My brother, Dante, runs one of my favorite blogs focusing on Metal, and recently featured an interview he held with former Iron Maiden and Wolfsbane singer, Blaze Bayley. It intimate and revealing look into his struggles.
Another of my favorite Metal blogs has been running a series of ruminations on individual songs from Metallica’s first four albums. A few entries that are must reads – not because they express exactly why *I* had thought those songs so interesting, but because they might pique your interest if you’ve never really listened to them, or if you are fan, provide you with a new perspective (he’s also a guitarist so there is that ingredient as well). Among my favorites:
Erika Meyer shares what it was like learning to play guitar, fighting to make it happen, being a woman, and being told a few times along the way she had ‘no talent': “How I Learned To Play Guitar”:
In 2000 I was a 32-year-old single mother with a four-year-old daughter. Looking for work as a web developer, I moved to Portland, Oregon, only to find that Portland is a town where it seems EVERYONE is in a band. I would watch my (male) friends in bands and sometimes find myself in tears, because deep down, I still wanted to be part of it. I’d been out of all urban ‘scenes’ and living a pretty isolated backwoods life since 1990, so I was largely unaware of the shifts that had happened in underground rock during the previous decade.
Around my 33rd birthday, I decided to ask for my guitars again, as I had every few years or so since 1990. Amazingly, this time, my mother returned them. I don’t know why she really kept them from me, and I don’t know why she finally returned them, but I immediately started to play. Thinking, “I want my daughter to experience music hands-on”, I bought a little practice amp and picked up where I’d left off, but this time with a new attitude. I decided right away that I no longer cared about ‘talent’. I decided that ‘talent’ didn’t even matter, that what matters, in fact, is passion and commitment. I knew that if I kept on the way I’d had been, I’d go to my death with some serious regret. It was time to take this as far as *I* wanted, regardless of what anyone else thought. I had thought I was playing for my daughter, but really, I was doing it for myself.
That change from a focus on talent and skill to a focus on passion and expression was a huge and important mental switch. I was finally giving myself what no one else had quite given me: permission to play guitar on my own terms. And more than that, I gave myself permission to ‘suck’. And with permission to suck comes the ability to rock, and to overcome all the fears and insecurities that had been holding me captive.
I had begun to understand, also, by this point, a lot more about psychology behind art. I remembered when I was a kid, my friends would tell me, “I can’t draw” and I would say, “Anyone can draw!” I knew it was just a matter of practice and learning to see and to trust your instincts. So I thought, “What if it’s true of music, too? What if anyone can make music?” I also knew by then that artistically frustrated people often try to put down or discourage other artists, so I decided I wouldn’t internalize other people’s negative projections about my abilities or my right to put time and energy into music. I’d focus on what I knew in my heart to be true: that I have just as much right to rock as Mick Jagger does. Maybe even more.
I was going through my song library tonight, strumming my guitar, and ran into one of Shannon Campbell’s (now Shannon Gunn) old tunes, “Less Like You” from around 02 or so. “Pet Rock Star”, it was good to hear your voice again. I hope you are doing well, from one old blogger to another, from back in the day.
“Master of Puppets” was the among the first three Metallica cassettes I owned. I bought “…And Justice for All” and “Garage Days” at a music shop in Kensington during 1988 and worked my way back through their releases shortly thereafter. My brother and his friends were Metallica fans and “Master of Puppets”, along with “Ride the Lightning”, with a mix of other terrific bands of that era, were the soundtrack to some heady years.
Metallica, from “..And Justice for All” and back, were extraordinary. Push aside the musical changes they went through after the “Black Album” and what you will notice is the lyrics. Prior to the “Black Album” they tackled heavy subject matter head on. It was thinking-person’s metal. Geek metal. There were other bands; Megadeth, Anthrax and especially Iron Maiden and Queensryche, who could match early Metallica for thought provoking music, but few looked *just like you*. Metallica had no videos. They were not on the radio. Had no singles. They wore t-shirts, jeans, and looked like you and your friends. They had a sneaker-net of fans who traded in stories and bootlegs. And with that they sold millions of albums and sold out stadiums. If you’re in a band today, you would probably want to emulate Metallica’s early rise to fame, swapping the sneaker-net for the Web and social media.
I could go on about the reasons why I’m not much of fan anymore. It isn’t about growing out of anything. The band changed how it looked, how it sounded, and in its overreaction to Napster and its lyrical content (“Don’t Tread on Me” versus “Disposable Heroes” or “One” for example), what it stood for. They seem to, just recently, be coming around to what they lost. We’ll see. They were always authentic. And that has carried them through. Anyways, enough of that, 25 is a milestone. Thank you Metallica.