Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Metal aficionado and Mighty High guitarist/vocalist Chris “Woody High” MacDermott returns with a new installment of his column, “Spine of Overkill.” This time around, Woody asks who’s side you were on in 1983: Was it Slayer and Raven or Def Leppard and Quiet Riot? Fortunately for all of us, Woody made the right choice in his younger days.

By way of a plug, Mighty High will be playing a 4/20 spectacular at The Gutter in Brooklyn with Pants Exploder and Smokewagon. More info on that is on the Thee Facebooks event page.

Please enjoy:

In one of my frequent, restless and wild internet pontifications, Swiss metal maniac Erich Keller spontaneously erupted a bold theory about the year 1983. Basically, he pointed out that a lot of great metal bands began to stink in 1983 and the new breed of bands coming up were either lightweight bullshit or mega heavy real deal. 1983 was the year headbangers were forced to choose – are you gonna wimp out or go heavy? Be sure to check out Erich‘s excellent blog Good Bad Music For Bad, Bad Times for some killer vinyl rips from his immense collection. Warning! You will spend a lot of time there.

The 1983 challenge was put out right off the bat in January with two albums representing the extremes – Def Leppard’s Pyromania and Exciter‘s Heavy Metal Maniac. Pyromania was inescapable back then. They were constantly on the fuckin’ radio and MTV. Everyone in my high school would walk around saying that stupid “ooben eeben ouben glouben” thing that starts of one of their songs. Ugh! It was even worse when it seemed like the entire school bought those British flag shorts and sleeveless shirts. I’d been pretty indifferent to Def Lep prior to that point but now, as Tank would say in June of ‘83, “This Means War!” I wish I had scored a copy of Exciter‘s Heavy Metal Maniac when it first came out, it would have made the rest of the year easier for me. I was a diehard Motörhead fan and searching for more stuff like that. It wasn’t until the end of the year that I even saw a copy of Heavy Metal Maniac when I started making regular trips into NYC to buy records. Paul’s Record Hut in New Rochelle carried a lot of cool stuff but not much heavy.

Quiet Riot released Metal Health in March. I bought a copy at Crazy Eddie’s in Yonkers just because it had the word metal in the title. I tried convincing myself that I liked it because I paid full price but after a few plays I realized I’d been tricked. Fuck! Two other albums I picked up in March were better – Saxon‘s Power & The Glory and Thin Lizzy‘s Thunder & Lightning. Both albums had a lot of filler but there were enough killer jams to maintain the steady screams of “turn it down!” from my mother.

In April, things really began to change for me. On a trip to Bleecker Bob’s I saw an album called Forged in Fire by a band called Anvil. Remembering how I’d been burned by Quiet Riot I wasn’t sure if I should take a chance. It was an import, two or three bucks more than a domestic album. Three dollar bags of weeed were being phased out but you could always find someone to split a nickel bag with. Every dollar really mattered. Back then import albums were never shrink-wrapped so I checked out the lyric sheet and the raunchy lyrics of “Motormount” appealed to me so I picked it up. Thankfully the album was indeed heavy and not a repeat of the Metal Health experience. Metal on Metal held its own when I played it back to back with Ace of Spades and British Steel. Now the search was really on for more stuff like this.

Iron Maiden‘s Piece of Mind was a mandatory purchase in May of ‘83. I liked it a lot but not as much as Number of the Beast. Dio‘s Holy Diver came out the same month. I opted not to buy it but to tape it from a friend. By this point metal was getting bigger and most of my friends were getting into it, too. It was great not to have to buy every record. My after school job assembling trophies in my science teacher’s garage didn’t exactly pay big money so I had to spend wisely. My mother certainly wasn’t going to give me any money for albums, concert tickets, t-shirts, beer or weeed so I really had to hustle to keep up. Maiden‘s show at the Garden later in ‘83 was great, even with Quiet Riot opening up, but it was one of my last arena show for well over a decade. There were guys with Venom album covers painted on the back of their jackets and covered with patches of bands I needed to discover.

June was a huge month for me. Twisted Sister‘s second album You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll came out and had a lot of kick ass Godz-like biker rock. But even better were the import 12″ singles with unbelievably heavy live recordings on the B-sides. Twisted Sister had yet to break nationally in the US but were massive in the UK. They recorded some shows at the famous Marquee club and the versions of “Destroyer,” “Tear it Loose,” “Run for Your Life” and the blistering cover of “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)” they released let everyone know this wasn’t a phony glam band. Not yet, at least.

Ads in Kerrang let me know Motörhead was putting out a new album called Another Perfect Day featuring their new guitarist Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy. Motörhead were my favorite band and I made sure to get a copy as soon as it hit the shelves at Bleecker Bob’s. I wore that album out. I fuckin’ loved it and didn’t care that it got bad reviews. I scored a ticket to see them play an all ages show at L’amours in Brooklyn at the end of July. I’d never been there, had no idea how to get there but knew I’d figure it out. That show was an eye opener for sure. It was the first time I ever heard “Fast as a Shark” by Accept, “Nuns Have No Fun” by Mercyful Fate and a ton of other killer jams. Motörhead’s set was devastating. I knew I couldn’t go back to sitting in the balcony of Madison Square Garden after standing about 12 feet away from Robbo‘s triple Marshall stacks. My ears rang for eight days.

Metallica‘s Kill ‘em All came out in July on a brand new East Coast record label called Megaforce. Anticipation for this album was high since the No Life Til Leather demo had been circulating fast and furiously. I scored a third or fourth generation dub of it not too long before the official album. It was a great tape but my copy was so hissy and washed out it was hard to hear anything. I also thought it was dubbed at the wrong speed because the vocals were so high pitched. The same day I picked up Kill ’em All I decided to buy another new release from Megaforce, Manowar‘s Into Glory Ride. Both these albums blew me away but Kill ’em All was exactly what I was looking for: Total Motörhead/Venom speed and aggression mixed with Priest/Maiden twin axe attackery.

Megaforce followed up those first two killer releases with another one, Raven‘s All for One. God damn! I was looking for heavy and Megaforce was delivering big time. It is to my eternal regret that I didn’t see the Kill ‘Em All For One tour. I knew they were playing L’amours but it wasn’t all ages and didn’t want to take a chance of not getting in with my crappy fake ID. It wasn’t until years later that I found out they played the Rising Sun in Yonkers. I should have tried getting in to that show. Ugh. What a drag.

Also out in August was Accept‘s new one Balls to the Wall. After hearing “Fast as a Shark” at that Motörhead show I immediately bought Accept‘s Restless & Wild. That album really blew me away but Balls was a bit of a disappointment. It had some great songs but nothing close to R&W. Black Sabbath‘s Born Again came out that same month and it felt like I was the only person in the world that liked it. I’d always been a huge Deep Purple fan and thought it was a great idea when Ian Gillan replaced Ronnie James Dio. I still listen to “Trashed” and “Zero the Hero” all the time. I taped a friend’s copy of Flick of the Switch by AC/DC, another album I still love. I liked it a lot more than For Those About to Rock but I’ve always been in the minority on that point, too. Shit that was a good summer!

Back to school in Zeptember brought Mötley Crüe‘s Shout at the Devil. I’d bought so many albums at Record World in the New Rochelle mall I had a coupon for a free one. I decided to give the new Crüe a try. It had a pentagram on the cover so how bad could it be? Turns out it was Quiet Riot time all over again for me. I liked some of it but was disappointed that the Satanic lyrics weren’t evil enough. I had no idea if Venom were really devil worshipers but “Sons of Satan” was the sound I preferred to “Too Young to Fall in Love.” And while we’re talking about Satan, I got a lot more than I bargained for when Mercyful Fate‘s Melissa was released by Megaforce in October. Jeezus, that album confused the hell out of me. The music was unbelievable. It sounded like the album I wanted Iron Maiden to make after Killers, but I was totally unprepared for the bizarre vocals of King Diamond (or “Queen Rhinestone,” as my hero Bob Muldowney of Kick*Ass Monthly used to call him). The Satanic lyrics didn’t bother me in the least but the screeching got on my nerves until I sort of got used to them. I actually like Fate a lot more now than I did then.

A big bummer in October was the release of Riot‘s Born in America. Restless Breed and Fire Down Under remain some of my favorite albums of all time but Born in America just didn’t cut it. The metal landscape was changing so fast. Riot went in a more commercial direction with disastrous results. After being dropped by Elektra, Riot wound up on a Canadian label. Even if they had the money to really push it, the album just wasn’t very good. It didn’t help that Quiet Riot was the biggest metal band around and no one gave a shit about just plain old Riot. Such a shame. They shoulda broken through in ‘81 or ‘82 and helped “Kick down the Walls” for the next wave of heavy bands. In November, I taped Headhunter by Krokus and Bark at the Moon by Ozzy but didn’t listen to them too much.

1983 ended with the sound of my future – Slayer‘s Show No Mercy. If any album forced you to decide which side you’re gonna be on, this was it. Some of the more mainstream headbangers were resistant to Kill ’em All at first but were starting to come around. Just as they’re getting used to heavier shit, here comes Slayer. On New Year’s Day 1984 I certainly wasn’t listening that fuckin’ U2 song. I had made my choice. What did you do?

THIS!

Not this.

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6 Responses to “Spine of Overkill, by Woody High”

  1. KENZ says:

    Yo! Your 50s?

  2. Woody says:

    Soon enoughs. Yous will, too!

  3. Woody says:

    Soon enoughs. Yous will be, too!

  4. HM Maniac says:

    Very nicely done…… EXCEPT I must inform you that are are absolutely NO fillers on THIN LIZZY’s ‘Thunder & Lightning’! There are only great and greater songs. Way to go out with a bang!

    1983 was a pivotal year indeed – it was the year American metal began to stomp all over British and European metal (with very few exceptions, like Accept, Torch, Oz, MFate – even with King’s annoying voice ruining he music !). The NWOBHM had lost steam (Savage – Loose N’ Lethal was a saving grace….. Tokyo Blade and Grim Reaper were good as well), Maiden, Saxon, Priest, Leppard, Diamond Head, Girlschool et al all made albums that couldn’t hang with their ’80 / ’83 output. And AC/DC totally lost the plot after ‘For Those About to Rock.’

    Instead we got into Queensryche, Armored Saint, Savatage, Dio, Warlord, Exciter, Hawaii, Anthrax, Manowar, Virgin Steele, Steeler, Alcatrazz, Cintron, early Ratt and, of course, Metallica. And we’d already discovered Riot, Y&T, The Rods, and Anvil a bit earlier.

    Good times. So glad I was there.

  5. […] SPINE OF OVERKILL: Picking a Side in 1983. […]

  6. lftwng4 says:

    Always enjoy reading your stuff.
    I had a similar experience, give and take a few bands. Another Perfect Day still remains my favorite Motorhead album.
    But I started to veer off the metal path. Some of those bands you mentioned, along with increasingly dull albums from Dio, drove me away from metal, and I ended up in the punk/hardcore scene, a few years behind the curve. But yeah, still got some memories, and a long standing reunion with the greatest period of metal.
    thanks

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