On Friday the 13th of February, 1970, a band from Birmingham, UK named 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! We raise our horns to the members of Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Blue Cheer, Sir Lord Baltimore, and ahost of others for casting the spell, for turning their backs on flower power, and for plunging into a loud nightmarish curtain of sound.We thank them 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 that now appeared in their dreams.
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 from 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 his band 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 sub-genres 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 in black from their perspective genres and bands that became cornerstones like Slayer, Metallica, and Motley Crue. But when we venture back and peruse the roots, the fans 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. Metal 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. And the horns remain up forty years on.