My First Metal Tape

I love music. I got to go to a special school where we had electives and could choose certain extra-curricular pursuits, like the arts. In 3rd grade, the music teacher went around to all of the classrooms and played the coronet. I was blown away. I immediately signed up for the class, and after numerous assurances that this was going to be an excellent investment, my parents eventually caved in and bought me a brand new brass trumpet. It was my gateway instrument. I played that trumpet for 9 years and during that time my fondness for music only kept growing. I learned to sing, took theory classes and started toying around with composition. At one point I was playing in both the orchestra and the jazz band.

When I was 13, my dad bought me my first electric guitar. Shortly afterwards I found a cassette of Master of Puppets on the sidewalk. In hindsight I like to imagine it carelessly tumbling out the door of a 1970’s Camaro a midst some late night teenager mayhem. I was already very familiar with my parent’s record collection, rap music, and pop radio at the time…but this tape was way different. What I heard was something like Jimi Hendrix, but “composed” in a way that was closer to the music we were playing in the orchestra. I was blown away.

According to Wikipedia, “[metal] is a genre of rock music… characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness; the first heavy metal bands attracted large audiences, though they were often derided by critics, a status common throughout the history of the genre.” Amen.


I’m 39 now, and I still have the tape. In thinking back to the little epiphanies over the years, finding it was a key turning point. I find it relatively easy to identify with most genres and have dabbled in other subcultures. Metal has something different going on…an aura or mystique about it that acts as a barrier to entry for many.  I’ve played with maybe two hundred other musicians since the 3rd grade and I’ve found that most are strangely averse to the genre. My alt friends were just like the snobby cello players from orchestra: few of them ever invested in metal. But some of them did and like me, they discovered a rewarding community inside.

Metal is mostly an academic passion for me but I have no issue in relating to those that are drawn to it as an outlet for aggression or ego or otherwise. There is an undeniable sense of community among Metalheads.  It’s an ecosystem of players, bands, and fans that are incredibly loyal to one another. They get each others’ backs. Once you know what to look for, you’ll see the them everywhere. In my day, they mostly congregated in the “woods” between the east and west buildings. There they traded tapes and cigarettes. They were friends to the punks, the geeks, the alt-kids, and to me.They still go to shows and they still have tapes.

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