Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Birthday, Heavy Metal

On Friday the 13th of February, 1970, Black Sabbath released their self titled debut album. It began with a thick and ominous tritone, a pitch -dark riff that reverberated with a wash of shivering fear...  and the world of music would never be the same.  Happy 40th, Birthday, Heavy Metal!  And here's to the members of Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Blue Cheer , Sir Lord Baltimore and a cast of others for casting the spell, for turning their backs on flower power and plunging into a loud nightmarish curtain of sound...for turning it up and tuning it down simultaneously, for mesmerizing the misfits and miscreants, weaning them off of their faux hippie teets and turning them on to the bloody bosoms of the shrouded figures in black.

Here's to the people who may or may not have coined the term "Heavy Metal"...John Kay of Steppenwolf with his lyric "heavy metal thunder" or rock journalist and Blue Oyster Cult producer Sandy Pearlman who used it in an interview in Crawdaddy Magazine in 1968...or maybe Herman Hesse or William Burroughs who eluded to "heavy metal" within a passage from his novel "The Soft Machine"in 1964.

Here's to the blackened Brits of the stellar second wave of metal...especially Rob Halford who, through his own self exploration of his sexuality, and the costumes of its appropriate underground scene....brought the leather to the metal show by accident, and forever. It was he and Judas Priest who brought the soaring melodic screams  to the genre, and buffered by bands like Budgie, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Deep Purple and Motorhead , sent metal into the stratosphere.

Metal has branched off into more subgenres than any other category of music..some embarrassing (hair metal, rap metal, crab core??) and some unintelligible (grindcore, funeral doom). It has made many men millionaires who blossomed out of their perspective and blessed genres with their cornerstone bands like Slayer, Metallica and Motley Crue. But when we venture back,and peruse the root... the fan can count on the blanketing themes of aggression, anger, fear and alienation that percolate in its core and present a purpose, maybe even a solution for the struggle, whatever it may be. It gave many millions of cast out kids who wandered into parking lots clad in denim, bumming smokes and clutching "Bad Wizards" a place to be..not just a place to go.

Thanks to the blogs at  All Songs Considered(NPR) and Doomed to Be Stoned in a Sludge Swamp for turning me on to this exquisite birthday bash.  Now, please pass me a slice of Sludge Cake .


  1. Seano, Thanks for reminding us. Some would say the beginning was when Led Zeppelin first struck a chord although they were far more blues oriented and more intricate in the level of notes and backbeat when they first started. I think I'll take a piece of that cake as well. Pass it down!

  2. 40 years ago? That's insane (only cause it makes me feel so old).

    One thing I love about heavy metal is that it lives on through each generation. I know a lot of my son's friends listen to it. I think I'll throw on some Sabbath and celebrate.

  3. I can't imagine what people thought when they first dropped the needle on that Sabbath record. Side one is perfect.