When celebrated singer and actor Pat Boone decided to turn to heavy metal in 1997, he had no idea it would nearly ban him from the Christian community.
It's no wonder he was hesitant about going to music’s dark side.
“Heavy metal has a dark image and in a lot of cases, you have to bleep the lyrics,” the 84-year-old told Fox News. “[The songs] are sometimes about the devil and demonic things.”
The ‘50s star is currently keeping busy traveling the world and performing for his fans.
But Boone admitted he still gets asked about his album titled “In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy,” where he shed his squeaky-clean image and reinterpreted famous rock tracks.
Boone said the concept started off as a joke among his bandmates when they were looking to create something new. But soon after, they found themselves visiting record stores and going through the heavy metal bins.
“People wondered why I was looking at albums by Scorpion and Motorhead and actually buying them,” he chuckled. “I thought ‘Smoke on the Water’ had to be about drugs. But it wasn’t. I thought ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ by Jimi Hendrix had to be about marijuana. But it wasn’t. It was about an affair he had with a girl he still loved named Mary. It was a tribute to Mary, not marijuana.
"‘Stairway to Heaven,’ I thought Jimmy Page was into witchcraft. And I guess he was. And these strange, opaque lyrics, maybe they were about drugs. But I couldn’t find one reference to anything in the lyrics.
"‘Sandman’ by Metallica is about a father putting his son to bed and trying to scare him in the time-honored tradition of telling him the boogeyman was going to get him if he didn’t stay in bed. It’s a very harmless story with a very ominous sound.”
Boone insisted he went through "scores and scores of songs" to pick out the right ones to cover. And some of the lyrics did need some tweaking to suit his clean-cut persona.
While he expected for some fans to gawk at his latest creation, he had no idea of the scandal that would occur at the American Music Awards that year.
For Boone’s appearance on the televised ABC ceremony, he appeared in a chest-baring leather vest, a spiked dog collar and temporary tattoos for comic relief. However, it was no laughing matter among his conservative fans.
“The Christian community was very shocked,” he admitted. “My show was removed from TBN. Many people were saying, ‘We lost Pat Boone. He’s gone over to the dark side.’… It was a big overreaction. I was taken off Christian TV for 2-3 months.”
Boone was offered the chance to appear in a live broadcast on the Trinity Broadcasting Network to offer disappointed viewers an explanation — and he did.
“There were about 60 Christian bikers parked in front of TBN,” he said. “What had I done? There was nothing wrong with it whatsoever. It was just a different style.”
During the broadcast, Boone revealed that while he had no regrets going heavy metal in an attempt to try something new musically, he was sorry if the awards getup offended fans.
Boone said that despite the scandal, he’s still proud of the daring album.
“Look, Alice Cooper is the son of a minister,” he explained. “He had been really bad with drugs and alcohol, but then became a strong Christian… And thankfully, I was reinstated… I did this album, but audiences don’t need to be alarm by it because I went through all the songs with a fine tooth comb.
"There was nothing in those lyrics I had to apologize for. They never lost me… I was just being Pat Boone trying to do good songs that I found. And I was doing it in a different way.”
Plus there was one person Boone got the stamp of approval from for his metal effort: The Prince of Darkness himself.
His cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s 1980 hit “Crazy Train” was used as the theme song for MTV’s reality TV show “The Osbournes,” which aired from 2002 until 2005.
Boone said the rock star was actually his real-life neighbor.
“I had just recorded the song before he moved in next door,” Boone explained. “But the album wasn’t out yet. I went out to get the mail one day after he moved in. He comes shuffling down the sidewalk to get into a black Escalade. I hear myself say something I’ve never dreamed of saying to Ozzy Osbourne. ‘Hi neighbor!’ He said, ‘I’m on my way to an AA meeting, but when I get back, we can get some tea, OK?’ And we did!”
Boone said the Osbournes lived next doors for three years, and they stayed friends. Ozzy and his wife Sharon even asked the singer to be a presenter when they later hosted the American Music Awards.
“Sharon would always say, ‘Don’t you miss that Pat Boone?’ he recalled. “And he would go, ‘Oh he was the best bleep neighbor we’ve ever had!’”
And while some may gawk at the unlikely friendship, Boone said fans shouldn’t be alarmed over that either.
“[Ozzy] was raised in a very rough town of England,” said Boone. “And he himself said he knew he was either going to be a criminal or an entertainer. I like him [and his family] now. They’re good people.”