The Pitchfork 500 Goes METAL! – Flipper to Iron Maiden

METAL! Skulls. Cider. Screaming. Donington. Long hair. Longer guitar solos. Ludicrous lyrics. Bottles of piss. Dungeons and Dragons. Right, that’s the clichés out of the way.

Flipper – Sex Bomb
Motorhead – Ace of Spades
Iron Maiden – Run to the Hills

First off, it’s Flipper with “Sex Bomb”. Who, I hear you ask? I dunno, I reply. After listening to this a few times, reading the book, doing a bit of background work, I still have no idea. One of those bizarre, random entries that really don’t make any sense. It’s not like it was massively influential, or even that good. Listen for yourself:

Hmm. Any ideas? Anyone? Well, I suppose it’s got a certain chaotic charm to it, rather like James Chance playing something from the “Nuggets” compilation, but that’s no reason to put it on the list. Goes without saying that Kurt Cobain was a huge fan. Oh, and I hasten to say, it’s not metal, I’ve just lumped it in here for convenience.

Back to some normality with Motörhead’s“Ace Of Spades”. I remember watching this on The Young Ones and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. And it was. Still is. This song rocks. It rocks with a studded belt, a dirty t-shirt, oil-stained jeans, long manky hair, and an array of facial hair, metal adornments, and tattoos, possibly about your mother. Just look at them:

None More Rock

None More Rock

They rock. Lemmy rocks even when selling pensions, and manages to be even more rock by being rather more erudite and intelligent than most indie-schmindie kids (although the Nazi memorabilia thing is somewhat disturbing). Drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor looks like he’s spent his entire life mainlining meths and puts speed on his cornflakes, which, in fairness, he probably has. This is the man who continued to play after breaking his neck, and in a separate incident, gaffer-taped a drumstick to his hand after breaking it in a fight. See, Metallica? THAT is rock, not your pussy-assed whining about your therapist.

If an alien came up to you and said “So, Earthling, what’s this heavy metal all about then?” you’d just play them this. And they would agree, and spread the word of rock to the galaxy. This is rock. Sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, death, gambling, umlauts, what more can a man ask for?

Have I said it rocks yet?

Iron Maiden’s “Run To The Hills” rocks too, only not quite so much, and in a much more ludicrous way. Whilst “Ace Of Spades” is out drinking cider and shagging your girlfriend, “Run To The Hills” is throwing an 18-sided dice and wondering when it will finally get to feel a lady’s front bumps. Featuring more drums and guitars than you should shake a Staff of Nightbane (+10HP, +3 INT, -1 AGL) at, it also features Bruce Dickinson’s patented “Sing Like You’ve Caught Your Bollocks In A Door” singing style. Mind you, when you’re singing about the destruction of Native American civilisation and the murders of thousands, nothing less will do, I suppose.

Goes without saying that, just like “Ace Of Spades”, the drumming and guitar is phenomenal. This song defines that certain brand of Heavy Metal (NWOBHM)1 so beloved of spotty teenage herberts, much maligned and patronised, but also has a certain ludicrous beauty to it. I’d much rather listen to this than bloody Hall and Oates any day.

Next up, more Heavy Metal with Orange Juice.

1 New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, since you’re asking

MP3: Ace Of Spades by Motorhead

MP3: Run To The Hills by Iron Maiden

The whole list is here.

Buy “Generic Flipper”

Buy Motorhead’s “The Best Of” (CD)

Buy Iron Maiden’s “Somewhere Back In Time: The Best Of: 1980-1989” (CD/MP3)

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The Pitchfork 500 Mosh Pit – Bad Brains to Wipers

These songs remind me of dark, hot sweaty underground clubs, filled with teenage men, hot sweaty and lithe, writhing against each other, limbs flailing, reaching a state of ecstasy. Ah, the mosh pit. What the hell did you think I was talking about?

Bad Brains – Pay to Cum
Minor Threat – Minor Threat
Dead Kennedys – Holiday in Cambodia
Black Flag – Rise Above
Wipers – Youth of America

Bad Brains started off as a jazz fusion act, until deciding to become a hardcore punk band. And that’s not a sentence I think I’ll ever write again. Wonder what prompted their change of heart? “Hey, Darryl, I’m tired of all these diminished 3rds and 7/8 time signatures, let’s just be punk, dammit!” So, anyway, there sure knew how to play, as “Pay To Cum” demonstrates – fast as hell, but beautifully timed with some serious chops on show.

Being so good at what they did kind of spoil the field for everyone who followed them – after all, part of the fun of punk was that it wasn’t full of excellent musicians, so up-and-coming acts had to work rather hard to follow Bad Brains – but they then decided they’d had enough of hardcore and morphed into a reggae band.

As you do. Anyway, great song.

Minor Threat defined the hardcore punk movement “Straight Edge”. Teenagers love to rebel. It’s what they do. It’s their raison d’etre. So what do you do when your parents don’t mind you drinking, smoking, doing drugs, and sleeping around? In fact, they actually promote it? You don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, don’t have sex. That’ll teach ‘em! Seriously though, it’s a funny thing to do as a teenager. As anyone approaching middle-age will be happy to tell you, one’s later years are spent not being able to do all those things, partly due to work and family commitments, and partly because you’re just too tired. Have one big night out and you’re still paying for it three days later. So not doing this as a teenager seems a bit off to me. Youth of today – eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you’ll have kids and a mortgage and a strange desire to watch “Railway Walks” (I speak from personal experience).

The song? Oh yes, it’s not half bad, you know. But really, kids, don’t listen to them – drinking is fun. Oh yes.

Out of all these bands, I’ve actually regularly listened to, and owned records by, only this one band – Dead Kennedys. I had “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables” as an innocent 15-year-old and once delighted my friends by trying to play “Kill The Poor” on the guitar, alongside my redoubtable repertoire of “1969”, “No Fun” and a couple of Velvet Underground songs. Formed in late 1978 in San Francisco, singer Jello Biafra (not his real name) wrote lyrics of fearsome intensity and intelligence, backed with deranged, frightening guitar:

Mind you, my personal favourite has always been “California Uber Alles”:

But I can see why the Pitchfork writers went for “Holiday In Cambodia”. Both still make your hairs stand on end and fill you with righteous anger. They just don’t make ’em like this any more. Interestingly enough, both songs featured in John Peel’s Festive Fifty in 1980, and were the only entries by non-British or Irish acts (they both appeared in the following year’s chart, joined by Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman”).

(This leads me onto a brief digression. As I mentioned, I had Dead Kennedys records, but the rest of these bands stayed pretty obscure in the UK at the time. I guess it was largely due to the fact that, since punk hit in 1976, people were rather tired of this sort of thing by the early 80’s. And there was rather alot going on, so music seen as just harping back to what had happened five years before kind of got ignored. After all, we had New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen, who needed angry young men shouting at you?)

Black Flag had been doing the rounds for a couple of years, with a fairly rapid turnover of members thanks to leader Greg Ginn’s insistence on a hardcore (boom tish) work ethic of daily practice sessions and constant touring. Henry Rollins, the band’s fourth (!) vocalist, described him as “Patton on steroids”. Fun guy. Also forming SST, the influential record label, Black Flag spread their word to the suburban kids by getting in a van, playing wherever they could, and selling records as they went. They were the evangelical preachers of hardcore, telling the kids they could rise above the expectations of their suburban parents:

Terrible sound quality, sure, but just look at those teenage Philadelpians yelling along to a topless Rollins (just started on his road to muscle-bound fury). Ah, the mosh pit. I’m getting nostalgic again.

Lastly, it’s Wipers “Youth Of America”. Don’t remember hearing this tune before, though I do remember hearing a very long hardcore punk song in a club I used to visit in Frankfurt (The Cave). So maybe that was it. Certainly more ambitious than your run of the mill hardcore tune, singer Greg Sage rails against both the left and the right beating down teenagers, saying wisely “They’ll try to put you 6 feet under the ground”. And at ten minutes long – shocking enough for a hardcore tune – he certainly has the time to drill the message home. Big influence on Nirvana, apparently (though let’s face it, so was every band you’ve never heard of).

Goes on a bit though.

Anyway, that’s it with this hardcore lark. Enough sweaty bodies and shouting. Next time it’s Motorhead (yay!) and Iron Maiden (boo!).

MP3: Pay to Cum by Bad Brains

MP3: Holiday in Cambodia by Dead Kennedys

The whole list is here.

Buy “Banned in DC: Bad Brains’ Greatest Riffs” (CD)

Buy Minor Threat “Complete Discography” (CD)

Buy “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables” (CD)

Buy Black Flag’s “Damaged” (CD)

Buy “Best Of The Wipers And Greg Sage” (MP3)

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