Weak steel

Because I wrote a post last week about the first episode of “British Steel: How British Heavy Metal Conquered The World,” a BBC Radio 2 documentary about the early history of heavy metal in England, I feel obligated to follow up with a post about the second episode, which aired this past weekend. But my heart isn’t in it.

The second show, like the first, focuses on three bands—in this case Motörhead, Def Leppard, and Iron Maiden. I just don’t find them as interesting or funny as the first episode’s trio of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Judas Priest. Too dull, too derivative, and—in the case of Def Leppard—too much exposure on early MTV. The one funny bit comes late in the show, when the heavy metal historian Martin Popoff talks about metal fans hating Def Leppard’s Mutt Lang-produced albums because they were “dumbed down.” I’m pretty sure he wasn’t speaking ironically.

The show touches briefly on Ozzy Osbourne’s early-80s, post Sabbath comeback, which reminded me of my favorite Ozzy story. At some point during that period—the bat-head-biting-off days—Ozzy had a gig at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois, where I was living and going to school. He collapsed almost as soon as he came out on stage, and the show was cancelled. The student newspaper, the Daily Illini, covered the show and got a quote from a kid in line at a concession stand after the cancellation. “If Ozzy dies at this show,” the kid said, “I want the T-shirt.”