In the interest of full disclosure: I’m a packrat. Some people might call me a hoarder, but I think there’s a line that separates the two that I haven’t crossed (yet). I come by it honestly; my grandpa on my mom’s side was a packrat, and he accumulated so much weird shit over his lifetime that he had to build a shed in his back yard in which to house said weird shit. He passed away when I was 2 years old, so I never got to know him, but I still remember the utter fascination I felt when I’d go into that shed as a kid, before it was torn down. The walls were lined with license plates that he’d collected from all around the country, and there were Mason jars filled with nails, nuts, bolts, and all manner of other things that “might come in handy some day”. One of my biggest goals in life is to have my own yard so I can build a shed to keep all my weird shit in.
The point of all this (for every now and again there is a point, you see) is that one of the things I own a lot of is Old-Ass VHS Tapes filled with things I’ve taped off TV over the years. When I made the Big Move back to Bloomington from Austin, Texas in 2006, I actually left behind two pretty big boxes full of tapes, due to space restrictions, and although for the most part I’m not sure what was on those tapes, I miss them terribly. I do know that one of them contained a fantastic episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but that’s a matter for another venue. I did bring back two slightly smaller boxes of my Old-Ass VHS Tapes, and a few of them will be making appearances here sooner or later. One of them much sooner, like right now.
As I’ve stated before, I grew up pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and we didn’t have cable TV, so whenever I got a chance to spend a Saturday night at my cousin Nathan’s house, I almost always jumped at the chance. I was willing to risk having to attend Sunday morning church services with my aunt and uncle just so I could watch Headbanger’s Ball on MTV. They certainly played their share of stupid, barely-metal bullshit, but I found out about a lot of great bands on Headbanger’s Ball – Pantera comes to mind right away (I can clearly see myself standing in that living room, watching the “Cowboys From Hell” video, mouth agape, knowing that everything would be different from that point on), but there were many others.
Many of my Old-Ass VHS Tapes are filled with the most random shit, much of which I could not begin to understand why I bothered to record. I recorded an episode of Headbanger’s Ball in 1990, and proceeded to watch the ever-living fuck out of that thing over the years, but I also recorded a lot of weird, random shit over portions of it, and what follows is the review of the Headbanger’s Ball (HBB from here on) portion of the tape.
The case that the tape is kept in has a large piece of masking tape on it, which attempts to catalog the contents therein (this is a rarity for my Old-Ass VHS Tapes – most of them are a total crapshoot, which can be frustrating, but also makes for some exciting viewing every few years or so). Here’s what the label promises:
– “Part of ‘Headbanger’s Ball’…1st Ep. of ‘Late Night w/ Conan O’Brien’…Ice-T on ‘Conan’ (very jumpy)… Slaughter live for some reason…Top 10 Lists and Viewer Mail…Carson/Leno (Kentucky Headhunters)…Metallica vids (others, too)…Bill ‘n’ Ted cartoon…’Garfield Gets a Life’… SNL w/ Rick Moranis…Springer ‘Cat Fights’…11/90 ‘Fresh Prince – Pilot, Full Song”
The tape starts out with Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted” video, but with no volume. Keep in mind that I was 13 years old when most of this tape was made. Immediately after, “Hard to Handle” by the Black Crowes comes to an end, then the opening sequence for HBB begins. Host and Douchemaster General Riki Rachtman kicks things off by being a douche*, and telling us that coming up, we’ll be visiting Suicidal Tendencies on the road. Immediately after this, the first episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien begins (from September 1993). This is a solid episode, with John Goodman, Drew Barrymore, and Tony Randall as guests.
As soon as the episode ends, HBB cuts back in with Rachtman introducing the video for “In My World” by Anthrax. This is followed by Suicidal Tendencies’ “Send Me Your Money”, from their excellent 1990 album Lights…Camera…Revolution.
Slaughter follows with “Spend My Life”, and then the undisputed low point of the episode, “Can’t Get Enough”, by Winger. Side note: Eddie Trunk, radio DJ and host of VH1’s That Metal Show, has publicly complained that he believes that Winger was unfairly maligned by metal fans. Lead singer and “bass player” Kip Winger spends almost the entirety of this video either staring lustily into the camera or doing the same spin move over and over and over again, only bothering to pretend to play his bass once (and then, one-handed). Contrary to what Mr. Trunk believes, Winger has not received nearly enough hate over the years. The video does have some pretty hot ladies in it, in various states of undress, so I assume that’s the reason it has managed to stay on the tape all these years.
Kip Winger staring lustily into a camera, circa 1990
After a commercial break, we get a road report from Mike Clark and Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies, then the tape cuts into a segment from Late Night with Conan O’Brien with Ice-T as the guest. As promised on the label, this is followed by “Slaughter live for some reason”, and it is an absolutely wretched performance by a band that was only ever mediocre at best (although I did dig “Fly To the Angels” at the time – don’t judge me, I was young!). This is followed by the very end of a Stryper video (“Two Time Woman”)(Eddie Trunk also thinks Stryper got an unfair shake)(seriously), then footage of Suicidal Tendencies rehearsing, followed by footage of Suicidal Tendencies live on stage at L’Amour in Brooklyn, then the “#2 Skull Krusher of the Week”: “Shelter Me” by Cinderella (a band that did kind of get an unfair shake, even if their last album was not nearly as good as their first two – but that’ll be a matter for further discussion another time).
The third hour of HBB kicks off in grand fashion, with the debut of Iron Maiden’s “Tailgunner”, the first song off their criminally underrated 1990 album No Prayer for the Dying, followed immediately by Slayer’s “War Ensemble”, the first song off their last great album, 1990’s Seasons in the Abyss. Because it was MTV, another commercial break follows those two videos. After the break, Rachtman talks half-heartedly for a moment about fanzines, then introduces the debut of a video by a band called The London Quireboys. The video for “Hey You”, which is a decent-enough Faces/Black Crowes-esque song, features a couple of scantily-clad dancers doing a lot of pelvic thrusts, so that’s pretty cool. After that, Rachtman does a recap of the first four of the Top 5 Skull Krushers of the Week: coming in at number 5 was Poison, with “Something to Believe In” (which I’m sure Chuck Klosterman thinks is one the most metal songs of all time), followed by AC/DC’s “Money Talks” at number 4, “Touch of Evil” by Judas Priest at #3, and the aforementioned Cinderella song at #2.
And with that, ladies and gentlemen, the Number One Skull Krusher of the Week (for the second week in a row) was “Tease Me, Please Me” by the Scorpions. This video is notable for two reasons. First, a split-screen effect is used properly for once, by showing the band playing on one half of the screen next to the female lead in the video story getting slowly out of the swimming pool on the other half (too often, split-screen effects are used to show two or more members of the band playing at the same time, which is unnecessary and distracting). Second, when the flames of passion finally overtake the rich, undersexed housewife and the poor, muscular maintenance worker (i.e., when the “teasing” finally becomes too much), they end up fucking (or “pleasing” each other) on top of a piano. Well played, Scorpions…well played.
After more goddamn commercials (I still know almost every word of the commercials from this episode), Rachtman tells us that the last 30 minutes will be dedicated to “newer Headbanger’s Ball videos and bands”, including bands called Funhouse and Rhino (both of which I must not have liked, as they no longer exist on this Old-Ass VHS Tape). He kicks off this segment by playing a video from Death Angel (who at the time had just changed their name to D.A. for some reason), “A Room With a View” from the awesome Act III (1990), which was the last album the band released until they reformed in the early 2000s. The quality of this video is horrible, as I’ve watched it probably a hundred times or more over the years. After that, the tape wanders off into some footage of Late Night/Late Show with David Letterman, Rita Rudner on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (absolutely no clue why I would ever have recorded that), Damn Yankees performing “Coming of Age” on Letterman, the same episode of Headbanger’s Ball restarting, then into Garfield Gets a Life, bringing my Old-Ass VHS Tape of Headbanger’s Ball to an end.
If the first episode ever of Late Night with Conan O’Brien isn’t enough of an extra for you, I don’t know what could possibly make you happy.
The videos I shared above, plus the videos for “Tailgunner” and “Seasons in the Abyss”, plus the Conan O’Brien segment with Ice-T are all pretty great.
The quality here is terrible, overall. The age of the tape, as well as the repeated viewings, have made both the video quality and the audio quailty suffer drastically. The notable exceptions are the Late Night with Conan O’Brien episode and Ice-T segment, as they were recorded 3 years after the episode of HBB.
The Bottom Line:
I would only recommend this tape to my cousin Jason, with whom I watched it almost every weekend (sometimes more than once per weekend) throughout the early 90s. However, as in my previous Old-Ass VHS Review, if you want to come to my house and watch it with me, that’s totally cool. Just BYOB, please.
That’s it, true believers. Stay heavy.
*Note: Riki Rachtman was (and probably still is) certainly a douche, but at least he knew something about the music he was introducing, unlike original Headbanger’s Ball host Adam Curry, who only got the job because he had long hair.