Thursday night, April 8th, Revolver Magazine is putting on their annual Golden Gods Awards at Club Nokia in Hell A. Lemmy and Rob Halford are getting lifetime achievement awards. I’m sure it’s much appreciated, but it ain’t exactly news that these guys are important.
Lemmy and Halford should have their gonads gold-plated for all they’ve done for heavy music, but shouldn’t the Grammys, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, BMI, ASCAP and “Rolling Stone” be pushing and shoving to be next in line behind Revolver Magazine? The trails blazed by these two have been paved in gold by the labels who followed.
I’ll avoid a rehash since we did a piece on MOTORHEAD in October, but as I said then, the MOTORHEAD story needs to be told over and over. And before you even get there, keep this in mind: I heard a pod cast from a “learned” rock critic recently arguing that Hawkwind’s “Silver Machine” was the first heavy metal song. “Silver Machine” features the usual Hawkwind wall of oscillation happening over a bass line that pushes the stoners to fly where they don’t deserve to be. Of course, that bass line was the creation of no other than Mr. Kilmister. That song was heavy only because of him.
If you wanna learn about Lemmy and metal, go online and download the tabs for early Lemmy tunes like “Lost Johnny,” “The Watcher” or “Motorhead.” Anyone with two hands can follow these tabs by the numbers. The hard part is the rhythm. It’s not what you think. Notes get crammed between notes. There’s URGENCY in these lines. I heard once that funk was invented because of cocaine. Only on that devil drug could a jamming rhythm troop of RnB players find the extra beats within the beats. I hereby submit that this postulate holds true for metal as well, except the drug is speed, pushing on relentlessly to the next four beat measure. Lemmy was doing enough speed and had enough real RnR background to get metal close to the territory occupied by the twitchy trigger fingers over on the funk playground—but he always pulls it back at the last nanosecond to keep it heavy and, above all, FAST. This emphasis on speed was picked up by various later-day pioneers like Raven, Venom, and Metallica. The rest is history, but it all started with a senior citizen who identifies the Beatles as his favorite rock combo.
Halford is another beast entirely. He took Sabbath and crossed it with Queen. (OK - no gay jokes here; one of my earliest metal writings dissected PRIEST lyrics in 1992 and concluded that it was rather obvious that songs like “Eat Me Alive” weren’t written by a heterosexual interested in standard operating procedures, i.e., this subject is beyond passé. I have a personal rule that once Marky Mark stars in a movie about a topic, it’s no longer cutting edge.) Halford’s got a few more stains on his resume from chasing around trends than our Mr. Kilmister (MOTORHEAD’s March or Die notwithstanding), but in terms of the sheer importance of what he actually did invent, he’s just as relevant. Somewhere between the blues pub crap of the first PRIEST record and Sad Wings of Destiny, the boys fused Sabbath’s subject matter with the “double lead” sound of Thin Lizzy/Wishbone Ash and Queen’s drama and vocal gymnastics. Everything Priest did from Sad Wings to Unleashed in the East is absolutely essential listening. Hell Bent For Leather is the essence rock critic douchebaggery. Here is a band in the late ‘70’s combining riffs, solos, melody, sex, massive drumming, sizzling production and major label distribution, and nobody gave a fuck. After that, PRIEST dumbed it way down in terms of subject matter and songwriting. They got that Dave Holland guy on drums, who was more suited to John Lee Hooker than a cutting edge metal band. And they made an ass load of money. 80’s PRIEST had some highlights for the discerning listener like the never-equaled guitar sound on “Screaming for Vengeance” (sizzling like “Fair Warning), the brooding disco of “Turbo Lover”, the dynamics of “Love Bites”, and "Painkiller", the awesome comeback with Scott Travis on skins (one of the most OTT videos of all time – again done by men who should be too old to still be showing the kids how it’s really done)—but you had to look. Rob then famously left PRIEST, absorbed some riff grungeosity that was released in the FIGHT albums, and then explored his inner Trent Reznor with 2WO. After that he brought out the HALFORD BAND and returned to metal form, before rejoining PRIEST to release a couple of good discs, the last being Nostradamus which is probably again ahead of its time and really out of genre for their fan base.
So ya, Revolver Awards, check it out, be in the presence of great ones. But the inherent contradiction remains: if you read this, you knew it was true before you started. If you’ve made real money in the music industry, you should care (but you don’t), and you should be there (but you won’t). It’s only half in jest that I often refer to the Masters of Metal (Priest, Black Sabbath w/ Dio, Motorhead, Testament) show a couple years ago as the greatest day of my life.