Saturday, January 7, 2017

When MTV meant something: Headbangers Ball (1987)

I've often mentioned that I grew up in a household that favored country music over pop-rock and other genres. If I wanted to listen to something else, I had a transistor radio handy in my youth. I wasn't much for heavy metal at first, but since as a teen I had friends who were either into the genre and/or played in metal bands, I started giving it a listen. I've been to a small number of concerts, but as I'd discover, I was more comfortable with the soft "power ballads". Easier on the ears, you know.

As metal began dominating MTV's Dial MTV daily countdown, the network created a weekly show devoted to the genre. Headbangers Ball launched in 1987. Kevin Seal, who looked nothing like your average metal-head was the first host, but then was swapped out for Adam Curry, who certainly had the hair for the job (and parlayed the gig into a guest role on Swamp Thing). Ultimately, LA club owner Riki Rachtman was tapped as permanent host until the series ended its initial run in 1995.

That, in fact, still has fans a little peeved to this day. MTV suits offered no explanation or warning for the decision to end the show. Rachtman would later take a gig working for WCW (!), which would signal the end of his time as a TV personality, insofar as I know.

MTV2 revived the series in 2003, and went through a host-of-the-week format until Jamey Jasten of Hatebreed was tapped as the new full-time host. Since 2011, the series has been a online-only entity. Lord only knows why, but with MTV Classic (formerly VH1 Classic) now playing music videos 24/7 (YAY!), there's a good chance the Ball could be back on your TV screens in 2017.

Let's go back to 1991. Riki brings the cameras to his club, the Cat House, where Megadeth performs a "secret" concert, which somehow wasn't so secret after all. Mind the video quality, and the fact that a few seconds were left out, in addition to any videos that were on the playlist that night between Megadeth songs.

Megadeth would eventually appear on WCW Monday Nitro, likely the result of a booking brokered by Rachtman and Eric Bischoff. By then, however, ye scribe was losing interest in metal.

Rating: B-.


Hal Horn said...

Generally videotaped this every Saturday night while we were out at our local heavy metal club in the late 80s/early 90s. Was always fun whenever they had a good guest or two. Rachtman was an okay host, though I thought Curry was a better one.

Surprised to see it lasted until 1995 (about 2-3 years after I had stopped watching/taping)

Was preceded by the Heavy Metal Half Hour on weekdays in 1986, during which about 3-4 heavy rotation metal videos were played daily. Can't remember much about that, except that it seems like China Slick Kantner hosted it. Not certain though

hobbyfan said...

China did spend at least two summers at MTV as a seasonal fill-in. Why she didn't get a full-time job, I don't know. Never saw the Heavy Metal Half Hour, though I suspect if it was on well ahead of Dial MTV, it might've influenced the daily countdown.