The 1970s witnessed exciting musical developments. Art Rock, Glam Rock and Progressive Rock stood in contrast to noisy Hardrock, out of which Heavy Metal would soon be developing. Disregarding the development of the former (at least until next week) today’s journey will take us to Birmingham, United Kingdom.
Among a number of promising Hardrock bands, the industrial town also inhabited four young men who, by the name of Polka Tulk, toured the local clubs as best they could and played blues-oriented, heavy riffs. Tony Iommi, Bill Ward, “Geezer” Butler and Ozzy Osbourne introduced a heavier groove, lower pitches, and unusually serious tones in their songs. The low pitch of Iommi’s guitar, by the way, resulted from necessity. Having lost two fingertips of his right hand in a workplace accident, Iommi had to play lower keys in order to prevent his hand from aching, and created a sound hitherto unheard. Occultism and witchcraft were subjects of interest among the public, thus the band’s new name Black Sabbath further contributed to the quartet’s success. Their first album, “Black Sabbath”, was produced in only two days, starting off a rocket-like career. The term Heavy Metal is said to have been used for the first time during the seventies, and was soon inextricably linked to the Birmingham band.
Listen to these first sounds of Heavy Metal, the hardest music of the seventies. Enjoy “The Wizard”, second song of the 1970 album “Black Sabbath”:
These first events connected to Heavy Metal music are occasionally called the First Wave of British Heavy Metal. During the seventies, of course, no one knew in how many more successful waves Heavy Metal would wash over millions of fans during the following decades. There even was a number of bands who instisted on being called Hardrock instead of Heavy Metal bands, among them Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Heavy Metal, however, had gained such momentum that more and more groups were born from nowhere, aiming to follow in the footsteps of Black Sabbath. Today this movement in the end of the seventies, bringing forth giants like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, is known by the name of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, in short NWoBHM.
Both the prehistory of Heavy Metal (i.e. Art Rock, Glam Rock, Hardrock) and the NWoBHM will be subject of my next post.
Black Sabbath in Billboard Magazine, 1970 (from left to right: Ward, Iommi, Butler, Osbourne)