiss, and there where no shortage of great bands coming out that caught my attention. Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and the list goes on and on, but the band that caught me hook line and sinker, that had me from the moment I heard the opening lines blasting through on my FM radio ( Well I'm an axegrinder piledriver, Mother says that I never never mind her, Got no brains I'm insane, The teacher says that I'm one big pain) ………….….QUIET RIOT!

“Metal Health” was a bombastic all out metal master piece! I lived it, breathed it and loved every damn second of that album! I still love it, song for song I stack it up against any album from the 80’s and almost always I’m taking “Metal Health”. I was in, there was no turning back for me. Quiet Riot introduced me to a whole new world of music. I could feel a connection, a love for the music, a longing to explore more music and devour any and all records I could get my grubby little ten year old hands on. When it was time for 6th grade show and tell, the other kids had model cars, comic books, baseball card etc etc…..I had a booth full of Quiet Riot posters, scrap books, pins, T-Shirts, masks, records and tapes…….yeah, I seen the snide looks that most of the teachers gave me, but I didn’t care. What those teachers didn’t understand or couldn’t grasp at the time was Quiet Riot taught me how to have a passion for something, a love for something that was untouchable, but something that you could carry with you for the rest of your life….......a love of music.

I’d save every dime I could get my hands on from lunch money, birthdays, allowances and any extra change I could squeeze away from my mom. Then every Tuesday when the new magazines hit the stands, I would buy every single one of them ( Circus , Faces, Hit Parader, Kerrang. Metal Edge ). Every week I would discover new bands in the Metal Edge new bands spotlight or some up and coming NWOBHM in Kerrang or a band from East coast that was sure to be the next big thing. See kids back in the 80's there was no internet, and if you lived in Ohio you had to actually do some digging to find out about new bands (the sunset strip might as well been on the other side of the world from where I was). I would read the magazines over and over trying to decide who I was gonna blindly put my faith into and spend the last of my cold hard cash on, and thanks to Quiet Riot there where a ton of new bands from Los Angeles getting coverage in said magazines. These magazines introduced me to a whole legion of bands that never got main stream recognition, but still helped shape my musical journey.

I can still remember getting the Shrapnel Records add and cutting out the mail-in-form and sending it away to order cassettes of Steeler (Ron Keel & Yngwie) and the first Keel album “Lay Down the Law” , or sneaking off on my bike to ride downtown to Rainbow Records in Fostoria, OH to get the first Black n Blue tape. I remember picking it up looking at it and thinking what the hell is this? Black n Blue was on Geffen Records and it was my first look at a clear see thru cassette. They later became the standard, but in 1983 nobody else was doing it.

Kids today have no idea how easy they have it (Ipods, Cellphones) I spent my Jr.high years perfecting the art of hiding a walkman in the inside pocket of my jean jacket, then popping the ear piece off of the headphones and running the wires down the sleeve so I could rest my head on my hand during class and listen to music. It could be a real bitch trying to get the tape out and flip sides without bringing attention to yourself. My middle school years of 1986 & 1987 saw the release of tons of great music and I was taking it all in. So many incredible albums from bands like Metallica, Wasp, Whitesnake, Guns n Roses, Poison, Cinderella, Ozzy, Tesla, Def Leppard, Judas Priest , Iron Maiden, Ratt, Motley Crue etc etc ...it was like the skies just opened up and rained down one brilliant album after another.

1987 was also the year I finally convinced my mom to let me go to my first concert. After a few years of begging every-time a great show would come around, she finally relented and said yes. Of course when I was ten she said no to Black Sabbath "Born Again"and Quiet Riot "Metal Helath" tour, followed by another no to the David Lee Roth "Eat em and Smile" tour in 86' with several more notable no's to follow, but persistence really does pay off...........maybe. Or possiblly it was just the right band that help get my foot in the door. The converstation went a little like this...........

Me: Mom, there is a concert coming to the Toledo Sports Arena. Can I go?

Mom: No

Me: But

Mom: No

Me: C'mon

Mom: No

Me: You let Gary Lee (My Brother) go see Slayer

Mom: He’s older……….....no

Me: It’s Stryper their a christian rock band, how bad can it possible be?

Mom: It could be bad, they could end up being like that band your brother went to see….. Slayer

Me: C’mon mom

Mom: ok, but I’m going with you.

Me: Hell YES!

Mom: What did you say?

Me: Nothing, thanks mom your the best!

The Stryper show was awesome! Hurricane opened the show, they where out in support of their debut album “Take What You Want” so technically they where the band that first introduced me to the world of live music. They killed it live! I was in awe of the entire experience, the crowd, atmosphere, the music the feeling of everyone in the arena being in it together. We were all for one and one for all. This was how rock n roll was meant to be experienced in a live setting with an arena or club full of like minded music loving individuals. Stryper hit the stage and my jaw hit the floor. The stage show, costumes, the energy they played with won me over instantly. I had been a fan of the band since the release of “Soldiers Under Command” and they were currently out in support of their break-through album “To Hell With The Devil”. They reeled off hit after hit with “Free”, “Calling on You”, “Honestly” etc. Michael Sweet didn’t miss a note, and both him and Oz Fox shredded all night. Robert Sweet had that amazing drum set that was set sideways with the cymbals hanging from chains, completely badass! The next day at school I seen a number of Stryper tour shirts and figured they had used the same ploy as me to get their parent to let them go to the show ( and yes, I got a Stryper bible from the show thanks to my friend Gabe, who caught like 5 of them) I still have it .

After that first concert the Toledo Sports Arena became a home away from home. I loved that fucking place! Sure it smelled of beer and piss, but every time a big name band rolled through town they stopped at the Sports Arena. I saw so many great bands in their prime Whitesnake, Dio, Ratt, Kix, Badlands, Judas Priest, Cinderella, Tesla, Great White, Stryper, Winger, Bulletboys, Britny Fox, Megadeth…….so many great shows! My last show at The Sports Arena before they tore it down in 2007, was Trans Siberian Orchestra. In what seemed to be a fitting goodbye, I attended that show with the same person I had attended that very first Concert 30 years earlier ……..my mother.

Middle School is for the most part where I met a lot of the friends that I still have today, friends that love music as much as I do. A few years back I had a chance to attend a Burning Rain (Doug Aldrich) concert with some friends from Middle School and as where all sitting around with our wives waiting for the show to start, my one friend told the story of how we met.

He said, I had never talked to you before, you had long hair and were kinda scary. I knew you listen to metal from the t-shirts you would wear, so I took the chance to introduced myself. Hey, check out this new Europe tape……I really like these guys. From his recollection I looked at him, turned around and dug threw my book-bag and pulled out a cassette of the first W.A.S.P. tape and said here, go home and listen to this. Europe are a bunch of pussies, they use to many keyboards. (I’ve since come around, Europe has some killer tunes). But holy hell if I wasn’t right on the mark with that first Wasp album, and of course he has since been a life long fan of Wasp, so I say job well done on my part.

By the time High School rolled around I had started playing guitar, and these crazy new things called cd’s had hit the record stores. ( The first cd I ever purchased was Faster Pussycat's debut album) Every week it seemed that there was another great band coming out, and with MTV jumping on the heavy metal band wagon everybody got a first hand look and listen. First MTV unleashed the Dee Snider Metal Mania show once a month for 3 hours, then came the daily Heavy Metal 1/2 hour everyday after school, then it turned into the mighty Headbangers Ball! Every Saturday night. Needless to say my Saturday’s became booked. You had the reigning hard rock and metal gods Priest, Maiden, Sabbath, Dio, Ozzy, Van Halen, Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, Kiss, Metallica, Twisted Sister and Ratt but with every passing day record companies kept signing band after band giving us more to feed our hunger. We were met with a plethora of great new bands from Cinderella, Warrant, Skid Row, Tesla, Poison, Faster Pussycat, Megadeth, Steelheart, Bulletboys, Winger, Testament, Overkill the list never ended……and while some people draw a line between Thrash bands or Glam bands, I love it all! To this day I’m just as happy sitting in a venue listening to bands like Slayer and Anthrax as I am listening to Stryper and Warrant. While I no longer carry around a portable walkman, every last gig on my phone is full of music from all most every metal genre.

So as an old-school rocker, I would like to say thank you to my parents for always supporting my music addiction, for all the guitar lessons and concert t-shirts, tickets, cd’s, tapes, albums, magazines, etc. To my brother for introducing me to all things Thrash Metal, my friends for always introducing me to new music, to Quiet Riot and Kiss for setting me on this path of metal bliss, Stryper and Hurricane for introducing me to live music, my wife for over-looking my vinyl obsession and last but not least my beautiful daughter who has picked up my love of metal and has become my favorite little concert buddy since she was five years old……you rock princess!

To all of you out there who follow Hair Band Heaven on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Spotify and www.hairbandheaven.rocks …………Thank You!

Josh Smith …..Keeping It Metal!!!!

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