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Lessons I Learned from Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal’s not for me. I don’t get it.
But a movie about a failed Heavy Metal band is one of the best things I’mve watched all year. I’mll add it to my list of inspiring films.

At 14, Toronto school friends Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner made a pact to rock together forever. Their band, Anvil, went on to become the “demigods of Canadian metal,” releasing one of the heaviest albums in metal history, 1982’s Metal on Metal. The album influenced a musical generation that went on to sell millions of records. But Anvil’s career took a different path – straight to obscurity…

Picking up on their story 26 years later, the film covers Anvil’s last-ditch quest for elusive fame and fortune. ‘Lips’, the leader of the band works in a factory processing kids’ school meals. Yet he still has not given up on his dream to be a rock star. It’s painful to watch them work so hard for so little.

At its core, Anvil! The True Story of Anvil is a timeless tale of survival and the unadulterated passion it takes to follow your dream, year after year. Anvil rocks – it has no other choice.

The film is charming, funny, fascinating and all good things like that.
But the reason I am writing about it here is that I also found it raised important questions for me about my own direction as we come to terms with yet another year passing without getting the South Pole expedition sponsorship we need. These questions include:

  • Is it laudable to relentlessly pursue your dreams even when you are too old and balding to be a Heavy Metal star and it imposes frustration, sadness and financial struggle on your family?
  • Is it laudable instead to concede that you have failed in your life’s dream and focus instead on making an alternate, happier future? Know when to walk away, know when to run…
  • Lips believes that so long as he has written a great album the success is the same whether 10 people or 10 million people hear it. Is he right?
  • If you’re not famous are you a failure?
  • If you’re famous are you a success?
  • Would I rather be famous (or, the way that applies to my life, would I rather be earning money more easily) or would I rather be doing stuff I’mm proud of? I blogged about this question here.

I admire Lips’ dedication, his persistence, his optimism (“Everything on the tour went drastically wrong. But at least there was a tour for it to go wrong on“). And if I thought I would even listen to it just one single time I would buy an Anvil album as these guys deserve to succeed. I think. And what is ‘success’ anyway?

Anyway, I’mm really pleased to discover that since the movie came out Anvil have headlined at some big events. Which, I guess, shows that persistence pays. As that heavy metal afficionado General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmany Melchett once said, “If all else fails, a pig-headed refusal to look facts in the face will see us through…”

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  1. I love it! I came to your site to learn about expeditions and the thing I learn the most from today is about heavy metal! This is a freakin’ awesome blog post dude!

  2. Henry Tobertson Posted

    Brilliant post. Again. Inspiring. Again!

  3. Forgot how great that film is – and of course some great points as ever!

  4. Thanks to AC/DC all your questions are answered:

    “Ridin’ down the highway, Goin’ to a show
    Stop in all the by-ways, Playin’ rock ‘n’ roll
    Gettin’ robbed, Gettin’ stoned
    Gettin’ beat up, Broken boned
    Gettin’ had, Gettin’ took
    I tell you folks, It’s harder than it looks…

    It’s a long way to the top, If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll
    It’s a long way to the top, If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll
    If you think it’s easy doin’ one night stands
    Try playin’ in a rock roll band
    It’s a long way to the top, If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll

    Hotel, motel, Make you wanna cry
    Lady do the hard sell, Know the reason why
    Gettin’ old, Gettin’ grey
    Gettin’ ripped off, Under-paid
    Gettin’ sold, Second hand
    That’s how it goes, Playin’ in a band

    It’s a long way to the top, If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll…”

    For more words of wisdom from the world’s greatest rock band, hear the complete song, including the bagpipes…

  5. Francesca Posted

    Al – It’s cheesy, but it helps me to think of obstacles as a way of proving how badly you want something. If you want to go to the South Pole badly enough, you’ll get there. And you’ll have the pride of knowing how hard you worked to have gotten there. And when you run into a bunch of wealthy “last degree” ski bunnies, you can eyeball them and know what a badass you are.

    Stick with it. You’ll get there.

  6. I am heavily entrenched in the 80s and the hard rock bands performing way back then – Deep Purple, AC/DC, Metallica, LA Guns, Europe, Scorpions, Whitesnake, (yes, even Twisted sisters), etc. I can’t imagine a single moment in my life without one of the hard rock anthems not playing in my mind. No matter how depressed I am, I can listen to a hard rock song and I can have all my energy back.

    Many people have observed me at the time I start my long hikes and they say that I begin the day with last minute preparations and then its ‘yawn’ time for me. As I am getting close to my hike time, I start yawning profusely. This is followed by my turning a heavy metal number on and then I am ready to go.

    Scientifically speaking, yawns are a sign for my seeking more oxygen and heavy metal song finally gives me the physical energy to get going.

    Sorry for taking so much real estate on this page. I wanted to give a very practical example of how useful heavy metal / hard rock can be in one’s life 🙂

  7. Andy Fleet Posted

    Hi Al,

    You may have already seen it but 180 degrees south is an amazing film,i’d highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it.



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