Let's rock the West Midlands
Dig out your metal memorabilia, a new archive project needs you, says Andrew Cowen.
Dig out that Motorhead cap-sleeve T-shirt, grab your denim jacket with the Sabbath patch on the back, collect up your metal memorabilia. It’s time to stand up and be counted.
For too long Birmingham and the West Midlands have failed to celebrate what is rightfully theirs, to claim the city and the region as home of heavy metal. With 2008 being the 40th anniversary of the moment when the phrase “heavy metal” was coined it seems like a crucial time to start celebrating.
In Britain heavy metal is more popular than ever. Last year, the rock mag Kerrang! became the country’s biggest-selling music weekly, outselling its iconic rival New Musical Express by more than 10,000 copies each week. A new generation of pop bands such as Wolfmother is recycling the sounds of classic 1970s hard-rock acts, like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.
Nick Bullen from revolutionary Birmingham metal band Napalm Death, believes the heavy metal sound is inextricably linked to Birmingham’s industrial landscape.
According to him, Napalm Death’s music “reflected the culture we lived in, which was one of grey, concrete, brutalist architecture and ugly, vicious sounds. A lot of us came from the fringes of the city, from zones of boredom and alienation. “That must feed back into the music somehow.”
Home of Metal is a brand new project aimed at creating the first digital archive of metal music, memorabilia and fans stories, to tell the story of this unique moment in the Midlands’ musical heritage. Launching at Wolverhampton Art Gallery on Saturday October 25, from 10am to 4.30pm, the event at the city centre Art Gallery encourages fans of Judas Priest, Napalm Death, Godflesh, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin to come along and share their experiences of their favourite band. Fans are encouraged to bring memorabilia along with their personal stories to the gallery to be digitally recorded – all of which will go towards the new digital archive, which aims to tell the true story of the birth place of metal.
The web-site at www.homeofmetal.com goes live on Saturday and Custard Factory-based curators Capsule want to collect as much material as possible to display online and in a travelling roadshow. “Think antiques roadshow for Metal fans,” says Capsule’s Lisa Meyer, who has been pushing to see the metal archive become a reality for several years now.
The roadshow then moves to the New Art Gallery, Walsall on Thursday, November 6 and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery on February 7 next year. Each open day will be hosted by Kerrang! Radio DJ – the legendary Johnny Doom, a stalwart of the Midlands Metal scene – accompanied by special guests from the industry including Jim Simpson (Black Sabbath’s first manager) and Digby Pearson, Earache Records founder. More guests are to be announced.
Capsule’s Lisa Meyer says: “Jim is the unsung hero of heavy metal, he ran the progressive club, Henry’s Blueshouse where he inspired Robert Plant, Jon Bonham, Judas Priest and many others, all of whom came see the the legendary American Blues artists Simpson programmed back in the day.
“He managed Sabbath for their first three albums, which included the seminal Black Sabbath album, then Paranoid and Master of Reality.”
A selection of memorabilia will be on display as well as screenings of film documentation and interviews from the bands. Screenings include such gems as the first airing since 1992 of the documentary Motor City Music Years. Part two of the documentary is about the 1970s.
It starts by charting the move from proto-metal into orchestral pop at the start of the decade by The Move, a band which featured Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne and then concentrates on heavy metal with great interviews, and music clips, with Black Sabbath, Ozzy in LA, Judas Priest, Magnum, and then Slade (filmed in the pub at the Black Country Museum). The documentary was produced by Roger Shannon and Johnie Turpie.
For the Walsall date in November, Capsule have a specially commissioned performance by rising local noise-mongers Einstellung who will pay tribute to Black Sabbath.
Einstellung are proud to have the opportunity to pay homage to Sabbath and see the gig as a chance to thank them for allowing four like minds to meet. For this special evening Einstellung will be performing a Sabbath-inspired piece.
If you listen carefully within the simplistic motorik beats and slabs of Sabbath inspired riffage you may well be raising those metal fists in the air to some monstrously well know Sabbath gems. This exciting new project is led by Capsule in collaboration with Black Country Arts Partnership, the New Art Gallery Walsall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
According to Daniel Trilling of the New Statesman “heavy metal was born in the West Midlands and has developed a global following matched only in Hip-Hop. It’s time to stop sneering and celebrate this proud cultural heritage…”