This article has come out of my reflection as to why my novel “Rock And Roll Children” hasn’t been well received by American readers. After all, I thought that ageing metalheads, like myself, would love a trip back to that decade and reminisce about great times and great metal music. That was the reason I incorporate so many song lyrics throughout the story. It was hoped that the reader would break out their old records, tapes and CDs or go on You Tube and listen to them all over again. How wrong I was.
As far as most American metalheads go, I was preaching to the choir. Many of them have been and still are listening to the music in the book, so it was really nothing new to them nor was it something they had been missing out for many years. The can also be said of younger metalheads in America. Therefore, they were more interested in the story line and the characters. They didn’t care whether or not I got my heavy metal historical facts right, (FFI, Read my article Great Britain, The USA and History) because most Americans feel that if they want to know about history, they will read a history book. By the way, I’m not having a dig at Americans so you fanatically patriotic right wingers can put your knives away now, thank you. “Rock and Roll Children” was a fictional story, so they want a strong story line and interesting characters. Many feel I failed to deliver these things in the story. I put this down to living in Great Britain for 26 years and training and working as a teacher there as well. I was so worried about getting my facts right and making my characters simply believable, which is what British readers want, I forgot about the American ones.
Something which I am kind of glad about is the fact that in the US, the 1980’s are now viewed as the decade of big hair metal” by many today. This seems to be accented by the latest Tom Cruise movie, even if from a standpoint of accuracy appears to be a load of baloney. My book doesn’t portray this; in fact it goes against this belief as the characters are constantly struggling against the anti metal establishment. However, if “Rock and Roll Children” was ever made into a movie, there would be plenty of opportunity for lots of live concert footage.
Great Britain views the 1980s through totally different eyes. In the UK, the media especially communicates the myth that the 1980s was all Frankie Goes to Hollywood and that rock and metal were just footnotes in the decade, something out on the fringe listened to by a few “weirdoes.” I began writing “Rock And Roll Children” to counter that claim. While British metalheads know that this wasn’t the case, I hope that they will use the book as a counter to anyone who tries to claim different. Furthermore, because of the myth, they are more open to reading about metal back in the 80s and reminiscing about the times and the music, especially those older ones who have used it to take a walk down memory lane.
One area where “Rock And Roll Children” has received some criticism is my over pounding the point about the intolerance towards heavy metal and metalheads back in the 1980s, especially in America. Even my own sister said she got to the point where she wanted to scream, “Okay, I get it, metalheads were discriminated against back then!” However, this does not disguise the fact that metalheads were discriminated against and there was a mass intolerance towards heavy metal, especially by the religious establishment. I still believe that it shouldn’t be ignored and that it why I pound that point so much in the story. Then again, that is something that is liable to happen when you are encouraged to write about things by your counsellor. Saying that, I can’t help thinking that American metalheads are in the same mind as the bullied kid who, when he becomes a young adult, denies that he was ever bullied. Maybe it’s a case of that because it happened so long ago, it doesn’t seem that bad any more. That wouldn’t have been the case for every metalhead, but definitely for some. So, if I have portrayed metalheads too much like victims, that’s the reason why.
Another 80s happening where I thought I might get some feedback on was the Jesus freaks at concerts. This is something else American metalheads had to contend with back then. I wanted to poke fun at them in “Rock And Roll Children” because, after all, they were a big joke. Therefore, I am a little disappointed that there has been no comment about it from American readers; I thought they would like to share the joke. My knee jerk reaction to this is “Don’t they remember this happening?” or is it a case they simply don’t want to. Could someone please enlighten me on this as I can’t see why in either case because Jesus freaks were a great source of amusement, then and now.
In both cases, British readers are glad things like these never happened in their country in the 1980s. Many have a great deal of sympathy towards what their American counterparts had to go through. Intolerance towards metalheads in Britain was mainly small-scale stuff like comments in the street and those in authority were much faired in dealing with confrontations. Unlike in the US where the metalhead was always deemed to be at fault. British metalheads also thought Jesus freaks were a big joke. The first time I took my ex-wife to the States, she wanted to go to a concert just to see them and laugh.
Another difference between American and British metalhead readers my writing about pre-concert parties. British readers have told me about how they loved reading about the memories of getting wasted before concerts. Americans aren’t so quick to admit in engaging in these activities most likely because doing so could be career ending. This is something else I forgot about.
I am not surprised that metalheads on either side of the Atlantic ignored my account of Live-Aid. The absence of heavy metal acts on the day was most likely the reason for this, although I do point this out in the story. British metalheads had more reason to be miffed, as there were no metal acts at the London gig. America had two, three if you want to include Led Zeppelin but that’s up to you. But one thing that all metalheads can be proud of is the fact that Judas Priest did proudly hold the torch for all heavy metal that day. I do point this out in the book too.
In conclusion, I completely misjudged the perceptions American metalheads have of the 1980s. I thought they would have enjoyed reminiscing about the great metal and pulled out all their old music to read along to the story. What I didn’t realise is that they have been doing so all along. Furthermore, most Americans want to remember the happy times and don’t want to be reminded about the uglier parts of being a metalhead in the 80s. British metalheads do like to reminisce about the great 80s metal and even if those things had happened to them, reminding them about it wouldn’t have been so bad. They’re still glad that those things didn’t happen to them. Still, I wish someone would have picked up on my Dr Ruth quip on page 238. Anyway, we can all agree, both American and British, that the 1980s was a golden age for heavy metal. Therefore, I will conclude with the lyrics from the song “Future Tense” by Sanctuary and wonder if they aren’t somehow prophetic.
“What will the say when they look back on this?
Were the 80s just a time for innocence?
We leave our legacy like dust in the sands of time.
Will the seeds we plant carry the weight of our crimes?”