Even if heavy metal is seen by many people as evil and destructive it is still very popular among young and old. It is pretty obvious that the thing teenagers today (and yesterday and tomorrow) are crazy about is music. Of all the musical genres the one with probably the most enthusiastic fans has to be heavy metal and all the hundreds of sub-categories, whether it is classic hard rock or grindcore.
Discordant heavy metal music struck a chord with many teenagers during the late ’70s and ’80s. The loud, fast, guitar-driven music has since languished commercially as successive generations have chosen newer soundtracks to fuel their rebellion against the establishment. Many of the original fans, however, never moved on, even as they aged, started careers, got married and had children of their own.
“If you’re seeing a 40-year-old at a concert, you’re quite sure at 18 you know what kind of music he was into. For so many people the music of the most emotional point of their lives is a touchstone that they return to for the rest of their lives, there keeping their own youth alive.
Heavy metal fans wear their passion on more than just the sleeves of skull T-shirts and black leather jackets. For many of them, the music–louder and faster than anything heard before–became a way of life. The mostly white, mostly male and mostly middle-class listeners found a feeling of power over their parents, over their teachers, over the jocks at school that treated them as outcasts.
Metalheads, or headbangers, as they called themselves, built up a community linked through underground tape swapping networks and conversations about Metallica lyrics while camping out on line for concert tickets.
A second wave of British and American rock bands became popular during the late 1960s to the 1970s, with groups that were more steeped in American blues music than their more pop-oriented predecessors. Bands such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Status Quo, Aerosmith, Queen, Black Sabbath, and Uriah Heep played highly amplified, guitar-driven hard rock that would come to be known as heavy metal. Heavy metal languished into obscurity in the late 1970s. A few bands including Kiss, Queen, Black Sabbath,AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith maintained large followings and there were occasional mainstream hits such as Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”. Music critics overwhelmingly disliked the genre. This began to change in 1978 following the release of Van Halen’s eponymous, self-titled debut album. The album helped to usher in an era of high-energy rock and roll, based out of Los Angeles, California.
One genre that was widely popular in the 1980s (c.1983) was glam metal. Taking influence from various artists such as Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, Queen, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Twisted Sister, (all but Queen would eventually play glam metal at some point in the 80s), Sweet and the New York Dolls. The earliest glam metal bands to gain notability included: Mötley Crüe, W.A.S.P. and Ratt. They became known for their debauched lifestyles, teased hair and use of make-up and clothing. Their songs were bombastic and often defiantly macho, with lyrics focused on sex, drinking, drugs, and the occult.
By the mid 1980s, a formula developed in which a glam metal band had two hits — one a “power ballad” (slow-dance tempo, with soft verses and bombastic anthemic choruses), and the other a hard-rocking anthem. In 1987 a second wave of glam metal acts, sometimes referred to as sleaze rock, emerged including L.A. Guns and Faster Pussycat.