1980s Metalhead Kids Are Alright: Scientific Study Shows That 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 per­haps had a point.

A 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.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in July 2015.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Dev­il­ish His­to­ry of the 1980s Parental Advi­so­ry Stick­er: When Heavy Met­al & Satan­ic Lyrics Col­lid­ed with the Reli­gious Right

Sovi­et Union Cre­ates a List of 38 Dan­ger­ous Rock Bands: Kiss, Pink Floyd, Talk­ing Heads, Vil­lage Peo­ple & More (1985)

Watch Heavy Met­al Park­ing Lot, the Cult Clas­sic Film That Ranks as One of the “Great Rock Doc­u­men­taries” of All Time

A Blue­grass Ver­sion of Metallica’s Heavy Met­al Hit, “Enter Sand­man”

The Hu, a New Break­through Band from Mon­go­lia, Plays Heavy Met­al with Tra­di­tion­al Folk Instru­ments and Throat Singing

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Comments (14)
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  • Robert Fontenot says:

    Well adjust­ed to a dys­func­tion­al soci­ety.

  • D. Colburn says:

    The group rep­re­sen­ta­tives who did not live to mid­dle age were not avail­able to com­ment.

  • Joan Jett says:

    Fan­tas­tic arti­cle with no bet­ter voice to speak for a world of heavy met­al. Thank you God !

  • Dave Dark says:

    Of course they would be! Break­ing the Law, Fight­ing for the Right to Par­ty, with girls girls girls,then!The Plas­mat­ics! With WENDY O blow­ing up cars by smash­ing them with a sledge­ham­mer and chain­saw­ing TV’s with one of the most epic Mohawks ever, tape over her nip­ples, ter­ri­fy­ing the mas­culin­i­ty of the weak as water of the ball less male eago of that time!Put Your Love In Me! The Plas­mat­ics! Talk about the melt­ing of a snowflake! The most inter­est­ing man in the world? Not that Do’s what ever beer guy! BRUCE IS! IRON MAIDEN, WAS A WORLD CLASS FENCER, FLYING COMRCIEAL JET AIRLINES NOW, MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER, DIDN’T JUST HAND OFF THE BREWING OF THE TROOPER BEER AND OTHER BEERS AFTER! HE ACTUALLY WAS HANDS ON WITH IT! WHEN HE DRINKS BEER, IT’S NOT WHILE FLYING ED FORCE ONE TO THE NEXT SOLD OUT IRON MAIDEN SHOW, BUT WHEN HE DOES IT A TROOPER BREW! BY THE WAY DID I MENTION HE FRONTS ONE THE MOST EPIC MEATAL BANDS OF ALL TIME, WITH AN AMAZING VOICE TO BOOT! WHAT ABOUT THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION? WHO WOULD WIN THE FIGHT BETWEEN LEMMY AND GOD? TRICK ? LEMMY IS GOD!THE Mean­ing of life! What do you want to do with your life? Answer! I WANNA ROCK!ALSO BUT THESE GO TO 11!

  • darth plastic says:

    – 377 par­tic­i­pants in total –
    really?.…that’s it?.…that’s sad.…..
    obvi­ous­ly they’ve nev­er lis­tened to Dyed In Grey.

  • Chris Cronk says:

    Well, well, well.…well-adjusted, that is. Met­al saves the day. Now, if we can get this gen­er­a­tion’s attention.…we might be able to “save” and adjust them.

  • Kirk Gidley says:

    There is no such thing as for­mer head banger.. It’s for life

  • JMBC says:

    Love this… most all of the “met­al­heads”, and “fringe soci­etal” kids that I have known, are now well adjust­ed, well edu­cat­ed, ratio­nal, crit­i­cal think­ing adults; and fan­tas­tic par­ents!
    It is nice, to know oth­ers, who aren’t 24/7 on their phones (myself includ­ed), and question/research before mak­ing deci­sions, not just take the opin­ion of oth­ers what is right. The day you stand in oine with the all the oth­er sheeple, and decide that every­thing from tra­di­tion, to pol­i­tics, dic­tat­ed what is the truth — is the day, true human crit­i­cal think­ing has become obso­lete.

  • Cath says:

    les mou­tons de ma généra­tion sont telle­ment aveu­gle et sourd s’en en est mal­heureux et sa me rend malade.

  • Jigster says:

    And it all start­ed with BLACK SABBATH!!

  • Thy Profet von Dronterlagen says:

    Met­al is free­dom for them who love to think freely, for them who don’t wan­na get brain­washed by society’s media machines, that says you should like this and this.

    And you need some more than aver­age iq to under­stand the com­po­si­tions, have a trained ear, to start love all the earcan­dies this gen­era have made the past 50 years. So its under­stand­able that it is attacked by them who dont under­stand it.

    I bet theres less drugs on met­al gigs than rap and rave par­ties. At least the legal vari­ants.

  • Bill H says:

    Not dead in the gut­ter as many pre­dict­ed. Went to Col­lege of the Red­woods on base­ball schol­ar­ship near Hum­boldt State. Sur­vived the Green Tri­an­gle of Hum­boldt Coun­ty while liv­ing on Hum­boldt Hill with enough brain cells left to func­tion. Moved on to Okla­homa to fin­ish base­ball & BS degree. Got DPT degree from 1st Doc­tor­al Pro­gram in Phys­i­cal Ther­a­py in the coun­try, Creighton Uni­ver­si­ty. Lis­ten to heavy met­al every day while doing my doc­u­men­ta­tion. Still see­ing heavy met­al con­certs today, tak­ing my wife and kids. Rock On!

  • Donna says:

    Rock on!

  • Dan's says:

    I was going to say the same thing. Been a met­al­head for over 30 years. Would­n’t have it any oth­er way. \m/

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.