High Variance

1983: Revisited

In the weeks after I posted my case for 1983 as a crucial year in heavy metal history, I went through a crisis of faith. What about Judas Priest? What about Iron Maiden? And what if I forgot an even bigger band or album? Luckily I could turn to my metal sensei in this time of need. The same Mike who dragged me to the import metal bins at the Rockin’ Mania record store in Framingham and opened my eyes to a whole world of music was just an email away. Here’s what he had to say:

Nice article, but you missed out on a lot of other stuff was going on around that time. First, while I was a big fan of all Maiden’s albums up to and including Seventh Son, I think the albums before and after 1983’s Piece of Mind are actually more influential. In 1982 Maiden toured the world with Judas Priest. They headlined everywhere except the US. This album and tour really exposed Maiden to the fans in America and turned them into the pre-eminent act of the decade. 1984 brought Powerslave which launched Maiden into the mainstream with heavy rotation on MTV for both Aces High and Two Minutes to Midnight. This was accompanied by the first tour by a western rock artist into the Soviet Bloc, years before the much ballyhoo’d Billy Joel tour. So, the final word on Maiden: Piece of mind has a couple of their biggest live hits but lacked the impact of the other two records.

There are a few records that aren’t on your list which I believe some credit:

First, Dio’s Holy Diver. Enough said.

Try not to shit on the next two before I get done.

Def Leppard Pyromania. These guys pretty much single handedly started the hair metal era. I know there are a lot of other bands that were important to the genre, but this album really kicked it off.

Quiet Riot Metal Health. Not the most creative musically, but it had some catchy stuff. The important part regarding this one is the fact that it was the first metal album to reach number one on Billboard’s top 100. Unheard of ground for a band of this genre.

I’m glad you gave a nod to Ozzy’s Bark at the Moon. Not his best work by any stretch, but it did resurrect his career from the aftermath of Randy Rhodes’ death.

I am still a fan of Shout at the Devil. It is the only true metal album Crue ever put out and is my favorite even though some of my favorite songs come from other records.

You were always a little more into the hair bands than I, but I do have to give credit to the genre for helping to bring metal to the mainstream. A friend and I were discussing the phenomenon of mainstreaming the other day. I am constantly amazed by the music accepted by the mainstream media that we had to stay up until 1 in the morning to hear on the radio. Not only that, but the generic rock bands are so much heavier than rock of our era. Imagine what our friends would have thought of Linkin Park back in 1985. Or more entertaining would be to play some Motionless in White or Asking Alexandria.

I could go on, but I have to get ready for a barbecue. I look forward to your thoughts.

I got lucky with Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind, and Judas Priest didn’t release an album in 1983. The incredible Screaming for Vengeance came out in 1982, and was followed by the less incredible Defenders of the Faith in 1984. Omitting Dio’s Holy Diver, however, was my worst nightmare–That album is pure fantasy metal and has been unbelievably influential. I bet millions of kids around the world played that cassette to death in the eighties just like I did.

Mike always had a soft spot for Quiet Riot that I still don’t understand. After these lyrics, how can anyone take this band seriously?

Cum on feel the noize
Girls rock your boys
We'll get wild, wild, wild
Wild, wild, wild

But Mike is right–Quiet Riot were pop metal and they were the first metal band to have the number one album in the country. It’s a shame it had to be them.

I thought long and hard about including “Pyromania” on my list, but at the end of the day I decided Def Leppard was a hard rock band that happened to have good hair and bad spelling. That said, I loved this album, and they were heavier than most stuff on the radio at the time. I killed this cassette too.

As for mainstreaming of heavy music, Mike’s experience in Southern California couldn’t be more different from mine in New Haven, CT. Until Mike’s email, I’d never even heard of Motionless in White or Asking Alexandria, let alone heard them on the radio. My choices are country, classic rock, hip hop, or tween pop. The heaviest it gets is old Van Halen and AC/DC. If you want metal around here, you’ve got to go looking pretty far away from the main stream. Luckily, there’s plenty out there.