Metal in the blood: the Top 100 metal songs of all time.

Could you write a Top 20 of your favourite metal tracks of all time? Could you explain why your top track is sitting at number one? It's a hard task, but it's one that Canberra-based journalist Scott Adams wants you to do, to help him write a book about metal. But it's not just any book; it will be one for more than just metal fans, and it will be written by those who know the most about it: passionate metalheads like you.

 

 

by LeticiaS and Foss

Most of the stuff you read or what about certain metal documentaries, is presented by the same four or five heavy metal journalists, and always has the same sort of perspective. And it is just this that has driven Canberra-based journalist Scott Adams, even though he writes about metal himself, to pull a book project together that gives ordinary people think about the genre, and why it means so much to them.

We caught up with Scott to talk to him about this fascinating project: what his goals are, what the driving force has been to get the project off the ground, and, of course, how people can contribute.

'It's arguable, I think, that for the last twenty years, heavy metal is the biggest non-mainstream genre of music all over the world,' Scott said. 'You know, it touches people everywhere. But you never hear from these people why it does this to them, why someone in Rio de Janeiro is touched by it in the same way that someone in Rocksdale is.'

What Scott is working on at the moment is a project that is driven, firstly, by his love of lists; and, secondly, by a desire to find some form of vaguely be-all and end-all-type chart of what is the top 100 heavy metal songs of all time.

But, more than this, he wants people to tell him why they chose their number one. But over and above just the number one position, what Scott is after is a book that demonstrates ordinary people telling us that why these songs are so great.

'The spine of the book will be a chart of the Top 100, as voted by people from around the world' Scott explained. 'Each song will have actual comments from the people that sent in their charts, so it won't be written from a journalist's perspective, or using the sort of handed-down, received wisdom about heavy metal history.'

Don't think, though, that this project is just going to be a glorified list. The book is going to have a full narrative that ties it together, presenting an analysis of metal culture; that context is the coathanger on which the core of the book will hang. As Scott told us, he's doing it this way because otherwise it just may as well be a website.

'There will be a fairly strong narrative, but I want to give as much of a voice as possible to people who don't write as a profession,' he explained.

Understandably, that end of things is something is going to come well after he's gained a lot of material from the general public. It will enable him to see the way that other people think about it.

'I suppose I want to present it to people who still think it's just Spinal Tap as well,' he said. 'I want other people who don't like heavy metal to be interested in this as well.'

It's a worthy cause, I'm sure you'll agree. Scott has been working on this project, off and on for a couple of years, and he's just now really getting to the point where he's looking for more and more people to submit their charts. It's only been in the past two or three months that he's really been able to see where he wants it to go, and to finalise the project's real direction.

One thing we at Metal as Fuck wondered is whether the end results will be moderated to some extent, especially in terms of genre. Some metalheads, we well know, claim that some genres aren't really 'metal' enough.

'To be honest, it's so all-encompassing isn't it?' Scott laughed. 'I write for a magazine here in Canberra and I put a little bit in it asking people to contribute, and I said basically that even if you like Nickelback I want to hear from you.'

At the time when we spoke with Scott he'd had about sixty-five unsolicited charts, and at the time the number one song was Back in Black by AC/DC.

'Now, there are going to be a lot of people who say that isn't heavy metal, it's hard rock,' he laughed. 'So, I'm keen not to police it too much. But I don't believe it will need it. If, for example, a lot of your readers suddenly voted for Parkway Drive then that's fine: the public has spoken.'

In a sense, this point of view is difficult to maintain for a musical genre that experiences great divisions amongst its fans as to what is 'real and true' and what isn't. But at the same time, Scott's perspective is probably one with the potential to unify many subgenres of metal, simply because of his desire to keep his own perspective out of the equation.

It also has the potential to provide a far more interesting picture of what constitutes metal globally. One of the things that Scott has found, to date, is that those who are most interested in the project tend to be those who are fans of classic metal.

'There seems to be a lot of Priest, there's a lot of Maiden, there's a lot of Metallica, there's a lot of Motorhead,' he explained. 'Whether that says something about the sort of people who respond to these requests I don't know; it might mean that younger metal fans aren't so interested in responding.'

The book is going to, in its early introductory parts, take a bit of an anthropological, documentary-style approach. Once Scott gets a feel for what people are writing themselves, then he is going to tailor what he writes to fit in with the crowd-sourced narration.

'Certainly, in terms of the culture, the way it becomes a lifestyle – and it does, you know, it's unavoidable, you cannot say that it doesn't,' he enthused. 'I've been into metal since 1982 and it governs a lot of what I do. I don't want to be too scientific about it, I want it to be a readable book, but it will touch on that side of things.'

Naturally, the book will also be filled with images – coffee-table reading if you like.

As Scott pointed out, there have been a lot of good metal books, and a lot of great ones. What he is trying to avoid is having the work end up looking like a collection of album covers, but there will be a semi-reliance on the imagery in order to back up his arguments.

'It's hopefully the sort of book that everybody who contributes to will want to get,' Scott mused. 'They'll want to see their names in it, or their band's name if they're in bands.'

The time-frame that Scott has set himself is one that will see the book finalised and released in time for Christmas 2010; but even if the release takes longer, it will be at least finished by then. Scott is looking to give himself a solid six months of work on the book after everybody's contributions have been collated.

When we ran past Scott the notion that metalheads tend to be rabid collectors of documentaries and books, and asked him whether he'd considered that he might well face the possibility of a larger demand for the work than he'd anticipated, he said that it was possible. And through his appearance on The Einstein Factor [Australian quiz-style TV show] in 2008 – he appeared on the show about five times - answering questions about Iron Maiden, he has a quite solid network of contacts at places like ABC TV. He told us that though turning the book into some form of documentary in a visual sense is quite possible, it's not something he's aiming for right now.

One of the biggest driving factors behind Scott's desire to do this work stems from growing up and realising that the people who influence public opinion – on television and on the radio – knew and cared less about the bands they talked about than he did.

'The one thing that annoys me, and I've lived in Australia for seven years but it used to annoy me far more when I lived back in England, is that you get a lot of people that appoint themselves to talk about stuff, who don't appear really to know what they're talking about,' he told us. 'And most of them seem to work for television companies or radio stations, and especially when I was younger it used to annoy me that I knew more about the bands these people were talking about, to the point where very deserving bands just never get a look-in. So I've always thought that I want to give ordinary people a chance to say why this music is great, rather than some bloke on Channel V telling you about stuff that he's reading off of an auto-cue and doesn't really care about. I want people who care about it to give their voice.'

The difficulty that he faces, though, is that it is so hard for a metalhead to write a definitive chart that some people Scott spoke to about the project a long time ago are still deliberating on their input.

'They've written fifteen top twenties,' he laughed. 'You've got to love it to do it, I think.'

So, of course, we had to ask Scott what would be in his Top 20. He laughed. A lot.

'It changes every day,' he said, amused. 'I will contribute a Top 20 because it's only fair that you put everyone else through this hellish experience [you do it yourself too]. I can tell you there would be some Iron Maiden, there would be some Judas Priest, there would probably be something off of one of the first two Anthrax albums,' he mused. 'My favourite song of all time is Carry on Wayward Son by Kansas, but you know, that's not heavy metal,' he laughed.

Even if you don't think you can write about why your number one achieves that rank, we encourage everybody to send in their Top 20 chart. All we have to do now is sit down and think about ours!

To submit yours, email it directly to Scott at thirtyyearsofrnr@hotmail.com.