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Discussion in 'The Cellar' started by Torren61, Sep 29, 2009.
Long live this thread!
The term "Heavy Metal" was first used to describe a hard-edged brand of rock in the late '60s. Whether it was Rolling Stone that first coined it is debatable, but it was coined BEFORE Sabbath came along. Regardless of the origin, bands that originally fit into that category included Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Sabbath, and others. Perhaps the definition of the term has changed meaning over the years, especially to those brought up on more current "Metal" acts, but Led Zeppelin were indeed considered "Heavy Metal" in their time.
As it happens, it was just called plain "heavy" or "heavy rock" in the mid-to-late 1960s; some of those who were considered heavy included the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly (their debut album, in fact, was called Heavy), the original Jeff Beck Group, Spooky Tooth, Mountain, and of course Led Zeppelin. Among others. And all this before Black Sabbath was even a blip on the radar.
If you're looking for a specific reference point, the idea of "heavy metal" to coin the style probably dates to when Steppenwolf's first hit, "Born to Be Wild," included the line "heavy metal thunder" . . .
Personally, I wouldn't trade Mountain's "Mississippi Queen" or Jeff Beck's Truth album for Black Sabbath's entire catalogue myself . . .
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpwNc-xwnxo]Leslie West (Mountain), "Blind Man" (it's West's solo debut in early 1969 but the lineup is the original Mountain minus keyboard player Steve Knight)[/ame]
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFhM1XZsh6o]Mountain, "Mississippi Queen"[/ame]
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YxpDEpngko]The Jeff Beck Group, "I Ain't Superstitious"[/ame]
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LOEIC4WhZ8&feature=related]The Jeff Beck Group, "You Shook Me/Let Me Love You" (live performance, 1969)[/ame]
IIRC, the line in "Born to be Wild" was '68 or '69, but I believe the term "heavy metal" predates that reference. One story is that the term was first used by a UK tabloid referring to Humble Pie (or was it Mott the Hoople?).
I remember the term being used as early as 1969. Nevertheless, it remains true that while LZ don't fit the definition of HM now, they were indeed classified as HM back in the day.
"Born to Be Wild" came out in 1968---long enough before either Humble Pie (who weren't formed until late 1969, after Peter Frampton bolted the Herd---he'd been known as the Face of '68 in that band---and Steve Marriott walked out of the Small Faces) weren't exactly strict balls-out hard rockers in the beginning; give a listen to their first two albums, As Safe as Yesterday Is and Town and Country) or Mott the Hoople began recording. Mott the Hoople were hard rockers from the outset (though their fourth album, 1971's Brain Capers, has sometimes been called a lost heavy metal classic); Humble Pie didn't shift to a full-on hard rock style until the collapse of their first record label (Immediate) and their first album (eponymously titled) for their new label, A&M, circa mid-1970. (Come to think of it, that first A&M album got slammed by critic Mike Saunders, who called it "27th-rate heavy metal crap.")
The actual origin of the term might have been the writings of William S. Burroughs; I think it turned up in his novel The Soft Machine, a book that gave names to two rock bands as it was---the Soft Machine and (naming themselves for a dildo character in the book) Steely Dan---and predated "Born to Be Wild" by a couple of years or more.
I seem to remember Steppenwolf (whose early membership included "Born to Be Wild" author Mars Bonfire, who left the band after having written the song for them) being known to have read those works, a few of them, anyway. The Steppenwolf hit was the first to use the term explicitly in a rock song, even if the reference had to do with a motorcycle specifically. If Mars Bonfire inadvertently birthed the name of a genre (and when you thought about it Steppenwolf could be and usually was considered a metal prototype, one among several emerging in earnest in 1967-68), he certainly couldn't be blamed for a lot of the dreck and masturbation that was to emerge under its banner as the years went passing by.
Hell, it would probably shock a metalhead today to learn that the like of Grand Funk Railroad (name me one other band using "funk" in their name who were about as funky as a clump of Swiss cheese) and Kiss were considered heavy metal once upon a time . . . and still might be, by some of their fanbois, at least, for all I know . . .
Some have credited "Ticket To Ride" by The Beatles as being the first "heavy metal" song. "Eight Days A Week" is credited as being the first recorded song to intentionally use guitar feedback.
Saying that Zeppelin is not heavy metal is like saying Bill Haley and the Comets are not Rock and Roll.
The only problem with those who make the claim is that "Eight Days a Week" wasn't the first recorded song to use guitar feedback---though it's fade-in intro was somewhat novel at that time. The Beatles used guitar feedback in the intro to "I Feel Fine," released as a single in late 1964 while "Eight Days a Week" was going onto Beatles for Sale in England and would be their followup single to "I Feel Fine" in the U.S.
If any Beatle track of that era gets a nod as a heavy metal precursor, it's probably "Day Tripper," with that unison guitar-bass riff that just about every kid hoping to become a lead guitarist at that time was compelled to learn (and Eric Clapton himself quoted in the coda to John Mayall's version of "What'd I Say" on Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton.)
*chuckle* To some metalheads who came of age after Led Zeppelin was forced to call it a career, Led Zeppelin is probably bubblegum music. After all, real metalheads don't come up with dainty drivel such as "The Rain Song" or "Goin' to California" or "Tangerine" or "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" or "The Battle of Evermore" or "D'yer Mak'er" or "Black Country Woman," dontcha know . . .
I had another brain fart. I meant "I Feel Fine". You are correct.