Lisa Purcell

The Metal Diaries:1987 (The Montagues and the Capulets)

Cliff Burton: Fallen Thrasher Hero

You have to understand the scene in 1987, at least in my life. I was straddling (‘stratocastering?’) my way between two newly opposed groups of friends, who were fans of two factions of rock music. On the one hand, there were my no-frills, heavy metal friends (mostly guys) who were early Metallica connoisseurs, and were very particular about who they listened to. If they were a present day tv character, they’d be Ron Swanson. Very meat and potatoes. Sometimes the preferred music was referred to as ‘thrash’ – it was very heavy. But there was an easier way to recognize these bands (Armored Saint, Slayer, Motorhead) that was tried and true. They lived and played by one important commandment: Thou shalt not wear make-up, spandex, hairspray or anything that  indicates you spent more than a minute looking in the mirror. T-shirts, jeans, sneakers and long hair.  That’s it. It was serious shit, man!  If you had any accessories, they’d better be a no nonsense guitar and a bag of weed.

The Thrasher Look

As for the other side, these were my ‘hair metal’ friends, or as my thrasher friends referred to them: Posers. They were into a lot of the ‘glam’ metal, where the motto was there in no such thing as too much make-up, spandex, hairspray and there can never be enough mirrors. The music was heavy, but a hair metal band could actually do ballads, (which sickened the thrashers: it was syrup of ipecac to their senses!) Bands like Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Ratt, Dokken, Motley Crue all fell into the category of Hair Metal. Most of my Hair Metal friends were in bands,between bands, or worked for bands. They were fashionable night owls, who preferred to sleep during the day, and work at night, if possible. We also went to lots of shows, albeit in bigger (though not necessarily ‘cooler’) venues.   

The somewhat ‘fancier’ Hair Metal Style

I loved both factions, but tended to dress for the hair metal crowd. Probably the better choice for a chick. I lived in an apartment right by the Beach, which meant that everyone had to drive by my place on their way to the beach parking lot (one of three local beaches, and one Scalzi Park, all prime spots for  pre-club hanging out in the spring and summer.) I remember two of my favorite thrasher guys stopping by often, as I teased my hair, and fastened my three studded belts over a tight mini-skirt, getting ready to hit the Agora or  The Great American Music Hall.  ‘Beans’ (as in ‘cool beans’-a nickname he hated, so his friends made it stick) and Ron, both cute,  but rabid thrashers, would often arrive with a six pack of beer and a stack of thrasher albums, intent on ‘turning me’ from the Hair Metal they despised. At the time, I was getting free albums to review from Metal Blade records, and though I barely knew any of the bands on the label, Beans and Ron sure did. “OH! Look! She got the new Slayer! VoiVod! Celtic Frost! Flotsam & Jetsam!” -then they’d try and trade me their old albums for my new ones. If I had doubles (which often happened) or they seemed overly fanatical about a certain lp, I’d lend it to them, on the strict provision that they bring it back. Which they always did. I felt an obligation to hold onto these records though, since Brian Slagel & Co were sending them to me strictly so I would review them in print. So, ‘Metal Massacre’ compilations were constantly going in and out of my place. The problem was, other than a semi-local band, ‘Obsession’ who were on Metal Blade’s label, and who I interviewed for Vox Pop- most of the music was too aggressive for me. I didn’t ‘feel it’ like I did the Hair Metal. Beans and Ron insisted there was going to be an ‘awakening’ of sorts, within me. One day, they would play me the right song, and I would leave all of the pretty boys behind. But it wasn’t working. I’d keep getting ready, putting on make-up in front of the bathroom mirror, door open, shouting comments as I squinted, trying not to poke my eye out with my eyeliner. ‘What’d you think of that one? They’d yell, excited. “Eh! It was okay…I guess” and they’d groan. Every now and then, I’d stroll out to take a slug from the ice-cold Budweiser they’d opened for me. I usually had the television in the living room on, tuned to MTV, sound muted, so Beans and Ron could DJ songs on my stereo -but if a Bon Jovi video came on, I would shriek, run to the tv and turn the sound all the way up, swooning like a lovestruck twelve year old. The guys would shake their heads in disgust and try and convince me that I only liked Jon Bon Jovi because he was cute. Well, yes-duh! that was a big part of it, but I really did like the music. I would answer back: ‘Umm, lemme see? Coz you guys  never pay attention to cute girls, right?” and we’d all just roll our eyes at each other. If I was particularly annoyed, I’d try and choke them out by spraying  Aqua Net onto my hair in the middle of the living room. Try escaping that cloud! Then, if I was really lucky, MTV might follow JBJ’s song name with Dokken’s ‘In My Dreams’-one of my favorites, where it pours rain all over the band, the drums, especially the cymbals bashing the water off in the coolest way! Beans and Ron at least admitted that George Lynch was ‘pretty good for a Poser!’

Whaddya mean I’m not kind? Just not YOUR kind!

It was usually around then that my boyfriend would come by to pick me up. He was a guitar player in a (ahem!) ‘poser’ band, who had Tommy Lee hair, wore eyeliner (just a little) and dressed with a certain, ah- flamboyance. He actually had (and proudly wore) the ‘Puffy Shirt’ from Seinfeld (years before the Seinfeld show) along with lots of jewelry, skin tight black jeans and snakeskin boots. When he walked in, jingling his jewelry,raving about the new Cinderella song, pecking me on the cheek, I could detect Beans and Ron dry heaving. He’d joke with the two of them: ‘Hey- aren’t you guys going out tonight? You better go home and get ready! It’s getting late! It’s Saturday night!’ Sometimes a cough (masking the word ‘loser’) would erupt from one of them, but Beans and Ron were not going to start anything- lest they be cut off from future Metal Blade mailings. It was very ‘Shirts against the Blouses’.  To see these two ‘species’ interact (or try not to) while remaining polite was a lesson in how world peace is possible, but not likely. 

Picture this, with Tommy Lee’s head

I never did turn into a thrasher, but I did end up loving early Metallica, Armored Saint and Anthrax, and went to some of their shows at L’Amours. We agreed on Megadeth and Iron Maiden, of which I went to many shows, in several states. I still have many of those Metal Blade albums, and to this day I feel obligated to review them. Maybe someday- in the nursing home? Page 2 of the Boca Breeze? 

“Can I borrow your eyeliner?”

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