Nineteen-Eighty what a year that was. The year of the Heavy Metal Barn Dance at Bingley Hall in Stafford, possibly one of the most inaccessible music venues I’ve ever had the misfortune to visit, but still one that evokes memories of amazing nights and very long journeys home or worse sleepless nights on rail station platforms.
Apart from the night of Motorhead led mayhem listed above, I saw Rush play there two nights in a row, two years in a row at the point in time where I at least think they were at their musical peak. I saw Ritchie Blackmore smash up his “favourite” Fender Stratocaster at Bingley Hall too, what a sight to witness at a Rainbow gig, and then shock horror, he only managed to repeat this event the following day, just WOW!
It was also the peak of the musical phenomenon known as the “New Wave Of British Heavy Metal” or NWOBHM for short.
Rock gods Slade made a huge comeback, as did ACDC with “Back In Black”their first studio album after the death of frontman Bon Scott. Reading Festival was loud and wasn’t full of crappy pop acts, in fact it wasn’t even Reading Festival at all it was “Reading Rock”. Look at this line up of bands, some long forgotten but some still rocking to this day, albeit with flailing hair with an ever so slightly more silvered tinge..
It was a great time to be a rock music fan for sure, big bands made come backs, new artists got airplay and toured constantly. Monsters Of Rock held the first ever Rock/Metal only festival at Donington Park, Lemmy even made it on to Top Of The Pops!
I wasn’t even old enough to drink back then, I was pretty close and without doubt did, with cheap cider and anything I could glean from the drinks cabinet being my tipple of choice, I even recall once getting hold of a Watneys “Party Seven”, anyone remember those quality items?
Thankfully take home beer has improved somewhat since then as has the beer scene as a whole, but I do think we can draw some comparisons to the 1980’s and the rebirth of the head-banging rocker and todays “craft beer” explosion.
Back then I was still finding my musical feet, not for dancing, for listening. My tastes varied wildly as I struggled to shake off the alluring hold Agnetha Fältskog had on my young psyche as she shook her ‘rear of the year’ in skin-tight spandex jump-suits. Sid Vicious tried and failed to break the spell, but lets face it out of the two who would you choose to have posters of on your bedroom wall.
As punk hit home, the likes Sham 69 had better luck with such school-disco stopping classics as Hersham Boys, it got cooler to like bands like them or so it seemed at the time as I pogoed myself uncontrollably around the school assembly hall. Then of course there was the influence from my older siblings who had long since progressed from their own immature musical dabblings into progressive and old-school rock. The likes of Genesis, Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, King Crimson, Cream, Caravan, Black Sabbath et al were constantly spun on our old stereogram, the precursor to the living room Hi-Fi, the next “big thing”. These faired better and slowly but surely my tastes expanded, my hair grew and when the NWOBHM hit us in the 80’s in all it’s eardrum bursting glory, I’d found my space, I was a new wave heavy-rocker, with roots firmly stuck in 1970’s rock but branches reaching out into 80’s metal.
Fast forward the $^%$^^8 years or so to now, and beer is smack bang right in the middle of a similar renaissance to that of the rock and metal stars who’s images adorned the roughly sewn patches of my cut off denim jacket in 1980. Beer is capturing my imagination in a way that the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Ian “Lemmy” Kilminster and Ted Nugent did way back then. These days though, it is rock star brewers (and I use that phrase in a most complimentary fashion) who inspire me with tasty concoctions that set my taste buds alight with newfound vigour.
To expand a little on the “rock star brewers” quote, what I’m getting at is that the guys that brew the new and tasty beverages that are spreading like a hurricane-fed wildfire across the UK are no longer faceless. Beer in many forms like music genres has been around for a long time, but how long have most people honestly known much about the guys at the sharp end. Social media has helped in many ways as drinkers now often have direct instant access to brewers and breweries through Twitter, breweries have websites and Facebook pages that once “liked” can entice customers with the promise of things to come, some like Magic Rock for example even have live webcam feeds taking you straight to the heart of the action.
Then you have meet the brewer events where these guys are uncerimoniously thrust into the limelight, beer lovers feeding on their every word, gesture and jar full of hops. Some are natural performers, others are not, either way it is sort of expected as part of the job in most parts or else risk falling by the wayside as unknown or perhaps just being forgotten. I wasn’t around the beer industry as much a few years back and definitely not in the 1980′ and 90’s but I can’t imagine many brewers straying far from the brewhouse unless it was for a quiet incognito pint to gauge opinion, whereas now they travel the length and breadth of the land to showcase and even pour you your beer.
As with the musical new beginnings of my teenage years, this New Wave Of British Heavy Metal Brewing has changed my tastes in more ways than one, you could almost say its been life changing. Beer has always been part of my life since I turned (cough) eighteen, however in the past it featured as a casual bystander rather than something that drove me in any way. These days beer has a tendency to influence far more than I ever imagined it could or even it should. I consider it when I plan my holidays, where I spend weekends, who I spend time with and even how I relax at home. As a beer writer or blogger if you prefer, my mind rarely rests as I try and think of things to rattle on about on Beersay and as a result beer is very often the last thing on my mind as I drift off to sleep.
The changes driven home by the new, forward thinking beer styles of todays brewing industry have also had implications to my other drinking habits too and looking at recent trends I’m not alone. If you’d asked me four or five years ago to drink a continuously hopped IPA or maybe a sour beer for example, I’d have done so but would I have embraced it, I’m not so sure. These days however, face-scrunchingly bitter makes me very happy indeed. Then look at the emergence of coffee shops, artisanal coffee roasters and their newfound popularity on the high street and at home, with espresso machines, aeropress, syphons and such, now common place in many kitchens and for me at least, are banishing milk and sugar from my mug as I seek to extract every dark and roasty bitter flavour I can get. Gin too is making a comeback with new and not so new quality brands replacing your typically green Gordons bottle in drinks cabinets, even tonic as a mixer has to be a quality ingredient, it matters and continues the trend towards fresh, bitter flavours.
Like the wannabe bands of the 80’s, new breweries are springing up faster than baby rabbits at a Bugs Bunny Viagra-fuelled love-in, some will survive and thrive whilst others will be inevitably dazzled by the headlights and end up as roadkill.
Similarly though, as with the old school rockers, the precursors to NWOBHM if you will, the existing brewing behemoths will continue to churn. Feeding the masses with comfortable, familiar beers, the beers you or I either remember fondly or would prefer to forget, but seemingly last forever on bars in the pubs of the land. But beware, these monsters are still watching, squinting greedy eyes glance fleetingly from balance sheets and market share graphs towards these new upstart brewers and their “craft brews”, they want a piece of this new pie and will try every trick in the book to get some. Starting with hijacking the word craft and making us hate it, stage two it would appear, is pairing dry rubbed smokey barbecued pork ribs with Carling Zest…
This meandering post is part of Boak and Bailey’s challenge to get beer writers to go long