I remember the PSAs during Saturday morning cartoons that talked about marijuana being a "gateway" drug. I know nothing about that as I never did drugs and didn't start enjoying the occasional beer until way later in life (seriously, not even joking). I can, however, speak to the truth of a different kind of "gateway" to a wider world. The gateway to metal.
I was in seventh grade during 1986-87 and my brother was a sophomore in high school. He was friends with the group I will call the jeans vest guys. This is not to be confused with the "denim vest guys" who listen to country music. The jeans vest guys were the long-haired guys who cut the sleeves off their jeans jackets and adorned them with patches and artwork of their favorite heavy metal bands. My brother, as mentioned earlier, was already into bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and of course, Ozzy Osbourne. The next step in the metal chain would be the band that was the gateway drug to even more metal.
Metallica. The album was Ride The Lightning. My brother borrowed the album (on vinyl) off of one of his friends, came home, put it on the turntable and…I was a bit underwhelmed for the first forty seconds. Here was this melodic acoustic guitar solo to start things off. Wow, really? This is…wait…holy shit! I had never heard anything so fast and heavy in my life. The growling vocals singing about impending doom due to warfare. It didn't take long for Eric to buy the album for himself and for me to borrow it and record the first two songs for a mix tape. Of course, this new found sound would not make me any more popular at school.
This brand of heavy metal was commonly referred to ask "kill your mother" music. Motley Crue, Poison, Cinderella, and other hair metal bands were fine. It was the serious underground metal that scared people. So I was listening to Metallica on my Walkman when somebody in my class asked me what I was listening to. Stupidly, I answered, and then it came, "Hey, Jasen's listening to 'kill your mother' music!" I don't remember my reaction to it all, but I probably retreated into my own mind and tried not to pay attention any semblance of popularity I thought I had fade away into oblivion. From then until I graduated the following year, I kept this part of my musical taste under wraps, but I continued to experiment with harder forms of metal, like Anthrax, Megadeth, and eventually the kings, Slayer.
If I could go back in time and talk to myself (provided it doesn't result in the collapse of the universe), I would probably tell myself, "Pay no attention to those other kids because in two years Metallica would release …And Justice For All and they will all jump on this bandwagon. You will be able say that you liked them before they were 'cool'." Of course I can't go back in time (yet) which means I also can't prevent me from wasting a Christmas gift, but that will have to wait.
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