Lebanese Youth Today.
In the beginning, in the world (seventies)
The origins of Hard Rock
The difficulty to give a stiff definition (due to the many different styles it contains)
I - A music, a culture, a fashion, a violent way of living.
The music and the themes: the different styles: Hard Rock, Heavy
The fashion: clothes, hair and the bad attitude.
Life on the edge, the involvement of the teenagers in the music (Hard Rock,
a philosophy for some listeners).
II – A social phenomenon which conveys a message of rebellion
Hard Rock, the rejection of a certain quota of values in the society.
Hard Rock as an aggressive reaction to the war and post-war crisis.
Hard Rock as the only means of expression for a category of teenagers today.
To forbid this music is to say that we do not want to hear what these
teenagers want to say. It encourages them to stay out of the society and
get more and more violent.
All they want is to be respected for what they think.
Rock music, as we know it nowadays, spread around the globe in the
early sixties, with bands such as The Beatles or The Rolling Stones that
were to influence others musically. It followed the Rockn'roll wave which
had been a real revolution in modern music. Rockn'roll was a way for the
youth back then to express their rebellion towards the old values of puritanism
in the United States. Rock music really appeared in the midst of the sixties
with the Vietnam war and the first demonstrations of those we call today
the hippies. People say those times are the end of America's "age of innocence"…
Rock became more and more violent, more and more mystical. Songs like Paint it black
(1969) about the Vietnam war or artists like Jimmy Hendrix were to announce the reign of a violent style in music: Hard Rock.
It's difficult to know exactly which was the first band to ever play that style since the
influence of each band is quite different. Anyway some major bands appeared around 1967, those bands are today considered as part of the Underground style, though they are Hard
Rock bands, but still they seem to have nothing to do with what the music we know
nowadays (the music was violent, but the message was peaceful). Those bands
are Black Sabbath (1968), Led Zeppelin (1968), Deep Purple (1968), Whitesnake,
Rainbow… In the beginning of the seventies appeared the Heavy Metal style, influenced
mainly by these bands with bands such as Judas Priest (1974), Iron Maiden, AC/DC,
Scorpions. It was called the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The eighties were to see
various new styles such as the Speed Metal (Megadeth), the Thrash Metal (Slayer, Sepultura, Metallica), the Death Metal (Venom, Bathory, Marduk). In the nineties appeared Doom (Paradise Lost, Moonspell, Theater of Tragedy, My Dying Bride), and the Black Metal, the satanic metal (Deicide, Rotting Christ, Cradle of Filth)…
It's very difficult to define all those waves that were to follow Hard Rock. Each band
developed different styles, different theme, and sometimes it was very hard to lock them
into specific movement.
Here is the difficulty in dealing with such a topic: it is so vast it needs accuracy, precision, that which people omit to have nowadays.
But let us go further in our presentation: in a first part, we will try to show how hard rock is much more than a music but almost a way of living and in a second part we will deal with it as a social phenomenon that conveys a message of rebellion.
A music, a culture, a fashion, a violent way of living.
Many teenagers adopt something I will call "the hard rock way of
living". These boys and girls are seduced by the violence contained in
the music. They listen to the music to get out their rage, to prove they
exist. In Lebanon today, few are the people who still listen to hard rock
and heavy metal. Those who listen to hard rock are around 40 years old,
and as for the heavy metal only a few bands like Iron Maiden or Scorpions
are still popular among the youth. No, today, the Lebanese youth listen
to Thrash metal (that's why Metallica are coming to Lebanon on the 20th
of June 1999), to Doom, and, unfortunately (because of all the advertisement
made around it by the prohibition of compact discs and all the suicide
and satanic stuff) to Black metal.
The themes developed by hard rock and heavy metal are not definite. Hard rock themes were mostly social. Heavy metal talked about many things: Iron Maiden used to take historical, biblical or literature themes (they made a song called Rime of the Ancient
Mariner, after Coleridge). Speed and Doom Metal mostly spoke about myths and legends from the past.
Thrash "dealt with" social problems and violence in the society. Black Metal, as it name
suggests, is the Antichrist metal. Of course, there is also a style called Christian Metal, but it doesn't seem to be very popular, at least surely not as popular as Black Metal. Nowadays, in Lebanon, teenagers listen mostly to Thrash, Doom, and more and more
during the last years to Black Metal. As for the music, it might seem very simple to
classify the styles, but sometimes, a song can be close to two different styles, since,
for example, heavy metal is inspired from hard rock (the underground style)… So the best
thing to do is to refer to the name of the style. Of course, the heavy metal is noisy, with rapid rifts and solos of guitar and a very high-pitched voice, which is, sometimes, very close to screaming. Speed metal, which is inspired from heavy metal, is even quicker than its predecessor with more solos and more screaming. Thrash is different, it is a very low-pitched singing, with a heavy rhythm. Doom is the same with some passages inspired from baroque and gothic classical music (Gregorian chants…).
Finally, Black Metal is very heavy as a music and the most violent of all. The music (if
this can be called music) is a magma of noises and screams which is very difficult to
This music proved itself to be a total success, and its influence grew more and more over
the teens all around the war. We notice it found its public in Lebanon right after the war, in the climate of violence. But everything that works today does it thanks to advertisement and, of course, music doesn't escape this rule, from Michael Jackson to the Beatles… Several products were "born" from heavy metal music: first, a strong love for the leather clothes, which are "the" stage disguise of most of the bands, a large scale of skull pendants, necklaces and ring, of tee-shirts with graves, skulls, bones, crosses, lightning and the Metallica, Megadeth, Sepultura, Slayer (…) logos. As we observe the behavior of a heavy metal fan, we will notice his will to be seen, his wild and violent character, his ability to permanently search for quarrels and to play "the bad guy". This might be a way to overcome some problem, like shyness, to transfigure his introversion, to explode his anger of life… So some of those listeners feel their life is a continual struggle. It seems social problems (family, school…) forces them to act like this, and hard rock indirectly encourages them to express their despair by the means of violence and over reactions
This makes us wonder what's the importance of this music for the youth today. Is it only
a fashion, a way to dress and a way to act, some sort of role they play in front of people or a whole way of thinking? Well, it seems, as we see how the youth defend so fiercely this music, that it's far more than just a bunch of tunes they listen to two or three times a day… Hard rock has become a reference in music for the musician, some of the lyrics are in all students homework. Sometimes, it pushes some of these teenagers to do "extra work" in order to get more information on the myths and legends told in songs. Metal bands have become an example, a charismatic model to follow by the youth who fall under the influence of all those guitarists and lead singers such as Axl Roses (the leader of Gunsn'roses, or Alice Cooper). This is connected to the star system process in general nowadays, which we encounter in cinema as well when actors or actresses have "groupies". Some of the "addicts" to the metal adopt the same values, the philosophy of their favorite bands. For example, they cherish the number eleven if they are fans of Iron Maiden (eleven being the number of chaos, disorder and lack of spirituality)… These facts show that hard rock is much more for the youth than "just another kind of music".
But it would really be a crime to end the development of the topic
here. If really Hard
rock is a not a rubbish and repulsive kind of music, then why do teenagers listen to it?
Why does it stick where there is sorrow, despair, pessimism, where there is a strong urge
for violence? What made the Lebanese youth quite fond of it? This we try to analyze in
our second part.
Hard rock as a social phenomenon which conveys a message of rebellion
As we saw in the first part, Hard rock has a strong audience in the
circle of the Lebanese
youth. The first reaction we have when we hear this (and sometimes notice it ourselves) is: "Why?", when it's not a reaction of total rejection to the concept of our kids listening to this "brain damaging music"… I personally believe that the conditions of listening vary according to the country. As for Lebanon, it is most probable that the war and the post-war crisis played a very big role in that field. We all know how much war is destructive, how much it eats us slowly, spreads, makes itself comfortable like some bloody parasite. It consecrates the reign of violence, an open and unlimited era of violence. And violence reflects in everything, including music. Which guides us to heavy metal. The best proof of it is that lots of the metal songs talk about war like Civil War of Gunsn'roses, Holy Wars of Megadeth, Disposable Heroes of Metallica or War Pigs of Black Sabbath. These songs condemn war and violence. And even when the war with ballistic weapons ends, the War rages on, under other forms: social and economic crisis, and, last but not least, a mental war, a mental crisis with a strong feeling of emptiness. This "structure" is the most favorable to hard rock. It totally fits the theme developed by the music and the songs. So it is useless to prevent teenagers from being attracted to violence when they live in a climate of chaos and disorder. No music reflects the aching of the society better than hard rock.
Among all these overreactions, there ought to be something positive. A Black Sabbath song called Children of the grave, the lyrics say:
"Revolution in their minds, the children start to march against the world they have to live in. Oh, the hate that's in their heart. They are tired of being pushed around and told just what to do. They'll fight the world until they've won and love comes flowing through. Children of tomorrow live in the tears that fall today, will the sunrise of tomorrow bring in peace in any way, must the world live in the shadow of atomic fear, can they win the fight for peace or will they disappear? So you children of the world listen to what I say, if you want a better place to live in spread the words today, show the world that love is still alive you must be brave, or your children of today are children of the grave".
This text might well be the best summary of Hard rock: a music that
expresses the fear, the anguish of young generations in their daily confrontations
with the world's sad realities. Hard Rock is a fight for freedom against
determinism ("they're tired of being pushed around and told just what to
do"), a continuous battle for peace and against war ("must the world live
in the shadow of atomic fear"). It is also the worry of building a better
place to live in and the rejection of all the values of the "old world"
("The children start to march against the war they have to live in"/ "If
you want a better place to live in spread the words
today"), and finally the anxiety of failing and disappearing in the wilderness of today's
world. Here, and for the first time, we reach the message of love intrinsic to Hard rock and covered by hatred and anger. For the first time, we can analyze Hard rock and discover its idealistic (and pessimistic) rebellion against the unevenness of society…
Finally, hard rock remains the only means of communication with a bunch of young boys and girls who lock themselves in their suffering and refuse to communicate with family, friends… They find in the songs messages against AIDS, against suicide (True Belief,
by Paradise Lost, Fade to black, by Metallica), against drugs (Master of puppets, by
Metallica)… Of course, there are many bands that convey very immoral messages such as the satanic bands that spend most of their time insulting religion. But there is always a
good side and a bad side in every single thing. Should it be a sufficient reason to condemn the whole thing, especially if the consequences they may have on the concerned people might be irrevocable?
There's a question that remains, as we reach the end of the presentation.
which I dare to find silly. A question that has been proved by the means of statistics to
be non-scientific. It's about the relationship between hard rock and suicide.
If there were a link in some cases between hard rock and suicide by coincidence, other
cases proved that there wasn't any link between the two. Anyway, logically, and now that we have tried to give a final definition to Hard Rock and its "philosophy", we find that
both of those problems grow on the same field: despair, anger, hatred, solitude. And
sometimes they meet each other.
Finally, the last note will be about the interdiction of hard rock discs in Lebanon after
the suicide of the son of a general in the army about five years ago.
First, if it intended to "save" people from the "evil" of hard rock, then it was a total
failure, since it encouraged the teenagers to listen more and more to this music and
mostly to very immoral groups (which were brought by black market) that couldn't be
found earlier in Lebanon. Then, it was followed by the arbitrary arrestation of many of
live performers of and listeners to this music, which is an attempt to the freedom of
expression, of human right. It was followed by many trials of teenagers that were wrongfully accused of Satanism and convicted to months of prison. And, of course, it encouraged the teenagers to stay out of the society and get more and more violent. Actually, it didn't solve anything. It just killed the chance to communicate with those boys and girls who wanted to say something to us. For what they want to say is very important…
The History of rock through the 20th Century
Black Sabbath's disc, Master of Reality, 1971
Dr. Jean Aboussouan's interviews and articles about hard rock
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