This week’s “Quick One” will focus on “Heavy Metal” and it’s origin!
It’s widely believed that “Heavy Metal” entered our musical conscious and nomenclature in the 1970’s when from outta nowhere our speakers were rattling with power chords from bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and of course Metallica!
But the genre’s musical introduction is quickly traced back to the 1960’s. When in 1969 Steppenwolf had there first number one with Mars Bonfire’s song “Born to be Wild”. The second verse reads….”I like smoke and lightning, heavy metal thunder” as the song rips and shreds for another thee plus minutes.
However, Mars Bonfire didn’t coin the term. “Heavy Metal” first appeared in popular literature. In 1961, William Burroughs introduced the character “Uranian Willy, The Heavy Metal Kid” from his book “The Soft Machine” The first in a trilogy. Burroughs reprised the term and character in a later book “The Nova Express” with “The Heavy Metal People Of Uranus”
However, the real credit goes to music critic and rock journalist Lester Bangs for appropriating the term as it applies to music. In 1969 Bangs was writing an extended piece for “Creem” magazine and referenced a local band’s sound as “Heavy Metal”…..Ground zero for the term ironically coined for a genre that hadn’t even happened yet!
Anyone have a different story?