Circa 1982, I spent about $6 of my hard-earned money to buy my first cassette: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, “I love Rock and Roll.”
It was worth it.
This week I spent more than double that to buy Metallica’s new album “72 Seasons.” I got better value with 1982’s purchase, but with the modern way we consume music there are ways around that.
So careful consideration went into where those few earned dollars were spent. Fireworks, guns, livestock and music were some of the most popular choices for at least one rural Fremont County boy at the time.
Was a particular album worth hours working in the blazing Wyoming summer sun? Or would some .22 hollow points and a few bottle rockets better fit the bill? To get the data necessary to answer that question was not as easy as it is today.
The magical ability of iTunes to grant access to any song, anytime didn’t exist. Previewing a sample of a single song from an album took effort and luck. You could try to catch it on the radio, often from Rick Dees and the “Weekly Top 40.” Or you could take matters into your own hands and call in to the radio station and request a particular song … and then wait, fingers on the play and record buttons of a cassette recorder in case the DJ actually played it.
If successful, the quality was usually good enough for analysis, but not for repeated listening because of the static and DJ talking through the intro of the song.
What about the songs on the album that weren’t played on the radio? Well, to assess their merit, hope lay in listening to a friend’s copy. Odds of the friend having a copy increased if he had an older sibling with money or if the friend had indulgent parents.
For an album to be worth the effort it took to buy, four songs would have to be good enough to be played over and over. Buying singles was not usually worth the $1 or $2 they cost because only having one good song to listen to shortened its longevity and rewinding every two or three minutes was a pain, even on a Sony Walkman. Vinyl was a little more convenient as far as relistening, but not so portable.
Things are different now.
We can listen to music immediately, on our phones, when and where we want. The music we loved is still here, though.
That includes music from Metallica, one of my favorites. Metallica still produces hard-hitting metal like the group did years ago. But something’s different. It could be the band, the music, me — or all three.
Hard Metallica Life
Life is hard for everyone. It can be especially hard for people in their teens and early 20s when they are getting out in the world on their own. One’s life soundtrack at this time of metamorphosis echoes in the years after.
When I was there, I tended to think I knew everything but kept getting beaten down by reality. It proved to me I really knew next to nothing.
Not willing to admit that, it kind of made me angry. It’s hard to find a better musical personification of this state of being than Metallica.
In an interview with alternative music publication Kerrang!, Metallica lead Singer James Hetfield said the band’s new album released this year, “72 Seasons,” was inspired by how much childhood contributes to the formation of who people are, who they become.
He indicated people are pretty set by the time they enter adulthood. There are four seasons in one year and 72 seasons is 18 years.
“The first 18 years of our lives that form our true or false selves,” he said. “The concept that we were told ‘who we are’ by our parents, a possible pigeonholing around what kind of personality we are.
“I think the most interesting part of this is the continued study of those core beliefs and how it affects our perception of the world today. Much of our adult experience is re-enactment or reaction to these childhood experiences. Prisoners of childhood or breaking free of those bondages we carry.”
Childhood and who our parents are certainly make a difference in who we become, but I like to think we can choose how we react to what life throws at us and are not prisoners of our past unless we choose to be. (And if you were a child of the ’70s and ’80s who grew up in rural Wyoming with great parents, then maybe it's not so bad to stick close to the things created in this environment.)
Growing up is easier for some than others, no doubt. But when, not if, one gets slapped down by life, Metallica probably doesn’t help to ease the sting. What it can do though is help express the feeling of the sting that the slapdown leaves.
The Best Of Metallica
Metallica’s first album “Kill ‘em All” came out in 1983, but the band’s breakout, chart-topping album was the one with the black cover — 1991’s “Metallica.”
It was followed by “Load” (1996) and “ReLoad” (1997). The 1990s is the time of my Metallica, when I and many others became fans.
Who doesn’t like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman?” It takes a tranquil scene and colors it up with dark and menace. “Load” has “Hero of the Day,” a dark story with a slower sound. “ReLoad” has “The Unforgiven II” with its slow, heavy, melancholy feel.
The original “The Unforgiven” is from the 1991 “Metallica” album. It seems to fit with the theme of “72 Seasons.”
“New blood joins this earth and quickly he’s subdued. Through constant pain disgrace, the young boy learns their rules.”
There is another installment from Metallica’s 2010 album “Death Magnetic” — “The Unforgiven III.” Its message is of a life blown off course by wrong desire.
Metallica music is fast. It’s hard. It’s loud. It’s also dark and angry, but thoughtful, poetic and professional.
These guys are good. They are not sloppy. They can thrash in a garage or play with an orchestra (1999’s “S&M).
I’ve never been a fan of some of Metallica’s more thrashy early stuff; however, some early stuff — “Fade to Black” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” off of 1984’s “Ride the Lightning;” “The Thing That Should Not Be” from 1986’s “Master of Puppets;” and “One” and “Harvester of Sorrow” from the 1988 “… And Justice for All” are all pretty good Metallica entries.
But a lot of Metallica is just too fast and jarring.
So where does that leave “72 Seasons?”
It sounds like the Metallica that many people know. So, if they are big fans, they’ll like it. Most of the album had the tempo and feel of Metallica’s faster stuff. It’s dark, dangerous and packed full of power.
The first 52 seconds of the album are cool. Then it goes from fast to Metallica fast, which is too fast for this old man. There are 12 songs on “72 Seasons” and they average out to a length close to six and a half minutes each. But song length matters less than song sound.
The standout for me was the last song on the album, the longest clocking in at 11:10: “Inamorata.”
The song is about a guy’s relationship with mistress misery. It’s intriguing, and it could be that the guy is taking responsibility rather than raging against circumstance.
“I created you. I suppose I can end you too … she’s not what I’m living for.”
Yes, to answer a question posed by my editor, I still am a Metallica fan. At least I still like the songs I used to like.
In “72 Seasons,” Metallica sounds a lot like it did when band started. It hasn’t changed that much, but maybe I have, so the whole album doesn’t meet my 1980s four-song threshold.
The good news now is that Metallica fans today don’t have to wait for Rick Dees or their friend’s brother to play “72 Seasons.” People can sample then buy only the songs they want via iTunes. Or they can pay a music streaming service about the same as they would pay for the album. For that they get a month’s access to the album and millions of other songs.
Even if Metallica may question people's ability to cast aside disadvantages from their beginnings, music listening seems to have shed the shackles of its past.
Under these conditions, people might find “72 Seasons” worth a listen.
Coy Knobel can be reached at: Coy@CowboyStateDaily.com