* This is a fictionalized account of some shit that actually happened. All the names, locations, etc. have been changed to protect the innocent. – JG *
The Punks Vs. Heads battle, much like the Mods Vs. Rockers clash beforehand, was one of the great pop-culture wars of all-time; also like the Mods/Rockers before them, the Punks/Heads conflict came to a head (ha ha) in an otherwise insignificant geographical area – for them it was 1960s Brighton, UK and for us it was 1980s Kenton, USA.
It is hard, now, to imagine these types of ideological conflicts existing today in this incredibly homogenized post-millennium marketplace of ours, but when your pop culture is almost bequeathed to you as a birthright by your socioeconomic level, your (perceived) intelligence level, your (again perceived) tolerance of those different from you and, most importantly, the kind of girls you’re attracted to, you have almost no choice but to take up the youthful banner yourselves.
And take it up we did. Of course, we never referred to ourselves as “Punks” as we were, of course, a mélange of Mod, DIY, thrift-store, glam-rock, trash and the product of the overpowering influence of the NY/Detroit Proto-Punk Axis. In other words, we were Complex. We were also resolutely middle class. We either called ourselves “the Best and the Brightest” or “the Core” (but the latter term was used primarily to refer to us and the girls we all dated at the beginning of our Sophomore year when we all discovered each other and rock n roll and art and talking about rock n roll and art and the Power of Pussy all at the same time – that was a Good Year) but “Punks”? Not really. It fell to others to name us that, but as evidenced by the preceding selection from “Battle of the Bands” it was usually appended by “Faggot”, as in “Punk Rock Faggot”. Similarly, I don’t believe the Heads called themselves “Heads”, but it was preferable to “Heavy Metal Assholes” which is how we primarily referred to them.
I’d like to take a moment here to address the issue of bias. Yes, as I was a Punk I have a definite “pro-Punk” slant, but just as with the Mod/Rocker conflict time has made it easy to see how little really separated the Heads and the Punks. Both groups wore jeans, boots, and leather jackets. Both groups favored black concert t-shirts. Both groups had their issues with women. Both groups made old people feel uncomfortable and want to cross the street. But most importantly, both groups listened to music that was really fast and loud and distorted. The real difference is that the Punk bands’ singers couldn’t sing, and the Head bands’ songs had guitar solos.
Really. That’s about it. A few Heads lived in the Kenton Project, commonly called "The Proj", but most of them were from the same neighborhoods as the Punks. Some Punk bands could be kind of political, but so was Megadeth. Some Head bands could be really offensive, but so were the Meatmen. The line that separated bands like later Black Flag and Misfits from thrash metal is so thin it is to laugh. It’s more than a little ridiculous in retrospect. However, having said all that, someone once said that History is written by the Winners. And, as I am here writing up this little chunk of history, apparently we Won. So fuck you, I’m-a write whatever the hell I want.
But, Winner or not, if you told me that today I would have more Slayer songs on my Ipod than Dead Kennedys songs (after you explained to me what an Ipod is), I would have told you that you were a total asshole even though, as it turns out, Slayer is a much, much better band. They just had some goofy titles, like “Hell Awaits”.
Now, despite my new-found love for thrash metal, even I can see that some songs ride the line directly into self-parody. One of these songs is “Hell Awaits”. Now, I’m sure that the backwards-masked opening was terrifying when played at midnight in Snakeland, but in the light of day, especially in the light of going to college after high school, the concept of Hell awaiting was so doomy, so goofily down that you couldn’t help but make fun of it. Or we couldn’t, at least.
“Hey, man, you wanna go to the Record Mine after school?”
“Why bother, dude? Hell awaits.”
“Hey, man, did Toni Falletta let you eat her pussy yet?”
“C’mon, now, Dave. Hell awaits.”
“Mr. Gusmann, are you ready to present your oral report?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Gould, but I am not. You see, Hell awaits.”
It was pretty all-purpose, and pretty wonderful. It was also cleaner than another of our favorite phrases of this period, which was “Lick my clit”. This started as a natural reaction to some of the girls we dated telling each other to “Suck my dick”, a favorite all-purpose phrase of the Heads, but little did we know how gender-fucked people would take it. You could say that to somebody who you were genuinely pissed at, and they were genuinely pissed at you, and they simply would NOT KNOW HOW TO RESPOND. Today I wouldn’t even know whether to laugh or get even angrier. Or lick the guy’s clit.