The Metal Diaries: The Mid-Eighties Montagues and Capulets

Cliff Burton: Fallen Thrasher Hero

You have to understand the scene in 1986, at least in my life. I was straddling two groups of friends – fans of two slightly different factions of rock music, factions who were warring apparently.

On the one hand, there were my no-frills, heavy metal friends (mostly guys) who were early Metallica connoisseurs, and very particular about who they listened to. If their personalities could be summed up in a present day tv character, they’d be Ron Swansons with really long hair. Very meat and potatoes. Sometimes the preferred music was referred to as ‘thrash’ – it was very heavy. But there was an easier way to recognize these bands (Armored Saint, Slayer, Motorhead) that was tried and true: They lived and played by one important commandment: Thou shalt not wear make-up, spandex, hairspray or anything that  indicates you spent more than a minute looking in the mirror. When their bands took the stage – maybe at L’Amours, or the Palace Theatre, or a dusty dive bar in Port Chester New York, they had no accoutrements whatsoever. They wore T-shirts, jeans, sneakers and long hair.  That’s it.  It was serious shit, man! They did not give a single fuck.  If you had any accessories, they’d better be a no nonsense guitar and a bag of weed. 

The Thrasher Look

On the other side were my ‘hair metal’ friends, or as my thrasher friends referred to them: Posers. They were into ‘glam’ metal where the motto was, conversely: There is no such thing as too much make-up, spandex, hairspray and fluff and god knows-there can never be too many mirrors!  The music was heavy, but a hair metal band could actually do ballads, (which sickened the thrashers: it was syrup of ipecac to their senses!) Bands like Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Ratt, Dokken, Motley Crue all fell into the category of Hair Metal.

Most of my Hair Metal friends were in bands, between bands, or roadies for bands. They were fashionable night owls, who preferred to sleep during the day, and work at night, if possibleWe went to lots of shows in bigger (though not necessarily ‘cooler’) venues. With accoutrements up the ying-yang, I must say.  

Posers! Beautiful Freakin’ Posers!

I loved both factions, but tended to dress for the hair metal crowd. I lived in a duplex near the beach, which meant that everyone had to drive by my place on their way to the beach parking lot, a prime spot for pre-club hanging and getting lubed in the spring and summer, so I was rarely without company, and I welcomed all factions equally.  

A typical night: As I teased my hair, and fastened three studded belts in graduated lengths over a tight mini-skirt, getting ready to hit the Agora or The Great American Music Hall, my thrasher boys would arrive with a six pack of beer and a stack of thrasher albums, intent on turning me off from the hair metal they despised.  At the time, I wrote for a regional music paper and was getting free albums from Metal Blade records to review. Though I barely knew any of the bands on the label, my boys sure did. They guided me through many a review. 


“She got the new Slayer! VoiVod! Celtic Frost! Flotsam & Jetsam!” they’d exclaim, shuffling through my ‘take’ -then they’d try and trade me their old albums for my new ones.  ‘Metal Massacre’ compilations were constantly going in and out of my place. Most of the music was too aggressive for me. I didn’t ‘feel it’ like I did the Hair Metal. The boys insisted there was going to be an ‘awakening’ of sorts within me, at any moment. One day they would play me the right song, and I would leave all of the pretty boys behind.

But it wasn’t working. I’d be putting on make-up in front of the bathroom mirror, door open, shouting comments as I squinted, trying not to poke my eye out with my mascara brush.

‘What’d you think of that one? They’d yell, excited.

“Eh! It was okay…I guess. But why are they so angry? ”

They’d groan.

Every now and then, I’d stroll out to take a slug from the ice-cold Budweiser I’d stashed in the fridge. I usually had the television in the living room on, tuned to MTV, sound muted, so they could DJ tracks on my stereo system -but if a Bon Jovi video came on, I would shriek, run to the tv and turn the sound all the way up, swooning like a lovestruck twelve year old. The guys would shake their heads in disgust and try and convince me that I only liked Jon Bon Jovi because he was cute. Well, yeah-duh! that was a big part of it, but I really did like the music.

I would also point out, with my usual succinct wisdom: ‘Umm, lemme see? Coz you guys  never pay attention to cute girls, right?” and we’d all just roll our eyes at each other.

If I was particularly annoyed, I’d try and choke them out by spraying  Aqua Net onto my hair in the middle of the living room. (Try escaping that cloud!) If I was really lucky, MTV might follow JBJ with Dokken’s ‘In My Dreams’-one of my favorite videos, rain pouring all over the band, the drummer, in super slo-mo, bashing  water off the cymbals! I’d be swooning, while the boys held their heads in their hands and requested aspirin.

Whaddya mean I’m not kind? Just not YOUR kind!

It was usually around this time that my then boyfriend would come by to pick me up. He was a guitar player in a ‘poser’ band.  He had Nikki Sixx hair, wore eyeliner and dressed in a certain, shall we say- flamboyant style. He actually wore the ‘Puffy Shirt’ from Seinfeld unironically, curating the pirate look along with lots of jewelry, skin tight black jeans and snakeskin boots. When he walked in, bracelets jingling, raving about the new Cinderella song, pecking me on the cheek, I could detect the boys dry heaving.

He’d try and make small talk with them: ‘Hey- aren’t you guys going out tonight? You better go home and get ready! It’s getting late! It’s Friday night!’

Sometimes a cough (masking the word ‘loser’) would erupt from one of them, but they were not going to confront my dude- lest they be cut off from future Metal Blade mailings. It was the original ‘Shirts against the Blouses’.  To see these two ‘species’ interact (or try not to) while remaining polite was a lesson in how world peace is possible, but not likely. And that peace really is only the quiet moment while everyone reloads.

Picture this, with Tommy Lee’s head and hair.

I never did turn into a thrasher, but I ended up loving Metallica, Armored Saint and Megadeth among others, and went to lots of thrasher shows at L’Amours in Brooklyn and Queens. We all  agreed on Priest and Iron Maiden, of which I went to many, many shows. I still have most of those Metal Blade albums, and to this day I feel obligated to review any left unplayed. Who knows-maybe someday- in the music section of the nursing home? Page 2 of the Boca Breeze? 

“Can I borrow your eyeliner?”

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