Monday, February 08, 2021

"I don't think Elton could sing 'In League With Satan'"

What (I think) started out as a brief oral history of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) compiled for the Guardian has, it seems, spiralled into something much larger, with writer Michael Hann recently revealing he's finished a book manuscript for publisher Little, Brown called Denim And Leather.

I seem to recall Hann saying at the time of the article how much he'd enjoyed seeking out and listening to the movement's key protagonists - including Saxon's Biff Byford, Def Leppard's Joe Elliott and Cronos of Venom - tell the story in their own words. Indeed, he gathered so much material that he later pulled together a longer article for the Quietus, complete with tales of drummers falling asleep behind their kits to scupper attempted Kiss covers, sparsely attended alfresco gigs illuminated by car headlights and Venom's ill-advised experiments with homemade pyrotechnics.

Far more often derided than celebrated, NWOBHM lasted longer than the first wave of punk, drawing on its energy and giving birth to countless bands - not least enduring metal legends Iron Maiden. Those who shared their memories and reflections with Hann made clear the critical importance of infrastructure to its popularity. Without venues in which to perform it, labels willing to risk releasing it, club and radio DJs willing to champion it and music journalists willing to give it coverage, NWOBHM would never have taken off. A valuable point to remember at a time when the industry's whole ecosystem is under (yes, I'm going to use that word) unprecedented strain.

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