Defending The Faith (Or: How Rob Halford Made Me Gasp Once, While Still Merely A Teen)

Raised on the Radio is a new series I’ve started. As a music lover I have noticed a great difference between those Raised on The Radio, and those who are being raised on streaming music and audio-downloads. As I try to teach my son about the value of musicianship, I find it increasingly difficult to share music with the same feeling of excitement I had hearing a song for the first time on the radio. Hearing your favorite song on the radio was an act of serendipity, and if you needed to hear it that badly, you sat next to the radio all night with your finger on the record button of your cassette player – waiting to capture that perfect moment.  Gone are the days of album rock, this generation will probably never listen to a whole album first song to last, they will never understand B-Sides, they will never stare at an album cover as they listen to the music. This series is dedicated to all of the musicians who had to wait for that radio station to play their song, who had to wait to hear – the long way – if their song or record was #1, who had the pleasure of knowing that every song on their album was heard.

This series will be brought to you through guest posts, because we each seem to have something to share when it comes to our experiences with the radio.

This week our post is from Troy over at As Long As I’m Singing. When I asked for guest writers for this series he was the first guy to jump on the bandwagon. I am so happy to have him! Give him a little love over at his blog when you’re done checking out his post:

• Defending The Faith (OR: How Rob Halford Made Me Gasp Once, While Still Merely A Teen) •

Did you hear that?

That opening riff?

Go ahead – give it another listen. I’ll wait.

That was the sound that some twenty-nine years ago made my young impressionable intellect go *pop!* That was the sound that simply. Blew. My. Mind. And by the time I hit the damned “record” button, I had missed almost half of it!

The year was 1984. Yes, THE 1984. The 1984 that was going to turn us all, almost magically by it’s mere occurrence, into Orwellian stooges. The 1984 that would eventually show us that white men – well, David Lee Roth at any rate – actually could “jump.”

But none of that was my concern. No, to my mind, 1984 was the year that my favorite band of ALL TIME was going to release a new album; an album entitled “Defenders Of The Faith.” And I knew that, only because of a certain Snortin’ Norton.

Ah yes, Snortin’ Norton. That’s right, that’s the name that this cat decided to use as his professional moniker. It sounded (even more) stupid if you said it out loud, so I never did. But hearing it announced on the radio, you knew that you were mere minutes away from the musical landslide he captained every Friday night at midnight: 97 Rock’s Metal Shop (or, as the mc growled in low demonic tones, “ME-ME-ME-METAL SHOPPPP!”)

Now by 1984, I suppose I was old enough to NOT be huddled next to my clock radio cassette recorder at midnight on a given Friday. But the same reason that my fandom of Judas Priest had to be closeted was also the explanation for my lack of early-teen weekend freedom (let’s just say, having overly paranoid Roman Catholic parents while growing up, precludes you from experiencing what a lot of what other teens simply consider normal rights of passage). But I didn’t care. I had Snortin’, and the radio, and the deliciously angry testosterone-filled vibes that poured forth from midnight till one.

With one sweaty finger precariously perched just above the “record*” button, I would wait for the commercials to end, and for Norton to stop his yapping, just before engaging. It was through this guerilla mix tape methodology that I discovered bands such as Accept, Iron Maiden, Dio and Grim Reaper. All of whom were eventually audiophileably warehoused on mounds of plastic casings and tape. Each track having been lovingly transferred from the source cassette to a “higher end” mix of my creation, carefully scraping off as much commercial and/or DJ blather overlap as possible, before finalizing the mix. Some would say that it was the end result that counted, but for me, the entire exercise was its own joy – and sharing your mixes with like-minded individuals, mere icing on an already scrumptious noise-cake.

So what was it about “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” in particular that turned my grey matter inside out? Well, I’m none sure if I can explain it to you, and I’m damned sure that the younger generations would simply stare at me, even more pie-faced and deer-in-the-head-lighted than they do currently. But there was just something about being in a darkened room, under cover, awaiting the electric blue to switch gracefully from 11:59 to 12:00; before quietly turning on the radio to hear Mr. Norton’s cell mate welcome you into his ME-ME-ME-METAL – shhh! You’ll wake up mom and dad! –  SHOPPPP. And when you were nervously awaiting the virgin listen to the BRAND NEW track from your favorite band of ALL TIME that no one could know you actually liked, a heightened sense of anticipation could be said to have hung in the air like the musk of a wild animal in heat (one with a clock radio cassette recorder, at any rate.) It was in this state that a young, perpetually horny, confused and – in general – intimidated by life fifteen-year old version of me first heard that opening riff, with a resulting audible gasp escaping that I could swear, I can sometimes still hear late at night.

Eventually Judas Priest would be replaced as my favorite band of ALL TIME, and CFNY out of Toronto (the BESTEST alternative radio station EVER) with Chris Sheppard would be my wave length of choice, over 97 Rock and Snortin’ – a different story for another time – but I still catch myself occasionally feeling bad that my three will never have that experience. That camaraderie with a song that we were able to enjoy, late at night, while our fingers twitched at the ready just above the “record” button. It was the radio that serendipitously brought us together so tightly, song and listener. And while I refuse to listen to the radio today (waaaaaaay too many commercials and mindless chatter), I will always be grateful for it’s being around back then, “holding my hand” while introducing me to what would become just about the best friends I will ever have, on those musically-closeted and lonely early teen nights.

* To avoid becoming log-jammed in digression, I simply used the word “record,” when in fact; it was the “pause” button my finger was hovering over – as I found that by keeping the “record” function engaged though paused, more of the song was retrieved when resuming the process.
Yeah, I spent a LOT of Friday nights alone…

Troy, or Tweetless as I call him, blogs over at As Long As I’m Singing. He’s a dad of three grown children AND a classy dresser. He fancies himself a writer in that he can place words side by side, in an order that results in their resembling coherent thoughts, when being read back. I think he can do way better than that. He loves Bobby Darin because he didn’t just sing the song, he felt it. He didn’t just love music, he lived for it. And in so doing, he brought music to life for the rest of us.
Troy humbly hopes that one day he’ll be able to do the similar-to same with his writing.

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