#431: Oh Judas Priest!

The same shirt I had

The same shirt I had

GETTING MORE TALE #431: Oh Judas Priest!

I began writing Record Store Tales about 15 years ago.  In the time between then and now, a lot of the earlier chapters were cut.  One that did not make it was called “Persecution I”.  This was some background material, on what it was like growing up as a heavy metal kid in a Catholic school.

Hint: it wasn’t fun.

Now that Record Store Tales is finished, I can revisit some of these old stories.

Grades 7 and 8 were essentially just two years of waiting to finally graduate and get the hell out of there.   The bullies were relentless and nasty.  I also had the worst teacher for both years.  Her method of discipline was to humiliate students in front of the class.  This woman was the definition of strict. I still talk to some people from grades 7 and 8, and they seem to remember the teacher the same way I do.   She was unpleasant and mean.

It was always difficult when a kid like me showed up on the first day of class looking different than they did before summer holidays began.  I didn’t realize that.  I thought people might think I was pretty cool all of a sudden, showing up in my brand new Judas Priest T-shirt.*  My grandpa had also given me this camouflage army hat, to which I affixed my favorite rock buttons of Iron Maiden.

The problem with my new look was, the kids who did like heavy metal before had suddenly abandoned the greatest music of all time, in favour of New Wave bands.  Where Ian Johnson had previously been boasting about how awesome this new band called Metallica were, suddenly he had grown a rat tail and gone New Wave.  He mocked me as hopelessly behind the times.  He even had the sack to make fun of me for liking W.A.S.P. when he used to like W.A.S.P. more than I did.  I had counted on him as a metal ally, but he was no longer.  He joined the rest of the crowd in mocking me.

On the first day back, the teacher walked up to me and pointed to my Priest shirt.

“What does that say?”

I thought she was referring to the small writing at the bottom.

“It says ‘Rock Hard Ride Free’,” I answered.

“No up here!  What does that say?”

“It says Judas Priest,” I said, starting to realize maybe she was offended by the “Judas” part.

“Well I never!” she began with her rant.  “In all my years I have never seen anyone wear something so disgusting in my classroom.   Do you even know what that means?”

I was really upset and confused.  “It’s just the name of a band.”

“No it is not!  My father used to say that when he was very, very angry.  That is a very distasteful phrase.  I won’t have those words in my classroom.”  I could hear the chuckles of the other kids as she tore into me some more.  “I don’t understand it,” she continued. “You should not be wearing that filth.  What is the matter with you?”

The same teacher liked to tell us that we were “the worst, most ill-behaved class” she had ever taught.  I think she just said that every year.

I knew that the words “Judas” and “Priest” had obvious religious connotations, but how was I to know that it was once considered a “swear”?  Nobody in my family said it.  My dad was more blunt in his swearing – “shit”, “fuck”, “damn” and so on.  None of this esoteric “Judas Priest” nonsense.  When my dad swore he went all in.  I was completely ignorant, and innocent of any wrongdoing.

Needless to say, I never wore that shirt to school again.  I still have it, as it’s an important part of my metal upbringing.  It was clear that my teacher wasn’t impressed, and the fact that it was the T-shirt of a metal band didn’t do me any favours.  If it wasn’t a hymn, then it probably wasn’t worth singing to her.

RIDE FREE

Harassment continued to the bitter end.  Inside one of the cabinets in the classroom, somebody had stuck a Kiss sticker on the back of one of the doors.  It looked like it had been there since the 1970’s, and it probably had been.  However I was the only kid in that school in 1985 who liked Kiss, so I was screwed one way or another.  As the rest of the class howled, “Mike put it there! He’s the only one who likes Kiss!” I just knew I could not win.

There was one incident that is so surreal that I’m not even sure it actually happened anymore.  My memories of it are clear, but I it seems so weird and unlikely.  I’m willing to accept the possibility that it never happened at all, and might just be a very vivid dream from back then that has been mis-remembered as an actual event.   It’s not impossible, but unless someone else confirms the memory I’m not willing to stand behind this as fact.  I’m including it anyway.  If anything it illustrates how the whole era felt to a metalhead in a Catholic school.

In my memory it was a chilly, damp fall morning.  We were out at recess.   The schoolyard was bordered by a gravel pathway now known as the Dom Cardillo trail, named after the beloved former Kitchener mayor, who died in 2013.  Parked on the pathway was a white van, and a small crowd of kids was gathered around it.  Curiosity must have got the better of me so I went over to see what was going on.

Inside the van were two men, who were preaching the evils of drugs and heavy metal.  According to these two guys, the two went hand in hand.  Stay away from drugs, and stay away from metal.  If you listen to heavy metal, you will be drawn into an evil web of drugs and alcohol, said the two men to the crowd.

This is an assumption that has always pissed me off:  metal = drugs.  Or metal = evil.  Especially among the Catholic crowd, this was the way of thinking.  These folks had never bothered to actually listen to the music and lyrics.  When Gene Simmons sang in 1981, “I don’t need to get wasted, it only holds me down,” he was being sincere.   “All I need is a will of my own, and the balls to stand alone.  I believe in me.”  Even taken at face value, however, these words did not jibe with what we were being taught in school.  We were not taught to exercise our own free will, and to stand on our own.  We were told to stand with God, and follow His will.  I don’t believe life is that simple.  We have brains for a reason and we must use them to do what we believe to be right, for ourselves and for the world around us.  Encouraging us to think for ourselves was not in the school curriculum.  I gave myself enough credit to know the difference between good and bad.  If the music made me feel good, made me feel stronger and more confident, and didn’t hurt anyone, then what was the problem?  It probably didn’t help my cause that a lot of rock lyrics encouraged rebellion against authority figures.

The two guys in the van asked the crowd, “Does anyone here listen to heavy metal music?”

Before I knew it, the kids laughed and pushed me to the front of the crowd.  I fought against them but I found myself at the front, facing the two guys in the van.  The kids were shouting, “He does! He does!”

Face to face with the disapproving guy in the driver’s seat of the van, he asked me, “So you listen to heavy metal?”

“Yes,” I answered quietly.

“So you do drugs then?” he responded.

“No!” I protested, “I don’t do drugs!”

“But you listen to heavy metal music,” responded the man, as if one equaled the other.

I had enough and pushed my way out of the crowd again.  I could hear all the laughing behind me.  I walked away as fast as I could without looking like I was running.  Here I was being branded a druggie based on the music I listened to.

These events happened 30 years ago, and the van incident does not feel real.  It feels more like a dream and I’ll probably never know if it really happened or not.   It seems too weird to have really happened, but you never know.  It’s not impossible, just surreal.

Grade 8 ended on a final, humiliating note.  We were all supposed to choose which highschool we wanted to go to.  The expectation was that we were to attend the Catholic school.  Three or four of us did not, and applied to the public school Grand River Collegiate.  That was obviously going to be my escape route.  It was a way to get away from the nasty kids who tormented me every day, but it certainly wasn’t teacher approved.  She was not happy, at all.

She had already told the entire class that whoever didn’t attend the annual Mount Mary religious retreat would end up on drugs, dead, or both.  “Every student I ever had who did not go to Mount Mary grew up to do drugs, or killed themselves,” she told us.  Hooray for religious retreats, where music and music-related T-shirts were not allowed.

The day that she handed out our acceptance papers for the highschools, she took one last scornful shot at me.  “Shame on you!” she scolded in front of the class.  “Not going to St. Jerome’s high school just so you can be with your friends,” she continued.  “Shame on you.”

This time, I didn’t care.  School was so close to being over it didn’t matter.  In a few weeks, she’d have no power over me anymore.  There was nothing she could say or do to ever humiliate me again.  The bullies would be gone too, off to their own school while I had the chance to make new friends.  I wouldn’t have to feel ashamed of the T-shirts I wore, or the bands I liked.

My poor sister had another four years of that school to go, which she dubbed the “Hell Hole” (based on the Spinal Tap song of the same name).  Any time we drove by, she’d sing, “Livin’ in a hell hole…”  She even ended up with the same damn teacher, who hadn’t changed a bit.  When my sister struggled in math, she was publicly chided in class.  “Your father is a banker!” shouted the teacher.  “How can you not do math?  Shame on you!”

There is no shame.  Be proud of who you are.  Believe in yourself!

I was so frightened
I almost ran away
I didn’t know that I could do
Anything I needed to

And then a bolt of lightnin’
Hit me on my head
Then I began to see
I just needed to believe in me

Then I, I believe in me
And I, I believe in somethin’ more
Than you can understand
Yes, I believe in me

Then I, I believe in me
And I, I believe in somethin’ more
Than you can understand
Yes, I believe in me

They said, “I didn’t stand a chance”
I wouldn’t win no way
But I’ve got news for you
There’s nothin’ I can’t do

Ain’t no pretendin’
Ain’t no make believe
But I’ve got to be the one
I gotta do what must be done

Then I, I believe in me
And I, I believe in somethin’ more
Than you can understand
Yes, I believe in me

Then I, I believe in me
And I, I believe in somethin’ more
Than you can understand
Yes, I believe in me
I believe in me
Yes, I believe in me, yeah

I don’t need no money
I don’t need no fame, no
I just need to believe in me
And I know most definitely

Don’t need to get wasted
It only holds me down
I just need a will of my own
And the balls to stand alone

‘Cause I, I believe in me
And I, I believe in somethin’ more
Than you can understand
Yes, I believe in me

I believe in me
I believe in somethin’ more
Than you can understand
Yes, I believe in me

Yes, I believe in me
Yes, I believe in me
Yes, I believe in me

* I found the shirt online.  $700, yup.  

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28 comments

  1. I know of “judas priest” as an expletive, but I thought it was one of those things that people would say if they were too polite to say “jesus christ.” Like when my dad’s father-in-law says “holy jeepers gosh.”

    I got told off in high school for wearing a Nirvana shirt because it had the word “whores” on the back: http://picture-cdn.wheretoget.it/xknulb-i.jpg That same teacher also asked us to bring in songs that had messages in their lyrics. Someone brought in “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt-n-Pepa. They got to the chorus and he walked over, ejected the tape, and dropped it straight into the garbage. I don’t know what kind of message he wanted, but that was apparently not it.

    Can you tell I went to Catholic school?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a similar experience but with Marilyn Manson’s ‘I Dont Like The Drugs But The Drugs Like Me’ and my friend chose Ozzy’s ‘Gets Me Through’

      I also remember dropping Cradle Of Filth’s Vempire album in English class when passing it to a friend to borrow, and the elderly teacher was not impressed with the topless ladies on the cover!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, that sounds like a real shit high school experience. It’s why separation of church and state ain’t a bad idea. Anyway.

    I’m with James, I knew that as a swear but it was more like saying Darn or Dang or Shoot to get around actually swearing.

    I remember once in our high school a guy wore a black t-shirt with big white block caps on it that said WEAR A CONDOM. They made him turn it inside out for the rest of the day. He was pretty livid about that, like, we know people are having sex around here, shouldn’t we tell them to do it with protection? Don’t you see this is a positive message? My school, apparently, liked to pretend that none of us knew what our bodies could do and weren’t having sex at all ever nope no way lalalala can’t hear you!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I went to catholic school and still 2000-2005 theyre at this. I had a music teacher throw a huge calculator looking metrnome at a kid for playing Red Hot Chilli Peppers (it barely missed and she should’ve been sued if it hit!).

    I got terrible grades for playing Raining Blood on drums (its realitivly difficult) instead of a samba thing that was easy but didn’t sound noisy to the teacher.

    My headteacher constantly tried to get me to cut my hair, even calling in my parents to try and shame me into doing it (my dad told her no, kids aren’t identical catholic robots, luckily)

    My music teacher hated me so much for choosing Metallica’s S&M for an orchestra related project that she said teaching me was ‘soul destroying’ and had it in for me so much through the year she tried to give me detention for skipping her class once when I was at my grandad’s fucking funeral!

    And worse than all the unhinged teachers with unreasonable expectations, the kids themselves, I was constantly told that I was a devil worshipper and a druggie by pious little jerks who are all growing their hair long and taking drugs now themselves.

    My kids won’t get sent to catholic school thats for god damn sure ;)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally feel for you, I really do. I went through the same thing in the 80s, not so much for listening to heavy metal but for a bigger crime, growing my hair long! It didn’t matter to everyone that I had spent four years wearing a crew cut in the service of my country and was just relaxing from living under such discipline.
    I never suffered the bullying you did though, what you had to endure was terrible and full accolades for not abandoning your music. A lesser person would have. Now for some shameless advertising: In “Rock and Roll Children,” I write a lot about the maltreatment of metalheads back then. Unfortunately, this seems to have been ignored and even criticized by some readers. I guess no one wants to remember the bad times. Even more accolades for being brave enough to write about it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey thanks man. Gotta get your book. I can order online and buy with Paypal?

      This is a subject you and I have spoken about before, I wrote an article about the PMRC that you gave me the incentive to write. I know in the US it was even worse — somebody was actually setting up a “De-rock” center. Kind of like how they still think you can “pray the gay away”, they used to do the same for long-hairs who liked metal. I’m sure you know all this. Anyway thankfully I have great parents who knew I wasn’t up to no good, and music was just music.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You can pay with paypal and just click the link on any of my blog posts. In the last 30 years, I have always those years as “the intolerant times of 80s Reagan America” but I am getting the impression that 80s Mulrooney Canada wasn’t that much more tolerant. However, it wasn’t just the Catholics in the US, the born again fundamentalists were far worse. They were the ones who set up “De- rock” centres and had ritual record burnings. It’s also great you had supportive parents. My mother thought that at 24, I was too old to be listening to such music and going to concerts and that I should become a yuppie and be only interested in making money.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t understand how we let teachers like that stay in the system. When the teachers ARE the bullies, the whole thing falls apart. Who can learn in those conditions, let alone be socialized normally? But Catholic school isn’t the best for learning or socializing either way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha I don’t know! One of my old classmates from back then does not remember the van. So I’m more inclined to think I imagined the whole thing. I had very vivid dreams as a kid.

      Record Store Tales (the original, one and only) finished actually a year ago. For those stories I tried to focus on things related to my years at the record store (although I did stray). I finally posted the ending last year and then moved on with “Getting More Tale” (thanks to Aaron for that name) which is more broad in subject matter. In Getting More Tale, I talk about the old days at school a lot more, other jobs I’ve worked, and stories from shopping experiences.

      I wish the dudes in the van had candy, now I’m hungry for candy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It could have been a bad dream–all the things that traumatized you as a kid rolled into one. Did police ever visit your school to teach you about ‘stranger danger’ and not taking candy from them? Especially if they’re in vans.

        Why did Record Store Tales end? Did you have criteria for stories or you simply wanted to start Getting More Tale? Have you considered putting them in book format, maybe even a pdf.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. No the cops never visited for stranger danger, but I do remember Constanstable McLeod (funny how you never forget the names; he was a good cop) coming to talk to us about drugs. Just the standard talk, nothing about heavy metal.

          The reason I ended Record Store Tales were two — one, I was really running out of stories related to my time at the record store and wanted to branch out. Two, I had written ending and wanted to get it out there. Leaving the record store was not a fun experience. This is gonna be the 10 year anniversary of me quitting. I needed to get that ending out, because it was eating me up inside.

          I originally conceived it all as a book. But I really like the online, interactive format with videos, comments, and the like!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I wonder how they decide which cops get to talk to the school kids. No mention of heavy metal…no doubt law enforcement had actual problems to deal with instead.

          Now I’m going to have to read your Record Store Tales archive. My questions and comments are out of context. I’m glad that you left a place that was eating tou up inside.

          The online interaction is great!

          Like

  6. Up the Irons! School sucked for me too maybe not quite the same way but still sucked! Music is what I had! Classic line BTW When my dad swore he went all in…
    Does that lady even know the biblical ramifications of JP? Idiot…

    Like

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