'How you gonna see me now'

Recontextualizing metal artists and moral panics


  • Brad Klypchak Texas A&M University-Commerce Author




heavy metal, metal culture, transgression, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Kiss, moral panic


Three acts, Black Sabbath, KISS, and Alice Cooper, are unquestionably influential in terms of their respective impacts on the history of heavy metal as a musical form, its subcultural development, and its extended reach into the consciousness of larger popular culture practices. In particular, each act pushed the bounds of perceived social propriety, sparking controversy and a series of conservative protests reflective of moral panic. Now, decades later, the same artists are no longer threatening. Rather, they are welcomed into mainstream popular culture, despite maintaining many of the very actions deemed offensive or profane years ago. In the article, it is argued that through conscious acts of reversion, each artist has recontextualized the meanings loaded onto their past careers while subsequently adding new layers of discursive considerations to heavy metal’s own conceptualization of rebellion and resistance as well as its ongoing historic legacy.

Author Biography

  • Brad Klypchak, Texas A&M University-Commerce

    Brad Klypchak teaches courses in Liberal Studies at Texas A&M University-Commerce. A popular culture scholar, he earned his Ph.D. in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University. While Dr. Klypchak has taught and done research in film, theatre, sport, performance, and mass media studies, his particular emphasis has been on heavy metal music. His book, Performed Identity: Heavy Metal Musicians 1984-1991, reflects this interest.


Blabbermouth. 2008 ‘Alice Cooper: Still Censored After All These Years’ (30 September), http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article& newsitemID=105900 (accessed 5 July 2010).

Bostic, Jeff Q., Steve Schlozman, Caroly Pataki, Carel Risuccua, Eugene V. Beresin and Andrés Martin. 2003. ‘From Alice Cooper to Marilyn Manson: The Significance of Adolescent Antiheroes’. Academic Psychiatry 27(1): 54–62. http://dx.doi.org/10.1176/appi. ap.27.1.54

Cohen, Stanley. 2002. Moral Panics and Folk Devils. 3rd edn. New York: Routledge.

Cooper. Alice. 1976. ‘Go To Hell’. Alice Cooper Goes To Hell. Warner Brothers. 2986, CD.

Cooper, Alice, and Stephen Gaines. 1976. Me, Alice: The Autobiography of Alice Cooper. New York: G. E. Putnam & Sons.

Cooper, Alice, Keith Zimmerman and Kent Zimmerman. 2007. Alice Cooper, Golf Monster. London: Aurum Press.

Crowley, Michael. 2003. ‘Ad Share’. New Republic, 10 February.

Godwin, Jeff. 1985. The Devil’s Disciples: The Truth About Rock. Chino, CA: Chick Publications.

Gore, Tipper. 1987. Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society. Nashville, TN: Abington Press.

Grossberg, Lawrence. 1988. ‘Rock Resistance and the Resistance to Rock’. In Rock Music: Politics and Policy, ed. Tony Bennett, 29–42. Gold Coast, Queensland: Griffith University Institute for Cultural Policy Studies.

Halnon, Karen Bettez. 2004. ‘Inside Shock Music Carnival: Spectacle as Contested Terrain’. Critical Sociology 30(3): 743–79. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1569163042119868

Hebdige, Dick. 1979. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Methuen & Co. http://dx.doi. org/10.4324/9780203139943

Kaplan, E. Ann. 1987. Rocking Around the Clock: Music Television, Postmodernism, and Consumer Culture. New York: Routledge.

Klypchak, Brad. 2007a. ‘“All on Account of Pullin’ a Trigger”: Violence, the Media, and the His torical Contextualization of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven’. In Clint Eastwood Actor and Director: New Perspectives, ed. Leonard Engel, 157–70. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.

—2007b. Performed Identity: Heavy Metal Musicians Between 1984 and 1991. Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag.

—2009. ‘What’s in a Name? Lineup Changes and Perceived Authenticity in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal’. Paper presented at the American Studies Association of Texas Conference, San Angelo, TX, 12-13 November.

Larson, Bob. 1987. Larson’s Book of Rock. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.

LoBello, Lia. 2008 ‘A&E Flashing Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels in All the Wrong Ways’. The Huffington Post, 13 March. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lia-lobello/ae-flashinggene-simmons-_b_91458.html.

Malone, Michael. 2009. ‘Some Fox Affils Keep “Osbournes” Off’. Broadcasting & Cable, 1 April. http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/191084-Some_Fox_Affils_Keep _Osbournes_Off.php.

Nuzum, Eric. 2001. Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America. New York: Harper Collins.

Osbourne, Ozzy, and Chris Ayres. 2009. I Am Ozzy. New York: Grand Central Publishing.

Peters, Dan, Steve Peters, and Cher Mirrell. 1984. Why Knock Rock? Minneapolis: Bethany House.

Simmons, Gene. 2002. Kiss and Make-Up. New York: Three Rivers Press.

—2003. Sex, Money, Kiss. Beverly Hills, CA: New Millennium Press.

Walser, Robert. 1993. Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Weinstein, Deena. 2000. Heavy Metal: The Music and Its Culture. Boulder, CO: Da Capo Press.

Wright, Robert. 2000. ‘“I’d Sell You Suicide”: Pop Music and Moral Panic in the Age of Marilyn Manson’. Popular Music 19(3): 365–85. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0261143000 000222






How to Cite

Klypchak, B. (2012). ’How you gonna see me now’: Recontextualizing metal artists and moral panics. Popular Music History, 6(1-2), 38-51. https://doi.org/10.1558/pomh.v6i1/2.38