Where does heavy metal music come from?
It doesn’t really help to ask metal fans. They’re either too dumb or too messed up on the next line of six-packs to know. If you ask them, the ones with half a clue will tell you Black Sabbath, the band led by Ozzy Osbourne. They’re right in one respect: Black Sabbath defined the darkness off the genre, with their satanic lyrics and the macho teen despair of their message.
Others will say, Judas Priest. It’s true in one respect: vocalist Rob Halford started the leather and chains look. He also happened to be gay.
Others will tell you it was Led Zeppelin. Certainly they were one of the early precursors, a band who rocked so hard that other bands were inspired to get that heavy. Many untalented groups joined the metal army after hearing Led Zep. Zep’s John Bonham set the template for metal drummers, and Robert Plant’s high keening tenor yelp set the gold standard for metal’s vocalists.
Still others will tell you the inventors were Deep Purple, and here they are actually on to something. Deep Purple was the first successful band to consistently put out a heavy metal vibe, years before Black Sabbath existed. They were also a smart band, unlike most of their dumb acolytes: like Yes, they flirted with the idea of combining classical music with rock.
But they didn’t invent the music.
It’s important to find out who invented heavy metal, because the battle still rages over whether this is a respectable genre of rock ‘n roll or not. In some ways it can never be respectable, because it so easily becomes a parody of itself. It is, after all, the quintessential crude brainless bubba-stoopid boy stomp music.
Heavy metal has always been the dumb-fuck underbelly of rock ‘n roll. However, it has produced some great guitarists, which has kept critical interest in the genre alive. It takes a really good guitarist to transcend the stupefying cliché-diarrhea of the form. Only players as good as the guys in Metallica, Van Halen or Guns ‘n Roses have managed to keep metal half-way interesting. And chicks like Joan Jett.
However, to get back to who invented metal. If anybody can be said to have started heavy metal, it was the Kinks – Ray Davies and his boys. Yes, the Kinks, even though they themselves were too smart to be a heavy metal band. So this much can be said for heavy metal: its origin is highly respectable. It may be played by dumb boy bands, but it wasn’t invented by a dumb boy band.
The Kinks started the whole thing with a single song: their first hit, “You Really Got Me,” later covered by Van Halen. A great song.
John Lennon once claimed the Beatles started metal with his song “Ticket to Ride.” (He also said his band was more popular than Jesus.) He got it wrong. “Ticket to Ride” is a heavy song, but it isn’t as metal as “You Really Got Me.”
Why not? Because the Kinks came up with the one thing that defines metal, the one sound that launched a whole genre. Their innovation on “You Really Got Me” was this: they were the first to use a heavy fuzz riff guitar, which gave metal its most characteristic sound.
I hope this gives all you dumb-fuck metal fans a clue as to where your favorite dumb-fuck music actually comes from.
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