He could blow up hot water bottles, crush bricks and bend steel, but there was one thing muscled-up rocker Jon Mikl Thor could not do in 40 years: attain music stardom.
“People viewed us like a freak show and assumed the music wasn’t going to match the show,” Thor says. “There is strength in the music.”
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In the ’70s and ’80s, Thor, a Canadian bodybuilder, combined a metal sound with outrageous strength-centered stage theatrics. He was a contemporary of Kiss, Alice Cooper and the Ramones, appeared on “The Merv Griffin Show” and was front page news in the United Kingdom. Yet, a series of missteps and management musical chairs — his career was overseen by Mike Appel, Bruce Springsteen’s manager at one point — caused his hammer to deliver a dud instead of a lighting bolt.
“He wanted to do big theatrical shows and he did them but he was ahead of his time,” said “I Am Thor” director Ryan Wise. “He was doing this in the early ’70s, muscle rock, and the movie goes through all that.”
It covers the highs and lows, from appearing in a naked waiter revue in Hawaii, to sold-out shows at the Marquee in London, to playing for six paying customers during a comeback tour. He was even a B-move star, with roles in the campy “Rock N’ Roll Nightmare” and “Zombie Nightmare.”
Finally there is redemption: European metalheads are now crazy about him, thanks to videos of the young Thor on the Web.
The Thor of today looks a little different than the young Thor. But hey, he’s a survivor.
“We wrote really good songs and we played with some stellar musicians,” Thor says. “I’m happy in this day and age the music is being taken more seriously and appreciated. It’s like fine wine.”
If you go:
“I Am Thor” screening and performance by Thor
Friday, 7 p.m.
531 N. 12th St.