When I Became A Metal Head: Metal Health

MetalHealthI’m not sure of the exact day, but I can tell you that it was sometime during the summer of 1983. Back when I was but a wee-lad of 13 and innocence was all the rage.

In those days, my father used to like to take my brother and me on drives to visit his friend Hal, who lived in a small ranch about five miles away. In order to get to his house, we would have to take the winding, back roads that wound along the Lehigh, a river which separated our home in Pennsylvania from the New Jersey border.

With windows rolled down, it was always a pleasant drive to Hal’s; particularly on sunny days when (from my vantage point in the back seat of my Dad’s 1977 Malibu Classic) I could take in the beauty of the scenic overlook, smell the honeysuckle in the air and feel the wind rush by my face. Little did I know at the time, but this was going to be one of those special days.

Our visit with Hal that particular day is not something I have any real recollection of. My brother and I were most likely tossing a football around in his back yard while Hal and my father kabitzed about work or something. In fact, it wasn’t until the ride home that I actually had the epiphany that would change my life forever.

We were nearly home and were listening to the local radio station when it came on. At that precise moment, we could have driven right off the road and into the river and I would have been oblivious to it. Once I heard it, I was hooked. The song was “Cum on Feel The Noize” by Quiet Riot and at the time, I had no idea that it was originally a #1 hit for the band Slade ten years earlier. All I knew was that this updated version was the most incredible song I had ever heard in my entire life. Who would have thought that girls rocking boys would have had such an impact on me? It would be the first time that I would ever make a demand of my father. Three words: “Turn It Up!”, to which he thankfully obliged.

I remember we pulled into our driveway and (much to my father and brother’s chagrin), I made them sit there in the car with me until the song was completely over. Back in 1983, there was no way of knowing when I would hear that song again, which in retrospect actually made me appreciate the song even more whenever I did hear it.

I instantly longed to be the one who vocalist Kevin DuBrow put on his shoulders and played the guitar solo instead of Carlos Cavazo. I wanted to be the one standing alongside the thundering bass of Rudy Sarzo and the infectious drums of Frankie Banali. I wanted to be the one to get wild, wild, WILD!

It wouldn’t be long before the album, ‘Metal Health’ found its way into my possession. But Metal Health was more than just an album. It pushed the metal genre into the mainstream and ushered in a new wave of music euphoria for a generation of starving ears. For me personally, the album went much deeper. It actually became a part of me. So much so, that when I started taking proper guitar lessons a year after that drive along the Lehigh River, the very first song I ever learned how to play was ‘Metal Health (Bang Your Head)’. Perhaps it was the reckless abandon of the songs, or maybe it was because Quiet Riot once had Randy Rhoads in its line-up at one time that made the album appeal to me as a guitarist. One of the all time greatest players was once part of the band whose album I now enjoyed. Whatever the reason, I gave up trying to find an excuse for why I liked it long ago. Good music speaks for itself.

I picked this up from Wikipedia: Metal Health was released on March 11, 1983 (thirty years ago), bolstered by the #5 hit “Cum on Feel the Noize” and the #31 hit “Metal Health”. The album is notable for being the very first debut heavy metal album to reach the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 and knocking The Police’s Synchronicity out of #1 spot in the US. Metal Health went on to sell over six million copies and it is considered a classic among heavy metal fans to this day.

On my last day of junior high in 1984, I remember blasting “Cum on Feel The Noize” from the back seat of the big yellow school bus on my boom box. It was my final year before starting high school in the fall, and I felt like a king. Me, James Wood was privy to musical greatness and I just had to share it with the world.

There are certain albums that you instantly bond with, and then there are those that remain with you for a lifetime.

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