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.”