Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dahmer and Death Metal?

I'm often asked what kind of music Dahmer liked. I wrote about this on the Derfcity blog a while back, but since I just received a couple more queries, I think I'll re-post it here.

The stereotype, of course, was that Dahmer listened to heavy metal. In 1978, that would have been Sabbath and Judas Priest. There wasn't much else. It was mostly kid stuff like Kiss and Alice Cooper. So he sat in his dark room, headphones on, blasting his brain with Priest's Beyond the Realms of Death. Except that's not what happened. 

This story comes from friend Neil, one of the small group of band nerds who befriended Dahmer in high school and formed the Dahmer Fan Club to egg him on in his various acts of weirdness. You'll read all in the book. Neil contributed much material, through many emails and conversations, as I was putting together this book over the past several years. But he dropped this tale on me top late, well after the book had been shipped to the printing plant.

In the Summer of 1975, between freshman and sophomore years, Neil and Dahmer went to a concert together. The Cleveland area, on the far edge of which our hometown was located, was known at that time as the Rock Capital of the World, due to several powerful FM stations and a huge, rabid rock fandom. There were many venues in the area where legendary concerts were held, but none was more beloved than Blossom Music Center.

Blossom Music Center and a sold-out show

Blossom was WAY out in the boonies, in the rolling countryside far south of Cleveland (it's now the Cuyahoga Valley National Park). It was an outdoor amphitheater, surrounded by a vast, sloping lawn where concert-goers could spread out with blankets and picnic dinners and enjoy a live performance. It opened in 1968 to serve as the summer home of the Cleveland Orchestra (which it still is). Looking for extra revenue, the following year Blossom began booking rock acts and immediately became THE place to see live music.

The official capacity was 8,000. But because of its rural setting, fans would simply abandon their cars on the berms of the surrounding, gridlocked country roads and hike through the woods to crash the gates. There was no fence or barrier, the local police force was comprised of Goober and Barney, and Blossom security was totally overwhelmed as kids poured in from every direction. A Blood, Sweat & Tears concert in 1969 drew a crowd of over 80,000! It was Woodstock every weekend! Concert-goers drank wine out of sheepskin jugs and passed joints and bongs. A giant fog of pot smoke hung over the throng, at times obliterating the amphitheater itself. Couples frolicked naked in the nearby woods. All over the lawn, lovers crawled into sleeping bags to hump, the bags moving in time to the beat, like giant caterpillars.
I saw my first live music (and my first naked woman!) here. Tickets were so cheap, $4 a head, and it was so easy to sneak into a show, that it really didn't even matter who was playing. You went for the experience and to try to meet girls. Never had any success there, despite the frequent naked nymphs dancing through the crowd.

So in the Summer of 1975, Neil and Dahmer decided to attend a Blossom concert. Neil suspects it was Dahmer's first show. It may well have been his ONLY concert. Neither was driving yet, so Dahmer's dad , Lionel, drove them as close as he could to the Blossom entrance, until the traffic gridlocked and then the boys walked the rest of the way, probably a couple miles. Heck, the driveway into the grounds was a couple miles long, so it was likely a four-or-five-mile hike! Made a few of those myself. Lionel picked them up at the same spot at a designated time after the show. Traffic leaving Blossom shows was just as bottlenecked as it was before events. Many kids just slept in their cars until the following day!

The headliner for this show? Priest? AC/DC? Nope. Neil Sedaka!!!!! That's right, the chubby, little schlockmeister who penned some of the most vile Top 40 dreck of the Seventies!!! Friend Neil recalls that Dahmer was quite taken with Sedaka's music at the time. I had MY young guilty pleasures, too, before I discovered punk rock later in the Seventies and my tastes refined, but NEVER something THIS godawful!!


So the  bible-thumping, FoxNews crowd's insistence that heavy metal poisons the minds of America's youth doesn't apply to Dahmer. And the claims of today's metal crowd that Dahmer was one of them is equally false.  Much like  most of the urban legend that the Death Metal/ Serial Killer sub-culture has constructed out of Dahmer's life, it's bullshit. And now friend Neil confirms it.

This is especially hilarious considering how Death Metal has embraced Dahmer's story. The band Macabre released Dahmer back in 2000, a concept album devoted entirely to Jeff's life and killing spree. Here's a song from the album about our high school antics, Do the Dahmer. Yep. That's right. There's a metal tune about my high school career!


There's others. Apartment 213 (named after Dahmer's pad in Milwaukee) has released a number of albums, all featuring various photos of Dahmer on the cover. A Canadian metal band simply calls itself Dahmer and most of its discography is inspired by various aspects of his life and crimes. There's a Brit metal band called Trophies of Dahmer, referring, of course, to the heads and skulls he kept as "trophies." The metal community is fascinated with the guy, and views his miserable life as a mirror of the metal philosophy. Picked on and shunned as a kid, wallowed in misery and drink, and then snapped and got his "revenge." Blah blah blah. It's all total crap, of course.

A Neil Sedaka fan. Sorry, metalheads.


  1. Woah, that Neil Sedaka that was awful.

    I guess if he would have listened to good music, maybe he could have soothed his inner demons, instead of gulping booze which made him all the more violent. But then again, as you mention in your book, he was disconnected from the group and therefore didn't got into bands you guys were listening to like Devo.

  2. I remember reading somewhere that, according to fellow soldiers, when he was in the army, he was a big fan of Iron Maiden, whose first record would've been out around the time he was enlisted.

  3. Hey, remember, not all metal fans are the same. Its a broad genre.

    A lot of metal fans, like myself, are drawn to certain kinds of metal--Iron Maiden, Rainbow, DIO, Kick Axe, MANOWAR, Blind Guardian--because they sing about the kinds of stuff that geeky guys like me find interesting, i.e, barbarians, epic fantasy, science fiction, etc., rather than stuff like women, drugs and love...that is alien to us. Of course, with a lot of metal, you have to be geeky enough to get all the fantasy/sci-fi references. But I am!

  4. I really enjoyed (?) another creepy story here. I lived over at 23rd and Michigan in Milwaukee and strangely enough now live in Milwaukie, Oregon. I'm also a big metal head and have been fascinated with the Dahmer truth and mythos. MFD is an absolute brilliant text, with no equal in what it is!

    Kudos and appreciation,
    Ken Volante