The Origins of Metal From the Beatles to Black Sabbath

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It is widely known that the origins of metal music can be traced all the way back to the mid 1960s, maybe even before than that, but metal bands did not come into existence until the formation of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. However, many bands had touched upon the sounds that they focused on (i.e. heavily distorted guitars and power chords) before they started to hone in on the potential of the driven sounds.

In 1964, for example, The Kinks released You really got me, which was centred around distorted over-drive guitar riffs. However, a lot has got to be said for the guitar playing on The Velvet Underground’s debut album, The Velvet Underground and Nico. The influence of the distortion on I’m waiting for my man (1967) and the feedback on Heroin are clearly early forms of metal music. Lou Reed later released a solo album called Metal Machine Music (1975), which was a collection of distorted feedback loops. On the album’s notes, Reed claimed to have invented metal music.

The late sixties would see the heavy metal sound gain more even drive in the mainstream release of Helter Skelter on the Beatles’ White Album (1968). The heaviest sounding guitar song to that date, Helter Skelter is clearly an important step in the evolution of metal music and the reality is that is was written by Paul McCartney. Helter Skelter is definitely high up the ranks of proto-metal.

It’s no surprise then that in the same year as the White Albums was released that both Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath formed, although in all fairness Jimmy Page had already started to develop his own interpretation of distortion, feedback and fuzz tone in his earlier band, The Yardbirds, along with Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.

Led Zeppelin, exploded onto the music scene out of the break up of The Yardbirds with their debut album, Led Zeppelin. It featured heavy distortion, but the band’s varying influences meant that their music wasn’t solely rooted in metal sounds.

However, it was the formation of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple that created the concept of the metal band. Black Sabbath, Paranoid and In Rock all surged on the heavy metal bands’ stake on musical history. Originating in Birmingham, Ozzy Osborne and the rest of Black Sabbath ploughed into the metal music scene, giving it a focal point along with Deep Purple. This focal point expanded with the start of Judas Priest in 1969. Also originating in Birmingham, Judas Priest’s first album, Rocka Rolla, was the beginning of a massive musical legacy that has let to 35 million album sales worldwide.

Lots of other bands and artists contributed to a greater or lesser extent to the beginnings of metal music. Jimi Hendrix’s fuzzed up riffs, for example, are a major source of inspiration for metal music even to this day. Iron Butterly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is another good example of proto-metal music.

However, if Lou Reed says he’s the inventor of metal music, who am I to argue.


Source by Gerard Harris

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