I’m of the school that states we’re each allotted a certain amount of alcoholic drinks in a lifetime. It’s an equation mostly based on girth, genetics and one’s propensity for destruction. At fifteen I discovered my depression could be lifted by cans of Budweiser. I welcomed the relief. I was free enough to be giddy, to elicit laughter from my friends for original creative thoughts. It was 1981 and we partied to a new sound that blasted its way into the ethos of suburban New Jersey. Metal. It came in a package of light beer, brown weed and the hurling of one’s head back and forth to the quick thump of rock. The musicians were Gods to us: rich, talented, drug aficionados who could party all day long and play in stadiums at night. From an education fraught with regulation we were amazed that such superheroes existed. They flipped off reporters, swigged tequila from the sunroof of limos and destroyed hotel rooms. Every effort we made to include ourselves in this energy left us more alive, drunk and included. I was as normal as 1980s Pumpkin Pie: divorcing parents, an almost invisible public school presence and a hope to board Ozzy’s Crazy Train, if it ever arrived at South Orange Station.
We all wanted to be our heroes, to register as men with guitars and hot women in leather pants in our clutch. Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, undeniably a member of the Mount Rushmore of Heavy Metal, single-handedly brought motorcycle leather to a community in search of a uniform. We couldn’t buy the black bomber jackets fast enough. We’d worship our Judas Priest in the church of Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Throngs of beer-soaked teenagers bobbing their collective heads to the rhythm suggested by our leader, our preacher, The God on stage in leather chaps. Rob’s Living After Midnight is played to this day in professional baseball and football stadiums all over the country. “Hells Bells,” “Crazy Train,” “TNT” and “Breakin’ the Law” are songs downloaded daily in 2015. Each of these anthems was written during this small pocket of time, somewhere between Star Wars and Raging Bull.
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