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The ~I:\rivi~g london blues-rock.

scene, the" riff~olient~_a songs of the Kink$", theWho, and thevardblrds, apd the improvisatory flights of psychedelic rock graduaUycoale'sced into a genre fQrmingtbe,antithesis of the "soft rock" Of the singer-songwriters, Jinli Hendrix, Cream, and the Jeff Seck Group stand as the main intermediaries-progenitors of the new genre, retrospectively named 'heavy metal." What separated ,bands, sj,lf.<n as lec;j, Zeppelin, BlarK Sab6atn, and Oeep Purple, from thei_r blues rev;ival antecedents w,as· nota, lesser reliance on the blues b,ut, rather, a less reverent attitude toward the form. These n~w bands w:e~e.'IJQt so interested hi faithful re-creatlon as in taking certain elernents=the tonality, riff-orientation, sexual imagery, sense of'-aggresslon=found lnsome blues. songs and heightening or refashlonlng 'them for an audlencethat was lessInterested in folklore and more interested in visceral power? In metal, the peace-loving idealism oflolk-rock and psvchedella also diminished in favor of darker visions and expressions of crude sexuality that spoke to another aspect of the countsrcultural experience.

Tfie "power (hord"-the root and fiftll ofa chord sounded without the thir<j, but magnified bydlstortlon in a sonic; emblem of'transgresslve masculinItY-ioili~d forces with riffs played in unison by gultar and bass and a heavy "b'ottom" (bass and bass drum mixed up front, memorialized by Spinal Tap in their anthem "Si'g Bottom"), to create a genre of unpar. alleled volume, and one that found a large audience of working- and middle-class white youths. The initial rumblings from England were aided and abetted bysheets of noise from late -191>0S' American aggrega-

tlons, suchas Blue Cheer and the highly political MCs. .

The early: 1970S witnessed a dlspersion of a hard rock style, as writers of the time lumped bands like Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad,

1. lhi,s<geuealogy is borne out by Hit ParMer's Top 100 Metal Albums (Spring 1989) arid Hit Pnrad~~'s ;'Beavy Metal: The Hall of Parrre' (December 1982) reprinted in Robert Walser, RW11Iill8 with tIle Peril:

Power, Gender"and Malinfss in Heavy Metal Music (Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press.and University Press of New:.England, 1993),173:--74. The acceunt here is also indebted to SreveWaks.manlS in Instruments Ilf Di!_sire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of MusicaL c).-periellce (Cambridge, Mass.; Harvard University; l't~~, 1999), esp, P: 263; and Walser's in Running with the Devil.

2. Walser, in fact, focuses on the concept ef "power" 'as a defining feature of the heavy metal genre and,traees,.thi~ cormection-tn the his t0ri eal usage of the-term dating back two hundred years (pp.1-'3).



Heavy Metal Meets the Counterculture

, '


and Iggy and the Stooges together with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.' New attitudes toward showmanship emerged in the mid- 1970S with Kiss, and hard rock reached a peak of pop stylization with one-word bands-journey, Foreigner, Boston, and Toto. Of these bands, the crown for longevity goes to Aerosmith, a band whose hard rock (and lead singer's lips) owed more to the Stones than to anybody else (note: critics often used "hard rock" and "heavy metal" interchangeably at this time).

Heavy metal spoke to class and age divisions in the audience: lower and lower-middle class versus bourgeois and college students versus high school students. The following entry features a record review of Led Zeppelin's first album that appeared in Rolling Stone and the response of some readers to this review. This exchange reveals early public recognition of divisions in the rock audience and a divide between part of the audience and the aesthetic of Rolling Stone's rock critics. john Mendelsohn, the reviewer, compares Led Zeppelin's album unfavorably to the first album by the jeff Beck Group, which had received positive reviews a short time before.


led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin (Atlantic SO 8216)

The popular formula in England in this, the aftermath era of such successful British bluesmen as Cream and John, Mayall, seems to be: add, to an excellent guitarist who, since leaving the Yardbirds and/or Mayall, has become a minor musical deity, a competent rhythm section and pretty soul-belter who can do a good spade imitation. The latest of the British blues groups so conceived offers little that its twin, the Jeff Beck Group, didn't say as well or better three months ago, and the excesses of the Beck group's Truth album (most notably, its self-indulgence and restrictedness), are fully in evidence on Led Zeppelin's debut album.

3. Lester Bangs wrote several essays exploring these interconnections; see the following: "Heavy Metal," in Anthony DeCurtis and James Henke with Holly George-Warren, eds., The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll (New York: Random House, [1976]1992),459-463; "Bring Your Mother to the Gas Chamber" (part 1), Creem, 4, no. 1 (june 1972): 40££; "Bring Your Mother to the Gas Chamber:

Black Sabbath and the Straight Dope on Blood-Lust Orgies, Part 2," Creem (Iuly 1972): 47ff.

Source: Record review of Led Zeppelin, by John Mendelsohn, Rolling Stone, March 15, 1969. © 1969 Rolling Stone LLC. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by permission.



Jimmy Pag~; aroundewhom the Zeppelin revolves; is, admittedly, an extraordinarily profkient'bluJ!$ guitarist and expiorel'of1lis dhstrtm1ent!s :e1ectrQnie capab1lities. Lrnfortur\.ately, he isalspa'VeJ}' limited produeer and a:wdter of weak, wllmaginative songs, and the, zeppeli.Q~a1bmtt stiffersfmm hishaving both produced it and writtenzmost of it (alone or in combination withchls' accomplices in the g;t;Q4P).

, The album opens with lots of:gilihU'~Ihytlun section ex-changes (in the fashion of Beck's ~'Shapes of Things" on '!9pod Times Bad 'Funes, II whiah.mightihave been ideal for a Yardbirds'B~side).Rere, a,.s almost e:verywhere.els~ on the album, ills Page's:guitat that providesmest Cif fu~e~citement. "Babe I'm Gonna Leave Yqu" alternatesbetween prissy RobertPlant's howled vocals fronting an a€()llstic :guit<trand driving, choruses of the band running dpwna10ur-chord,P!ogcessi@.(I wJiile Johh Bonham smashes his.cymbalson every beat. The spn,g:is very dnll in p,lac!=ls (~e6i!1ly on.the vopal.pessages), vety redundant, and certainly not worth the six-and-a-half'minutes'the Zeppelin gives it.

Two much-overdone Wll1ie Dixorrblues s,tandard.$ fail to be revivW'ed QY being turned into showcases fOJ; Pageand Plant. "YouSl1:qok'Me" is.the me:r:e-inteJ~sting of the tw6--at the.end of-each line .Plant's,echo-cliaiJ.ib.ere~ vo}ce dropsinrca small explosion of fuzz-tone g~titar, withwhlch it matches Shrieks at th7' end.

The most representative cutis "Bow Many More TIIDes:' Here a jazzy :introduction .gives way to a cfriv,irig (albeit monotonous) g11.i;tax"dom.ihllted background fop Plant's stTain¢d and t.:trconvin6rtg,shouting (he may 'be as foppish as Rod Stewart, but-he's;ne<}t so:.excifuls, eSpec;ian y in the higher registers), A fine PagesQlo then leads file band.into w.ha't sounds like a backwards version 0£ the "Page-composed "aeck's Bolero," 'henceto a littl,e snatch 01 Albert 1<41g'5 "TheHunter," andfutaUy to an-avalanche-of drums

and shoujmg, ._

In their willingness to waste flieir considerable talent on unworthy material ~ Z~ppelinhasproduced Ian album wbiCh is sadly reminiseent qf Truth. Like ·the' Beck grou~ they are' aIM) peH'ectly willittg jo make,tlu!lmselves a two- (or; more accura tel)" one-andsa« half) man show. It would seem that,if they're to help £ill the void created by the demise of Cream, they will have-to find a preducer (and editor) and some material worthy of their (jO!· Iective attention,

f:l'i'c@har1es Brooklyn, N.¥.



M¢ndE;lsobn's reyiew p£LedZeppelinrwasa,lOCi%1ie. Pure'bullshit, Never has there beensuclt a' great band sibceWmwood's Clepartu::re from Traf£k.


If I used YOU[ record reviews 'as a guide to my personal record purchases, I would have the worst pil.e'0f theJristory of record eollecting .

.4.. few issues baCk, your rU)believably fucked review of Led Zeppelin. This, plus past n!views of Greedence ClectrYfater;'Creanl, etc.

I don't-know where the musical taste of San at, but, if your magaZine:is an indicator-perhaps you all ou~hf to come east onyour vacation Ws summer,

Charles taqllii:lafl WBClIJ,FAf

chapter 56 discussed the dispersionof'he'avy metal approaches in genres hard rock, glam, ahd punk. Heavy metal persisted in Its own right, however, becoming more stylized with bands Ilke Judas Priest. Iron Maiden, and AC/DC focusing on 'a riff-oriented approach while emphasizing guitar heroi:ts anti' high,pltched vocals. A uniquely American


The 1980s

form of metal developed in the United States in the late 1970S with bands, such as Van Halen, recording catchy, hook-laden material that eschewed the more arcane lyrics of their British counterparts. The guitarist for the band, Eddie Van Halen, developed the most significant addition to rock guitar playing since Hendrix with his mastery of the twohanded "tapping" technique, enabling him to slur rapid-fire arpeggios that would have been physically impossible using conventional guitar technique.' "Tapping" would soon become standard practice among metal guitarists.

If during the mid- to late 1970S heavy metal had been a very popular "underground" phenomenon (in terms of media attention and radio play), the early 1980s saw the genre emerge into the bright light of the mass media. During the time that mainstream outlets were ignoring heavy metal, metal bands were nonetheless filling arenas and selling millions of records. As the sound of metal became associated with lower- and lower-middle-class white youths and suburban ennui, bands from both sides of the Atlantic began to build on Van Halen's blend of pop hooks with guitar virtuosity. The result? "Lite-metal" or "hair-metal" bands, such as Def Leppard and Motley CrUe, began to cross over to the pop charts, inflecting the legacy of Foreigner-Boston et at. with a harder edge and a fashion sense derived from glam via Queen.

The following article by J. D. Considine was published in 1984 at a time when media attention documenting the widespread appeal of heavy metal grew more common. The two bands discussed in the article, Judas Priest and the Scorpions (the section on the Scorpions is largely deleted), do not hail so much from the pop end of the heavy metal spectrum, although both bands nudged their way onto MTV during the early- to mld-rosos. Instead, what this article captures is the emphasis on visceral power and excitement and on an unironic seriousness about technique that Priest's lead singer, Rob Halford, compares to that of Western classical music (much to the amusement of Consldlne)." We also hear-a description of why heavy metal caught on in Britain from Priest guitarist K. K. Downing and a few ideas about the appeal of metal to its audience.

1. See Robert Walser's chapter analyzing Eddie Van Halen's solo guitar tour de force, "Eruption," and its influence on subsequent heavy metal guitarists (Walser, Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music [Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press and University Press of New

England, 1993], 67-107). rv

2. This connection is not as ridiculous as it seemed to some cHtics, and it is the focus of the chapter just cited from Walser's Running with the Devil.

The 19805

form of rnelal developed in the United States in the latEl_ ~970S with

<lniiS, such Q?' Van Halen, reccrdingcatchv, hook-laden material that escf:ie.Wed the more arcane lyrics of their British counterparts.The guitarlst forthe bahd,Eddie Van Halen, developed the most slgnifieantaddition to rock guitar playingslnce Hendrix with his mastery of the twohanded "'ta.p'ping" technique, enabling him to slur rapid-fire arpeggios t.naf would have b,een physically iinpossibh:! using tonVentiol1al guitar tecl1ri'ique.~' "Tapping" would soon beeorne standard practice among m~tal ,guitarists.

If during the mid- to late 1970S heavy metal had been a very Ropular '\m'~erground" phenom'en'oh (in terms of media att~iition and radio 'play), the early i9$oS saw the genre' emerge into the bright light of tne mass media. During the time that mainstream outlets were ignoring heCiVY metal, metal bands were nonetheless filling arenas and selling millions of r~cords. As the sound of metal became associated 'with (ower- and tpwer-middle-c1ass white youths and suburban 'e,nnui. bands from both sides of the Atlantic ~ began to build on Van Helen's bletrd of pop hooks with g!Jitar virtlJosity. The result? "Llte-rneta]" or '~hair·met_al't bands, such as Def Leppard and Motley, Crtie, began to croS's over to the.pop charts, Inflecting.the legacy of Foreigner.Boston et al, with a harder edge and it fashion sense derived from glam via Queen.

The following articilj!by J. D. Considine was published in 1984 at a time when media attention documenting the widespread -appeal of heavy metal grew more common. The two bands discussed in the article, Judas Priest and the scorpions (the sectien on the Scorpions is largely deleted), do not haH so much from the' PoP end of the heavy metal spectrum, although both bands nudged their way onto MTV during the early. to mi,d·1980S. Instead, ,what this article captures is the 'emphasls on visceral power and extitementand on an unlronlc seriousness about technique that Priest's lead singer, Rob Halford,compares to that of Western classical music (much to the amusement of- Consldlnel." We also Hear a description of why heavy metal caught on in Britain from Priest guitarist K. K. Downing and a few ideas aboutthe appeal of metal to its audience.

1. See Robertwalser's chapter analyzing Eddie Van Helen's solo guitar t911r de force, "Eruption," and its .irtIlu~nce on'subseqeeo+ heavy metal guitarists ('A!alser"Rlinning with the Devil: Pouier, Gellde~, (lIIiI Madllf$?, ill Hellv.y Metu.l MIlS'c [Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan UniversitY Press and University Press of New England) 1993J, 67-107).

2. TIm connection is not as ridiculous as its,~med to some critics, and it is the focus of the chapter just cited from Walser's Running with tire Devil.


The 19805

It's that bone-headed simplicity, the art of knowing what not to play, that Tipton feels makes heavy metal so ultimately British.

"To me, and I can say this honestly, there are not very many American heavy metal bands. There are some great rock bands, the best rock bands in the world. But it's not heavy metal. The American bands are too sophisticated. And I think that's it-English bands, like ourselves, have that lack of sophistication which, I suppose, has to do with upbringing, the fact that we were born and raised poverty-struck. I think you can lose that out of your music, if you're not careful."

In other words, great heavy metal turns its limitations into assets, its insularity into a sense of community, and ends up doing everything art is expected to do. True, heavy metal is often musically limited, culturally reactionary and too damned loud, but at its best, it is transcendently so. Which is why, ludicrous as it may seem, Rob Halford's analogy between heavy metal and classical music contains a grain of truth: both disciplines ultimately aim for the triumph of emotion over form.

It's Saturday night in San Antonio, the last night of the city's annual Easter Fiesta. There's a buzz of excitement throughout the city and a roar inside the Civic Arena. When the lights go down for Judas Priest's set, 12,000 kids are on their feet, fists in the air, screaming. As a taped synthesizer growl drones ominously, the curtains part to reveal "the Metallian," a twenty-foot high aluminum gargoyle who holds the drum kit in its left claw. Fog wafts across the stage as the Metallian's vari-light eyes scan the audience: then, in a blinding burst of flashpots, the members of Priest materialize, leaping headlong into the hyper-adrenal pulse of "Love Bites."

As spectacle, it's pretty impressive. With the Metallian looming above like a malevolent building, Halford's macho strut and the rest of the band's leather-clad choreography seem less a matter of vainglorious posturing than an assertion of will, a dance against the demons of the city. Even at the end of the set, as the Metallian breathes fire through the final, crashing chords to "The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)," it wields its menace almost in defeat, a vanquished dragon.

Granted, that's a lot of meaning to read into an elaborate prop, but it would be foolish to overlook the resonances of such devices. As Halford puts it, "When we use those props, people see them and they say, 'Oh, what is this?' But when they suddenly connect with the props, it's a total unification, music and material object working together."

The night before, in Houston, guitarist K K Downing had begun to explain his theory of heavy metal. "in certain parts of Great Britain, some bands started taking progressive blues and playing them in their own way. Heavy metal is our own blues, actually."

This "white man's blues," as Downing is fond of calling it, worked because it translated the emotional impact of American blues into a form that young musicians in Britain's industrial heartland could more easily understand. "It was more aggressive," Downing said. "It's a way of getting rid of your blues by expending energy. And it's a way for the audience to expend energy as well."

This makes sense if you look at thelmusic's structure. "All the licks that we play," explained Glenn Tipton, who shares the lead guitar role with Downing, "form around the blues. You get something like the lead break in' Another Thing Comin',' it's all blues stuff, all the same runs. Even the fast stuff." Grabbing a guitar and practice amp, he plugged in. "Something like this," he said, spinning off a fast splatter of notes, "is just from cadences like this." He began to playa typical blues riff-up from the 7th to the tonic, up again to the minor 3rd, and back down to the tonic-and slowly sped it up, letting the syncopation bleed out as the figure turned into insistent eighth-notes, moving the pattern up the neck by half-steps. Pure metal, "and it's all blues stuff."

Heavy Metal Thunders On!


Except, of course, that the rhythm is completely different. Where American blues, whether country acoustic or urban electric, maintain an easy rhythmic bounce, heavy metal surges with almost mechanical regularity, pushing the downbeat instead of laying behind the backbeat. It's not a party energy, certainly not dance music; it's more like a football cheer, group aggression focused through rhythm and sheer volume.

Of course, no football crowd could ever hope to muster a _sound like Judas Priest's (much to the relief of Pete Rozelle). Despite the volume, Priest's sound isn't noisy or brittle, but sits comfortably in the midrange with a presence so great you could immerse yourself in it. "A total wallow," Halford cheerfully admitted. And during the three Priest shows 1 attended, the fans did almost seem to be floating, reacting to shifts in dynamics like toy boats in a bathtub.

"A lot of the access and understanding of our music for so many people is that they're able to relate to what we're singing about," Halford continued. "Beyond the vocals, it's the way a guitar makes you feel when someone hits a particular chord, the way a snare drum is cracked."

Flashing back to Halford's classical analogy, I suddenly realized that the difference between the kid playing air guitar in his bedroom to "Rock Hard, Ride Free" and his father in the family room, conducting the last movement of the Symphonie Fantastique along with Herr von Karajan, is not much more than a matter of props. That's not to say that classical music and heavy metal are necessarily equivalents, just that the listener's experience can be, because for both father and son, it's a matter of release through pure sound. So it wasn't hard to nod appreciatively when Halford concluded by remarking; "I just hope that, after seeing us for the first time, people go away from a show fulfilled by what they've experienced. "

I'll bet Herr von Karajan feels the same way.

Call it another side-effect to adolescent glandular mayhem, or just call it zit cream for the soul. In any case, both Priest and the Scorps agree that the key to the heavy metal's popularity is the power transfer between performer and audience. "We have a high energy level," says Scorpion Matthias Jabs, "and when the audience is great, they feel that and give it back to you."

"You can't analyze it much beyond the fact that there are 11,000 separate individual human beings getting off on what you're doing," concludes Priest's Halford, "each of them experiencing an emotional vibe and throwing it back at you. 1 mean, that's what art is all We all need each other."