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I wanna rock!


    I greeted my boss as he walked into work. He responded with a full throated heavy metal wail of "I wanna rock!" I queued up some Twisted Sister to start a day of music dedicated to those brave eye-shadowed men of 80's hair metal. 
    I can sense the ai bots reading this are a little skeptical that I can twist this into a bike story. But I'm gonna try. I'm going to describe another time and place, it may be hard to imagine if you started riding within the last few decades. Picture if you will a culture of dangerous looking metal heads. Long greasy hair, a jean jacket with an album cover patch covering the back.

 Usually smoking, usually sneering. They could be found roaming the halls of high schools or commanding the student smoking area. In school you were mostly safe from them,..mostly. On weekends they would form packs with females of the species. They would gather around someones t-top Z-28 parked in a KMart parking lot. Blasting heavy metal and looking for trouble. They were a force to be avoided.
typical  headbangers

    Rockers had a special dislike for my kind, the skateboard kids. It's strange that two subcultures with distinctive styles and music would be in opposition. I was even a sub-sub-culture on my tricked bmx bike. Maybe both cultures were hooked on adrenaline, and the headbangers enjoyed inciting it. The adrenaline flows when you and your friends escape around the back of the movie theater being chased by headbangers in a car shouting at you. Once we looked back to see them grab a skateboard that had been left behind. They stomped it until it snapped in two as they taunted us and yelled insults from a John Hughes movie.
    I lived in a small town with limited places to ride. The McDonalds was a lit parking lot with new pavement and parking blocks that were easy to grind. One night a few skaters and me were loitering in the Micky D’s lot working on our tricks. Across the lot was a small pack of head bangers. It was only a few but it was some of the meanest ones.
Yearbook photo of actual guy from this story




    We didn’t notice how close they were until one of them dropped a beer can to the ground and said, “ hey biker dork, let’s see a trick.”
The skaters moved a little further back and I turned to face them. I said nothing as I knew my voice could betray my fear. I adjusted my Hammer shin guards. 

I knew I could drop a solid Miami hopper or a tail whip. But this situation called for something bigger. Something dangerous. I would throw the new trick I had been struggling with. I would attempt a Decade.This trick required rocking the bike into a vertical position and putting a foot on the seat post to launch myself over the top of the bike. I had crashed a few times because my foot slipped on the seat post. So I stuck a few pieces of grip tape on it.
mid-decade

pink grip tape on the seat post and sweet shin guards



    I rolled under the parking lot spotlight and threw a flawless decade. Eyebrows were raised and the headbangers said what ever it was we said before WTF? " What the Hell?" I guess.  It was clearly more than they expected because the toughest one demanded, " Do that again!" So I blasted off another without even a wobble. It was probably the only time I nailed two decades back to back. The big headbanger grew bored and the trio returned to their crappy muscle car. The following summer I saw a rider do a rolling decade which made my version completely obsolete.
    All this to say that at the time, I was not a fan of heavy metal. I liked what would become 'alternative'. But heavy metal is a significant facet of American music that cannot be forgotten. 
    The rest of this post is dedicated to some of my favorite experiences with heavy metal. Heavy metal brought us some of the greatest and most audacious performers. Guys like Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine.
    Dave Mustaine partied so hard he was kicked out of Metallica. Dave Mustaine partied so hard he died and had to be resuscitated... twice. I once worked in a school bus shop with  some Vietnam Vets. They were grouchy old guys who kept the same routine. I was just the new kid. Everyday we listened to Rush Limbaugh on the radio and then Dr. Laura. I didn't know it, but some tension was building between two of the older mechanics. One day Rush was yelling at a caller and I whined, "Can't we listen to something else?"
A bearded redneck snapped at me, " Don't you touch that radio!"
    That was enough to set off the most senior mechanic who raised his voice and said, "You know what? I've had enough of this shit too, we can listen to something else for a change!"
He reached for the dial and gave it a quick snap. The radio went straight to the metal station and was in the middle of the Megadeth song Sweating Bullets.  The drone of conservative talk radio was turned to driving electric guitar and psychotic lyrics. It was a moment that couldn't be duplicated. I was watching a conflict from the sidelines and it played out so perfectly. For that reason I will always love this crazy song.
  The older you get the less things you hate. Somewhere along the line I had to stop hating Guns n' Roses and Motley Crue. It's great music, and really good to get you pumped before a ride. I couldn't hate metal  because it reminded me of the cruel older kids growing up. Bikers will always have people who don't like them for being bikers. And you never know when you might be exposed to music that connects with you.
This brings me to my favorite metal album.

    2005 was an odd year for a legacy metal band to put out an album. The British heavy metal band Judas Priest had  been making music since the 70's. They rode the wave to the peak in the 80's. Their amazing lead singer Rob Halford came out in the 90's. They've gone platinum, gotten into the Hall of Fame, accomplished everything a metal band could want. Why did they make an album in 2005? When Gorillaz and Fall Out Boy were topping the charts. The world didn't need a hard-charging-studded-leather kick in the codpiece  like this album. But I did.

Judas Priest

    2005 was an odd year for me. I was in the final year of my practice marriage. I wanted to get out, but I still had to restore a dilapidated farmhouse so we could sell it. I would work a full day, then go work long into the night by myself on the house. Bend, Oregon had a decent local rock station. It was small, I often called in and won stuff. They did a thing on certain nights when they would play a new album in it's entirety. 
So late one night, alone in a sad old farmhouse, I was installing tile when I heard my first complete Judas Priest album.
    From the opening fade-in to the ominous closing ode to the Loch Ness monster, Angel of Retribution is a masterpiece of an album. It captures the energy of 1985 metal, but delivers it with the polished production of 2005. Each song is thick and hearty, filled with machine-gun drumming, scorching guitar riffs and Halford's inhuman screaming vocals.
    I'm not saying it's a great album if you're getting divorced. But, there is a strong theme running through several songs about terrible demons eating at your soul and how to exorcise them out. That night I was captivated. I didn't know heavy metal could include  trash like Yankee Rose but also a the perfect sonic assault of Hell Rider. At midnight when the Loch Ness monster song faded out ended I called in and won a copy of the album. So I didn't even buy my favorite metal album.
   Hard to believe that when I moved to Denver in 1993 two heavy metal stations  dominated the airwaves. 106.7 KAZY and 105.9 KBPI.



   Both stations talked shit about each other and played the same music. Both had Mandatory Metallica. Then Nirvana released Nevermind and both stations nose dived and had to combine into one. All the headbangers cut their hair and stopped hanging out at Kmart. But I kept riding my bike, so who really won?

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