Over the Bank Holiday weekend, we kept ourselves entertained thanks to a heads up from MetalSucks.net that the entire of Penelope Spheeris’ classic documentary on 80s metal, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, was streaming in its entirety. Its US-centric viewpoint got us thinking – surely there must be some more UK-centric metal documentaries out there? Little did we know that the results of just a little bite of searching would be crammed so full of awesomeness.
First shown on BBC2 back in 1989, Arena’s documentary on heavy metal is chock to the guts with stuff the Beeb wouldn’t even consider these days – 45 minutes of narration-free, unadulterated, headbanging gold. While it it might not have The Metal Years segments of Paul Stanley lazing about on a bed full of strippers, it does instead feature many, many examples of Bruce Dickinson in increasingly ludicrous situations. Classic stuff.
Watch the BBC2’s Arena documentary on Heavy Metal from 1989
We can’t recommend enough watching the whole film from start to finish, however if you’re cursed with the attention span of a gnat, Thrash Hits has gone to the bother of noting the best bits so you can utilise your fast-forward.
Warning: those of a sensitive disposition, or looking forward to discovering the delights of this documentary in a spoiler-free manner, should look away now.
07:35 Bruce Dickinson starts off sounding fairly intellectual, discussing Dante’s Inferno and it’s role in Maiden imagery. He let’s it down slightly by wearing an awful MTV-branded hat.
10:22 Slayer show how awesome they have always been with some ‘Raining Blood’ action.
12:16 An impossibly young-looking Napalm Death talk about the nature of evil, in what looks like their bedroom.
13:43 A tour of the Monsters of Rock dressing room area. These days you’ll find far are more tubes of Pringles in backstage areas, but far less kosher salami.
15:41 We are ever so slightly disappointed that these Marshalls don’t go up to 11.
17:26 Steve Harris alleges Bruce Dickinson has dodgy hearing, following a incident “shooting pigeons or whatever he was doing”. We like to imagine Dickinson hunting common folk while on horseback, armed only with a foil and a flintlock.
19:19 Speaking of which, here is some AMAZINGLY CHOREOGRAPHED FENCING with Bruce Dickinson.
20:11 It turns out Bruce buys his clothes second hand. From Led Zeppelin.
21:26 Bruce Dickinson continues his quest to be amazing, by repeatedly fondling Gene Simmons’ stuffed codpiece. He doesn’t stop fondling it for nearly two minutes. Also, he seems to have a worrying obsession with talking about Blackie Lawless’ penis.
24:01 David “LeRoth” (if you watched 13:43 you know what we mean…) is on drugs. Probably.
24:38 Axl Rose is drunk and insulting other bands. Nothing’s changed there then.
25:54 Could Bruce Dickinson be any cooler? Here he is on an exercise bike wearing nothing but a girlde and tiny pair of Union Jack shorts. Consider our minds’ scarred.
34:28 True fact: people sometimes go to nightclubs to meet girls. Just not at Nottingham Rock City during the 1980s.
37:33 Slayer continue to slay, this time with ‘South of Heaven’.
43:13 Oh God, it actually is Napalm Death’s bedroom.
44:21 “Speed metal, death metal, gay metal, whatever metal” says Ozzy Osbourne of his confusion with the fracturing and increasing number of sub-genres within heavy metal. What is this ‘Gay Metal’ of which you speak, Ozzy?
44:46 The documentary ends with Thomas McRocklin, a six-string prodigy, being held aloft in a pub to the delight of a gathering of drunk headbangers. You couldn’t have a child solo’ing in front a crowd of rowdy drunks these days, social services just wouldn’t allow it.
See? Told you it was amazing.