*This story will be available to read until June 3rd.
HEAVY METAL LOVESONG
In the early years he was Fat Boy With Guitar. No one talked to him much, girls not at all. Then he was Drugged Out Freak With Guitar. Razor thin, but still no one talked to him, except to bitch him out about a chord change or a problem with tempo. Assholes.
Finally, he was Lead Guitar Song Writer in an up and coming. Suddenly everyone talked to him. It almost made his ears bleed. The pretty girls who lined up wanting to talk and share – he wanted to cut out their tongues. Instead, he picked the quietest one and married her.
She was into metal and that was something. Loving the same things was like being in love. He forgave her preference for speed metal, for Megadeath and Metallica. She was young, and besides, he couldn’t argue that Master of Puppets wasn’t raging perfection.
He used metal to seduce her, and she let him: Sabbath and Iron Maiden and fucking Slayer, because you couldn’t say Slayer without saying fucking. Music and sex was what they were all about. They got it on between shows, sometimes during shows. Taking breaks from his gigs to attend concerts in his free time. They got matching metal snake tattoos. She got knocked up during a Pantera concert in a backstage men’s room. It was beautiful.
They played Pantera’s, This Love, at the wedding – a tribute to her growing belly. By the time Maxx was born the gigs were getting less frequent. They said he was becoming too alternative, not metal enough. His drummer moved to Brazil and showed up on the cover of Metal Hammer. His bass player decided to go back to law school.
Babies and diapers and howling didn’t work within the narrow confines of the borrowed tour bus. She stayed home that fall. He didn’t see her or Maxx for four months. “Why don’t you come home?” she asked him. That was all. No whining. No nagging. But the words rang in his ears, tore his skull.
He wrote new songs. His audience grew. He sent her the new CD. She told him about the keyboard player she was dating. “You can’t date. You’re married!” he raged.
“I married new metal,” she said. “You have become derivative. Look it up.”
“I’m experimenting,” he said.
“Me too,” she said.
Hurting, he came home. They played the old albums. Maxx in his crib dangled his feet and pumped toddler fists to albums from Anthrax to ZAG. They started a second child. He went back on the road. His audience threw chairs. He lost a tooth. A record producer gave him a contract. She called his new song whiney.
He wrote a love song, a ballad. He told her it was her song. She made gagging sounds and hung up. A box with his things arrived. He called to demand she send his music. The keyboard player called her to the phone. She put the phone on speaker, then narrating each step, she took a corkscrew and dragged it across the surface of Motorhead’s almost impossible to find debut album. He begged her to stop and promised never to call again.
When Dio was born he received an announcement and a bill. The letter was addressed to Metal Listener, an ultimate put down from a metalhead like his nearly ex-wife.
One afternoon, not much later, he was sitting on the back stoop, strumming his old Ibanez acoustic – his first guitar. Those old days came sliding back as he plinked at the strings, stretching them out, tuning them up. The guitar gave warm, bottom-end tones, bright highs.
How he missed Fat Boy With Guitar, stupid kid who didn’t know when he had it good. Thought nobody talked to him. Didn’t realize then how smashing out those chords crawled up his spine, ripped out that overwhelming surge of power. Made the hair stand up on the back of his neck and yelled – here I am – clearer than any other language.
He carried the old gal back in the house, set her gentle on the rack. Took down the Moser, all black and silver and as evil as they get – stepped on the switch to power up the Uberschall amp. His fingers felt funny on the strings, like he hadn’t played in a long time. Funny about guitars. Guitars always make you bleed. Metal guitars make you bleed soul.
He got the call in L.A. They were playing the Greek, well on the way to a comeback, even though the band was all new except for the bass player, who had passed the bar and then came to his senses.
She said, “I like the new song. I never really touched the Motorhead album. When are you coming back?”
He broke his contract and went home. They sued him. He paid and went on tour. The new tour bus had a built-in changing table – and a rocking audio system.
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