Thursday, November 5, 2015

Life Matters in Metallica Tees

My collection of t-shirts has been a constant conversation starter throughout my life. I'm sure that my decision to don a Hawkwind In Search of Space tee to a fateful college BBQ is what got me my dream gig in the University library and I initiated 3 of my most important post high school friendships by wearing (or commenting on) certain T-shirts (S/O to OG Combat Rock tour shirt from '82 and a Destruction Sentence of Death long-sleeve).

Collecting shirts, and the constant hassle of finding bigger and more appropriate containers to house them, has often made me feel like the maligned subjects of TLC's "Hoarders" series. This fear wasn't allayed in 2011 when I finally ponied up for a storage locker in downtown SLC. I tried to justify the expense by luring my brother and girlfriend into the proposition, saying we could use it to house all our stuff, but really, I was sick of packing all my T-shirts every time I’d move (5 times from 2012-2014). Here’s the thing about hoarders though: they’re not just supremely passionate about T-shirts or newspapers or cats or nazi paraphernalia or fingernails or whatever they fill their homes with. They're obsessed with eliminating risk and uncertainty from their lives. They truly cling to the belief that every single thing they retain holds the unique potential to one day save a life, avert a natural disaster or secure them an unfettered contentment otherwise unsecurable if said item wasn't being hoarded. Like that line in Fight Club where Edward Norton talks about IKEA furniture. When I was balls-deep in band tees, I knew that no matter what happened to me in my life, my T-shirt situation was well taken care of.

So when I stopped collecting them two years ago, thinning out a ghastly assemblage of 250 (mostly band) T-shirts to a (semi) respectable 50 wasn't anything quick or easy.

Of the shirts I kept, most were for either reasons of nostalgia, comfort or some mixture of both.

Nostalgia: a starchy red BSA tee proclaiming my completion of a 50 Miler on the Appalachian Trail in 2002.
Comfort: the pale yellow Ralph Lauren pocket tee with a worn collar and pinholes in the pits.
Both: E-town Concrete "E-pocalypse" tee from 2001, formerly black XL, fade-shrunk down to a loose and breathable size L charcoal pajama shirt.

There were 5 great Metallica shirts in my assemblage and I sold two of them. Those I kept were unanimously for reasons of nostalgia. ("The pain of an old wound" - Don Draper, "The Slave Becomes the Master," James Hetfield). Most significant is that which I bought from a friend ("TS") in Salt Lake City. TS was a good guy who'd occasionally get salty when I'd slag bands he liked on Twitter. I am a fan of Bullshit Monthly fanzine. Not everyone is. He did let my stupid band borrow his amp even though we blew its fuse and took an unreasonably long time to get it fixed. Car trouble put this t-shirt on the auction block and in a rare show of intuitiveness and determination, I snatched it on my (very reasonable) first offer and have never looked back. I first saw the tee on his Instagram, but I really would've bought it sight-unseen had anyone simply texted me the following:

It features a bald Eagle, perched atop a distinctly Pus-headed Earth flanked by a red Metallica logo, dripping blood from each letter.

The back features another Pushead jumbo skull and "Nowhere Left to Roam '94", one of many ominous Metallica Tour names from the 90's (Runners up include 1992's "Wherever we May Roam" tour with GnR and late-1994's "Shit hits the Sheds" tour with Alice in Chains and Candlebox [yuk]) carved into it. Keen coremen will note the lettering's marginal reminiscence of the famed Schism logo.

The shirt is tangible proof that even in Metallica's WORST critical eras ('94 was still a good 2 years pre-Load) they were making white hot merchandise. I'd encourage interested parties to seek out their tee from the abominable Woodstock '99 festival for it simultaneous nod at, and complete lack of, self awareness.

TL;DR I've never seen the shirt anywhere else, and as a self-respecting fan of this big stupid band, I needed it in my possession. 

When I first moved to New York City I wore the shirt to a friend's birthday party in Brooklyn. Outside a deli, the kinda weirdo my girlfriend's uncle would describe as "a fluorescent pencil-neck," ran up to me and shook my hand, pointing to my shirt while shrieking "OHMIGOD METALLICA. LOOK! THAT'S AWESOME. DUDE THAT'S AWESOME. I TOLD YOU PEOPLE LIKE METALLICAAAA!" He said this all to another guy dressed in equally fluorescent Brooklyn clothing. I'm certain he was drunk, but his inebriation didn't muddy my relishing the idea that this weirdo had, (barring this all being an elaborate joke on me) finally found one person on this planet who rightfully understood him and his unique interest in an American "hard rock" band that's sold 400 Quazillion records.

I wore it again the other day in "my" neighborhood of Astoria while walking my dog Lemon with a pink leash. At the corner, I could hear a guy singing to himself "blackened is the end! Winter it will send. dun dun dun." He was dressed in a maroon sweatsuit and walking with a young child, and he sang the couplet six or seven more times, like Beavis would on catching a rare groove, with gusto and a Greek lilt to his voice. At this point, I really couldn't tell if I was really hearing a guy sing "blackened" in the wild or if I was just catching a late-morning Allergy Med buzz, but I intervened at the crosswalk's end to make sure. When I stopped (Lemon decided that this was her most opportune chance to take a shit), I turned so that he'd have to pass me, making eye contact with the shirt. His eyes got wide and he stopped mid sing-song to jam his hand toward me. "OHMIGOD BROTHER. I HAVE TO SHAKE YOUR HAND RIGHT NOW!" Clearly he wasn't worried about my pooping mini schnauzer or her pink leash.

Before I moved to New York City—hell, before I even moved to Salt Lake City, I had an old band in Provo, Utah called Tijuana Bible. LW, our guitar player, was the only one of us who could really play, and he repped a distinctly "metal" look to boot. Think '85 Bay area, tight jeans tucked into white hi-top sneakers. This was fine and good, but it meant I had to hold myself back from going totally Svengali on him, constantly pressuring him to join me in making the spiritual third Carnivore LP. I lobbied for at least one face-melting solo in every one of our songs, and considered umlaut-ing our name. My heavy metal redecorating was met with general disdain by our bassist (the resident punk, ergo resident idiot) who usually defaulted on us doing boring "1-2-feck-you" fare to get him in good with Provo's burgeoning garage scene. I fought a damn good fight though, steering us to open with "Hell's Bells" a bunch (mostly to troglodytes in Ogden who didn't appreciate it), to cover mid-period Black Sabbath and even laid stylistic claim to LW's heavy metal wardrobe. I’ll always have special memories of his Heavy Metal Parking Lot style Kill 'em All baseball tee, a distinct proto-hesher cut, the kind that, had Dazed and Confused taken place 10 years later, would be strapped across Matthew McConaughey’s waify body. In the band's best moments, LW would walk on "stage" clad in a leather motorcycle jacket and sunglasses, completely expressionless. Once into the set, he'd fling his pointed guitar about him as if trying to decapitate any audience member in the front row while I bellowed Venom's refrain "Lay down your soul/ to the gods rock and roll," In those moments, we couldn't have been better if we'd taken the stage to Morricone's "The Ecstasy of Gold." Also, I felt rightly euphoric claiming membership in a band that made people bang their heads in unison with the GD guitar player.

Walk All Night
The photo above depicts us in our element, weeks before hitting our zenith and then exploding and dying like a huge, retarded star that wanted people to love it more than it wanted to make memorable music. I sleep at night knowing I had fun and made a tape with a Pentagram on it. You'll see me here, chubbier and wearing some (too short) BYU shorts pilfered from the gym along with a Walk All Night Records tee. Many of you never got your Cold World EP's when you ordered them, but I've got this shirt (thanx KL). Also, the photo highlights a baby (!) in the audience who's not at all threatened by us, our music or Lynn's grotesque looking BC Rich. And you’ll note LW's Tallica tee. A tee so crispy that long after the band died, I bought a replica which now permanently resides in a parental basement in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Can you imagine the LP we'd have written if given the months (and psychotropics) to do so?

My final "keep" was a Metallica fan club only shirt, from an ill-fated time in my life (mid college) as well as theirs (Death Magnetic lulls them in, LuLu shits them out). It features another Pushead/earth drawing and the deathless tagline, "Fifteen Years Infecting the Planet." As if whoever made these was also titling a japanese pro wrestling Pay-Per-View. You'll notice the requisite Metallica Ninja stars flanking their questionable typeface, a vestige of their "Alternica" period which is also their obnoxious way of saying, "Don't forget that even though we wrote Master of Puppets, we also did a lot of TERRIBLE stuff that we're not going to let you forget even if you try!" Still, when I call myself a "card carrying Metallica club member," the shirt is my proof.

Lo, I no longer harness a closet full of T-shirts, but I shall always appreciate each and every one of them. Some of those I've retained will outlive me and some will not, and those who don't will be cherished as dust rags as they were once cherished wrapped around me. Others will go on to fund road trips, new car parts and maybe even rent. I'm grateful for them, but I don't need them any more.

I've taken to high-end socks as a new way to get my collecting jollies. They're relatively cheap, pack well and (concealed 'neath pant legs) go with any outfit in virtually any setting. It's also unlikely that I'll ever need to buy a storage locker to keep them in. I wore a pair of Jim Phillips "Screaming Hand" Santa Cruz thermal knee-highs to a work trip and got a raise on that same weekend. Is this what growing up is? Will those Cro-Mags Age of Quarrel socks ever actually get made? No telling, but a quick Google search informs me that Metallica sells socks with the pun/lyrics "Holier than Thou" on them. Good, because I’ve already designated a spot in my top drawer.

Dylan Chadwick is a writer who sometimes pays his bills as an illustrator. He tweets bad story ideas at @drugdogs and Instagrams his own shitty artwork @drugdogs. He wrote his college thesis on Metallica.
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