(On April 11 the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, in conjunction with Revolver magazine, launched Golden Gods: The History Of Heavy Metal to coincide with the 2012 Revolver Golden Gods Awards. The exhibit features rare artifacts from iconic metal bands as well as a variety of interactive exhibits and programs to illustrate the history and influence of the genre. The exhibit is on display through February 2013. For more information, visit www.grammymuseum.org.)
By Jamie Harvey
As you step onto the second floor of the GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles, you are greeted by one of metal's most iconic characters — Iron Maiden's mascot Eddie. He towers over you, disturbing and intimidating, the perfect beginning to an exhibit that tells the story of music's loudest genre: heavy metal.
Combining rare artifacts with interactive exhibits, Golden Gods: The History Of Heavy Metal educates, celebrates and assimilates visitors into the world of metal. One minute you're watching vintage MTV clips of Whitesnake, and the next you're reading the handwritten lyrics to Dio's "Holy Diver." Next you're gazing upon a row of posters featuring Slayer, Lamb Of God and Cannibal Corpse, and then you're confronted with a Gwar costume and guitar from Death's Chuck Schuldiner.
Did you know Motörhead hired a research company to conduct focus groups? Or that Pantera's Dimebag Darrell had a Kiss sticker on his guitar? How about that it's really hard to do Cookie Monster vocals without laughing? These are all things I learned while walking around the exhibit and trying out the Scream Booth.
Later that evening at the 2012 Revolver Golden Gods Awards I spoke with several of the artists who contributed to the exhibit. Twisted Sister's Dee Snider mentioned how "excess was the norm back in the day," referencing the 500-pound cast iron Twisted Sister manhole cover featured on the album Come Out And Play — a literal piece of heavy metal history.
"'The money sucked' was usually the entry … or that I couldn't hear a thing," said Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister regarding his tour journal. Quiet Riot's Frankie Banali commented on the mask from the iconic Metal Health record. "That is one of the three masks from the Metal Health video," he said. "One was destroyed on the set, one went missing, and then the one in the [GRAMMY] Museum I've had since 1983." Machine Head's Robb Flynn spoke about one of his guitars that's on display in the Museum. "My 1997 [Gibson] Flying V that I used through 2008 — and it's thrashed, that thing's got vodka and beer on it — and one night I set it down by an amp the first time we played Helsinki and the whole back burned off." On the inclusion of a black cowboy hat from Ministry's Al Jourgensen, his wife lauded, "That hat's been more places than Johnny Cash. Al's the new man in black."
With a stack of Slayer's well-used Marshall amps at the exhibit's end becoming an unintentional ode to the recently passed Jim Marshall, the experience ends on a heavy note. Still, I walked away, even as a metalhead, with a deeper appreciation and respect for music's darkest and arguably most misunderstood genre.
(Texas-based Jamie Harvey is the rock community blogger for GRAMMY.com. She attended 112 shows in 2010. You can follow her musical adventures and concert recaps at http://www.hardrockchick.com/.)