Kerrang! Magazine is what distunguishes a heavy metal fan from the casual observer.
Investing the not insignificant sum of 85p on Kerrang! was the moment I turned to the dark side- and entered the world of being a “proper” heavy metal fan. It wasn’t that I suddenly started wearing a cowboy boots, a denim jacket with band names on the back and a bullet belt hanging from my hips. Oh no – I didn’t adopt that classy image until at least six months later.
But Kerrang! did grant access to the world of heavy rock which was otherwise impenetrable:
What was a Mötley Crüe?
Was Blue Öyster Cult something to do with a biker bar in the film “Police Academy”?
Was Lemmy from Motörhead still alive?
…and why did so many bands have umlauts over their names?
The bands featured within received no coverage from the mainstream music or national press. Unlike today, there was no other magazine covering the heavier end of rock. Kerrang! was therefore the Wikileaks of music – revealing hidden secrets that no-one else dared to cover – if that isn’t overstating its importance. Which it definitely is.
My sister bought Smash Hits, with its printed lyrics and amusing letters page (with “Black Type” making sarcastic replies to the letter writers…). NME covered something called “Indie”…which meant music that Goths liked – so The Cure and The Smiths took turns to be on the cover.
I wasn’t a Goth, as they were the kids who sulkily went to “cancer corner” at one end of the playground where the teachers wouldn’t find them to smoke cigarettes. My hair wasn’t black enough either.
“Sounds” covered indie, but also some rock, and Melody Maker… well, no-one I knew bought that…
The cover of the first copy of Kerrang! that I bought featured a close up of fang-toothed Twisted Sister lead singer Dee Snider. He looked scary. More accurately, he looked like a drag queen who had really let himself go, which on reflection is not especially scary.
Twisted Sister won a four star review for their new “Come out and Play” album which is mostly notable for the LP cover which depicted a manhole grid which lifted up like a pop up book to reveal Snider in full drag make up. Oh, and a pretty terrible cover of Leader of the Pack. Having a pop up book with a photo of a drag queen inside would probably get a band on the sex offenders register nowadays, but in 1985 this was apparently run of the mill.
All very er, interesting for a fifteen year old but not as exciting as the b side of the 12 inch version of “I am (I’m me)” which a friend owned. It featured more swearing in ten minutes of live concert footage than the whole of the “Beverley Hills Cop” franchise. I don’t know why a sweary drag queen inciting an audience to be equally as sweary was good but it was – like listening to a Derek and Clive album without the jokes.
The four star review of “Come Out and Play” was enough to persuade me to buy the record.
The die was cast the moment I handed over the £4.99 over the counter at Parrot Records.
The deed was done.
I was a fully fledged heavy metal fan.
Albeit for now I would be one that dressed and behaved like a normal person. Like Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne, I would blend in with society, so no-one would suspect my love of loud guitars and the oddly dressed men that wielded them.
Being honest, school was bad enough as it was. I figured that dressing like Neil from The Young Ones wasn’t going to make my life any easier.
Record #27: Twisted Sister – Leader of the Pack