Fox on the run? did Metallica rock Glastonbury?

Fox on the run- did Metallica rock Glasto? will metal finally get acknowledged by the media?

As Metallica crunched into their first chord on their headline slot the place erupted. Perhaps the most controversial Glastonbury booking ever making the Jay Z headline slot pale in comparison they made their high decibel statement and have perhaps changed the perception of music for ever. It had been discussed for months, with some critics pulling their hair and crying ‘but they don’t have any hits’ or ‘they are too heavy’ and fans up in arms over the bear hunting film shot with frontman james Hetfield involvement.

The fear Of Rock that dominates the media and sees the world’s biggest musical genre ignored by the media or treated with an ironic devil horn sign was given a whole new dimension when the black t shirt clad genre was allowed a headline slot at the festival for the first time.

Metallica grabbed the slot because Prince had pulled out at the last minute and they were virtually the only band available at such short notice. What should not have worked was a moment of inspiration furthering the musical debate and dominating the blogosphere as parts of the media dominated by the indie lovers wrung their hands in despair.
Surely, though, Glastonbury is all about diversity and the one festival where you expect the unexpected and get to see a band you would not normally dream of and Metallics fitted that glove puppet perfectly.

The reaction was good as most people indulged in their first heavy band and surprised themselves by having more knowledge of the band’s catalogue than they thought. Even the awkward bear hunting thing was dealt with quickly with a bizarre video of a fox hunt where the hunters were shot by four foxes who removed their masks tor reveal members of Metallica – It was curious moment that didn’t really say if the band were pro or anti or just chumming up to the audience who rightly find the idea of pointlessly shooting animals offensive.

Metallica were everywhere, the sheer density and volume of their music floated through the night sky and the thickets of trees and undergrowth of the farm.. the very nature of their sound fills every corner of the psyche with its steamrolling power. But they also have melody and a musical prowess that is important to acknowledge and a melodic touch.
The band steamrollered through their set, perhaps surprising themselves more than anyone at their reaction and proudly claiming at the end to have been ‘honoured to represent the heavier side of music’ . Their musicianship was flawless and, in the context of modern music, were they really that much out of place? the idea that no -one knew their hits was made laughable by their multi million selling albums proving that a lot of people are buying their stuff and their sound, which everyone knows anyway, and the band’s longevity that means that many people had used the group as their entry point into music years ago when they were growing up before exploring other genres but retaining an affection for the group.

It was a credit to the Glastonbury music crowd that they embraced the band and hopefully will see a dropping of the stupid iron curtain that surrounds this most complex and misunderstood of genres. Hopefully it will mean that alternative radio and TV will finally embrace the genre and we can all move on onto a more musically diverse music world that acknowledges the darker and the heavier side of music for what it is in the 21st century- a place where the cuffing edge is still key and the volume is turned up slightly bit. At the end of the day it is just another musical genre iin the wonderfully inventive modern musical world.

Metallica at Glastonbury could be a cultural shift.


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  1. Michael Johnson

    It was quite ironic, listening to the enthusiastic coverage of Metallica on BBC Radio 6 Music. This, of course, being the station that canned Bruce Dickinson’s Friday Rock Show a while back, and in general likes to treat bands with loud guitars as occasional novelty items amid the smooth flow of AOR-indie niceness.

    Then Metallica grabbed the top spot at Glastonbury, which meant that they also got the top spot in the BBC coverage. I bet that created a few “Oh, shit!” moments in the corridors of power. The Beeb was all geared up to present Prince – a mainstream, widely-acceptable pop artist, pretty much in the middle of everyone’s road. But now, Prince was off the bill, and he’d been replaced by a bunch of loud, lairy, hairy-arsed rockers – exactly the sort of stuff that the BBC likes to discreetly sweep under the carpet these days.

    It certainly created an interesting situation for 6 Music. All of a sudden, the station had to do a complete 180 in its attitude to loud rock music. Reverse ferrets were out in force!

    But will this change anything, long-term?

    After witnessing a non-metal festival going crazy for a none-more-metal band, it’s obviously not possible to argue that rock music is a specialist genre that should only be covered by specialist media. Loud guitars have a wide appeal, and bands that crank the rock can be mixed in to general music programming without frightening the horses.

    Unfortunately, I think rock music *does* frighten the executives who make the decisions.

    Let’s not forget, BBC Radio 6 Music is run by the same management team that controls Radio 2 – the BBC’s comfortable, retro-easy listening station. Many 6 Music presenters also have shows on Radio 2. The clear separation which should exist between the two stations is steadily being eroded. The drift of 6 Music in an increasingly ‘soft’ direction is not, I suspect, a coincidence.

    I don’t think anything will really change unless the management structure changes. If 6 Music was genuinely independent within BBC radio, with its own management, able to set its own musical agenda, then I think things would (or at least might) change.

    But while the station is essentially run as an agreeable extension to Radio 2 – rather like a conservatory attached to a comfortable middle-class house – then I think rock music will still be marginalised, Metallica or no Metallica.

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