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IT’S LIKE THAT: Sad But True

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Let me introduce you to the “burnout.”

This now rare species roamed the earth from the 1970’s through the 1980’s. They could be easily identified by their untied high-top sneakers, tight pants, and a jean jacket with a patch of their favorite heavy metal band emblazoned on the back. A cigarette could usually be seen hanging from their bottom lip, and when they weren’t inflicting pain on neighborhood children, they could be found waxing their automobiles, while blasting their favorite heavy metal tunes of the day.

I grew up in the same neighborhood with many “burnouts,” and let me tell you–like AC/DC suggested–they made my life a “Highway To Hell.” Now that I look back, I guess I was perfect fodder for a burnout attack. My family went to church two times on Sunday, I wasn’t allowed to listen to anything but “Christian” music, and swearing was strictly prohibited (even the word “fart” was off limits).

(above: The sight of one of these used to send me running home.)

Imagine the fear that shook through me the first time I saw an Iron Maiden patch on a burnout’s back. The band’s skeletal mascot, Eddie, looked like he was going to jump right off the jacket-patch and strangle the life out of me. Then there were the many Metallica t-shirts and icons I encountered on a daily basis: a raised fist with knife in hand coming out of a toilet, a cemetery littered with crosses, and phrases like: Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Metal Up Your Ass. Seeing Metallica’s blocky-font-logo meant one thing to me, RUN!


The neighborhood burnouts inflicted pain on me in various ways. Before the “wedgie” became a pop-cultural punch line, my tormentors used it as their favorite torture technique. And let me say, there’s nothing funny about being lifted off of your feet with a pair of whitie-tighties wedged between your butt cheeks. The burnouts also had access to various weapons. Though they never blew me up with an M80 (as threatened), there were countless times when I was sent running home dodging bottle rockets, bee-bee gun pellets, or rocks being propelled by industrial-strength slingshots.

Was I ever hit? Yes. Did it hurt? Like you couldn’t believe.

The only thing that hurt more than getting shot with a rock was being verbally harassed by the burnouts. They could make you feel like crap in two sentences flat. Change that–they could do it with one word. Like most bullies they reinforced the obvious. Because I wasn’t allowed to listen to heavy metal or swear, I quickly became known as Holy Shearer–later shortened to just Holy. Shearer (pronounced sheer) also rhymes with another word. Take two seconds to figure it out, and that was another choice insult used masterfully by the burnouts.

In high school, my parents loosened their grip as I began listening to secular music. In 1991 I was reintroduced to Metallica via their Black Album, and after a quick burnout flashback, I actually started to enjoy all of the band’s singles: “Enter Sandman,” “Unforgiven,” “Wherever I May Roam,” and “Sad But True.”

In college I managed to befriend a Metallica fanatic and caught up on the band’s entire back catalog, realizing for the first time the genius of Kill ‘Em All, Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets, and …And Justice For All.

Would the burnouts be proud of me? Probably not. I’m guessing they would have offered something similar to the following: Duh–if you weren’t so holy you would have listened to all of those Metallica albums years ago!

I bring all of this up, because if you don’t believe in karma or the expression, “What goes around comes around,” you will now.

The irony can be cut with a big Metal Up Your Ass knife, cause the boy that was once mocked for not being allowed to listen to Metallica, was invited to their headquarters last week to interview founding member and drummer, Lars Ulrich.

Metallica’s HQ (that’s headquarters for short) is the business and musical brain center of the bay-area-based thrash legends. Oh how the burnouts would have been jealous as I walked through Metallica’s two huge practice spaces, adorned with countless banners fans have tossed on stage over the years. Not only that, but many of the bands old stage backdrops hang across the walls, including the original one used when Metallica toured in support of Ride The Lightning. Hmm, wonder if the burnouts ever got this close in ’84?

Oh, look over there, it’s the set piece Metallica used for the …And Justice For All tour. Wait, is that a box of James Hetfield’s signature black wristbands? Why yes it is. Whoa, look there’s Lars’ drum kit, Kirk’s rack of guitars, and a whole bunch of lyric sheets with handwritten Metallica scribbles all over them. Wow, here’s James’ lead vocal mic. Since I got a second, why don’t I just lean into this and pretend I’m singing “One” in front of a crowd of thousands. Ouch I just stubbed my toe. Damn these vintage Metallica road cases.

Later, during my interview with Lars, he extended me an invitation to watch Metallica warm-up in their Tuning + Attitude room before they play live on their upcoming tour. Suddenly, memories of wedgies and slingshot welts faded to, uh, black. It may be sad but true for the burnouts, but it looks like there is justice for all in Metallica-land–even for a holy kid who wasn’t allowed to listen to heavy metal music.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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