Hello and welcome to my world of metal music. You will find here my personal choice of music. I welcome your comments and observations but please be respectful. The metal scene is a great tribe that is diverse and wonderful and accommodating of being different because we are so often treated as being outsiders because the music is fast, loud and often harsh compared to most music in the regular charts.
The first album I remember buying with my own (Christmas) money was Bomber by Motorhead. It was released in 1979, when I was 11 years old but I’m not entirely sure what year I bought it or where exactly I bought it from. I do remember I painted a picture in an Art lesson in school, not the whole cover but of the single bomb in the bottom right corner.
This was Motorhead’s third album and was the classic three man line up of Lemmy, “Fast” Eddie Clarke and Phil “The Animal” Taylor. There were some great classics on there, like Dead Men Tell No Tales, Bomber and Stone Dead Forever. I also enjoyed Sharpshooter, Lawman and Poison.
I had a black record box where I kept 7″ singles, it had a handle on the top. I didn’t ever fill it because I didn’t buy a lot of singles. One single I did buy was a song called Never Surrender by the band Saxon. Saxon were another heavy metal band that I really liked when I was young and getting into music and forming my own taste. I liked their bravado and their image – even though those tight shiny trousers look pretty terrible now. Saxon are still around today and are making great heavy metal records true to their roots. Never Surrender is one of the greatest anthems for the underdog I believe I’ve ever heard. If you haven’t heard this before I really do recommend it, even if you don’t like heavy metal it will move you.
Also, amongst the 7″ singles I enjoyed listening to ACDC’s Touch Too Much, Led Zeppelin’s Rock n Roll, Black Sabbath’s Never Say Die and my mum worked behind the bar in a pub. So she got given some 7″ singles from the jukebox man and out of those I liked Status Quo’s Caroline and Cream’s AA sided single Strange Brew/Tales of Brave Ulysses. Funny how the concept of “sides” has gone from music. Although, it may return if vinyl’s comeback continues strongly.
My next period focuses more on a select number of bands and a few of their albums I knew the lyrics off by heart. I was obsessed with these bands and if I’d had the money would have invested in their entire back catalogue. These were the days when the frequency of albums was slow enough so that each had a distinctive and new feel. A time when a band could spend a year or two in the studio between albums and still be guaranteed large sales due to their loyal fan base. I was into these bands at a time when punk was happening and to be honest, I was only vaguely aware of punk: I was into exploring the history of these bands.
It would seem a strange choice to start with for many people. Tormato’s complex rhythms and melodies might seem a weird choice, however it was my first Yes album. I loved it. I still enjoy it even today. Rick Wakeman’s keyboards sound so good and Chris Squire’s band are stand-outs on it, it also includes the single Don’t Kill The Whale. I rediscovered the song Onward a couple of years ago not having listened to the record for years and I think it is a song I’d like to have played at my funeral. The digital reissue includes some weaker bonus tracks that I’m glad didn’t make it onto the original album when I bought it.
A part of the fun of liking these bands was that they had a back catalogue to explore. I was only a few years old then they released their seminal albums. Yes’ Fragile is in this category. A classic line-up of the band and it’s a defining album in the sense of the direction the band were going to go. The cover art was by Roger Dean and this was his first for the band. What a great combination it formed. Jon Anderson’s cosmic, mystical lyrics and harmonies were wonderful.
Prior to Fragile, the band’s second album was called The Yes Album. It’s one of my favourite albums of all time and includes some great tracks. The cover art was interesting and intriguing but it was before the Roger Dean era. Keyboards were by Tony Kaye who was really good on organ but without the synthesiser thrills that Rick Wakeman had. Tony would make a re-appearance on the band’s last great release 90125. This album featured Trevor Rabin on guitars instead of Steve Howe and is the band’s most commercially successful album to the singles Owner of a Lonely Heart, Leave It, Changes and It Can Happen.
My next band had a great back catalogue that was probably harder to come by cheaply in second hand record shops, they held their value to do being so popular. It was another British band called Jethro Tull. I thought the lead singer Ian Anderson was actually Jethro Tull but he wasn’t. The album I want to pull out is one that is now seen as part of a trilogy of similar albums. It blended rock with folk melodies and acoustic and electric instruments. There are also orchestral strings used in places.
Again, this album may not be seen as their most obvious classic but it was a record I loved and new off by heart. It had stories to tell in the lyrics and I wanted to know more about the members of the band, unfortunately the sleeve didn’t tell me very much. The music was complex and sounded musically part of a great tradition of English folk. If a foreigner had asked me what being English was about spiritually I’d have pointed them to this album.
My next band is again similar in having a large back catalogue by the time I started enjoying their music. However, I liked this album more than others I heard at the time. I still know the lyrics to this day and sing the songs in the shower, it’s amazing they have stayed with me for so long.
The vocals and lyrics were written by Robert Calvert who had been a science fiction author, as was Michael Moorcock who had a connection to the band. The lyrics also tell interesting little stories. The cover art was created by Hypnosis I think, and they also did covers for other bands I liked, including Yes and Pink Floyd. I liked the science fiction edge to this album by Hawkwind and I really liked Bob Calvert’s vocals as I felt I could sing along with them without sounding too bad. He didn’t have Jon Anderson’s vocal range!
My next obsession with music developed when I started to break out of the compulsions to listen to Yes, Hawkwind and Jethro Tull. I began to broaden my taste to encompass singer songwriters. It was a combination of lyrics that could tell a story and a way of performing them that the songwriter could express. Two musical heroes standout amongst many others, they are John Martyn and Richard Thompson. Both have folk roots but have branched out from folk.
John Martyn’s album Solid Air was at first dense and incomprehensible to me. However, there was a track on it that I really liked from the first time that I heard it. It was the track called May You Never. After many hours of listening to the album I grew to see the beauty of the songs and the arrangements. It’s an album with many layers, quite like the man I think. He sings so softly about love but off-stage (and sometimes on) he was a different John, a drinker and fighter. I imagine he could be quite obnoxious one minute and then get on stage and sing the most beautiful love song in the world. He passed away a few years ago now and I miss his music greatly but he left an impressive legacy behind. I believe he either released the first CD album or first CD single, can’t quite remember what the true fact was but it was something like that. I really enjoyed the album Piece By Piece and the live album Foundations. He had a few fast and aggressive songs up his sleeve though, good belters like John Wayne and Gun Money.
Now, as for Richard Thompson I borrowed his album Across A Crowded Room from the local record library. It also took me a few listens but I got into it big time. I loved it and because I didn’t know anything about him I borrowed other albums and bought what I could afford from secondhand record shops. Richard had been part of the group Fairport Convention so had a folk rock background. However, his own songs were just brilliant and each told a story I enjoyed even if the characters of the stories were sometimes unpleasant. I loved his solo acoustic live songs just as much as band songs.
I really enjoyed investing my time in researching and acquiring music by these artists. Both of them had gone through divorces by the time I found them. John and Beverley Martyn had released at least one album together and Richard and Linda Thompson had appeared together for years releasing several albums together. I think the love songs that they both wrote had a depth of experience to them that I admired.
Another artist drew me in at about the same time as these guys, he was Robert Palmer. I liked the inventiveness of the music but also he had a lovely quality to his voice. It was always so precise and of course he was so well turned out all the time, so smart and cool looking. If I had to pick out an album, maybe I’d go for Riptide but it’s a hard call, they are all so good, same goes for all the artists I’ve mentioned.
None of this is particularly giving the impression that I love metal. You have to stick with me though.