I remember when I was a teenager, how I looked forward to Friday nights at the mall. The mall in Frederick had one music store that sold guitars, three that sold records, tapes and CDs and one that sold t-shirts and patches. The mall was the highlight of the music scene.
You always saw the same people. Many were metal heads on one end of the mall and punks on the other. Both sides bore battle honors of their favorite groups on their jean jackets, vests or leather jackets. The metal heads had long hair, while the punks had colored hair and spikes. But the two sides never hung out with one another.
The record stores were the place to be. You would always learn about new bands from people. For me, if I was checking out a tape or CD, I always had some other older teenager tell me if that record was good or if it was bad. I would do the same with the younger teens as I got older.
Buying a record because of the cover or song titles was fun. That’s how I found Obituary’s “Slowly We Rot” and Four Horsemen’s “Nobody Said It Was Easy.” I love it when the stores played a new record such as Social Distortion. That was another way that I got into other types of the music.
Many of the heavy metal bands, although, not played on the radio, would get spread around by word of mouth. For example, when I purchased the first Danzig record, I had one guy say, if you like Danzig, check out his other two bands he was in, the Misfits and Samhain. Or, if you are into Metallica, check out Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer.
Your friends were another good source. I was always trading and barrowing tapes. That’s how I got introduced to the Exploited, D.O.A., Broken Bones and Violent Femmes. In return, I would copy tapes and give it to them and that’s how the music spread was through recording records and tapes. Once CDs caught and you were able to burn CDs that trend has kept up with me and still to this day, I have my one friend that we burn CDs for each other. That’s how we keep that tradition alive.
1988, was that year for me. Thrash metal was still under ground as was death metal. Hair metal controlled all of MTV and the radio. Don’t get me wrong there were a few of those bands that stuck out like Motley Crue or L.A. Guns and Guns n’ Roses. But, by 1990, that was changing. Grunge and Nu Metal began hitting the airwaves. I liked the grunge movement then. It to me was the punk music moving forward with a more heavier sound.
But, with today, kids are not into buying albums anymore. Everything is digital. Today’s generation will not know what it was like to go into a record store and buy a record on the spot because of its cover or because someone recommended it. Most record stores only carry the popular CDs anymore. Which means for me, either I have to order it through the internet or download it and loose the sound quality in it. It’s not fun anymore to head into a record store.
I remember when Record and Tape Traders was in Frederick and Westminster. I would go in with about $40.00 and walk out with about 10 CDs because of all of the used CDs they carried. I purchased my entire Megadeth and Savatage collection used from there. They carried everything from punk to metal, country to bluegrass, and blues to rap and pop.
The guitar shops were another good place to learn about music. One could test drive any guitar and other guys would show you several different licks and riffs to songs. It was just a cool place to be. That’s how I learned how to play “Stairway to Heaven.” But none of that exists today.
I am so glad that I was once part of the music culture. It was fun and it was a great time. Sadly, tomorrow’s generation will never know of this culture and bands will start pulling back on the amount of music they produce. Down for example had enough to do a full LP, but opted out to split it into four EPs because of the culture today.
I also remember jamming out with friends and forming bands and writing songs. Those garage band days were awesome. I was even in a country band for one session and was voted out because I was to Rock n’ Roll. But, most kids today, will not know how to get involved because of crap like American Idol or the Voice. I still remember every Friday night after work, the guitars came out and the drums were set up and we spend hours jamming. I still have some of those demos. It was fun. We played oldies such as Rolling Stones, Neil Young, the Ventures, Animals and other 50’s and 60’s music.
I remember once I took a friend of mine to Frederick to see my buddy’s band. When the lights came up, we were the only two that had our original hair color. I will never forget his look when he said, “Where the fuck are we? We’re the only two rednecks in here with clothes that fit and our natural hair color.” I replied “You’re among friends now.”
At least I passed down some of this to my oldest son who is also a writer on this blog. But, he too will never know what it was like to have that Friday night at the mall with all kinds of metal heads and punks.