Manowarrior For Life: Sam McGookin (Northern Ireland)

My name is Sam and I come from Carrickfergus; Northern Ireland aged a spritely 55 years old!

Back in the day when I first picked up and played Kiss Alive II, the double LP, probably around late ’77 and thought, hey, this is great stuff this “Heavy Metal”. Up to then we had the likes of Rod Stewart, Elvis, Abba, all manner of disco and that horrendous country music – something had to give.

So, with limited exposure, all we had in those days was to go to the local record store, search for a band you liked, buy an LP/cassette or if you had a cassette recorder, tape some Metal off some weird offshore radio station with a sub-standard microphone – ah, 20th century tech!

UFO, Zep, AC/DC , Ted Nugent, Priest, Sabbath, Motorhead etc were the go to guys but not so much a choice, more a lack of options.

Enjoying these bands was one thing but really getting into a music and being part of your “soul” and in my opinion, “How to play Heavy Metal” the right way was not on the agenda until by a bunch of newcomers came alone called – MANOWAR.
My brother had bought Battle Hymns in late ’82 after listening to Molly Hatchet, so I “borrowed” it off him so I could have a wee sneak listen.

Well now, with all the Metal Pioneers mentioned before, this was completely different – more heavier, clearer, ear shattering and in your face than any 18 year old could wish for.

Special attention came for the lead singer – this guy had a serious set of pipes that could shatter glass (but in a metal way)
All the tracks were listened to “ad nauseum” – and there was even a bass solo by some bloke called Joey DeMaio – different.

Anyway, back then, there was nothing at all to read about who these guys were, where they came from or what was happening next – except for maybe Kerrang but that wasn’t the best. In late ’82, I joined the Army of Immortals.
There was a UK version of the AOI that 2 guys from Leeds started but that ended after a while…still have a few of those newsletters.

In 1987, I got the shock of my life when our local newspaper had a picture of Manowar and said they will be playing in Mandela Hall, Belfast – I nearly passed out with excitement – Manowar playing in Belfast.
I went down to the local record store to get a ticket for me and my Brother, (£7 a touch) hahaha- time stood still until 9th June when the gates opened.
Just before the warm up band came on my brother was waving to me from a wee door at the side of the hall. I went over to see what was happening and there, low and behold, in front of me, was Joey and Eric (in non-battle clothes)
Joey asked my brother did he have all our albums and he said “no, but my brother does” – I was then allowed in to meet these awesome blokes who had changed my listening and viewing experience forever.

We chatted about mundane stuff, the tour etc and it came to a photo opportunity – back then, there was little money about and all I had was this little, useless disc camera – not digital but with actual film in a round disc shape – ancient – anyway, I was so excited to get to see the band I didn’t check that the camera was working and missed my opportunity of Immortality with Joey and Eric – what a shame….there was to be a next time unbeknownst to me…
Of course, I was front row for that – Fighting the World tour, with leathers, fur, swords the works…..

My Army career put paid to following these guys but did catch up with the tour in Holland 2002 and then I decided when I finish the Army that I will make a plan to see as much as I could of these guys….

A few gigs were attended in between but then I brought Jen to a “small” gathering in Geiselwind, Germany called “Earthshaker” as Manowar were headlining – that was another turning point in my life as after that, she was “hooked” and we were going to be spending a lot of time abroad in front rows (for a long time)

After my Army career had finished, I was free to follow this band on as many tours as I could.
This brought me in contact with some of the most awesome Manowarriors and great people that anyone could ever meet…brothers and sisters from:
Italy, Bulgaria, France, Spain, Portugal, USA, Germany, Hungary, Estonia, Russia, UK, Brazil, Japan, Israel – the list is endless!!

In 2007, A festival was scheduled in Germany, Bad Arolsen called “The Magic Circle Festival” (MCF) – these were mega festivals which Manowar headlined and kicker serious ass!!

Again in 2008 – a double night of ecstasy for Manowarriors – Manowar’s first 6 albums played in full – 20,000 free beers, 4 of the band’s choppers given away via raffle!!

Those that had a UFP were treated to a backstage tour that any Manowarrior would give blood for…

During the 2010 Death to Infidel tour, I was offered what can only be described as a dream come true – a chance to sing a few lines of one my favourite Manowar tunes – “Let the Gods decide”
Standing at the side of the front row barrier, Eric called me over during the song and the rest was history – I will never forget that moment!!

To date – I have attended 134 Manowar shows – each unique – each superb shows of Heavy Metal at its best

On one memorable night in Dusseldorf, Germany, it just happened to be my 100th Manowar show.
My wife Jen had made up small badges for our friends and a T shirt was made to commemorate the occasion – during Joey’s speech, he came over to where I was on the from row and mentioned it was my 100th show and had a small speech for me in true Joey style

Several years ago, I was privileged and honoured to be offered the opportunity to become a Moderator for MANOWAR’s Official Forum – THE HOUSE OF DEATH along with my great friend from Bulgaria – DD.
Since then, the front row (and 2nd) of Manowar shows is usually personally known to me and the craic and good times is superb!!

So – since 1982, this band, its songs, its culture and fan following have been as much a part of my life as my own family are – these times will not be forgotten and surely there are more to come!