Heavy metal – the beast that will not be slain. Many obituaries have been written for this primordial brand of music yet it resurfaces in different guises over and over again. The start of the 80s saw the emergence of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and a slew of new bands that would dominate the rock scene for years. Here’s a festival poster from 1981.
Punk and its aftermath was all about transgression – embracing things that shocked or violated normal codes of behaviour.
And just three to four decades after World War II, you could always rely on employing Nazi references to shock and disgust public opinion.
Whether it was Sid Vicious wandering around off his head with a Nazi emblem or bands adopting names that related to the Third Reich – anything to do with Hitler still touched a very raw nerve.
There was also an embarrassed fascination for Nazi style and art. Far from being seen as vulgar, philistine and oppressive – the fascist aesthetic was viewed as stirring and provocative by people whose political views might actually be quite liberal or left-wing.
So, you had the band Joy Division – naming itself after the sex slavery wing of Hitlerite concentration camps. Heavy metal bands were never shy about using the Iron Cross or stylised eagles. Artists might casually praise the buildings or films of that era. And David Bowie’s wave to fans was characterised by some as a fascist salute – vehemently denied by the man himself.
When one New Romantic band decided to call itself Spandau Ballet, that sent a journalist at the Record Mirror into a spin:
Unfortunately, the element of this project which I find disturbing, threatening and worthy of debate lies not in the music itself, but in the premise upon which our young warriors have erected their grandiose musical/lyrical edifice.
The journo went on to note that the album was white-on-white with a muscular naked form. And the scribbler was rattled by a quote inside the record sleeve – “…the soaring joy of immaculate rhythms, the sublime glow of music for heroes…stirring vision….journeys to glory…”
The Record Mirror fumed that this linked Spandau Ballet to an ‘Aryan Youth ideal’ reminiscent of the Hitler Youth. The review then went on to make it clear there was no linkage to far right groups being suggested just a deep sense of unease.
The journalist suggested to readers that they play ‘Muscle Bound’ back to back with ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me’ from the movie Cabaret and observe how the ‘mood’ is the same.
“Tread very carefully for all our sakes,” the magazine warned the band.