Swedish Metal Aid: The point where charity, hairspray and a singing horror show collide

Swedish Metal Aid in the TV Studio
(Image credit: Sveriges Television)

When the Ronnie James Dio-curated charity album Hear n' Aid was released in 1986, it was the best part of a year late. The original sessions had taken place 12 months previously, but, appallingly, bickering over contracts delayed its journey into the stores. Those famine victims would just have to wait. 

Across the North Sea, Europe's Joey Tempest had better luck. He put together the Swedish Metal Aid project, a collective of local musicians including members of his own band (a year before their breakthrough smash, The Final Countdown), alongside such names as Easy Action, 220 Volt, Neon Leon & Bondage Babies, Trash, Treat, Orion’s Swords, Glorious Bankrobbers, Candy Roxx and Aphrodite. 

If those band names suggest the words "hair" or "glam" to you, then you'd be right. For this was the era of Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Faster Pussycat and their ilk, and our Swedish cousins were not immune to the glittery charm of Sunset Strip. And on October 11, 1985, they showed just how glam – and just how hirsute – they really were. For that was the day the full ensemble gathered at the Sveriges Television studios of comedy show Nöjesmassakern ("Entertainment massacre") for a live performance of the song they'd recorded together, Give A Helpin' Hand

It's an extraordinary gathering, with enough hairspray on show to punch a hole right through the ozone and well into deep space. It may be the precise moment that grunge actually awoke. But what really stands out is the "singing", and not in a good way. A succession of generously bouffanted vocalists come and go, each wailing more tunelessly than their predecessor, to the point where the average listener might begin to question whether what they're watching is genuine footage or some kind of recent comedy edit. Entertainment massacre indeed. 

There are exceptions. Easy Action's Tommy Nilsson hits the right notes (he was rumoured to be joining Toto at one point), and Joey Tempest almost redeems the entire performance just north of the three-minute mark. We're unsure if the blonde (that doesn't narrow it down much, to be honest) woman staring at him in the background is awestruck by his luscious curls or because he remains largely in key. 

Give A Helpin' Hand was released in September 1985 and sold 50,000 copies, surely aided by the signatures of the performers etched into the b-side. And such was the success of Swedish Metal Aid that a TV documentary about the project was made in 2021, with input from Tempest and Nilsson, alongside guitarist Kee Marcello, then of Easy Action and later of Europe.    

You can watch it below, if you have a spare hour and can speak Swedish. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.