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Fun Facts About Hard Rock & Heavy Metal

by Ambertolina

I like heavy metal and hard rock music.

That’s kind of an ironic statement for me, given that during my high school and college years, I couldn’t get enough pop and dance music. For many years, hard rock and heavy metal sounded like nothing more than loud, obnoxious noise to me; singers screaming, drummers banging away and guitarists vomiting out grinding, haphazard cacophony with their amps turned up to 11.

Admittedly, I’m still not a big album buyer of the music, though I love AC/DC and there’s a smattering of songs by other artists that I like. But I’ve gained a new respect for the music itself, especially when I finally learned just enough about music to know that metal musicians are nothing more than blues artists who play fast and loud. It’s the people of hard rock and heavy metal with whom I’ve become absolutely fascinated.

VH1 Classic has been running all of these documentaries (rockumentaries, thanks to Rob Reiner) about hard rock and heavy metal artists that I’m totally obsessed with, and then there’s That Metal Show, which I try not to miss.

What’s so fascinating? Only a smorgasbord of talent, drama, true love and fortitude worthy of several Oscar-winning screenplays. Consider:

–        Mick Mars, lead guitarist for Mötley Crüe, has ankylosing spondylitis, a form of severe arthritis of the spine that can eventually lead to fusing, which in Mick, it absolutely has. As a further complication of the debilitating disease, Mick had to have a double hip replacement in 2004 before Mötley could reform and go out on tour. Mick is permanently stuck in a stiff 30-degree bend, and though he’s sometimes in considerable pain, he just keeps right on going, and his guitar shredding, which fucking rocks, hasn’t suffered one bit.

–         Iron Maiden was frustrated by the limited number of remote countries they could tour based on where commercial airlines fly. So lead singer Bruce Dickenson earned his commercial pilot’s license and now flies the entire band, their families and their crew on a Boeing 757 called Ed Force One. (Maiden fans know why.) They’re now bringing their face-melting music direct to rabid fans in places like Central America.

–        Ozzy Osborne would probably be dead or at least a washed up has-been without the work of his dynamo wife Sharon who never seems to take a break. The Osbornes cooked up the hugely popular Ozzfest, which has launched the careers of a whole list of up-and-coming metal and hard rock musicians, including Marilyn Manson. That’s not to take anything away from Ozzy, who has phenomenal pipes and is one of just a handful of archetypes of heavy metal music. With his money and fame, Ozzy could probably be with any pretty young thing he wanted, but he and Sharon have been together for nearly 30 years and have three children together.

–        Speaking of archetypes, Tony Iommi, lead guitarist for Black Sabbath (which was of course the band that launched Ozzy to stardom), lost the tips of two of his fingers working in a steel mill the day before he was to quit the mill forever to embark on his dream of being in a band full-time. He fitted the tips of those two fingers with a couple of prosthetics of his own creation, fashioned from the melted plastic of a dishwashing liquid bottle. It’s those prosthetics that a lot of people credit with giving Iommi’s guitar playing, and thus Black Sabbath, it’s hauntingly hard sound.

–        Speaking even some more of archetypes, Lemmy Kilmeister, lead singer and bassist for Motörhead and probably the only human besides Ozzy and Keith Richards to ingest enough drugs to kill several people, plays bass like nobody else in heavy metal, and probably not like anybody else, period. I can’t even describe it. You just have to hear (and see) it for yourself. There’s a great documentary about him titled, aptly enough, “Lemmy,” and I highly recommend you see it.

–        Okay, I’ve totally overused the word “archetype,” but Rob Halford, known as the “Metal God” and lead singer of Judas Priest, came out as a gay man in to his fans in 1998. Ironically enough, Rob is credited as being the inventor of the stereotypical “metal look”—lots of leather, studs and spikes—a look that metal fans would later realize came straight out of the gay bars. Though you might think otherwise, metal fans have embraced Rob, accepted his homosexuality, and he continues to blow peoples’ minds with his ass-kicking voice.

–        Speaking of ass-kicking voices, you know those devil horns that hard rock and metal fans always throw in the air with their hands? Ever wonder where that came from? The devil horns were invented by the late Ronnie James Dio, lead singer of Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio, and Heaven and Hell. Well, okay, his grandmother should really get the credit. As an old Italian woman, Ronnie would watch her give the superstitious sign, known as the meloik, either at people who might be giving her the “evil eye” or when she was giving others the evil eye herself. Ronnie was always quick to note that neither he, nor his grandmother, invented anything, as the meloik is a sign that people have been throwing for millennia.

So, those are just a few fun facts about hard rock and heavy metal music, and as long as VH1 continues to tell them I’ll be glued to the boob tube, just soaking it up.

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