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A Brief History and Look at the Future
Published on December 19, 2006 By Sean Conners aka SConn1 In Music
In 1969, 2 bands emerged out of Britain that would change the face of music forever. Critics and fans argue over "who was the 1st" metal band, but the 2 most common names mentioned are Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Both bands have been credited with being the "1st metal band" and like the style, both bands are as different from one another like the style itself is so much more diverse than one would think at 1st glance.

Black Sabbath came out of the working class part of England. A young Ozzy Osbourne and guitarist Tony Iommi, 2 lads that grew up on the tough streets, took those attitudes and experiences and with their bandmates created a whole new sound. They created a sound that was loud, forceful and somewhat aggresive and evil at times. Thus, Ozzy and his mates shucked their original name, "Earth" for the more sinister and representative title of "Black Sabbath."

By contrast, Led Zeppelin was founded by established musician, Jimmy Page. Page, while not a big star in his own right, was part of bands like the Yardbirds, that were highly popular in rock circles. he was also a studio veteran and had played on numerous tracks and hits.

Page's idea was to create a bigger, louder, form of the blues. He recruited John Bonham on drums and John Paul Jones to handle the bass parts. Page then had to settle for an unknown vocalist when his 1st choice, Terry Reid, was committed elsewhere and Page couldn't wait to get his new idea on the road. The name Led Zeppelin was coined when Jimmy announced his blues project, only to be told it would probably go down "like a Lead Zeppelin." The rest is history.

Thru the 70's, more bands began to turn up the "overdrive " on the guitar and metals roots were formed. Although the 1st "distorted " guitar is usually credited to the Kinks, who used a cracked speaker cone to create a "fuzzy tone." Jimi Hendrix took the sound to a new level, where he showed just how not only traditional notes, but feedback and other sounds created by the amplifier and electrical interaction of the instrument could be controlled and exploited. Later, guys like Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhodes, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen and lots of others would take Hendrix's ideas further, eventually mixing in more classicaly vs. blues oriented scales and modes into their playing. The newly used scales would give metal even darker and more "evil" sounds as well as showing off the talents of some of the world's fastest and most skilled players. The guitar is the core instrument of Heavy Metal. But it doesn't always have to be complex, and it doesn't always have to be fast. case in point, AC / DC.

AC/DC, Australia's biggest contribution to metal, and possibly music, was started by 2 guitar playing brothers. Malcolm and Angus Young. Angus, the schoolboy dressed little bugger from down under never played anything too complex, and his licks weren't the fastest, the cleanest or even the most original. But he, and the band, just sounded cool. AC/DC expanded metals fanbase and really established metals "anthems", metals version of the "sing along" friendly tune. "TNT", "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", "Hells Bells" and the party staple "You Shook Me All Night Long" became the benchmark of metal anthems.

At the same time, over in England, bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden were growing in popularity as young brits were attracted to these guitar slinging Heavy Metal acts. they were writing more deeper, mythical compositions however. They borrowed from old writings and the forementioned classical scales and began making bigger, bolder sounds that would eventually shake Arenas in the US and around the world by the mid 80's.

Meanwhile, In America, in the bars of L.A., a young Eddie Van Halen was developing a stykle of right handed tapping that would influence players to this day. Him along with metal's version of Frank Sinatra, David Lee Roth, combined fast licks and clever schtick into a whole new sound that would eventually be lumped into the "heavy metal" camp. On the other coast, Kiss further introduced Metal's future "hugeness" with their painted faces and elaborate shows that almost bankrupted the band before the world got a chance to see them. Aerosmith in Boston wrote hook laden tunes and featured a flamboyant frontman in Steven Tyler that became a standard for what a frontman could be. Alice Cooper furthered metal's "satanic" reputation with a show that featured magic tricks like Alice himself being beheaded and other bizarre illusions. His show was a macabe version of a broadway musical in a way.

In the 80's, we saw bands like Metallica emerge. these bands would combine metal's sounds, primarily the British influenced ones, and combine it with the speed of American Hardcore punk that audiences loved. And like it's predecessors, Metallica's sound would again draw in new fans that didn't listen to other punk bands, or other metal bands so much.

Speaking of punk rock, bands in that genre, like Husker Du and Agnostic Front began borrowing from more metallic sounds to take their genre to a higher musical stndard than the youth oriented format had known. Bands like 7 Seconds and SNFU amongst others paved the way for bands like Green Day and Sum 41's punk / metal hybrid sounds.

Then came Bon Jovi. Bon Jovi put the "pop" in metal when they were 1st heard on the early MTV show "The Basement Tapes." Their debut, independent EP sold 10's of thousands of copies, even without internet distribution available. the sales demanded that a major label sign them and by the mid 80's, with their teased out hair, eye make-up and "Slippery When Wet" album selling millions upon millions of copies, Bon Jovi became a household word. Bon Jovi would be rejected by some who just saw them as too cute and fluffy to be truly "metal." And they may be, but their influence on metal and rock in general was pretty significant. Bon Jovi even created teh 1st "pre-fab" metal band in Skid Row, the brainchild of Jon Bon Jovi.

Ironically, over on the left coast, "Motlley Crue" was using the same make-up, hair care products and guitars to create a totally different sound and look. Where Bon Jovi was cute and nice, Motley Crue was mean and rough. While both bands exploited more pop elements than their predecessors, Motley Crue kept the "evil" tradition in metal alive. Their debut national tour, opening for Ozzy Osbourne, converted tons of fans and established Crue as a major force in 80's metal. Even with their "evil" facade, they were still MTV friendly and thir slick videos would draw metal fans and non metal fans alike to the Crue.

The 80's might have been metal's most popular decade so far. And like the 70's, different areas and continents spewed out different "brands" of metal almost at the same time. In the early 80's in England, a young band who was struggling with an identity and finding a hit formula was taken under the wing by producer Mutt Lange. The future Mr Twain would shape the young metal band into a superforce of rock. 1983's "Pyromania" hit the airwaves and made the British band, who's name is a tip of the hat to Led Zeppelin, into one of the biggest Metal Bands in the world. Def Leppard would also symbolize metals perserverence when their drummer, Rick Allen, lost his arm in a car accident. The drummer used modern innovation, including electronic means, to continue drumming for the band. Their next release would give the band their biggest success. Lead by the single "Pour Some Sugar On Me" , Def Leppard is still considered one of metal's biggest bands of all time.

Guns and Roses shocked the world as the 80's were winding down. They, in my opinion, bridged the gap between metal's flashy 80's period lead by bands like Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and their teased out immitators and the "grunge" scene that emerged out of Seattle. Guns and Roses would self destruct way too early, but left a big mark on metal and like other important artsts, drew in more non-traditional fans.

The 90's was metal's backlash when Nirvana and the Seattle based scene would reject the glam of the 80's. The pretention of Laser Light Shows and fiery dragons gave way to stripped down stages and artists in street clothes rather than asexual, falmboyant costumes. the music itself evolved and splintered again. Nirvana didn't sound like Pearl Jam and Pearl Jam didn't sound like Soundgarden. And unlike previous decades, that was just in 1 city!

The East Coast created a totally different sound with bands like Rage Against The Machine taking metal into uncharted political waters. And while more traditional metal band's popularity waned, a new generation of bands followed. And while none of those bands have had the same level of success as Zeppelin, or AC/DC or Motley Crue, one of Metal's "founding fathers" brought them all together to show that metal still has a place in music with his "Ozzfest" festival.

Ozzfest celebrates metal's history and future. With upstarts like System of a Down and Italian import Lacuna Coil sharing the stage with Ozzy himself. And while few could argue that Ozzy's best performing days are behind him (and he seems to agree since he is retiring from live touring after last summer's run) it was truly great to see a "passing of the torch" to metal's future headbangers.

And what is metal's future? Like anything, it's all speculative. But as long as thre are guitar slinging speedsters and rockus anthems being played, I think this genre will always have an audience. Metal speaks to a certain segment of the younger set. The segment that rejects light, fluffy dancable pop. The segment that rejects bubblegum and embraces the darker side of life, and really appreciates a great guitar solo.


on Dec 19, 2006
Ozzie rules!
on Dec 19, 2006
Jimi Hendrix, not Jimmy Hendrix.

I'm kind of surprised you didn't mention Alice Cooper, Motorhead and Marilyn Manson.

I can't stand the glam bands.

Did you see the movie "The Decline of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years"?
on Dec 19, 2006
Ozzie rules!

yes he does. he rules the world, with an iron fist.

Jimi Hendrix, not Jimmy Hendrix.

oops, sorry for the typo...i'll correct it when i get a shot.

I'm kind of surprised you didn't mention Alice Cooper, Motorhead and Marilyn Manson

i actually debated putting in a paragraph about motorhead. i just couldn't contexxt it right. plus, much of the focus in this, like the other music articles talk about the expansion of the fan base, which motorhead really never did. they influenced many inside metal, but are virtually unknown outside metal. ace of spades is a classic, but even some metalheads are hard pressed to mention anything else by them. maybe if i update it i might find some space.

alice is truly special but not mentioning him here wasn't meant to be a slight. again, possibly in an update i wouldn't mind talking about alice's influence. same with kiss who's "army" is still around... if i was to mention manson, it probably wouldn't be in a good light.

on Dec 19, 2006
Did you see the movie "The Decline of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years"?

yeah, several times...funny movie. the guy in WASP is such a drunken ass.
on Dec 19, 2006
i updated some of the article....
on Dec 19, 2006
if i was to mention manson, it probably wouldn't be in a good light.

He does seem to be the sickest of them all, but when asked what would he have said to the kids who shot people at their school (I can't remember which school) he said, "I wouldn't have said anything. I would have listened." Very good.
on Dec 20, 2006
manson's response to columbine was admirable, and i , for one, never blamed anything like that on him. my distaste for him comes from knowing of him since before he was big, and i thought he sucked then,,,,and i think he sucks now. it's kinda personal for me, and it is strictly my opinion...and, if ya notice i don't include people in these articles (the music ones) just to rip on em. i think i may follow the "10 best concert" one with a 5 worst tho...hmmmm.

made some edits to the article, included kiss and alice cooper and talked a little more about punk / metal more.