If It’s Too Loud, You’re Too Old – Metal Radio and Z-Rock
Editorial by Jaymz Hines
When I was a kid I was obsessed with radio and DJ’s were major heroes to me. I used to scan the newspaper every week for any new radio stations broadcasting or formats changing. When Z-Rock started up in 1986 I wasn’t yet listening to metal, but it both intrigued and scared me (I was 10). I desperately wanted to listen to this “dangerous” new station, but where I lived in town the signal was too weak to pick up. Three years later when I finally succumbed to my metal urges, Z-Rock had expanded nationwide and syndicated the weekly Z-Rock 50 on a local classic rock station. It was only a small portion, but I was finally able to listen to the Mighty Z-Rock! A few years later, Z-Rock picked up a new frequency in my area and I was able to experience all the glory. I was in heaven.
Although Z-Rock started in Dallas, TX, it seemed like at least half of the area couldn’t pick up the weak signal. I think it was on the air for a few years before going off the air locally, but syndication kept them going nationwide. In those intervening years there wasn’t much metal radio in Dallas. There were a couple of classic rock stations who had metal shows during late night weekend hours and the community station (KNON and Dave Chaos) had a weekly Wednesday night show that specialized in Thrash and Death Metal, but that was it for any metal on the radio until Z-Rock fully came back. For a few years anyway…Z-Rock finally died in 1996.
Remembering my love for the old weekly Z-Rock 50 countdown, I recently searched the web for a possibility of old playlists. What I found was better – the Z-Rock 1000 yearly countdown of the Thousand Greatest Metal Songs…at least, according to the jocks at the end of 1990. It’s fascinating to see this list and captured at this pivotal time. In less than a year Nirvana would have a #1 album and many bands in this countdown would be looking for work at the local Guitar Center. I always loved year-end music countdowns and would frequently record them onto cassette tapes. The modern equivalent is a Spotify playlist, so now you get to experience the Z-Rock Top 1000 from December 1990 in all its glory, in order!
While listening to this countdown (and yes, I listened through every song!), a few thoughts popped out:
– First, there are 51 songs from the list not on Spotify, 24 of those are Def Leppard. Lep’s litigation between them and their former label has kept all their 80’s material from Spotify. There are newly recorded versions of the Lep songs, and many of the other missing ones, but I only included the original versions in the playlist.
– There’s a lot of love for classic rock in this “metal” collection and bands I normally wouldn’t associate with being metal: Bad Company, Hendrix, Foghat, Nazareth, Ted Nugent, Grand Funk Railroad, Robert Plant’s solo material, etc.
– As this countdown came from the end of 1990, there’s a good chunk of music that we’d now consider Classic and if it were done today would be included: Alice in Chains, Jane’s Addiction, Pantera.
– Bands that overall I was surprised weren’t represented more: Anthrax, Megadeth, Living Colour, Queen and Dio-era Rainbow (only Man from the Silver Mountain made it!)
– Even the bad songs, and there are a lot of them, make this a really fun time capsule