When Pat Boone went heavy metal

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The amiable crooner Pat Boone, best known for songs like When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano and Love Letters in the Sand, produced an album of heavy metal music back in 1997.

The album “In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy” wasn’t technically heavy metal. However it did have a tracklist full of timeless rock songs. These included the Alice Cooper song that served as the album’s title, Metallica’s Enter Sandman and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven.

Boone and his band wanted to try something new. They were enticed to the heavy metal racks in a nearby record store. 

To ensure that the lyrics wouldn’t jeopardize his spotless reputation, Boone first had to carefully check the songs.

He told Fox News that people asked why he was looking at Scorpions and Motorhead records.  Smoke on the Water, he falsely assumed, was about drugs. It wasn’t, though and  The Wind Cries Mary wasn’t about Marijuana either.  

When he heard Jimmy Page sing Stairway to Heaven he assumed he was into witchcraft but couldn’t be sure.  All the odd, cryptic lyrics could have been about anything but there were no direct references. 

The Metallica song Enter Sandman tells of a boogeyman that is going to get the child if he doesn’t stay in bed in an effort to scare him. The tale has a pretty innocuous message yet a foreboding tone.

With his conscience fully at ease, Boone recorded the tracks at Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles. Ritchie Blackmore performed on a bossa nova rendition of Smoke on the Water. Ronnie James Dio also added backing harmonies to a cover of Holy Diver. When the album came out, Boone was scheduled to perform at the American Music Awards; and this is when things started to get a little nightmarish.

Boone arrived at the awards ceremony without a shirt, wearing a vest, leather trousers and donning fake tattoos.

He was also wearing a number of  rings, sunglasses, and a dog collar made of studded leather. Boone accepted Dick Clark’s suggestion to switch Alice Cooper’s and his on-stage personas for the evening, but Cooper backed out at the last minute.

Cooper was on stage to present Metallica with the award for Best Heavy Metal Band. Whilst presenting Cooper announced that he knew all about the history of heavy metal before introducing Pat Boone as the future. 

Despite the fact that it was all just harmless entertainment, it infuriated the Christian television network Trinity Broadcasting Network. They pulled Boone’s monthly Gospel America show after getting thousands of complaints and encouraged its viewers to pray for the singer.

When Trinity questioned its viewers a month later, they received a resounding majority in favor of Boone’s return.

He said he was deeply sorry if anyone was hurt in any way on the network’s main program, Praise adding that it was never his aim to cause offense.

He had never imagined it would be taken seriously by the media or Christians.

Boone was genuinely surprised that thousands of Christians would assume that suddenly he had just completely altered his priorities and attitude and wanted to become a heavy metal artist.

He reassured people that he was not a fundamentally different person just because he wore some leather leggings, false tattoos and earrings.

Life resumed normality when lessons were learned. And five years later, the compilation album The Osbourne Family Album came out. Boone’s version of Crazy Train was one of the featured songs. Jack Osbourne also mentioned Boone as a good neighbor during an episode of the show.

Despite the briefness of Boone’s heavy metal idol career, In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy set the standard for others to follow. This included fellow singer and Christian Paul Anka, who recorded Rock Swings in 2005. Rock classics like It’s My Life by Bon Jovi, Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden, and Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana were featured.

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