Heavy Metal Week on NPR.
Anyway a regular part of my routine is listening to Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I've mentioned that fact quite often on this blog. This week they are running a series of rebroadcasts that deal with a specific theme- "Heavy Metal and Hard Rock". I'm a bit disappointed to return to this after my time away. One of the main reasons I tune in to NPR is to listen to substantial commentary about serious subjects. I am not always interested in the guests Gross invites onto her show, but I usually learn something despite my low expectations. It's a bit like Charlie Rose... Fresh Air gets politicians, corporate hacks, authors, musicians and a wide variety of entertainers. Even if I dislike the particular subject, Terry Gross often elicits some quality conversation that the typical educated layman can benefit from.
But Jesus... really? Heavy metal?? Why? Is this truly a subject with any kind of significant weight? Within any genre I am bound to find something I like, but Metal seems so juvenile to me now. I'll admit that when I was in the 13-16 age bracket, I listened to my share of bad hair bands. I remember loving Quiet Riot, and I can't deny once owning a Twisted Sister record. I dug those middle school girls with teased hair, feather earrings and jean-jackets. If I had to pretend to like Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison, Cinderella or Ratt... that was OK as long as a cute girl was sitting next to me. I was certainly no sophisticate. Everyone my age was listening to that stuff in the early 80's. I feel no need to have my puerile tastes justified by retrospective academic analysis. It wasn't that deep then, and it isn't that deep now. Like any other teenager I wanted to rebel- smoking cigarettes, dreaming about sex with hot chicks, and listening to metal were part of the equation.
The thing is that I have absolutely no nostalgia for those awkward days. If I did, I'd be tuning into VH-1 for a regular dose of it. Yet this week I heard from Rob Halford, the guys from Spinal Tap, Metallica, and Gene Simmons. What did I gain from that? Now I know that the lead singer of Judas Priest WAS gay. If "Hell Bent for Leather" wasn't the ultimate tip-off, then I'm not sure what to tell you. The guy from Metallica had a shitty attitude. No way, dude?! Christopher Guest IS a genius. Duh! And Gene Simmons is an asshole without even a hint of irony.
Actually the Simmons interview is illustrative. When Gross interviewed this iconic KISS member (by the way... the band sucked!), good old Gene dominated the conversation by making lewd come-ons to her, and trying his best to discredit public radio. One highlight of the segment is when Simmons suggests that the host should welcome him with "open legs". He kept making asides about how the listeners needed to "get out and live(!)" That's right folks- quit wasting time with books and intellectual discussion and get some ass! It's telling that this very interview got the biggest listener response of all-time. Instead of writing this clown off, people were actually offended by his antics. The guy is the perfect caricature of a man-boy, and the audience took him seriously.
Why do NPR and Terry Gross feel compelled to pander to this type of idiocy? I'm not completely humorless... once in awhile they could devote 20 minutes to some goof-ball with perceived pop-culture import. But an entire week devoted to Heavy Metal? I can tune into virtually any media outlet and experience this kind of typically American anti-intellectualism. There's no reason for NPR to reinforce the prevailing attitude.