The Summer of Slayer

June 26, 2011 at 7:47 am (The Easy Chair)

Dr T is an enabler when it comes to my library habits. He lives a couple blocks away from Central, is an almost daily visitor, and often picks up and returns items for me. His taste for classical and Old World meets my love of things depraved and profane, sometimes with hilarious results.

He related one occurrence: As he checked out CDs by Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Stravinsky, the nice middle-aged lady next to him smiled approvingly. The look melted, an “I just sucked a bitter lemon” expression replacing it as Dr T put the autobiography of Sammy Hagar on top of his stack. Old World cred? Peeeeeeeew… BOOM!

A couple days ago, I stopped by the Waterfront store to pick up my latest grab. Dannyboy was working. Dannyboy is a 67-year-old perennial youngster, whose love of show tunes is topped only by his love for God. He’s a cool Christian; he won’t spend his entire lunch hour trying to save my soul. But if he sees me weaving off the path, he’s not above asking, “You sure that’s a good idea?”

“What are you doing here, kiddo?” I like that someone still calls me Kiddo.

“I came to pick up a CD. Considering its content, I’ll just grab it so you don’t have to touch it…”

“Why wouldn’t I want to touch it? I put out the porn magazines now, you know…”

“The title might make you squeamish?”

“Oh, just tell me what it is already!” He’s cute when he gets huffy.

“Slayer. God Hates Us All.” I braced for the backlash. I come from a family where my shit would be packed and outside if I ever brought such demonic filth into a house of God.

“Oh.” He shrugged. “I judge not. You just march to the beat of a different demon, that’s all.”

Wow. I like that!

My introduction to Slayer came in 1986, when they opened for WHAM. It seemed an odd pairing, and even odder when my little sister insisted on attending. I chaperoned by waiting outside the Starry Night, now the Roseland. Slayer was a bashing, gnarly never-ending set. WHAM sounded nothing like I’d imagined. Hmm, they must bring out the saxophone just for Careless Whisper. About halfway through their set, someone corrected me: It’s not WHAM. It’s W.A.S.P.

Oh. That’s completely different. Never mind…

A couple years later, the Portland area got its first real heavy metal station, broadcast out of Texas. Z-Rock. It transmitted out of the old KRDR shack, former home of Buck Owens and Conway Twitty. Now I was hearing Green Jello, Metallica and Motorhead, albeit on AM radio. Still, it was opening new horizons musically.

Slayer’s South of Heaven came out about that time, and was one of the last vinyl records I purchased. The other two were Metallica’s And Justice For All and Black Sabbath’s Headless Cross. I wore them out until the turntable belt broke.

Except for a concert video, I was not particularly familiar with Slayer’s body of work. I loved South of Heaven; did I need to spoil that by hearing a bunch of stuff I didn’t like?

I was listening to South of Heaven around the time Osama bin Laden was killed.

Ambushed by machine gun fire;
Count the bullet holes in your head…

It mixed well with the bottle of whiskey I made love to about that time. Time to investigate further.

I picked up all the available albums from the library, and have been jamming to them on the commute. Not even a pack of bitch-slap-rappin ‘hood rats can penetrate the cacophony of Reign in Blood. After an aggravating night, there is release to be found in all that angry music.

Plus, it’ll help being familiar with more than a couple tunes, as I’m officially losing my Slayer cherry later this summer. With a Slayer/Rob Zombie co-headliner show at Memorial Coliseum, how could I not go?

Dannyboy asked what the appeal was? “Can you even tell the songs apart?”

“It’s like standing inside a jet engine, I suppose. But if you know what to listen for, there are all kinds of, um, subtleties. Like the difference between a lawn mower and a chainsaw, for example.”

“Well, you just go ahead and ruin what’s left of your hearing. I’ll stick to Mary Poppins, thank you!”

She is touring as well. But Rob Zombie isn’t opening for her…

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