Pat Boone and Alice Cooper on stage at the American Music Awards on January 27th, 1997.
“I describe myself as the midwife at the birth of rock & roll.”
—Pat Boone on his decision to record an album full of heavy metal covers in 1997
On January 27th, 1997, ABC aired the 24th Annual American Music Awards—an early 70s creation of the Dick Clark which determines its winners by tabulating votes from the public and album sales. Contrary to the less-than-riveting nominee list the ‘97 AMAs had a few cool moments such as Tupac Shakur’s posthumous win for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist and D’Angelo scoring an award for Favorite Soul/R&B Artist. The most memorable moment of the show, and perhaps the year, depending on how riveting your own life was in 1997, was the appearance of conservative Christian crusader, actor, writer, and musician Pat Boone. Boone was about to release his latest record In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy. The album was full of swing/big band-style covers featuring the vintage crooner’s adaptations of Dio’s “Holy Diver,” Judas Priest’s “You Got Another Thing Comin’,” “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)” by AC/DC among other metal classics. Boone also procured musical contributions from Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow), Dweezil Zappa, and drummer Sheila E. Ronnie James Dio even provided backing vocals on Boone’s cover of “Holy Diver” calling Boone “a really cool guy who really loves metal music.”
To help promote the album set for release the following day, Boone walked the red carpet of the AMAs looking super buff in a leather vest and pants, no shirt, covered in fake tattoos which he accessorized with a studded leather dog collar around his neck, and a dangling silver earring. Later on the show, Boone would show up on stage with Alice Cooper to present the award for Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Artist. People in the audience went fucking NUTS at the sight of Boone looking like he would now be worshiping exclusively at the altar of Satan. At least that’s what Boone’s rather devout followers thought when they saw photos of their squeaky-clean idol looking like he had run away with Mötley Crüe or worse (if there is something worse than that). Perhaps the best part of the very un-Christian caper is that it sprang from the imagination of Dick Clark himself who proposed that Boone and Alice Cooper “switch images” for their award presentation moment. Initially, Cooper was all for it but shortly before the show decided that it was too corny and showed up looking exactly like Alice Cooper. To his credit, Boone kept his side of the Clark-brokered bargain and his seeming transformation into a heavy metal heathen would become a huge media story. Unless you didn’t have a television in 1997, you most likely saw the then 63-year-old shirtless Boone and probably wondered “WTF” yourself. Which is precisely what Boone’s employers over at the Trinity Broadcasting Network thought—minus the F-bomb naturally.
Feel the BOONE!
As it turns out, Trinity Broadcasting Network—the massive Christian faith-based television company, considered Boone’s appearance on the AMAs a pretty serious misstep, and after fielding thousands of complaints from their viewers, they pulled the plug on Boone’s popular weekly show, Gospel America. Did this send Boone off to work on his hysterical crying game to ensure his apology to his fans would be as dramatic as hooker-loving Jimmy Swaggart’s 1988 “I have sinned!” sob-fest? Nope. Sure, Boone apologized but was also quick to say that Christians needed to “lighten up.” Here are a few more words from Boone on the death-rock debacle that cost him his show:
“Little did I dream that the media and a lot of Christians would take it seriously. I was really stunned that Christians, evidently by the thousands, having known me for 35 to 40 years, would think that overnight I just radically changed my orientation and all my priorities. Just because I wore some leather pants and fake tattoos and non-piercing earrings doesn’t mean that I’m a fundamentally different person.”
Now that you know all you ever wanted to know about Pat Boone (or read this to sum up his last few decades), let’s take a listen to a few sweet jams from In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy.
More after the jump…