Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Heavy Metal Moments: Black Sabbath - "Hole in the Sky" 1975

My high school was a typical, California middle-class suburban structure with plenty of one-story, squared-off buildings painted mustard yellow, and lots of outdoor hallways and a quad that flooded during the winter. Once a group of seniors captured a bunch of ducks from Diablo Valley College's lake and released them into the quad so they could splash around our flooded lunch-bench area. Or maybe that was my idea and I never carried that out and I'm getting mixed up, but anyway, I do know that some other seniors kidnapped the Bob's Big Boy statue and the life-sized dairy cow statue from the last dairy in town and hung them from our radio tower on the gym roof. How festive they looked, dangling from there.

For you see, hidden in the bowels of our army-barrack-like school was a radio station that broadcasted throughout a large region of the county. Still does. 90.5 The Edge (a very unfortunate slogan, since there's nothing edgy about a suburban high school radio station, generally speaking) continues its non-commercial, student-operated ways.

When I DJ'd there, it was a 90% heavy metal station with me and another girl, Wendy Chavez, throwing some new wave and punk rock in the mix during our shows. In fact, Wendy's show was entirely new wave and was a frickin' breath of fresh air within that all-hardcore-metal teen-age boy staff. I'm talking "666 The Number of the Beast" metal 24 hours a day, with forays into classic rock (i.e., "Highway Star") along the way.

Not that I was complaining. I was an angry teenage metal-head myself. Our school had its metal girl assemblage and I kind of skimmed the surface of that before moving into San Francisco indie-rock circles. My friends and I were like that Lindsay character in "Freaks and Geeks" who tries to infiltrate the Freaks during a bout of existential depression when her grandmother dies. Though the Freaks come to accept her presence, she can never truly belong because she's an accomplished mathletics participant.

If intellectual metal is your preference, good luck my friend. Best to try out some vintage Black Sabbath, who really personified that depressed, angry teenage angst while throwing in a jazzy guitar solo once in a while, courtesy of Tony Iommi. I do wish I had hung on to my Sabotage album instead of selling it to a grateful and long-gone dealer in Walnut Creek many years ago. Sabotage is one of the best metal albums ever, if not the best with great guitar riffs on Symptom of the Universe and Megalomania; Ozzy wailing on key throughout. My favorite Sabbath song is still "Hole in the Sky" which I was playing one afternoon when Mormon missionaries rang our doorbell. If you ever want to tell a missionary to "back off Jack," this song will do the job without you ever having to say a word.

Further memories: one day when I was training a new DJ named Paul from another school district, we received a call on our request line. The guy on the phone said that if we didn't stop playing Oingo Boingo, and start playing some metal, he would come down to the station and kill us. Paul wore Hawaiian shirts and resembled Dick Van Dyke with the brush cut and big smile. He was easily the nicest person I had ever met, up to that point in my life. I gestured toward the phone, big-eyed and slightly worried. "This guy says if we don't stop playing your new wave records, he's going to kill us," I told Paul. Paul got an "oh my" look on his face and said he would talk to him. I don't remember Paul's exact words but he calmly and kindly explained that there's all kinds of music in the world and it's a good thing for everyone. And that a radio station that played lots of different music was also a good thing for everyone. The guy calmed down. "You're right," he said. "And I'm sorry. You keep playing your music. That is a good thing."

Paul--I don't know what became of you--but thank you. Your polite defense of XTC, Devo and yes, even Oingo Boingo, is appreciated.

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