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.


The rules were simple: no artist to appear more than once, favour the historically important over the merely good, and adhere to strictly chronological order. The list starts in the early-mid 60s, and drifts to a close in the early 90s, which is where I more or less lose interest.

What I would like to do is post the MP3s of those 22 songs, hopefully helping some of you to discover new and exciting music and increasing sales of the various bands’ albums. But needless to say, doing that would be illegal, and would expose me to legal action from the labels’ crack departments for the prevention of free publicity. So instead I’m going to be linking to YouTube and other existing posted versions of the songs, which I will reveal one by one in a series of short posts.

Rock and roll!


6 responses to “A Heavy Metal timeline: introduction

  1. What you *could* do, perfectly legally, is post the MP3s to either 8tracks.com (which allows you to upload separate MP3s and create a playlist of them for others to listen to) or create a mix and post it to mixcloud.com for people to stream. Both of those are legal and pay small royalties to the artists, but don’t cost you anything.

  2. A Spotify playlist would also work well. Youtube doesn’t always have old or obscure stuff on there, though I suppose that won’t be a problem for this particular list.

  3. Thanks, Andrew and Pedro, for the suggestions. For the initial run-through, as I reveal the choices one by one, I’ll stick with Youtube videos if I can easily find them, because they embed so well. But once the series is complete, I’ll try to make a playlist by one of the methods you mention. (Or maybe ask for a volunteer reader to do it.)

  4. Playlist is on

    As Spotify has no right on Beatles songs, the Helter Skelter come from a (very questionable) cover version.


  5. A big Thank you to Simon for setting this up! I’ll add a link from the main timeline page.

  6. Pingback: Rainbow, Stargazer (May 1976) — Heavy Metal timeline, part 14 | The Reinvigorated Programmer

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