Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Heavy Metal T-Shirt Confessions

In the comments section of the last post about Kerrang! T-Shirts we got to talking about band T-Shirts that we used to own. With that in mind, I reckon it's time to come clean about the ones I had, and I encourage you to do the same. Think of this post as a place where you can stand up among friends, say your name and then tell everyone that you used to have a Scorpions baseball shirt.

1. Rainbow and Black Sabbath
The first piece of clothing merchandise I owned actually wasn't a T-Shirt; it was a scarf similar to the one in the picture, which I bought at Rainbow's concert at the Ingliston Exhibition Centre in 1981, the first concert I attended. Unfortunately when I wore it to school everybody thought it was a Multi-Coloured Swap Shop scarf. To be fair, it doesn't look very rock & roll, does it? I also bought a bright red sweatshirt with the artwork of the Rainbow Rising album (this was before black had consolidated itself as the colour of choice for rock T-Shirts). Despite this looking even less metal than the scarf it was actually stolen from our washing line.

On the same trip I bought (from Ingliston Sunday market) a Mob Rules T-Shirt (with the tour dates on the back).

This was more like it! A real bona fide Metal shirt! Looking back with mature eyes, it's a pretty unpleasant T-Shirt for a 12 year-old boy to be wandering about it, but perhaps that was the attraction.

2. The Marillion Period
The early 80s were when bands really started to wake up to the idea of making money by selling "official" merchandise. Two bands who were at the forefront of this were Iron Maiden and Marillion. Both were signed to EMI and had album artwork that they could transfer to T-Shirts. I was going through my Marillion phase at the time and had a grey T-Shirt with the Punch & Judy single sleeve as well as the Garden Party one below.

In its own way it was even more ugly than the Sabbath T-Shirt. At the time I was discovering Prog and like many other 14 year olds I thought that The Wall was a work of staggering genius. So while others were going around with "Frankie Say Relax" T-Shirts I had the one below:

3. Alice Cooper Raise Your Fist & Yell Tour T-Shirt
As the 80s went on I lost touch with Metal. I never really got into Thrash and as for Hair Metal... Well I'd rather have worn a Frankie Say Relax T-Shirt. So the last one I bought would have been the Alice Cooper shirt I bought when I saw him at the Edinburgh Playhouse in 1987 or so, when he was touring the Raise Your Fist & Yell album with a guitarist that looked like Rambo.

Pretty ugly, eh? Mind you, it's nowhere near as repulsive as Raise Your Fist & Yell.

And that concludes my relationship with Rock T-Shirts. Except that it doesn't of course, I've started buying them again in the last few years, and have a liking for faux-vintage shirts for tours that I was far too young to have seen at the time (so I have a Kiss Cobo Hall 1975 shirt, despite the fact that in 1975 I was 5 years old and hadn't traveled further than Aberdeen). In the Metal: A Headbanger's Journey film, Bruce Dickinson speculates that metal fans have managed to preserve their inner 15 year-old into their adult selves. I think he's onto something, and I'm sure my Black Sabbath Vol 4 T-Shirt would agree.


  1. I had various T-Shirts, but there was the "usual suspects" worn in constant rotation:
    Sex Pistols
    Monsters of Rock (various years 86 to 92)
    Reading Festival (as above)

    Every gig was accompanied by a new T-Shirt purchase which was worn for about a fortnight and then discarded to the "might wear when remember to" pile.

    I think I still have most of them in the loft somewhere?

    1. Reading 86-92? Were you at the infamous one in 88 or so where Starship were headliners and Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler had the bottles hurled at them? I think that was the one that practically killed the festival until the Mean fiddler revived it and made it much more indie.

    2. Reading 88 was a weird one - on the face of it, sounds terrible with Bonnie Tyler, Meat Loaf and Starship headlining Saturday.
      But, Friday had Iggy Pop and The Ramones, and Squueze topped Sunday - so it wasn't all bad.
      1988 was the year that the organisers "tried something different" to change the focus of the Festival from Rock/Metal to Indie - 1989 was a proper IndieFest with New Order, Pogues, New Model Army and The Mission (and other, obviously)

  2. I remember that I used to avoid t-shirts with any kind of swearing on as my mother would have unapproved and refused to wash and iron them (Yeah! Metaaaal! Getting Mum to wash and iron your clothes). I became obsessed with going to gigs and buying shirts with tour dates on the back, to 'prove you were there'. I don't recall now which was the first.
    Lots of my contemporaries had Maiden tees but I was never overly fond of Eddie, and they always came in black. I've never owned a Motorhead shirt either, oddly. Mind you, I always preferred the ones with the legend 'Motorhead Deutschland' and you had a job on to find those in the UK.
    I think I had more Metallica tees than any other band. They used to do loads of different designs and actually put a bit of effort in over just sticking to a reproduction of the latest LP cover. I was watching an interview with James Hetfield recently where he was saying 'When I left high school I wanted to go on and design and sell t-shirts, and I guess that is what I ended up doing.'
    I still wear them, of course. I saw Steven Wilson twice last year and on both occasions bought glow-in-the-dark tees (one's an investment, a limited edition Albert Hall special).
    I think my all time favourite though is a Rush R30 t-shirt which I got nearly ten years ago. I love it and still wear it and hope it doesn't wear out.

    By the way, that Rainbow scarf? Not Swap Shop, no. More like what Geoffrey would wear in Rainbow, the Thames TV series. Oh yeah, Zippy.

    1. I know what you mean regarding the swearing. I bought the Buster Gonad Viz T-shirt when I was a student and mistakenly took it home one holidays. That didn't go down well. Bloody students, eh?

      You're right about Geoffrey, and to be honest I'd take those boys over Noel Edmonds any day. I can also imagine Burt and Ernie off of Sesame St wearing it, which could be appropriate as it does look a bit like a Gay Pride scarf.

  3. Bloody hell, but you were rich. Buy a T-shirt? We used to walk to Ingliston, rather than pay 7p for the bus. Jammy beggar.

    1. Yeah but you were going to Ingliston all the time. Me, I was the country bumpkin down in the big city for his first concert. Of course, I bought a souvenir. I bought Burn and Future Shock on the very same trip, due to the giddy experience of finding myself in record shops where 50% of the stock weren't heedrum hodrum ceilidh records.