It’s the day after the announcement of Performer inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Class of 2021. And per usual, social media is lit up with fans’ very, very strong opinions of who got in that should have, or got in that shouldn’t have, or who didn’t make the cut from the initial ballot.
Rabid fans of heavy metal — who have long accused the Hall’s Nominating Committee and voting body of bias against the genre - were miffed about the mighty Iron Maiden not making that jump, having been eligible since 2005. Though headbangers could take some consolation in that the late and influential guitarist Randy Rhoads is being inducted in the Musical Excellence category.
And while this topic makes SiriusXM DJ Eddie Trunk apoplectic on air, comedian, fellow DJ, and avid headbanger Jim Florentine is more sanguine about the situation. He believes that both Iron Maiden and last year’s ballot finalist Judas Priest will eventually get in.
“It took Black Sabbath a long time to get in, and also Deep Purple. My stance is that it doesn’t bother me because it’s not a club that any heavy metal people wanted to be in to begin with,” Florentine says. “They never respected metal. It’s almost cool that you’re not in. They even blew Motörhead off. [Singer/bassist] Lemmy only became an icon in the last five years of his life when the industry in the music press decided he was cool. And I think Ozzy should be in for his solo work!”
Since 2012, Florentine has been the host of Metal Midgets, a weekly show on the Ozzy’s Boneyard channel for SiriusXM radio (Thursdays, 4-6 p.m. Houston time). He hand-curates a mix of tracks from albums released from that week “back in the day” over various years, deeper cuts from known bands and tracks from lesser known groups, and things he’s listening to lately (a recent show offered three songs from the new Accept album). And he knows his audience, because he is his audience.
“I just picture everyone who listens to the station already knows all the ‘hits.’ So if it’s something from AC/DC’s Back in Black, I won’t play ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ or the title track. This week, I featured Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry record, so you won’t hear ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ or ‘I Wanna Rock,’” Florentine offers. “I never liked the the classic rock or hard rock stations that play the same things over and over.”
Florentine also brings a real fan’s perspective, telling stories of musical experiences over the years. Like at an early Twisted Sister show when singer Dee Snider called him out from the stage for not raising his fists—but the 16-year-old Florentine couldn’t, because he held a precious and ill-gotten beer in each hand. And wasn’t about to spill one. Or trying to explain away the covers of Black Sabbath’s Heaven & Hell and The Mob Rules albums to his super-religious mother.
“I love it when I get feedback from [listeners] how something I play really brings them back in time. Or play someone they forgot about and haven’t listened to in years,” he says. “I still go to a lot of concerts, and I have a feel for the crowds and what they want.”
Of course, during the past year, Florentine hasn’t been able to go to any major shows due to the pandemic. He says there were more than a dozen that he had already planned to attend but got called off, mentioning reunion shows for Rage Against the Machine and the Black Crowes, and the Mötley Crüe/Def Leppard/Poison/Joan Jett mega show. He’s hoping to catch any rescheduled dates.
Metal Midgets will be one of the few places metal fans could hear tracks from lesser-known bands like Angel Witch, Raven, and Tygers of Pan Tang. Florentine has his own pocket list of bands he champions that “should have been bigger” in his mind:
Rose Tattoo - “That’s my top band. They were Australian and sounded like AC/DC. Their first three records were great, but just didn’t make it in the States. Guns n’ Roses were influenced by them when they came to the Sunset Strip and played They were these dirty guys with ripped clothes and no teeth while Guns were wearing spandex and hairspray at the time. They [took notice].”
Thin Lizzy - “I discovered them late, about ten years ago when I really got into their back catalog. They have so many good songs, and they sound just as fresh today. They’re not just ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’ and ‘Jailbreak.’ They should have been all over the radio and mega-stars in the States.”
Y&T - “They got a little silly toward the late ‘80s when they were trying to be like Bon Jovi, but their first four or five records were friggin’ great. [Vocalist/guitarist] Dave Meniketti was amazing. Maybe when they started putting their robot mascot out there, it turned people off. But they had killer stuff.”
From 2008-2015, Florentine, DJ Eddie Trunk, and metal-loving comedian Don Jamieson hosted That Metal Show on VH-1. With a combination of interviews, performances, games, and just general shit-shooting about hard rock and heavy metal among the trio in front of a live audience of real headbangers, it was much beloved by their audience.
The three have said that rarely a day goes by where they don’t hear from a viewer about how much they loved the program…and why don’t they just bring it back? Trunk has said over and over he’d love to, but no channel or streaming service has come forward with the bucks to revive it. The hosts themselves don’t own the episodes or even the show’s title, both held by VH-1.
“It’s almost like getting fired from a company. You’re told you did some great work on Friday, and on Monday your key doesn’t fit into the lock for the office. The network that puts the money up can do whatever the hell they want,” he says. “But people still think we could just start it up again or we’re holding out for some reason. That’s not true.”
The trio are of course free to start a similar show with the same format and call it something else, but Florentine isn’t counting on it. “Once in awhile, a show comes back. But most of the time you’re done, you’re done,” he continues. You had a good run, and it’s over. Time to move on.”
It was announced last week that Florentine, Trunk, and Jamieson will return as co-hosts on the Monsters of Rock Cruise in February 2022. Headlined by Alice Cooper, the hugely successful annual outing on the seas with stops will feature two sets from nearly three dozen performers and bands (most of whom had their heyday in the 1980s/90s), panels, meet and greets, and comedy shows.
Florentine says people are usually “cool” about not being in his face all the time, and that he’s just as ready to party as the cruisers. “Everybody’s drinking and having a good time on the boat. I’m a fan too. And people are older who go on this cruise, so they're not 20-year-olds spilling beer on you,” he says. “On the first day, everyone’s out of control. By the second day and later, people are hurting! They’re like ‘Oh shit! I haven’t drank three days in a row in years!’”
Sometimes, he will record Metal Midgets in the SiriusXM New York studios, but often he's doing it while on the road, backstage at comedy gigs or concerts, or sitting in hotels. But radio hosting is just one of many branches in Florentine’s career. In addition to a regular touring schedule of standup shows, he has released six comedy records and several live DVDs, the most recent of which was 2019’s I Got the House.
Florentine has also voiced a number of characters on the puppet-starring prank call show Crank Yankers, released his own record series called Terrorizing Telemarketers, written a book (Everybody is Awful [Except You!) and is a frequent guest on radio programs and podcasts for Barstool Sports and fellow comics. In the 2015 Amy Schumer film Trainwreck, he had a small part as “One-Night Stand Guy.”
Today, the 56-year-old Jim Florentine is more than ready to get back on the road doing stand up comedy, which includes material about metal. “That’s my main gig. I love being able to go up on stage and be my own boss. And nobody can tell me what to do or wear or be censored,” he sums up. “I can go up there drunk, wearing an AC/DC T-shirt, and just say whatever the hell I want to!”
As for his own music habits, Florentine says he prefers to listen at home to his vinyl collection, which he takes meticulous care of (even if has to "get his ass up off the couch" to turn the disc over). In a car, he might stream from his phone. But the CDs are all packed away. "I just bought a car from 2018," he says. "And it doesn't even have a CD player in it!"
For more on Jim Florentine, visit JimFlorentine.com
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