1980s Metalhead Kids Are All Right: New Study Suggests They Became Well-Adjusted Adults

In the 1980s, The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), an organization co-founded by Tipper Gore and the wives of several other Washington power brokers, launched a political campaign against pop music, hoping to put warning labels on records that promoted Sex, Violence, Drug and Alcohol Use. Along the way, the PMRC issued "the Filthy Fifteen," a list of 15 particularly objectionable songs. Hits by Madonna, Prince and Cyndi Lauper made the list. But the list really took aim at heavy metal bands from the 80s -- namely, Judas Priest, Mötley Crüe, Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P., Def Leppard, Black Sabbath, and Venom. (Interesting footnote: the Soviets separately created a list of blackballed rock bands, and it looked pretty much the same.)

Above, you can watch Twisted Sister's Dee Snider appear before Congress in 1985 and accuse the PMRC of misinterpreting his band's lyrics and waging a false war against metal music. The evidence 30 years later suggests that Snider maybe had a point. A new study by psychology researchers at Humboldt StateOhio State, UC Riverside and UT Austin "examined 1980s heavy metal groupies, musicians, and fans at middle age" -- 377 participants in total -- and found that, although metal enthusiasts certainly lived riskier lives as kids, they were nonetheless "significantly happier in their youth and better adjusted currently than either middle-aged or current college-age youth comparison groups." This left the researchers to contemplate one possible conclusion: "participation in fringe style cultures may enhance identity development in troubled youth." Not to mention that heavy metal lyrics don't easily turn kids into damaged goods.

You can read the report, Three Decades Later: The Life Experiences and Mid-Life Functioning of 1980s Heavy Metal Groupies here. And, right above, listen to an interview with one of the researchersTasha Howe, a former headbanger herself, who spoke yesterday with Michael Krasny on KQED radio in San Francisco.

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  • Dave says:

    Of course they became well-adjusted adults, because there was never a problem with them in the first place. They simply enjoyed a certain type of music prone to theatrics in imagery and lyrics. They were (and still are) a subculture of kids who preferred to identify with entertainment and fashion that is outside the mainstream. The cultural hysteria over heavy metal in the 80’s was mainly perpetrated by evangelical christians, who ridiculously claimed that bands put satanic messages in their songs that could only be heard when played backwards. Remember that idiocy? Having lost that cultural battle, these evangelicals moved on to now persecute and stigmatize LGBT teens and adults.

    To those who commissioned this study, it would actually benefit society more to study how well-adjusted are the members of the Family Research Council or any other Christian nationalist organization. What damage are these people currently causing to hundreds of thousands of people in our nation?

  • Michael Coats says:

    Just remember this metal fact. John Denver lost his chance to be an astronaut, because he spoke up for the metal scene. If John Denver didn’t turn on the Senators and their censorship, he’d probably still be alive today. There is youtube video of his testimony, talking about how his song “Rocky Mountain High” was banned, because the Conservative Christians thought it was a reference to Weed.

  • Joe Pelley says:

    Al Gore, what an ass. SO glad that d-head never became President.

  • Lisa Hill says:

    I was a teen in the 80’s and a metal head. All that mess with the PMRC was a joke. Most of us didn’t fit in with the ” popular kids” and became a group onto our self. I feel like it gave us the strength and wanting to try new things and ” live outside the box” Some times it does not turn out good but I think metal also gave us that ability to pull our self up by the boot straps. I am 49 now and have a daughter who among other stuff listened to metal and taking her to concerts has been an amazing experience. I also think we raise our kids a bit different encouraging them to ” think out side the box” Long live 80’s metal.

  • Graaaaaaaaaahhhhhl says:

    They already were well adjusted. In the 80s the metal fans were just a geeky strand of the conservative mainstream, and were much more acceptable to your average bigot than punks or hippies. I don’t think many of them came from poor or broken homes – they would never have been able to afford the albums and leather jackets for a start!

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