Harry’s Soapbox – Considerably More Metal Than Thou?


The gospel according to our Harry…


Harry PatersonConsiderably More Metal Than Thou? by Harry Paterson

There’s an appalling article on the Metal Hammer blog entitled ‘Emo Is The New Hair Metal.’ http://www.metalhammer.co.uk/news/emo-is-the-new-hair-metal/ Other than proffering the expert, considered and informed opinion that the piece, its premise and its conclusions are total and utter bollocks, the following observations are not, probably to the surprise of those who know me, intended to be a defence of that wonderful 80s movement, posthumously labelled ‘Hair Metal’.

No, what I’d like to do is draw your attention to an unhealthy and unpleasant virus currently infecting our movement. Firstly, though, I need to tell you a story. Are you seated comfortably? Good. Then I shall begin…

Sometime in the mid-80s, probably ’85, I was enjoying my customary Friday night at The Palais, then the home of all things rock and metal in Nottingham. At the table at which your humble narrator was seated was a larger than life, colourful character who went by the sobriquet of Punky Wayne. PunkyWaynewas, if memory serves a member of a local Glam band called Sleazepatrol and he looked, as you might have expected, like he’d crawled out of a trash can behind the Whisky A Go-Go on Sunset Boulevard. Had Central Casting been in the market for Motley Crue look-alikes, Punky’s telephone number would’ve been the first one on their list.

Also joining us were two Thrash nutters from Alfreton, whose names escape me. In stark contrast to Punky’s dime-store, white-trash chic, complete with costume jewellery, lip stick, back-combed hair and spandex, our two Thrashers had long, straight, greasy hair, dirty denims and bullet belts.

In addition to these fine, upstanding members of our fraternity, our table also played host to The Ghosts; a couple of full-on, black-clad, deathly-white Goth girls who worshipped unreservedly at the alter of Andrew Eldritch. They even had a length of chain that joined them together at the waist, bless ‘em.

For my own part, I was heavily into the prog side of things at the time, and I recall sporting a splendid pair of tight but flared corduroy jeans, a la Robert Plant, a cheese-cloth hippy-shirt under which resided one of my most prized possessions, a Marillion tour shirt (From the Fugazi tour, if you’re interested) and completing this vision of hippy-prog sartorial excellence was a pair of tan leather cowboy boots, complete with stacked, Cuban heels, and a thigh-length Afghan coat. Oh, and I had hair then, too. Lots of it. Sob…

So there we were, our regular little gang, along with half a dozen others, including Punky’s groupies, who had the whole Rock-Slut thing down cold. As different and diverse a bunch of people as you were likely to meet. All, though, united by one very important thing; yes, you’ve guessed it, Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Genre snobbery, and all the meaningless and divisive labels that clutter our scene today, was still a considerable period away into the future. Yes, we all enjoyed our own particular little corner of the musical playground and our respective images reflected that, of course, but it would never have crossed our mind to sneer, belittle or, incredibly, as sadly happens these days, on occasions, actually attack or assault someone for their preferences.

As far as we were concerned, we were all part of the same glorious tribe. Misunderstood, maligned, feared even, by The Man and the straights, we revelled in each other’s company and celebrated those differences. Admittedly, there was a very superior attitude to chart fluff and the trendy sheep that just had to be seen in the latest high street garb but at least towards each other we extended warmth, friendship and respect.

Travelling to other cities, for gigs, was instructive, too; you’d wander into a boozer (if they’d let you in) and any other long hairs or rockers would, within minutes, be at your side, introducing themselves and exchanging friendly banter. It didn’t matter if they were Glamsters, Thrashers or Goths; they recognised one of their own and extended a welcoming hand. Contrast all the above with today and it’s hard to get your head around.

Yes, Emo is tedious, yes, it might well now be high-jacked by the music industry and be gutted of any merit it might once have had, but, really, have things got so bad that Emo kids are now being assaulted and abused by Metal-Heads? Albeit these seem to be twelve and thirteen year old kids but that makes it no more acceptable, in my book.

I’m levelling the blame, here, at the established music press (you know who you are, motherfuckers) who are quite happy to milk the Emo cash cow by featuring its movement’s bands within its pages, safe in the knowledge that there is a huge, young constituency to whom they can flog their wares. At the same time, on their forums, blogs and other outlets, they rain down derision on the scene and its followers, virtually inciting others to visit violence upon them.

While the horrific and sickening events of the Sophie Lancaster affair were not, in any way, perpetrated by anyone even remotely connected to our movement, rather, those responsible were the sort of repellent, anti-social, atomised and alienated losers littering our streets, parks and pubs, it does illustrate one very important point; that revolting attack could have happened to any one of us; Goth, Metal-Head, Emo or Greb. Do I really need to spell it out, then, that under these circumstances we should all stick together and show each other a little respect and tolerance?

Genre snobbery is a curse and a virus. I don’t care if it’s Napalm Death, 30 Seconds To Mars, My Chemical Romance, Journey, Led Zeppelin or The Mission; it’s all Rock ‘n’ Roll to me and it should be to you too. I’d rather my kids were listening to Gerard Way (not that they do, I hasten to add!) than pretending to be Gangsta Rappers from the ghetto and terrorising those who dare to be different.

If any of you were at Download in 2010 you surely can’t have remained unmoved by nearly a hundred thousand of us screaming, ‘Fuck You! I Won’t Do What You Tell Me’ as Rage Against The Machine dropped ‘Killing In The Name’ on the Village like a nuclear Warhead. Take a moment to think about that. And Sophie Lancaster…

Rock ‘n’ Roll, friends and readers, Rock ‘n Roll; uniting us against the common foes of mediocrity, insincerity, prejudice, intolerance and banal, worthless muzak. Or at least it should do.

That’s what I’m talking about.




  1. A truly brilliant piece of writing, Harry, that encapsulates my feelings entirely. I tell people I have “eclectic” taste when what I actually mean is that I love Rock – ALL Rock – and I won’t be defined by genre. It annoys me no end when “metal” fans badmouth other rock genres as being “gay” (nice one THAT!) etc on Online Radio Station comment streams during broadcasts, if a band isn’t to your taste that is fair enough but to abuse the music and the people who like it (who might also have all YOUR favorite bands in their collection) is only a tiny little step away from actual violence. As the S.O.P.H.I.E. T shirt says – if only they had stopped at name-calling.
    One of you best and most thought provoking pieces, now you really MUST post a pic of the leader in sartorial elegance which you obviously were, back in the day – and with HAIR!! Now that’s Metal !!

  2. Yep, absolutely. It’s one of the things that really gets to me. As each genre fractures into sub genres, the listeners narrow their horizons and their taste becomes exclusive rather than inclusive.

    It’s also something I don’t like when bands write stuff – they define themselves very narrowly as a metal band, or screamo, or flowery indie, and only write music that conforms to a very narrow type. When I’m writing a song, if I start thinking about genre I’m usually totally fucked. That’s the last thing you should be worrying about, waaaaay after “is the song any good?”

  3. A great post and exactly what I have been banging about for years!
    Being in my late 40’s I can well remember the camaraderie with fellow rock/punk/metalheads at various clubs and gigs. I absorbed other genres ( I hate that word ) that has made me more well rounded listener and musician.
    Youtube and Facebook etc is full of hate of some bands and so called “responsible” journalists and wannabe journalists just add fuel to the fire.

    We should be supporting the cause not fighting it and each other FFS!

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