Category Archives: Music

Steppenwolf, Born to be Wild (June 1968) — Heavy Metal timeline, part 5

Born to be Wild is the unofficial anthem of all bikers everywhere — partly due to its use in the film Easy Rider (see the video below), but also partly because, hey, it’s Born to be Wild. It’s an infectious song that just cries out for you to sing along with the chorus.

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Cream, Sunshine of your Love (November 1967) — Heavy Metal timeline, part 4

Cream were one of the first supergroups: a combination of blues guitarist Eric Clapton, fresh from the Yardbirds and the Bluesbreakers, and a jazz rhythm section of Ginger Baker (drums) and Jack Bruce (bass), both previously with the Graham Bond Organisation. Their debut, 1966’s Fresh Cream, was essentially a blues album, but 1967’s Disraeli Gears emphasised the heavier and more psychedelic side of their playing.

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The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Purple Haze (March 1967) — Heavy Metal timeline, part 3

I mentioned last time that heavy metal was slow to get going: after the Kinks’ You Really Got Me, fifteen months elapsed before the Who’s My Generation provided a real advance in the state of the art. Astonishingly, another year and four months would pass before the next step forward. But, oh, what a step.

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The Who, My Generation (November 1965) — Heavy Metal timeline, part 2

One of the surprising things about The Kinks’ proto-metal song You Really Got Me (see part 1 of this series) is how little followed immediately from it. Aside from the Kinks’ own follow-up All Day and All of the Night, nothing else recognisable as tending towards metal hit the charts until a full year and three months had passed. Then this happened:

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The Kinks, You Really Got Me (August 1964) — Heavy Metal timeline, part 1

We can (and probably will) argue about exactly what the musical term “heavy metal” means. In the absence of a rigorous definition, we can also argue about what the first heavy metal song was. But however you slice it, the Kinks’ debut single has to be a strong contender. It’s played using “power chords” (i.e. chords consisting only of the root and fifth, omitting the third); it’s played in an aggressive, brutal style; and the guitars are distorted, having been played through a speaker whose cone had been slashed with a razor blade.

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A Heavy Metal timeline: introduction

In response to my analysis of Rainbow’s Rising Album, my good friend and occasional palaeontology collaborator Matt Wedel wrote to me thus:

It is simply intolerable that I — coarse, Oklafornian, lover-of-Burroughs, has-opinions-about-D&D-editions — should know less about heavy metal than you– refined, English, lover-of-Austen, hippy-church-musician.

But it is true. And in fact my rock-and-roll ignorance goes way deeper than that. I got my first radio in 1987, so anything from farther back than that I picked up through movies, television, and occasional radio airplay (except Queen and ABBA, which I know all too well thanks to a former roommate). And I have never made a concerted effort to correct this deficit. This probably horrifies you, but probably does not surprise you.

So, we’re going to be cohabitating for a week [at this palaeo conference -- Ed.]. Feel free to broaden my musical horizons.

As it turned out, we were both too busy putting together our conference talks to have much time for listening to, or discussing, music. But I did put together a playlist of 22 songs that I think make a pretty good timeline for heavy metal in the broadest sense of that term.

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“The Show” (Vineyard Community Church, Bermondsey, 21 July 1991)

This post will only be of interest to people who were at Vineyard Community Church, Bermondsey, London, in 1991. So the rest of you shouldn’t feel embarrassed about leaving now.

We put on a variety show on 21 July 1991. When I was cleaning out some old junk (which I do occasionally do) I found some of the paperwork. So I scanned it, and here it is for those half-dozen people who might care.

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