Heavy Metal in the 1980’s
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Heavy metal in the 1980’s is hard to describe. Its static style did not change much from the 1970’s, but the lyrics, image, and theatrics took a step forward. Heavy metal had a huge impact in the 1980’s and there were many successful bands.
Van Halen took heavy metal to new heights. After more than two decades of playing sold-out concert halls, selling millions of albums and enduring various lineup changes and solo projects, Van Halen is recognized as one of the most resilient and successful rock bands to emerge from the 1970s and continue into the 1980’s. Eddie and Alex Van Halen were raised in Pasadena, the children of Dutch immigrants who immigrated to California in 1967. The Van Halen brothers grew up taking classical piano lessons. Eddie played guitar and Alex played the drums as teenagers. In 1974, they hooked up with David Lee Roth (vocals) and Michael Anthony (bass), while gigging around town in their band Mammoth. Within a few years, they had become one of the most popular bands on the Los Angeles scene. Fans packed L.A.s smoky rock clubs to check out Eddies unconventional guitar riffs and Roths over-the-top showmanship.
In 1976, Gene Simmons noticed the group at a local club and gave them a recording session, and soon after Van Halen was signed to Waner Bros. Their debut album, Van Halen, was released in 1978 and included the hit singles “Runnin With the Devil” and a cover of the Kinks “You Really Got Me.” Eddie Van Halen took electric guitar technique to new heights with his patented two-handed tapping and pull-off effects, while Roths tongue-in-cheek histrionics proved to be a refreshing alternative in an industry chock full of self-important rock stars. Within six months of its release, Van Halen was certified platinum. The album not only launched Van Halens career, but it came to influence countless American rock bands during the next decade.
During the next few years, Van Halen became one of the hardest working and most profitable bands in the recording industry, releasing a string of multi-platinum albums in quick succession; 1979s Van Halen II, 1980s Women and Children First, 1981s Fair Warning and 1982s Diver Down. But it was the album 1984, released on New Years Day of that year that solidified the bands superstar status. The album contained the mega-hits “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher,” with their accompanying raucous videos that received seemingly non-stop airplay on MTV.
All was not well within the band, however. Rising tensions between Roth and the other band members were increasingly evident; on their 1984 world tour the band didnt even play on the same stage, but rather performed on four separate platforms, symbolic of the escalating rift among its members. Finally, in 1985, after taking time off to record a successful solo album (and delaying work on the follow-up to 1984) Roth parted ways with Van Halen. This group proved to be the starting point of heavy metal, starting out in the 1970’s and continuing through the first half of the 1990’s.
After groups paved the way for heavy metal, one band can be the representative of the heavy metal style in the 1980’s. Metallica was formed on October 15, 1981 by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. Lars played the drums while James was on vocals and guitar. Kirk Hammett joined the band in 1982 and became the band’s lead guitarist. Metallica’s bass player was Jason Newsted, after their first bassist, Cliff Murton, was killed in a bus crash. It was on March fourteenth that Metallica played their first gig at radio city Anaheim in California. On June fourteenth the Metal Massacre LP was released and it was Metallicas first appearance on an official record. The first release of the LP contained a few mistakes including band’s name being miss spelt Mettallica and Lloyd grants name being misspelled as Loydd Grant.
1983 was the year that Metallica really made an impact. They moved to San Francisco during February and played their first show on March fifth at the Stone, a now legendary venue for Metallica. Kirk Hammetts band, Exodus, opened for them on what was to be Cliff Burton’s first gig with Metallica. It was on the move from LA to San Francisco that the band got a view into Dave Mustaine life style. It was decided as soon as they reached San Francisco that they needed to have a new guitarist. On April 1 Kirk