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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Comments (19)
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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!

  • Camper Man says:

    You are a fool and a tool. Tipper Gore was no evangelical. Dee Snider and Alice Cooper are ordained Christian minister. The Crue and Poison were dressing up as women WAY before it became the left’s new hip trend. The level of your ignorance, to someone like me who grew up in that era, is staggering. Stop drinking the Kool Aid while watching CNN.

  • Mark Mayers says:

    Imagine that, It’s because in the 80s we were growing up fast and sinse we did not fit into mainstream crappy pop music and we did not look down upon people ,we were a culture of our own.We all learned to coexist in the Metal world and it was a great time. We adjusted because we were already adjusted and knew who we were at a young age that prepared us for todays world.
    Most of those who listened to Wham, maddona,Culture Club ect.turned out to either be in jail, overdosed,dead or works at mcdonalds and most of my metalheads are the ones who grew up and raised families and are still my good friends. So to all you geeks that harrassed us MHs , how that work our for ya? As Queensryche says, ” We are the strong, the youth united” from Take hold of the flame.
    Proud as always to be a metalhead til the day I die,
    Mark Mayers
    Gaston SC

  • SS says:

    Beautifully said. No further comment needed.

  • Matt J. says:

    Sigh. Brings back memories. I played drums in an Iron Maiden tribute band from 1985-1987, among many other things. I even had my drums set up exactly like Clive’s (RIP). The Paul Di’anno spikes were cool, but very expensive.
    However, I recall very few females with us. It was very much a male thing, for better or worse. The photo above was not taken in the 1980s. The photographic quality is much later. I think it was picked only because the spikes on that one kid.
    I need to explain something — the PMRC was created by the record companies. It was the best thing to happen to them since Thomas Edison. It boosted sales and the sticker itself became a badge of pride. The record companies were under no compulsion to adopt that. The PMRC was a private group that had absolutely zero power.
    It was a public spectacle and nothing more. Without saturation media coverage (from media companies that owned the major record labels) no one would have heard of it. It created an “enemy” the “metal world” could rally against.

  • Deano says:

    Surprise surprise. The conservatives never learn. The kids ended up ok in spite of their arguments and what wasted money for the hearings campaign,etc. Maybe the only censorship thats needed is their own, if you dont like something don’t listen or do it, but don’t remove other people’s rights to do so if they wish.

  • Jeff Blanks says:

    Helluva lot better than Bush II or Trump. Sometimes you have to let bygones be bygones.

    All the same, I think lots of liberals don’t realize what a move the right wing put on them by letting Tipper Gore be the PMRC’s main speaker. That way, Susan Baker and other Republicans get off scot-free.

  • Jeff Blanks says:

    Helluva lot better than Bush II or Trump. Sometimes you have to let bygones be bygones.

  • Matters says:

    Now it’s the Left that tries to sensor and ban everything!

  • Jay potter says:

    Al gores wife was a conservative ?

  • Jeff says:

    No, but James Baker’s wife was. She was smart to stay in the background while Tipper was the front lady–that way the fans didn’t know there was a Republican connection unless they were really paying attention.

  • Jeff says:

    No, but James Baker’s wife was. She was smart to stay in the background and let people think it was Tipper’s thing.

  • Jason Sloboda says:

    ‘The kids are going home feeling better because they let out a lot of their frustrations’ Right on Dee. That is exactly the power of metal music and attending a concert. Its disappointing when security doesn’t allow ‘mosh pits’ at concerts. It’s fun stomping around and bumping into fellow concert hardcore enthusiasts. You either get it or you don’t, to outsiders it seems violent and destructive. To participants its liberating and cleansing. No better feeling in the world than leaving it all on the concert floor and going home exhausted. Thank you Dee and Twisted Sister, your music and concerts helped a lot of fans through times when your music was the only outlet to release built up angst.

  • Sensorhead says:

    Actually, censor just the ones that cannot spell for s**t

  • dave says:

    Exactly what is wrong with having spiritual beliefs?

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