Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It’s All About the Horns

An old dude takes umbrage at those young punks stealing his wave

I recently found Dee Snyder’s blog “Take Back the Horns,” where he complains about how the “heavy metal horns” (a fist with the pointer finger and pinky finger extended) has been co-opted by mainstream non-heavy metal usage and he’s pissed off about it. And that, of course, got me thinking about the 1980s again. Yeah, I’m stuck in a bit of a rut here, but so much of what I still hold dear today was formulated in the 1980s that I just keep going back to that era.

Dee Snyder, for those who don’t remember, was the head cross-dresser of the band Twisted Sister. In the mid-80s, he emerged as a key spokesperson for rational thought when then-senator Al Gore’s music-hating witch-wife tried to ban those kids and their loud, crazy music through the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). That organization was perhaps better known as the “Washington Wives” for its composition primarily of bimbos with nothing meaningful to do with their time, but with husbands whose clout gave them a bully-pulpit from which they could point fingers at things they didn’t like and didn’t understand in an effort to have them censored.

And who, you might wonder, stood up in front of a congressional committee to defend freedom of speech and the rights of both musicians and the music-buying public? Of course, it was Frank Zappa, Dee Snyder and John Denver, who else? Yes, I confess that I was rather sure that rock music was doomed. Surprisingly, Zappa, the dude who named his kids Dweezil and Moon-unit, was actually quite cogent and did a pretty good job of exposing the nonsense as exactly what it was – a misguided clutch for attention and, quite possibly, a diversion from the music industry’s attempt to lobby through and have passed a tax on blank cassette tapes. Dee Snyder explained that his lyrics in songs like the teen anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It” had been grossly misinterpreted by the Washington Wives, which underscored the concern that PMRC-style censorship was a slippery slope, with considerable potential to mis-categorize, mis-understand and mis-handle music and the right to free speech that was supposed to protect it. Denver, much to the surprise of the Wives, who had thought his down-home country values meant that he’d naturally side with the screeching harpies who were attempting to shred the Bill of Rights, instead expressed his opposition to censorship in any form. In the end, the PMRC was largely impotent, although they were responsible for the voluntarily-applied “Tipper Stickers,” named for Gore’s abominable wife, that still show up on music to this day when it contains “explicit lyrics.” Way to protect the children there, Tipper.

So, back to Snyder. He’s got this new blog where he takes aim at the co-opting of the “Heavy Metal Horns” gesture. Case in point – a new Aol ad campaign features their new logo (did you notice it? You missed it, didn’t you? Yes! AOL is now Aol! See the difference? The, um, the o and the l are lower-case. Pretty snazzy, right? No, I didn’t know AOL was still in business, either.), their new logo superimposed over a photo of the Horns. What’s AOL got to do with heavy metal you ask? Well, if you actually did ask that, then you should really head over to Snyder’s blog, because he likes the way you think.

The site is actually pretty well done, despite the fact that he doesn’t seem to update it very often. He took the time to write some fairly detailed articles including an “About” page explaining why he’s outraged (this time) and a “Mission Statement” that defines the Horns, their history (thank Ronnie James Dio and blame Jon Bon Jovi for whatever you’ve got that needs blaming, according to Snyder), and their sacred relationship to heavy metal.

The blog looks to be tongue-in-cheek, but it’s clever and funny and gives us old metalheads a rallying cry that some might even be able to hear over the ringing in their ears from overly-loud Krokus concerts. Kudos to Snyder for having a little fun with himself and his music genre. And a belated "Heavy Metal Horns" to him and Zappa (and the late Denver) for standing up to the Washington Wives all those years ago.

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