I was once a little…um, okay, terribly obsessed with iTunes. I got my first iPod in 2004 and became immediately entranced by Apple’s seeming infinite lists of music for sale. Over the years, I spent way too much time on iTunes and spent way too much money on music, some of which was great, and some of which was not. In 2011, for the sake of my sanity and my bank account, I went cold turkey. I suspended my iTunes activities and completely stopped visiting site. With the iTunes Diaries, I take a look back, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly in music that I just had to have in the moment.
You know how when you were a senior in high school you got special recognition in your yearbook? You got your picture taken all fancy-like, and those pictures were featured in a special layout, complete with self-made captions. Yep…captions. Not sure if the same was true of your high school, but in mine, one of the joys that came with being a senior was that you got to write your own special set of words to accompany your yearbook photo. Not every word in the English language was allowed in the captions (probably the only time the yearbook censors ever did any real work), but if you were clever enough, you could get your fuck-off phrase in there without actually swearing. Me, I was not clever. Though I don’t recall the exact wording of my own caption, I do remember that it involved vague thanks to the millions of friends I didn’t really have, and it mentioned the Toronto Blue Jays and Metallica. And for those last two bits, boy oh boy…did I receive a proper ribbing!
Only I didn’t, because nobody in my high school gave two shits about whatever was printed under my photograph…except for one person. Well, maybe a couple. (Okay, so I wasn’t a complete outcast, though at times, you coulda fooled me.) For the purposes of this post (as you’ve probably derived), it was that bit about Metallica that got attention.
I’ve already gone on about my I-like-heavy-metal-but-you-wouldn’t-know-it-just-by-looks past, and I don’t have much more concerning that to add here. But more so than any song on my “Metal” playlist, which was one of the first I ever created, hearing Slayer’s “Raining Blood” still makes me feel like…well…a poser. That’s kind of how people made me feel when they questioned my love of Metallica back in the day. Okay sure, I liked metal…but did I really?
Because here’s the thing. Slayer’s wasn’t just some band. They were GODDAMN SLAYER! – ultimate legends of thrash. Unlike their popular thrash compatriots, such as Anthrax, Megadeth and Metallica, they weren’t mainstream. Slayer never popped up on the radio. Metal-minded classmates literally whispered when it came to discussing the band, as if knowing Slayer was secret or forbidden. And of course I became super curious, but that’s as far as it went. I didn’t have the proper connections to dive further into this seemingly illicit musical territory. So I stuck with my radio and the one channel that occasionally played Anthrax, Megadeth, and Metallica.
Thousands of days later, when it came to creating that “Metal” playlist on my first iPod, my husband urged me to put something from Slayer on it. While I wasn’t opposed to the idea, I didn’t even know where to start. Since his favorite Slayer album was Reign in Blood (1986), he said I should start there and probably not with the thirty-second song snippets on iTunes. So, I started digging into the vast corners of the Internet, and I ended up finding more on Slayer than I could have ever imagined. And most of what I saw placed the band not just high in the ranks of metal, but high in the ranks of lifestyle. For many, accepting Slayer into their lives was akin to accepting a religion – personal, meaningful, and life-altering.
Was I ready for that?
Can’t say I’d ever given much thought to the fanaticism that surrounds this or that musical act, but just the mere thought of picking a single Slayer song for my iPod was both overwhelming and a little scary. Would I be called out as a jerk for trying to like something I could never understand? Would my choice be questioned as an attempt to become part a group that simply wouldn’t accept me? By choosing a Slayer song, would I be making fun of everything the band had achieved up to that point?
No, no…and…no. See, because much like my egotistical self worried about the words that were under my yearbook photo that nobody gave a damn about, my same egotistical self was “talking” just to hear itself talk. It’s not as if I was going to walk up to random people in the subway with “You know what I did today? I downloaded a Slayer song. Whaddya think of THAT?”
And typing that out make these diary entries seem more than a little futile.[sigh]
My point is that the simple act of obtaining a Slayer song (I went with “Raining Blood” because I liked it, end of story) turned into a process of shedding a long-unrealized barrier that I had constructed years ago. Absolutely no band, no song, no musical act of great fame was off limits to me simply because I didn’t necessarily identify with its legacy or its following. Realizing this opened me up to the musical world in a new whole way.
Now, I will honestly admit that I still haven’t explored Slayer beyond “Raining Blood,” which makes my soul ecstatically thrum and pulsate every time it cycles round. That notion of being a “poser” continues to haunt even just simple web searches to see what the band is up to. Some part of me remains hesitant to commit. Commit to what, I’m still not exactly sure of.