Before death metal hacked into the fray with its thesaurus-straining scenes of "multifarious carnage," heavy-metal librettists generally confined themselves to four primary topic areas: vixen sex, war visions, trick-or-treat occultism and blue-faced teenage rebellion. The stuff of dreams for 15-year-old Reagan-baby boys, slipping into their headphones and away from the suburbs, grimy acrylic bong in hand, finger tips stained orange with Dorito dust. Here are a few classic gems from the literary treasure-trove of '80s metal, broken down by subject:
"I just love a woman in tiger-striped spandex" (Sex)
The bigger the cushion,
the sweeter the pushin'
The looser the waistband,
the deeper the quicksand
Or so I have read
My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo
I love to sink her
with my pink torpedo.
--Spinal Tap, "Big Bottom,"
Smell the Glove (1983)
A parody? Tell that to AC/DC . . .
Let me put my love into you babe
Let me put my love on the line
Let me put my love into you babe
Let me cut your cake with my knife.
--AC/DC, "Let Me Put My Love
Into You Babe,"
Back in Black (1980)
Sounds like a Valentine's card to me.
My cat is purring,
she scratches my skin
So what is wrong with, another sin?
The bitch is hungry, she needs to tell
So give her inches, and feed her well.
"Rock You Like a Hurricane,"
Love at First Sting (1984)
Wait a minute--tell who what?
Touch my gun but don't pull
Let's make history in the elevator
Or lock the door and shine my pistol
some more . . .
Let's inject it
Take it to town and let
the other boys have it.
--Motley Crue, "Ten Seconds of Love," Shout at the Devil (1983)
Listen, I don't care if it's your pistol, your camera, or what, but don't point that thing at me!
"Hath not a butt-rocker eyes?" (Rebellion)
Every day you scream
at me to turn
the music low
But if you keep on
you'll make me deaf
You always chew me
out because I stay
out late . . .
I won't go straight!
Looks like someone's about to get grounded. "There's no communication," howls leather boy Rob Halford. "I'm tired of explanation! We don't need no--no, no, no, parental guidance here!" But wait, the song ends on a reconciliatory up-note: "Don't you remember what it's like to lose control? Put on my jacket before you get too old, let's rock 'n' roll!" All right--mom and dad are in the club!
We've got the right
to choose it
There ain't no way
we'll lose it
This is our life,
this is our song
We'll bite the mouth
that feeds us
Don't pick our destiny 'cause
You don't know us, you don't belong.
"We're Not Gonna Take It,"
Stay Hungry (1984)
"Bite the mouth that feeds us"? What is that, a call to arms for baby robins?
"Dulce et decorum est, pro patria metal" (War)
Make his fight on the hill,
in the early day
Constant chill, deep inside
Shouting gun, on the run,
through the endless gray.
--Metallica, "For Whom the Bell Tolls," Ride the Lightning (1984)
For some reason--maybe because their music was most popular with a class of youth who typically get used as cannon fodder--classic metal bands always took war seriously. This stanza could have been tacked to a blood-streaked trench wall at Gallipoli.
You take my life, but I'll take yours too
You fire your musket,
but I'll run you through
So while you're waiting
for the next attack
Steel your heart
'cause there's no turnin' back.
--Iron Maiden, "The Trooper,"
The U.S. Army's psychological-warfare division ordered front-line troops to blast this ditty from speakers mounted on tanks across the sand at the Iraqis on the eve of Operation Desert Storm.
Generals gather in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
Evil minds that plot destruction
Sorcerer of death's construction . . .
Now in darkness world stops turning
Ashes where their bodies burning
No more war pigs of the power
Hand of God has struck the hour
Day of judgment God is calling
On their knees war pigs are crawling
Begging mercy for their sins
Satan laughing spreads his wings.
--Black Sabbath, "War Pigs,"
Hey, Ozzy, what rhymes with "masses"? "I know--masses!" While this apocalyptic eight-minute epic was recorded in '71, it's included here as the clear precedent-setter for metal's treatment of all things combat. Penned while the tide of blood in Vietnam was still rising, "War Pigs" was the first and last heavy-metal song to protest much more than curfews and celibacy.
Children of the Corny (Satan)
He'll be the love in your eyes
He'll be the blood between your thighs
And then he'll have you cry for more
He'll put strength to the test
He'll put the thrill back in bed
Sure you've heard it all before.
--Motley Crue, "Shout at the Devil,"
Shout at the Devil (1983)
Actually, we hadn't. But thanks for sharing.
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Is the number of the beast
Hell! And fire! Spell doom
for you and me.
"The Number of the Beast,"
The Number of the Beast (1982)
The sight of several thousand longhaired kids shouting "Six-six-six!" with their arms in the air while Iron Maiden cavorted onstage with "Eddy," the band's eight-foot-tall devil-with-a-pitchfork mascot, really freaked the shit out of conservative Christians. Go figure.
We're off the witch!
We may never, never,
never come home
But the magic that we'll feel is worth
--Dio, "Last in Line,"
Last in Line (1984)
"I'm off the witch, ma!"
"Okay, honey, be home for dinner."
Grumble, grumble. Stupid parents.