Origin of heavy metal

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by embellisher, Apr 24, 2002.

  1. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Okay, this thread was inspired by a few comments that have been exchanged between myself and a couple of other members, up in the Basses Forum.

    I thought that it would be interesting to get everyone's opinion on when and where heavy metal started, and what bands influenced the pioneers of the genre, etc.

    For now I will not post my opinion, I want to see what everyone else thinks first.

    And of course, opinions cannot be wrong, but it will be interesting to see this discussion from other points of view, such as those older than me, or younger than me, and their ideas and opinions on the origin of heavy metal.

  2. Hey Jeff,
    I think I might have been in on that discussion.

    Anyway, I think two of the biggest pioneers into Heavy Metal were Black Sabbath and Steppenwolf. Led Zeppelin also did alot for the new scene, but not quite as much as Sabbath and Wolf. Black Sabbath was one of the first bands to sing about the devil, darkness, hatred, and despair. The dark thunderous tones of Geezer Butler coupled with the rhythm of drummer Bill Ward were nearly enough to induce a trance like state for me. Throw in the screaming guitar of Tony Iommi and the eery vocals of Ozzy Osbourne, and the results are historical.
    Steppenwolf was the band that coined the phrase "Heavy Metal" in the song Born to be Wild. The term at that point described the roaring engine of a motorcycle, but soon became synonymous with the musical genre.

    Heavy metal further progressed in the 80's with the rise of bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth, and the loads of other Hair Metal bands.

    Metal progressed even further over the next decade and split up into different sub-genres, such as Death metal, Black metal, Thrash metal, etc.

    The biggest influence over all to metal, I would have to say Metallica. Between "Kill 'em All" and "Metallica" (aka The Black Album) Metallica did more for the heavy metal scene than any other band. They put Metal into the forefront, almost to the point of being mainstream music.

    Sadly, with the downfall of Metallica, heavy metal fell to the wayside. With out the badass metal heads running the record companies, they were overwhealmed by pop rock bands, and the rise of "feel good" hippie music, which we had hoped died in the sixties, rose like a phoenix out of the ashes.

    With an opening in the heavy music industry, record companies soon jammed together every heavy style they could think of and produced cookie cutter bands we know today as *Nu-Metal*. The fact that there is nothing new about what they have done is apparently irrelevant.

    What is the future of heavy metal? I guess we will have to wait and see.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Jimi Hendrix has to be there - I think nearly every guitarist in the UK was stunned when he appeared and tried to copy his sound or what he was doing on things like "Voodoo Chile"!

    Before Hendrix, there weren't many who explored distortion and sheer volume as much as he did - so his best-known singles/albums were recorded around 1967-1968 and Black Sabbath's first album was released in 1970. There is no doubt that Sabbath would not have happened without Hendrix!
  4. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    Iron Butterfly was the first band labelled as heavy metal
    Blue Cheer was doing really heavy and trippy music
    Black Sabbath was heavy metal
  5. I'm familiar with the fact that Steppenwolf coined the phrase 'Heavy Metal' and yeah some of their music was very distorted and dare I say it heavy. To me heavy metal I guess started with Led Zep and Sabbath - I'm not too familiar with many other heavy bands of the time. I'm trying to think back - weren't Deep Purple about the same time???

    Anyway, on a personal note I guess my appreciation started with the alleged New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) which I guess encompassed Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. I'm a big Maiden fan, but haven't listened a lot to Priest yet.

    An interesting point about Metallica is that they started off their career playing a lot of this NWOBHM material - particularly Iron Maiden. It hadn't progressed in the early days that far 'west' and thier set would include a lot of covers( which got treated as original by audiences as they hadn't heard it yet). By this point I guess that AC/DC weer on the scene big time too!

    So there you have it - a kinda theory on the origins, based on some things I've read/heard over the years, and kinda my cut on personally when it took off for me! (But being a young dude I know I wasn't there in the beginning:oops: ;) )
  6. Jeremy_X


    Jan 29, 2002
    If I remember correctly, the phrase "Heavy Metal" was coined by either an American or a British music journalist after a small Henderix show. This is of course sketchy as I can't remember the source of the comment and histroy tends to be a subjective thing. As to the origins of the music called "Heavy Metal" I would have to cite a few sources. The main lyrical source I would say is Black Sabbath. Take a look at just about any straight Heavy Metal lyric and you will see Sabbath written all over it. Sound wise, I would say there are two sources or more sources. Most would say, and I agree with this, that Metal owes it's "sound" to Led Zepplin and Black Sabbath. This makes sense to me. There are others out there that will stick Deep Purple in this area. I don't know about that.
    Now the visual side. I would have to say that a lot of what we have for stages shows in the metal scene hail either from the jeans and t-shirt Sabbath camp or the over the top make up etc. of Alice Cooper. Again I could be wrong with this, but one look at Alice Cooper and Dimmu Borgir or Mayhem or Marylin Manson will show this connection.
    What Hendrix and others may have added to this is debateable. I will agree that there is a great possibility that he had some kind of influence, but I can't think of any way of proving it short of an artist saying that he or she was influenced.
    These are just my opinions.
  7. IMO real heavy metal started in the middle of the 1980's. People call Led Zeppelin and Deep purple heavy metal but I find them to be more like a mix between hard rock and blues (same goes for old Black Sabbath, they made blues/hard rock just like Zeppelin). Sure Steppenwolf was the first to come up with the term Heavy metal, but does that make them a heavy metal band?.

    In the 1980's there where are a few types of metal. There was glam/hair metal (bands like Poison, Warrant, White Lion, Ratt etc.) and there where the thrash metal bands (Kreator, Voivod, Testament, Exodus)and there was a small death/black metal scene with bands like celtic Frost, Bathory, Paradise Lost and Death. True heavy metal bands in that time where Manowar, Virgin Steele, Judas priest, Saxon, DIO and ofcourse Iron Maiden.

    Nowdays there are still quite a few bands that make Heavy metal, but most of them sound very much the same (Hammerfall, Stratovarius, Nocturnal Rites etc.) Ofcourse manowar still claimes to be True metal and so does Virgin Steele, but IMO the whole heavy metal scene kinda dead at the moment....

    But the influencers IMO where, Black Sabbath, led Zeppelin, Jimi hendrix, AC/DC etc
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    The BBC has an "official" history of Heavy Metal for kids ;) on their website :


    Here's an extract :

    History by Decades


    Not many younger people will realise that the roots of HM lie in the 1960s, with the blues, a supergroup named Cream and Jimi Hendrix.

    It can be argued that the roots of all modern music genres lie in the blues. Certainly much of the music you will listen to will tie in with early American Blues. Is that why that music sounded like something from an Eric Clapton record your dad had been playing? It's not a case of copying the music, it's the way the music has evolved.

    Cream was a supergroup that lasted for two and a half years from late 1966 - 1969. Its members, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, were possibly the best musicians of their instruments at that time, if not still now. They played blues/jazz, but with a much heavier element to it. This is due to Baker and Bruce's style, and a meeting Clapton had with Jimi Hendrix in 1967. Their later concerts were played at an ear-shatteringly loud volume, so that even Jack Bruce complained of the loudness.

    Cream played songs that could last up to 20 minutes long. This was before Mike Oldfield wrote Tubular Bells. They were something entirely new to audiences of the 1960s.


    When Cream split, there was nobody left to play music like them; until Led Zeppelin arrived in the 1970s1.

    The predominant music fashions in the 1970s were Glam Rock, Heavy Metal and Punk. This was the decade where HM first appeared as we know it, spearheaded by the likes of Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Motorhead, and Black Sabbath. It was rather tame compared to the HM you may be familiar with today, but still rather hardcore for audiences back then. These were the days before the likes of Slayer and Bathory.

    When the punk scene arrived, it nearly sounded the death knell for the HM genre. Big names of the decade like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd had, in their success, became over-indulgent. They were described as lumbering, over-pompous dinosaurs, out of touch with the music scene.

    Punk wanted to start afresh, with its own radical sound. While punks flourished, certain new bands were making names for themselves in the pubs. It was a struggle for them, but they were to be rewarded in the 1980s...

    It's all History now!! ;)
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    "Chas" Chandler was interviewed in his capacity as manager of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1969. In discussing the origin of the music genre phrase, "Heavy Metal", he said ".....it was a term originated in a New York Times article reviewing a Jimi Hendrix performance." Chandler said the author called the Hendrix Experience "...like listening to heavy metal falling from the sky."

    Although the Steppenwolf song mentions Heavy Metal - it is really referring to motorcycle gang culture and the idea of huge amounts of metal (bikes, that is) rolling down the road together- not specifically referring to any musical genre.

    The Jimi Hendrix Experience was the first time the term was applied to music as such.
  10. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    The real starting point for Metal as we know it today is the begin of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the late 70s and early 80s, with Bands like Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Samson, Diamond Head, Venom, Tygers of Pan Tang, Def Leppard (sic), etc.

    I think it's too long a shot to consider the 60s bands as the starting point. For Hardrock, ok, but Hardrock lasted almost a decade (70s) before it evolved into Heavy Metal.
  11. You know I just got to thinking - and that's a dangerous thing!!!

    I know it's a bit pedantic - but maybe heavy metal started with the Big Bang, after all that when most of them would have been formed. Although, maybe when the Curies came along and started playing with radioactive isotopes and then...........

    OK, I'll shut up!;)
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I must say that in '73 when I started going to gigs and clubs - listening to Heavy Metal - all my friends loved Led Zep, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath etc. - but when the next generation of Heavy Metal, came along they were universally hated by everyone I knew - considered as watered-down copyists!

    It was "social death" to admit you liked any of these bands and they became the object of ridicule. So - Saxon were quite clearly the models for Spinal Tap! :D
  13. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Well, I said "[heavy] metal as we know it today", the bands you mention are generally considered hardrock today, as far as I understand it, Black Sabbath being a borderline case.

    You may be right about the Saxon-Tap connection - I love that movie :D
  14. One band that hasn't been mentioned, but was momentarily influential in the late 60s/ early 70s was Atomic Rooster. I have always thought their songs sounded proto-metallic. More so than Led Zep and Deep Purple, which fell on the Hard Rock side of the divide, if there is such a divide.
  15. Showdown

    Showdown Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    They may be considered Hard Rock today, but I can tell you for certain that they were called Heavy Metal in the 70s. That's when I first heard the term, long before any of the 80s bands were around. And those 80s bands you keep mentioning owe everything to Black Sabbath and all the other 70s metal bands, and I'm real sure they would all agree. They were called "New Wave of British Heavy Metal because the other bands were the old wave. You can't revise history just because you are to young to remember the old metal bands. Listen to any of the 80s bands, and the influence of Black Sabbath is obvious.
  16. I reckon the moment that "you Really Got Me" by The Kinks was written, Heavy Metal was born
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Of course - when I started buying albums in '73, everybody in the UK knew what "Heavy Metal" was - Black Sabbath and Deep Purple had had singles in the charts and Led Zep's "Whole Lotta Love" was known to everybody !

    Record shops had Heavy Metal as a category and it was mentioned on the radio shows I used to listen to on Saturday afternoons where Alan Freeman would play the latest Heavy Metal.
  18. This is going quite well - wonder when embellisher is gonna chip in with his thoughts on the thread he started;)
  19. I'm going to have to go with Black Sabbath on this one. Although I can see arguments for Led Zeppelin and Hendrix I'm surprised no one has mentioned The Who in the same breath (unless I've overlooked it).

    Although Sabbath is clearly earlier, I think honourable mention needs to go to KISS and Scorpions who were both around in the early '70's too. I think those two bands really shaped a lot of later metal along with Sabbath.