Back to the Future with Scott Adams

Loin cloths, the big four and blow-dried hair... it's 1988!

HAIL! HAIL! HAIL AND KILL!

Which can only mean one thing of course – BTTF has landed in 1988.

After years of near misses, record company fiascos and frankly ludicrous attempts at becoming ‘louder than hell’ at various European festivals, Manowar finally came of age in 1988 with their Kings of Metal elpee. In forty minutes flat it provided a manifesto – a blueprint if you will - by which true metallers have been living for the last twenty two years.

From the slightly clumsy though lovably unhinged speed metal assault of Wheels of Fire through to the anthemic one-two punch of Kingdom Come and Hail and Kill and the brashly bellicose statement of intent that was the title track, this was, for the first time, truly what Manowar’s fans – the Army of Immortals- had been waiting for. A move to Atlantic records meant that at last the band had a budget behind them commensurate with their widescreen ambitions, and the results were predictably incendiary.

Truly, 1988 was a magnificent year to be alive if you were a fan of ‘our kind of music’.  All of the big four brought out albums that year, with Slayer’s coruscating South of Heaven being easily the best of the bunch (although Megadeth’s So Far, So Good... So What! Pushed it all the way to the finishing line), confirming – with excellent assistance from Voi Vod’s Dimension Hatross, Testament’s  The New Order and, um, Tankard’s The Morning After - thrash’s primacy in the world of late eighties extreme musics.

Fans of a more traditional bent weren’t left out of the fun either. 1988 was the year that Queensryche released their signature meisterwerk Operation:Mindcrime to a tsunami of critical and indeed punter acclaim, whilst Iron Maiden blew the UK ‘hit parade’ apart with Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and Judas Priest weighed in with the sorely-underrated Ram It Down for good measure. And I won’t even go in to the plethora of top-notch hair metal that first saw the light of day in this storied year...

But perhaps the most important metallic occurrence of 1988 was that I joined a band. A proper band. Sure, I’d flirted with garage band type stuff all through school – Hideous Destructor were the best of the bunch - and I’d even got up with some mates’ cover band for an impromptu version of Strutter or two, but I’d never been in a real band that wrote its own songs. That all changed when Ian Watson approached me in the pub one Friday Night.

We lived at the time in Marlow, a sleepy riverside town about half an hour West of London. Only about thirteen thousand people resided there, but there were twenty one pubs within walking distance of the town centre, and myself and all the other punks, Goths and metalheads in the area drank in the Coach and Horses. Watson was in there, and as I stood at the bar waiting for a pint of Light and Bitter he sidled up to me. I had a lot of time for Ian – he was the man who sold me my first Judas Priest album when he renounced metal to become a Scooter Boy - even more so since he appeared to have renounced the evils of Northern Soul and come back to the fold, like a metallic Prodigal Son.

But enough of the Stryperisms. Watty wanted to know whether I’d be interested in trying out as vocalist for a band he’d joined, tentatively to be known as Sapphire.  They rehearsed every Saturday afternoon, and if I was interested somebody would pick me up tomorrow and we’d see how things went.

I walked home on air. Not only was I virtually in a proper band, they’d come to me! No pouring through the small ads in Sounds or Melody Maker for Scotty, or no. The mountain had come to Mohammed, if you’ll pardon another religious allusion.

Saturday arrived and I washed and blow dried my hair in honour of the occasion. I was indeed picked up and ferried to the rehearsal studio where the band  were waiting to put me through my paces.  Like I said, they only played original material, so the first hour or so was spent with the band running through a couple or three songs and me looking earnestly at a few sheets of handwritten lyrics, nodding my head appreciatively and murmuring ‘that’s great’ or ‘brilliant, I like that’ at the end of each song.

The music I was hearing was prime eighties ‘trad’ metal, kinda like Iced Earth but without the Metallica worship (I actually used to explain to girls at the time that the band sounded like Iron Maiden meets Night Ranger, hoping, somewhat amusingly, that this would impress them). I knew immediately I wanted in, but were the ol’ pipes up to the task?

It seemed they were. Despite howling along like a dog with distemper, my blow-dried hair and cutoff leather jacket appeared to have done enough to persuade they band I was the man they were looking for... intensive rehearsals awaited. All the way into 1989, in fact, when we’ll pick up the story next time!

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Back to the Future’s long running ‘virtual fantasy festival’ keeps going, with longtime Tank axepert Cliff ‘The Riff’ Evans adding his contribution to the poll this month – in December we’ll reveal this year’s fantasy festival lineup. Cliff?

“Headlining would be the Tommy Bolin/Glenn Hughes version of Deep Purple. Then Ozzy with Randy Rhoads, the Thin Lizzy era featuring Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham, the original Gary Rossington/Allen Collins mark of Lynyrd Skynyrd and then opening up would be Tank with me and Mick Tucker!

More of the same next month – until then, adios, amigos...