Those of you with a similar metal based taste in music as myself may have noticed today (and apparently all week but I only found out today) that home of Children’s Pop Music and Quality Light Entertainment, BBC Radio 1, devoted their afternoon schedule to the Radio 1 Rock Show, causing the amassed cynics of Twitter to be thrown into an utter fog of confusion. Quick, what’s the best way to be cynical about good music being on the radio?
Eventually they all seemed to agree the thing to be sneery about was the notion that heavy metal being played on mainstream radio was a gimmick, AND GIMMICKS ARE STUPID. Or something. I couldn’t really follow it. Me? I was happier than a sow in excrement.
Why? Because for three hours I got to relive the excitement that I used to feel when I was a young metalhead, back in the days before your Pontifys, your You Tubs, or the million other ways you can get music these days. Back then, you used to find out about new music in one of two ways: A friend would copy you a tape, or you could hear it on Radio 1. That was basically it. When you bear in mind I didn’t really have any friends, I was pretty lucky to have the likes of John Peel, The Evening Session and Mark and Lard on in the evenings.
Today, between the hours of one and four in the afternoon, I heard the biggest radio station in the UK play Meshuggah, Kyuss, Deftones, Baroness, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Alice in Chains, and my third favourite Black Sabbath song. There were also copious lashings of dreadful haircut metal, some Lamp Bozkit and something that sounded like all the video games consoles I’ve ever known having a fight while tumbling down an escalator. But that doesn’t matter, because of course I’d hate some of it—I find a lot of modern metal utterly baffling and tedious. That’s okay, because I’m an old man now, and that’s the way it should be.
The best part of all was not the enjoyment I myself derived from sitting at my desk listening to all this, or the bun fight on Twitter. The best part of this is that up and down the country there were kids who have never heard anything even remotely like this having that same experience I had at the age of seven when I got handed a tape of Guns N Roses.
Heavy metal is many, many atrocious things. It is a joke, it is infantile, it dances far too close to sexism, racism and homophobia, and it is far too ready to think of leather as a valid form of clothing. But it can be brilliant as well. If you are a struggling kid it can make you feel invincible, it can give you strength, and it can channel your anger.
It could be that kids out there listening this afternoon latch onto the dreadful haircut hardcore of Bring Me The Horizon over the lovely low end of Kyuss, but that doesn’t matter. It’s still better than only hearing Gangnam Style variants on endless playlist rotate.
So if you were one of the cynics crying about having heard all the good stuff before and there being no decent new metal or Radio 1 being for kids, think back to when you were thirteen or fourteen, and imagine stumbling across three hours of metal radio in the middle of the afternoon, because that’s what I did.