Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Bang Your Head

Bang Your Head: Three Decades of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal

September 20, 1996

Anxiety, anger, insecurity, loneliness and sexual confusion – sounds like just another Saturday night in the life of teenage America. Not surprisingly, these also sound like the themes most often found in the kind of driving, pounding hard rock that is alternately labeled heavy metal, heavy rock or even “head-banging” music. Finding its core audience among teenage boys, the many stylistic shades within this broad category have another central theme: “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.”

While hard rock constantly re-emerges on the pop music scene (Metallica’s headlining of the concert extravaganza Lollapalooza and Kiss’ return to touring are but two examples), it reached its widest audiences during the early 1970s, with such groups as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple.

Bang Your Head traced this music from its antecedents in blues-based power rock in the 1960s to its commercial dominance in the 1970s, to such 1990s practitioners as Metallica. Many of these hard rockers are among popular music’s most outlandish performers, employing stage costumes and props that draw from myths, mysticism and, sometimes, mayhem. The style’s theatrical presentation was abundantly evident in this colorful exhibition.

Bang Your Head: Three Decades of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal occupied most of the Museum’s fourth floor. Documenting a very theatrical musical style, the exhibit exploring it was equally visually striking, with audacious stage props and flamboyant instruments (yes, that’s Bela Lugosi’s face on Slash’s guitar).

Among the highlights of Bang Your Head:

The exhibit also diplayed an impressive collection of electric guitars, including Ted Nugent’s Gibson semi-hollow body, the Sandoval V from Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist Randy Rhoads, the Fender Stratocaster used by Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple, a vintage Gibson EB-1 bass from Felix Pappalardi of hard rock pioneers Mountain and Lemmy’s (of Motorhead) Rickenbacker bass.

Neil Young's Fringed Leather Jacket

Photo by Design Photography
Collection of Neil Young