Before ‘Headbangers Ball,’ This Was MTV’s First Swing at a Metal Show

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Not many people have done more for the world of heavy metal than Dee Snider.

When Tipper Gore and her Parents Music Resource Council (PMRC) tried to limit access to music on arbitrary moral grounds, the Twisted Sister frontman acted as our ambassador to congress.

While that act of defiance might be his most famous moment of activism, Snider’s determined spirit extended much further than standing up to some pearl-clutching parents.

Although it only ran for a year between 1985 and 1986,  Heavy Metal Mania was MTV’s first foray into our world. Hosted by Snider, the program originally ran weekly on Thursday nights before moving to a monthly slot in 1986 due to the network’s bizarre choice to distance itself from the growing genre.

It would be impossible to ask for a better host than Snider, whose charming enthusiasm and humor made a deceptive vehicle for his hyper-articulate knowledge of the counterculture.

As the Twisted Sister frontman was friends with just about everyone in the scene, his interviews with the likes of Mötley Crüe (from a smoky bathroom) and Motörhead main man Lemmy Kilmister were filled with real insight and laced with a unique intimacy. Other guests included Ozzy Osbourne and Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson (who tried to sell a copy of the band’s 1985 album Live After Death on the streets of New York, so he could “go home to England”). Hell, even Metallica made an appearance on Heavy Metal Mania – a full two years before they ever made a video!

Snider was assisted by a series of guest hosts on Heavy Metal Mania including Paul Stanley, who hosted the show from his NY apartment, as well as his former Kiss bandmate Vinnie Vincent.

When the show was canceled in 1986, the network started a daily half hour show called Metal Shop (later called Heavy Metal Half Hour). On April 18th of 1987, a new program focused on heavy metal premiered on MTV. It was called Headbangers Ball.

Check out some wild clips from Heavy Metal Mania below!