Headbangers Ball was a television show about heavy metal and hardcore music airing on MTV2, MTV Australia, MTV Two (formerly known as MTV2 Europe, however still covering the whole of Europe), MTV Adria (the MTV subsidiary covering the former Yugoslavia), MTV Brand New Italia, MTV Portugal, MTV Finland,VH1 India, MTV Norway, MTV Sweden, MTV Denmark, MTV Türkiye, MTV Hungary and MTV Japan. The show began on MTV on Saturday, April 18, 1987, playing heavy metal and hard rock music videos late at night, from both well-known and more obscure artists. The show offered (and became famous because of) a stark contrast to Top 40 music videos shown during the day.
The name "Headbangers Ball" was originally invented and used by DJ John Brent of Bury, Lancashire and was used on his Rock and Metal roadshows from 1980 onwards and toured throughout the UK with great success. John's Headbangers Ball Rock charts were also regularly featured in the pages of Rock publications "Kerrang" & "Sounds" along with many features on the show in local periodicals.
Headbangers Ball was one of the most popular music shows ever to air on MTV, on the air for nearly 8 years, and for a time, it was one of the network's flagship shows. For some time in 1988 & 1989, the show was increased to 3 hours. One hour added, plus "hard 60", a daily version of the ball that aired for an hour every weekday afternoon.
Its influence was made widespread with the rise of heavy metal in the 1980s and early 1990s. While the program primarily showed videos from the mainstream friendly "hair metal" genre, it gave an equal amount of time to the often more aggressive-sounding heavy metal music scene active in the late 1980s and early 1990s. When "hair metal" faded from the limelight, the show expanded to include coverage of such alternative rock bands as Alice in Chains and Soundgarden while continuing to focus on less mainstream forms of heavy metal.
Other notable TV programs have emulated Headbangers Ball, such as Fuse TV's Uranium and VH1's Rock Show. Indeed, the popularity and effectiveness of Uranium in the early 2000s may be cited as a strong influence to the revival of The Ball in 2003.
Rachtman was informed of the cancellation days afterward when, after filming what would end up being the final episode, he was simply informed via phone call that he would not have to show up to work the following week. No official reason was given for the show's cancellation, but considering the strong popularity of grunge and alternative rock in the early and mid '90s, Headbangers Ball found itself airing content that already had exposure on more mainstream MTV programming. Such factors could point to its supposedly deteriorating relevance.
Still, given the popularity of The Ball, many MTV fans were outraged at the show's abrupt cancellation, denying Rachtman and the production staff the chance to inform viewers that the show was going off the air, or to allow them to put together a "farewell show" for the loyal viewers of Headbangers Ball. To this day, many critics of MTV cite the cancellation of Headbangers Ball as one of the key decisions which caused the network to "jump the shark." The demise of The Ball also came in at #8 on VH1's 40 Least Metal Moments in 2005.
Over the years, MTV Europe attempted to fill the void left by the cancellation of Headbangers Ball with other rock-themed block programs such as the Julia Valet-hosted Superock, but all have failed for various reasons - including MTV's attempt to make these replacements more mainstream friendly with Top 40 and alternative rock videos added to the shows.
After nearly a decade of the show being off the air, MTV revived the series in 2003 on MTV2, Saturdays at 11 pm ET. The revived Headbangers Ball features the same sort of "mainstream and non-mainstream" playlist format as its previous incarnation, as well as informative interviews with heavy metal artists old and new.
The debut episode on MTV2 gave hosting duties to Metallica ; following episodes would feature other mainstream bands hosting such as Staind and Deftones until Hatebreed vocalist Jamey Jasta became full-time host. However, other musicians, including Phil Anselmo, Dave Mustaine, and Wayne Static, would host on various occasions as well. The show's central focus would eventually shift from aforementioned mainstream acts that were already featured on other MTV2 programming to concentrate on growing or underground scenes such as metalcore, death metal, and thrash metal.
During VH1's 40 Least Metal Moments countdown, musicians criticized the current incarnation of The Ball in comparison with the original, citing its "scripted" studio feel and lack of excitement. Indeed, the new version rarely ventures beyond airing music videos and subdued, in-studio interviews.
As of April 14, 2007, MTV2 has moved the show to the 11 pm-1 am ET time slot to make room for its Rock Block music video program, which is more oriented towards alternative rock and hard rock in contrast with Headbangers Ball, to air at 10:00 P.M. Headbangers Ball is replayed on MTV2 early Tuesday mornings from 4:00 to 6:00 A.M.
By early 2008, Headbangers Ball had clearly become a lower priority program. While new episodes still air, it has, on occasion, been pushed several hours into early Sunday morning or simply not aired at all. Assuming its schedule would instead be years-old reruns of shows such as Jackass and Viva La Bam.
Unlike many MTV programs, Headbangers Ball is not featured on any Canadian networks. MuchMusic does air a similar show called Loud, but it is currently only on for a half hour, features no regular host, and is frequently subject to preemptions.
There are several different versions of the show made for European viewers. For Western and Northern Europe, MTV Two airs their version of the series Tuesdays at 11:00 P.M. Western European Time. On MTV Adria, serving most of the Balkan Peninsula, Headbangers Ball airs for 1.5 hours once a week on Monday at 11pm, without a host but usually with short interviews with different metal bands. The show uses the original logo.
MTV2 UK airs their version of the show on Tuesday at 12.00AM and lasts until 1:00AM. These shows are presented by various artists from the hard rock/metal genres. So far, Bullet for My Valentine, Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium have presented shows,currently presented by Machine Head . This version of the show also uses the original logo. Headbangers Ball airs for twice a week on MTV Australia on late Mondays at midnight and late Thursdays at 1:00AM without a host. MTV Japan airs the series for half an hour late Tuesdays at 3:00 JST, with encore late Sundays at 2:00.
Each album contains at least one live song. The first Headbangers Ball compilation featured "Raining Blood" by Slayer as its live track, the second compilation used an in-studio performance of "My Tortured Soul" by Probot, and the latest compilation had two live tracks: "A Bid Farewell" by Killswitch Engage and "Now You've Got Something To Die For" by Lamb of God.
To date, three compilations of songs featured on the Headbangers Ball series have been released in the United States. They are all structured very similarly to the television program, with the first disc featuring well-known bands, while the second disc focuses on more obscure acts. Songs featuring Slipknot band members Corey Taylor and Joey Jordison have appeared on all three albums, with Taylor's side project Stone Sour contributing "Inhale" and Jordison's project Murderdolls featuring "Dead in Hollywood" on the first and two songs by Slipknot - Duality, and Before I Forget - appearing on the second and third compilation, respectively. Other bands that have appeared on all three compilations include Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God, and In Flames.