Adult Problems - Chuck Eddy, Trolling, and the Best Heavy Metal Albums of All TimeBy Zachary Lipez
I only have three literary influences; James Tate, Andrew Eldritch, and Chuck Eddy, the author of Stairway to Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe. Stairway to Hell is the greatest piece of heavy metal writing that is only tangentially about heavy metal. Stairway to Hell is the worst consumer guide to heavy metal that doubles as an excellent starter kit to writing about music and living life—two things that all too often are in direct opposition. Stairway to Hell is possibly—well, definitely—the only music guide you’ll ever need…as long as you don’t mind a heavy metal guide that lists Teena Marie before Black Sabbath and lists Iron Maiden not at all (which, judging by the indecipherable band log on your flip cap, you do). It is also an excellent argument-starter, friendship-ender, and indispensable place-holder in every family’s bathroom book pile.
Heavy metal purists hate Stairway to Hell with a passion. It lists Kix repeatedly and seems to take the Osmonds way more seriously than Metallica. If you go to the Amazon page where it’s sold, you’ll see one star reviews by the legion, each one repeating the same complaint; “Thinks it’s clever,” “Knows nothing about metal,” “No Judas Priest,” “Asshole.” By titling his book as a definitive guide to metal and then singing the praises of Funkadelic and the Adverts over, say, Venom, Eddy, in 1991, seemed to be single handedly inventing "trolling." But while trolling is just looking to provoke, Chuck Eddy really means it. He has an *cough* expansive definition of what constitutes heavy metal, and he outlines it in the introduction; he defines it as what we now call “proto-metal”—loud guitar rock made by troglodytes with bad skin. That’s a way more fun definition than one you’ll get from a pedant in a Darkthrone onesie, especially when Eddy pretty much ignores his own definition for the duration of the book and includes whatever disco-boogie-jazz-wave-skronk he feels like writing about. It’s entirely up to you whether or not consistency in thesis is a bag that you want to carry, but we also have to accept that the pedants have won. Now, nothing is metal but METALLLL, and if you think different, you are a fag and a hipster and the devil (who doesn’t exist…it’s the universe, maaaaan) thinks you suck. Whatever, I know you think you want the truth (or tr00th), but dollars to donuts, on your death bed, you’ll be wishing you’d asked for more New Wave.
This is what a heavy metal troll looks like.
Trolling is a strange thing. While I agree that just trying to get a rise out of people is no way for a person to act, it seems that “trolling” has become interchangeable to many with “saying stuff I disagree with in a place where most people agree with me.” Whether it’s Right Wing hullabaloo on The Atlantic comment boards (which I read. I…don’t…I don’t know why…), decrying misogyny in the hacker community, or just saying you don’t like Radiohead; the assumption is now that you’re trolling or “just being contrary.” Rather, no one probably actually thinks that, but we have now have such handy terms for shutting each other down. Troll, hipster, reverse racist; you can’t really argue, all you can do is turn off the computer and stare at the wall for an hour or so, thinking, “My people invented fire. We killed WOLVES. Now…fuck…we just…fuck…whatever.” But the fact is, some people who actually love heavy metal ALSO love Teena Marie. And if you’re thinking of heavy metal in the Troggsian “heavy metal thunder” sense, then why the fuck not? Teena Marie (#9), Joy Division (#118) when they get real dirgey, Flipper (#93), and Sonny Sharrock (#84); all heavy metal in a life that’s as wild and free as it can be. Is it correct? FUCK A "CORRECT." We live in America. In your country, the metal maybe heavies you, but by God, here, we can use words any way me damn well please to mean whatever our little metal heart’s desire. And anyway, Death Angel is #500, so it’s not like the man isn’t throwing you a bone.
I don’t mean to pretend that I existed on some higher plain of discernment where I immediately appreciated the finer points of Chuck Eddy’s world view. Finding Stairway to Hell in the Barnes & Noble of the Berkshire Mall at the impressionable age of 16, I was flabbergasted and offended to have such totems of my existence, Minor Threat and Ministry, not—gasp—being taken seriously. It seemed like the worst kind of apostasy. These dudes were serious. Otherwise, why were they shouting? But it also seemed a revelation that you could love punk and/or metal and maybe think some the ideas that went with it were maybe sort of dumb (It was also the first time I’d heard of the Three Johns or Die Kreuzen—and you can imagine how that newfound knowledge helped my social life along!), and conversely, maybe the dumbness of said ideas wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. With it, I realized that piety and over-thought notions of authenticity were best left to those that could be bothered; enthusiasm was all. It’s a lesson you can learn from Lester Bangs or Lisa Crystal Carver or David Lee Roth or anyone else that knows life is for living, but I learned it from Chuck Eddy.
Eddy told me that he’s more than willing to write a sequel to Stairway to Hell, should anyone want to offer him money to do so. I would strongly encourage someone to do so. Now, when so many heralded heavy metal albums sound to both his and my ears like so much background noise, the sound of hippies pondering their MBV B-sides and confusing ennui with despair, a new canon is sorely needed. Maybe Judas Priest would finally make the cut, but I don’t doubt that it would also include Three Six Mafia, the Warlock Pinchers, Fall Out Boy, and so many hundreds of left field reprobates I’ve never even heard of. It would help no one’s metal purchasing acumen, infuriate everybody, cause Twitter to collapse in on itself, and I would love it like a newborn foal.
Follow Zack on Twitter - @zacharylipez
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