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How That Metal Show Can Be Improved

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First, let me say I’m a longtime fan of VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show. I find the observations and round-table discussions between Eddie Trunk, Jim Florentine, and Don Jamieson hugely entertaining and seriously instructive. I also appreciate their pushing for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to get its act together. The hosts are dead-on when they champion bands like Kiss and Deep Purple who should have been admitted long, long ago before other honorees like, say, Donna Summer (I didn’t even know she was “rocker.” She qualifies how?)

But when Trunk starts each broadcast announcing the show is “your home for all things hard rock and heavy metal,” he’s not 100% correct. Heavy Metal, for sure. The “Stump the Trunk” segments alone are evidence that genre, or really that umbrella of genres, are covered in-depth on TMS.

But “hard rock” is another story. In particular, it seems hard rock began with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and nothing before. When they do their “Top Five” lists of great guitarists, I haven’t seen Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, or Jimi Hendrix. Admittedly, the ’60s might not have been the richest field for what is now considered hard rock, but along with Beck and Page, some credit should go to folks like Leslie West and Mountain. If “Blood of the Sun” and “Mississippi Queen” aren’t hard rock, then I’m really out in left field. How about the MC5, the early Grand Funk Railroad, the Amboy Dukes? I recall one hit wonders like Blue Cheer’s “Summertime Blues” and Frijid Pink’s version of “House of the Rising Sun.” Other lists feature folks like the early Kinks, the Kingsmen, Cream, the Who, Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly, and Steppenwolf.

Now, I know heavy metal and hard rock are a guitar player’s playground, but no keyboardists at all? I know the very idea of keys in a heavy metal band is an anathema to some, but you can’t talk Deep Purple without talking Jon Lord. In terms of the ’70s, Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore gets due coverage on TMS as do Ronnie Montrose and Paul Rogers, but I don’t recall a mention of Uriah Heep and missed any credit to Blue Oyster Cult or Queen. Southern rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, the Black Crowes, or Johnny Winter are, apparently, not hard enough.

I know, I know—I’m trotting out the names of rock dinosaurs lost in the land where time forgot, at least in terms of TMS. And I realize I’m too old to be in That Metal Show‘s primary demographic. After all, I remember hearing the first Led Zep album before anyone knew who they were when Page was best known as The Yardbirds’ last guitarist and composer of “Beck’s Bolero.” I saw Black Sabbath on their first U.S. tour when Ozzy got sick and Black Oak Arkansas blew them off the stage. Friends insisted I was into Kiss before anyone else, but they really meant the New York Dolls. If you look at the debut album covers for both bands, you can understand the initial confusion.

So this crotchety curmudgeon thinks TMS could provide a valuable service to their viewers by going further back in the vaults to showcase where it all began. Eddie and the guys don’t mind bringing out guests that aren’t really metal like the Wilson sisters and veterans of The Runaways, so why not tip their hats to old rockers like Leslie West, Chrissie Hynde, and even a few Yardbirds who are still out there on the road and deserve both recognition and support? This is especially important now since that generation of rockers is getting to the point where we will see them out there with new tours and product less and less frequently.

Without question, VH1 Classic has been excellent at providing the music and histories of rock bands of the Baby Boomer generation. They’ve broadcast great “Behind the Music” documentaries and anniversary specials for classic albums. So, Eddie, why not let a little of that spill over into That Metal Show? I’ll still be happily watching and learning—just please toss some older stuff into your curriculum from time to time so the young-uns don’t really think it all began with “Iron Man” and “Smoke on the Water.”

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About Wesley Britton

  • Grodd70

    Sorry but I totally disagree with the author at some point a line has to be drawn to define what is “hard rock and heavy metal”.
    I do disagree with TMS having the Wilson sisters on even though I really like Heart.
    As for Chrissie Hyde or the Yardbirds I wouldn’t call either “hard Rock”. While I am a huge fan of Blue Cheer and Dickie Peterson’s bass playing as amazing as it is it’s not hard rock. Harder Hippy music would be a better description same as the great Jimmy Hedrix. Hard rock may have its roots in those bands and even transformed into the great Led Zepplin but again hard 60’s hippy stuff. Hard Rock/ Heavy Metal started with Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Rainbow, then Judas Priest, AC/DC. Jeans T-shirts, black leather, no flowers, bell bottoms, psychedelic prisms.

  • Charlie Doherty

    I agree that The Pretenders aren’t hard rock but to say The Yardbirds (especially the Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page eras) and Blue Cheer (and even Hendrix) aren’t hard rock is very wrong. Anyone who has ever taken a serious look at their musical output has definitely said they ere all among the pioneers of hard rock. They weren’t full-time hard rock but had plenty of songs between them that were among the first in the genre.

    Calling what they did “harder hippy music” is pretty dismissive and saying hard rock/heavy metal only started with the bands you listed is pretty ignorant too. I suggest you look at the Wikipedia or Allmusic page of those bands and see some YouTube clips of hard rockers like the Yardbirds “I’m Not Talking,” and “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” and songs from Blue Cheer’s first album (Vincebus Eruptum, released January 1968), which is regarded as one of the first ever heavy metal albums.

    Even The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”

  • Charlie Doherty

    Whoops – sent that first post prematurely. Meant to say even The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” is considered hard rock and “proto-metal” too, one of the most important tunes in the development of heavy metal in general. And it came out in late ’68 on The White Album, well before Black Sabbath and those other bands you mentioned.

  • Wesley Britton

    When I mentioned The Pretenders, I didn’t mean their entire output—anymore than Heart could be considered hard rock for most of their canon. But they were apparently hard enough to appear on TMS. But Pretenders II could be rough and tough—”Day After Day,” “Message of Love.” True, such songs are more punk than hard rock, so if punk don’t count, I here withdraw them from contention.

  • Devin Townsend

    To me, “Heavy Metal” is a pretty large umbrella, under which many sub-genres of metal exist. I competely agree with the author that the assertion at the beginning of each episode “your home for all things hard rock and heavy metal” is completely wrong.
    There is definitely a specific type of metal and a specific timeframe that they focus on, and that is generally old-school 70s and 80s metal.
    I would add to the author’s comments above that the show doesn’t cover older rock, it most certainly does not cover anything new either. The occasional visit from Chuck Billy or Rob Flynn doesn’t compensate for the fact that the majority of the bands featured are completely irrelevant today — either members of defunct bands, bands working at some “reunion”, or musicians that used to be in a relevant band, and who are now off doing something far less interesting (que Eddie sniveling about any chance of a reunion).
    I like the show, and I was a big fan back in the day of bands like Priest, Accept, etc., but the metal world has moved on and flourished, and they should at least acknowledge all the other great metal that’s out there.