A few times a year, getting lost in the crowd at a metal show refills my senses of wonder and joy. In the sweaty, inebriated mass of humanity, throbbing with every smash of stick to drum kit, it’s possible to forget for a while that I am an awkward middle aged woman with a decidedly average life. I am a seeker of altered consciousness in non-harmful ways, and a metal show is a great place to ride the energy of a screaming crowd and the driving guitar to a place far away from reality for a while.
My love affair with guitar rock and metal started early. My sister is more than a decade older than me, and was well into high school and listening to Def Leppard tapes in her massive stereo that sat on the waterbed headboard while I was becoming aware of music at all. I had a record player and a Stray Cats album, whatever tapes my wonderful big sister left unattended, and a lot of time to get indoctrinated in the cult of rock and roll. Sometimes I tell others that it’s lucky that I am not older – because my demise would’ve been getting found in the gutter after getting murdered because of a bad situation while following a band on tour. Everyone laughs at the funny joke, but I’m not really kidding. I was born too late for Woodstock, too late for the punk revolution, too late to even follow Poison from city to city as a young person. I got nu-metal and corporate sponsored alternative rock. The jealousy is real, but there are too many good examples of songs across the years that make me want to sing and play air drums while driving too fast for me to leave the genre behind.
(Photo Credit: Tami Dooley)
Making mixtapes has been a favorite activity for me since around the time I was getting my permanent front teeth. This YouTube playlist is the first 50 songs and artists that came to mind that have been moving with me from tape to tape, CD to CD, computer to computer, iPod to smartphone over the last 25+ (OMFG SO OLD!!) years. It’s a mix of tunes that range from classic to obscure-ish, with artists who got their break in the 70’s to some more recent. There are four languages represented, a bunch of different sub-genres, and it’s not even a drop in the bucket of all the great music out there. This is the mix I want to give to people who say they dislike metal but are willing to have an open mind and take a listen.
A few highlights from the 50 track list:
AC/DC – “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll)”
One of my low-key favorite songs by the Aussies who have been rocking longer than almost anybody, It’s A Long Way speaks to the struggles of touring…all with the most badass bagpipe accompaniment ever recorded.
Metallica – “For Whom The Bell Tolls”
Sit down and hit play, close your eyes, put down your phone, and listen to everything that is going on musically with this song. This song is one that illustrate how it’s possible for Metallica still one of the GOAT’s after going after their own fan base.
Nirvana – “Territorial Pissings”
This is the Nirvana song that made me fall in love with them, not Smells Like Teen Spirit. I love the rage and the punky sound behind this short song at the end of the Nevermind album. Blunt lyrics that stand up well (“When I was an alien/Cultures weren’t opinions”, “Never met a wise man/If so it’s a woman”) even all these years later.
Motorhead – “Enter Sandman”
Yes, it’s a cover, but it’s fucking Lemmy doing a cover that’s way better than Metallica’s original..and that’s high praise because Metallica is an world-changing band who recorded that song at their professional peak.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – “I Hate Myself For Loving You”
Joan Jett was the first woman in music to illustrate for me that girls could succeed with the types of music they loved, not just using their talents in more socially acceptable ways. She’s brash, loud, and has very few fucks, and I still want to be her when I grow up.
(Photo Credit: Tami Dooley)
These songs drum up feelings and nostalgia and take me back to unique places and times in my life. However, they’re popular enough that even with little prior knowledge of rock history, getting to know these songs and artists can be used for an education in the culture of a genre of music that is often misunderstood. Yes, the lyrics are brutal and aggressive, and the people who go to the shows live best in the space where enjoying being with our tribe means screaming the f word and throwing elbows at each other before picking each other up out of the dirt. Metal shows are a an incredible experience, drawing a wide swath of misfits from all walks of life into one place to try – whether through altering brain chemistry with Coors Light or the connection of shared experience – to lose ourselves in song and forget the outside world exists for a short time.