The Polishing of Metal Part 1
Serious Business

By Derek McDonald

This document was compiled for use by novices to the Heavy Metal genre, experts who want a review and record collectors. I make no claim as to its accuracy. You use this information at your own risk. I do, however, try to minimize errors. This document is always being updated so your input is valuable. If you have suggestions or corrections please send them to me. My address is at the end. This text is © Copyright 1996 by Derek McDonald (me). It may be distributed for NON-PROFIT purposes freely until otherwise noted by myself. This text must be distributed complete and unedited and must contain this legal notice.


If an army were to march to its beat they would move 3.0-4.5 miles an hour, slow for earth travel but fast for music, the fastest there is. Its attitude is bad, its clothes are flashy, its face is young. Anybody can do it with a bit of practice but very few will ever make something of themselves with it. It has defined a generation. It has survived fads and fashions, nay-sayers, censors and bans. It crosses cultures with ease and thrives best in conservative societies and works to liberate the people. It is a religion on its own and assimilates all which comes by its path. Depending on your point of view it is either the highest form of music man can and will ever create or the worst. No matter what it is, it is a way of life for many people and enriches those lives in ways which the English language can not even begin to describe. This monster of Rock music is called Metal…Heavy Metal.

In the pages that follow I will take you on a brief walk through its history, hopefully you will enjoy it and perhaps take your own stroll down memory lane as I have, but most of all I hope you will learn something about this wonderful music. I am a converted metallurgist, there was a time when I didn't care one way or the other about Metal. But now I strive for its survival and fight with the "Metal Militia." It has fulfilled my life and has given me a sense of belonging and pride. A feeling that, indeed, there is a place for me in this world of change. A place that changes and yet, always stays the same. A safe spot to call home. I wish to share that spot with you.

Over the past few years I have kept note of my observations and finally wrote them all down to tell the world. This document is nowhere near complete but is enough to publish and tell the world about it. I have not covered every major event or band in the world, nor did I try. Just enough to educate. Well, this is one educational text you won't mind reading. (NO there is no exam after.)

Part 1 - Serious Business

Heavy Metal. Metal…Heavy…Harder than standard Rock and a better conductor of electricity too! The mere mentioning of those two words HEAVY and METAL together cause some people to release emotions equivalent to the French kissing of a light socket. Surprise, horror and disgust are the words that best describe the feeling. But to a growing elite it has become the music that defined a generation. No other form of music can adapt to changing environments and generations better than rock. Like the Woodstock/Baby Boomer generation before, rock now adapted to the world of today. It became harder, bigger and louder. It became Metal.

Like no other form of music, rock, in particular Metal-Rock, expresses the state of society through lyrics and music that expresses the emotions, changes and needs of the youthful listeners. It defines the new rules to a new generation. It provides fashion, language and a lifestyle all its own.

Metal is an anomaly in the world of music. With rarely offering #1 chart topper singles and, in many areas, very little radio air time, it still manages to sell more than enough to convince the suit and tie record executives to keep pumping it out. In fact, so much of it is pumped out that it has become a multi-billion dollar industry within the music industry. There are even entire record companies dedicated to the publication of nothing but Heavy Metal music. Many record stores dedicate anywhere from 10 - 70% of their trading floor to it. Many clothing, music and memorabilia stores can thank it for their survival and success. Heavy Metal is unique in the world of product sales and salesmen need not apply.

This "oddity" could be a result of its appeal to a generation of youth with more spending cash than any before?

It's appeal…Yes, why does it sell in the first place? Surely these youths can find something else to waste their money on?

The freedom of the 60's spilled into the 70's, 80's and 90's. The 1980's and 90's, especially, were a very hectic time to a generation who were dismissed by the older establishment as having lost their way, rebels without a cause, lazy, stupid and any other words that they could stick onto the "X'ers," as they became known as.

These statements were only partially true. Although this generation of youth were often spoiled that can hardly be blamed totally on them. What about the parents who spoiled them? What about the society that blames them of such blasphemous crimes?

Heavy Metal gave youths something to call their own, indeed, something to celebrate in a world which had fallen victim to the spoils of drugs, crime, pollution, political correctness, upheaval, crumbling empires, longer days with less pay, greed, war, terrorism and debt. A world where a college or university degree no longer guaranteed you a job. A world where to be a young adult or teen was to be looked down upon by the elders of society.

While it is true that there was also fast technological change, tremendous breakthroughs in medical science and moves toward a gentler humanity these were of small comfort to those still not elder enough to enjoy the benefits.

For all the dismissal that has been hurled its way, Heavy Metal is the only constant standard-bearer that rock & roll can claim. Whereas rockabilly, psychedelia, disco and even punk each peaked within a handful of years, Metal has proved consistently popular for more than twenty five years.

It has served as a voice - a reliable and essential right of passage for its audience - that is, it is music that expresses the frustrations, desires and values of a youth population that has too often found itself without any other cultural advocate or voice. It allows its fans to express their pride and bravado and allow the youthful to feel like they belong and make them feel powerful. It is often used as a safe way for people to express their anger to an increasingly cold hearted society.

Although catering mostly to Anglo-Saxon white males aged 14-30, by the 1990's this market was slowly changing to allow those of color, females and older people as both fans and performers. It became common place to see everyone from bikers to businessmen browsing through the Metal section at the local record store.

Through its active history, Metal has demanded and received complete devotion from its fans. To many it is a kind of religious experience. From the ritual of the Rock Concert to the dress: usually consisting of denim, black leather, silver studs, long hair and black T-shirts (depicting the logos of the wearer's favorite band), to the language and ideals, it appeals to a generally youth oriented market. Party, success, strength, live life for today, generally homophobic, energetic, anti-establishment, youth power, sometimes sexist and not politically correct is its bottom-line charter.

Over the years it evolved from being just a music of rebellion and non-conformity to also being a working man's music. From pick up trucks, homes, motorcycles, farms, factories and streets Metal descended like a snow storm on the Canadian prairie. But unlike the snow, it never melted away.

It has become a culture on its own with its own codes of moral conduct and traditions allowing the youth to have a place where they feel in control and wanted.