The Heaviest Rock, The Mightiest Recovery Tool

by Bill Brenner on July 4, 2011

Something about the Fourth of July really gives me a craving for heavy metal music. Of course, not a day goes by where I don’t need to listen to some of it. It’s one of the major tools of my recovery from OCD and addiction.

Allow me to explain…

1984

This is the year my older brother died. But even without that, life was pretty miserable. I wasn’t exactly popular in school. I was overweight and the subject of ridicule. Home was no sanctuary. My parents were understandably all over the emotional map, especially my mother. Bitter feelings from their divorce four years earlier still sucked the air from the room. The Chron’s Disease continued to smolder.

But that was also the year I began listening to heavy metal music.

It allowed me to escape the pain around me. The aggressiveness of the music gave me an outlet to process all the rage I was feeling. Without it, drugs and violence toward others might have been next.

My closest friend at the time, who lived two doors down, got me into the music — introducing me to the likes of Motley Crue and Thin Lizzy. When that friend died 12 years later, the music would again help me process my rage and keep me steady.

I’d be angry, hurt or scared, and I needed something to absorb my aggression. Heavy metal was the punching bag.

One of my favorite songs in 1984 was “Knock ‘Em Dead Kid” from Motley Crue’s “Shout At The Devil” album. The lyrics go something like this:

Heard a star-spangled fight/A steel-belted scream

Now I’m black/I’m black/I’m black

Another sidewalk’s bloody dream

I heard the sirens wine/My blood turned to freeze

You’ll see the red in my eyes/as you take my disease

I wanted to be surrounded by this stuff so badly that I got a job in a record store.

1993

Though I was still many years away from a diagnosis, the year I worked in that cramped little dive was one of the best therapy sessions ever. It was a particularly perfect place to get exposed to some of the best Boston bands at the time.

When I was an angst-filled teenager bent on self-absorbed periods of depression — and before I became an angst-filled grownup bent on self-absorbed periods of depression — it was a place where I could escape.

Located off of Route 1 northbound, Rockit Records was literally a hole in the wall, not much bigger than a walk-in closet. It later expanded in size, but even then it seemed small. But the sounds booming from speakers above were always big.

It was the perfect safe house.

To this day, I’m grateful as hell for Al Quint for helping me get in there.

Al is still going strong, producing the Sonic Overload radio show and publishing his Suburban Voice magazine in blog form.

The store was crammed with cassettes, vinyl and eventually CDs. You could sell and buy used music. You could buy all the hard-to-get metal fanzines.

True story: On Aug. 3, 1987, I was the first kid in the store to buy Def Leppard’s just-released and long-awaited “Hysteria” album. The band was already spinning in a downward spiral toward candy-coated pop. I just didn’t realize it at the time. And in those days, I was a BIG Def Leppard fan.

A year later, I believe I was the second or third kid to buy Metallica’s “And Justice for All” album.

The owner eventually sold the place and that essentially meant I was out of the job. I wasn’t exactly in the new owner’s good graces. But by then, it was time for me to move on.

There’s now a Subway sandwich shop where Rockit Records once stood. A pity, really. But a lot of music stores suffered the same fate as the iTunes age dawned.

For me, it served its purpose. A jewel of an escape closet from a world of hurt.

2003

I was going through a rough patch at work (my own shortcomings at the time more than anything else), that therapy took the form of Metallica’s “St. Anger” album. The album itself is far from their best, but the opening song tore a path straight into my soul.

2011

Today, I listen to the music more for simple enjoyment than as an anger-management device. The anger went away some time ago.

The nostalgia is a big attraction for me, too. It takes me back to a time when I was in pieces; to a time when the music literally saved me. It has become something of a security blanket.

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