The Classic Rock and Metal Podcast: The 70s, 80s and Now!
By Rich Stim
While searching for Guns N’ Roses at the iTunes store, I stumbled on The Classic Rock and Metal Podcast: The 70s, 80s and Now! CRMP to fans, the podcast highlights the doings of aging metal rockers.
One of the more illuminating interviews on The Classic Rock and Metal Podcast occurs during an early episode. The erudite host, Oliver Wilson-Barnes, shares a phone interview with Mark Manning, lead singer of Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction. It’s possible that you don’t remember Zodiac or their astonishing semi-hit single, “Prime Mover” (“Well I’m Christ in shades I’m a napalm god/Your lipstick flickers round my lightning rod”). But for some of us—for example, my wife, who is the only person I know to have attended one of their concerts—Zodiac was the epitome of classic metal rock in its late-80s death-throes. Like their guileless brethren, Zodiac sincerely gave it all without any self-mockery, and unaware that grunge rock was right around the corner, waiting to put hair metal into a recessionary tailspin.
This is why the Manning interview is so mind-blowing—because three decades later, Mark, like many of the CRMP interview subjects, is still donning his biker metal chains to perform regularly with his resurrected band. And—even more inspiring— he still channels the higher power of heavy metal. Manning tells Wilson-Barnes, “I just can’t imagine my life without it. …There’s nothing better for me than getting out there and banging out these stupid songs for that brief hour on stage where I actually believe that bullshit, where I actually believe that I am the High Priest of Love and the Tattooed Beat Messiah. And I’m actually … I really am that. And you know that soon as I get backstage and put my glasses back on, I’m … what the fuck was that?”
In its own way, the Classic Rock and Metal Podcast, because it focuses on 70s and 80s metal bands that are still working, often provides a window into a more universal theme than metal music. Host Wilson-Barnes has fashioned a show about self-examination—how an aging metal star perceives a career in retrospect and justifies continuing an otherwise youthful endeavor after the age of Social Security benefits. A cloud hangs over some interviews as we sadly learn of the deaths of many obscure band mates and the personal health challenges of the survivors, for example, that Tom Kiefer from Cinderella suffered for twenty years from paresis, the paralysis of one of his vocal chords. There are plenty of tales from the dark side, as well (we learn that four dead dogs were found in sealed containers when police arrested former Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent for spousal abuse).
However, CRMP isn’t a downer; it’s actually oft-inspiring in a “If-he-can-make-it-so-can-I” kind of way. For example, you find yourself rooting for Kim McAuliffe of Girlschool, the longest running all-female rock band when she talks about her out-of-body experience during the half-minute she was electrocuted on stage in Denmark. Or, when Michael Sweet, lead singer of the Christian metal band Stryper discusses his religious self-doubts after the death of his wife, “There were times when I felt God wasn’t there at all and it was just a big joke. If He loves me why would he allow this to happen? But you know, it’s not a matter of God doing these things to us; it’s more a matter of ‘that’s life’.”
Of course, CRMP is packed with plenty of amusing details, Spinal Tap-ish without the irony. We learn about the keyboard player who quit the band Praying Mantis, telling singer Chris Troy that he wanted to pursue a career in brain surgery, and we hear about the secret meetings to find a lead singer for AC-DC (“I can’t tell you the name of the band,” a manager told Brian Johnson when he auditioned, “but I can tell you their initials”). There’s so much trivia to be learned and absorbed, for example, Blue Oyster Cult was the first non-Scandinavian band to use an umlaut beating out Motorhead and Motley Crue, and Prince was a fan of Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatic. Who knew?
The Classic Rock and Metal Podcast picked up the UK Podcaster’s Award as Best Music Podcast of 2015 and this makes sense; the host is knowledgeable and well-spoken, the show is well-produced and tightly edited, the interviews are punctuated with bursts of uber-crunch guitars, and snippets of songs are interspersed as reference markers. If names like Dokken and Queensryche still mean something to you, or if you fondly remember Ricki Rachtman’s Headbanger’s Ball, then its time to stop and smell the hairspray. Check out CRMP, with archives dating back to 2010 and get (spoken like a radio DJ with an octave-lowered voice), “Everything you need for your hard rock and metal fix, right here, right now!”
Rich Stim is a founding member of MX-80 Sound and author of the Dear Rich blog.
He lives in Sausalito with his wife and a green screen.