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Pretty good historical overview of the evolution of rock guitar tow…


The advertising in this is dreadfully intrusive, but this guy's take on how we got from Chuck Berry (with a nod to his predecessors) to King Crimson and Black Sabbath in 15 years or so is pretty much how I see it as well.

He uncannily pulls in nearly all my influences from that era, and every step along the way from one to the other - with a few sidetrips and most of the highlights - in a way I hadn't seen before (outside my own chronology).

He does put more emphasis on a couple bands I'm mostly unfamiliar with - 13th Floor Elevators and Coven, in particular - and I'm not sure his narration about them is supported by the musical clips provided - but I fully endorse the general arc of his timeline, the chronology of cross-Atlantic influence, and artists he covers.

The major omission from my analysis is Duane Eddy, whose low-string riffage I think was not only an influence on surf, but lacked only strong distortion to distinguish it from the increasingly riff-based rock of the late 60s and 70s. I think there's a line to be drawn there.

Otherwise, a pretty good analysis. (Of course, thanks to confirmation bias, we always like stuff we agree with...)


Well from Buddy Holly in 1958 to Hendrix in '68-- a lot changed in 10 years.

I am not a Metal Dude but still seems the genre has many subgenres now-- even I can think of 10 or more I have heard of.

But in years past maybe the term was mis-used. Like people were calling AC/DC, Kiss as metal when I thought they were just really hard rock.

If Black Sabbath was the 1st historically acknowledged metal group, that puts the origin in 1970. But I will defer to the experts.

Still I think when it comes to academic/sociological interest, I think the shrieky 80s hair metal groups, w/ pointy guitars going thru Randall stacks, etc.are the most fun.


If Black Sabbath was the 1st historically acknowledged metal group, that puts the origin in 1970.

I guess I concur with a general critical consensus that heavy metal wasn’t fully delivered and screaming on its own till early 1970, but I think it was certainly breaching for several years before - and had been gestating even longer. Hendrix, Cream, Deep Purple - not to mention Blue Cheer, Steppenwolf, and, it must be recognized, the Beatles ("Helter Skelter," "I Want You”) - labored toward something metallic from '67-'68 into 1970.

But I can’t whole-heartedly and without reservation accept Black Sabbath as the first full-fledged heavy metal album. I think Deep Purple is a strong contender with In Rock.

I'll grant that if the definition of metal has to include satanic and/or perverse subject matter, a thorough reliance on cruelly simplified unison riffs at the expense of more diverse arranging techniques, and vocals based solely on shredded vocal cords, completely devoid of subtlety - then Sabbath is your breakpoint. (And, I guess, if metal can't have keyboards, you're there.)

But I think maybe metal was born at least as twins - if not triplets or quads.

Besides Purple and Sabbath, King Crimson (and even Uriah Heep, based on the band's second album, Salisbury - if not Butterfly’s “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida“) included elements that would lead to prog as well as metal. We had genre names for neither at the time, and they all seemed part of the same evolutionary process. And if Led Zeppelin generally hewed to the hard-rock region of a very slippery slope, they often slipped over into something very metallic, with enormous influence on the genre through the following decades.

So, as the following timeline suggests, to identify the "first metal anything" is to plant a flag in a fairly arbitrary place. All the albums below introduce, combine, share, and begin to formalize the tropes that would become metal. Call them hard rock, call them proto-metal, call (some of them) psychedelic morphing into progressive, call'em what you will - at the time they all seemed to be breaking toward something new and qualitatively different from rock & roll. Something was clearly in the air, and all these guys were hearing it.

According to the timeline as documented in Wikipedia, Black Sabbath came first. I had both the first Sabbath album and Deep Purple's In Rock as soon as they appeared - can't recall which I got first, but I know which mattered more to me.

On first listen, I recognized Sabbath as something new - but somethings new came on an almost monthly basis at the time, so novelty alone didn’t render it special. In Rock had much more impact on me: its velocity, ferocity, precision, and skillfully aggressive guitar-ragingB3 assault were simply more exciting and attractive than Sabbath’s sludgy and simplistic psycho-dramatic dirges.

The muddled record-and-release chronology of the two albums makes it hard to definitively assign cultural primacy - a timeline of when the bands influenced whom, and how much - to either album. Recording on both started within two days of each other (with Purple beating the Sabs into the studio) - while Sabbath clearly got the earliest release (at least in the UK) by several months. But in the US, they beat Deep Purple by only 4 days, in June 1970). [SEE FOOTNOTE]

That near-simultaneous US appearance likely explains why I can't recall which I bought first. I saw Black Sabbath in the record rack of a discount department store and bought it without having heard of the band, strictly on the basis of the cover art. From the glacially grinding tri-tone riff and hell's bells of the first track, it seemed to venture into territory all the predecessors below had scouted out. (Succeeding tracks were more pedestrian.) But as I'd never heard of the band, and so accepted the music as "just what they did," it was not nearly as gleefully shocking and impressive to me as In Rock, coming as an explosive surprise from a band I thought I knew.

I had followed Purple’s diverse explorations through their three previous albums starting in 1968, and was pre-disposed to like anything the band did. But none of that - fine as it is - could prepare me for In Rock, which sounded so new it simply blew me away. It remains for me a prime example (among others) of a band remaking itself in finding / creating / innovating music that skipped several evolutionary iterations, revealing a new destination - as well as the road to get there. In Rock informed the mainstream. That’s my metal breakthrough album.

In my version of things, Purple spawned the mainstream lineage of metal at least through the rest of the 70s and 80s. I'll give Black Sabbath credit for the devil-horned doom/stoner/black/bleak/horror-show branch of the metal tree - something of a cartoon from the git-go, and since repeatedly self-caricatured in mostly futile attempts to get extreme enough to shock.

(Sorted by US release date - but watch the recorded dates to get a sense of who was doing what, and when. Also, when my claim for an album's fittingness in this chronology is based more on a song or two than on the whole album, I'm naming the songs. Others are more...obvious.)

Blue Cheer: Vincebus Eruptum
“Summertime Blues”
Recorded: 1967
Released: Jan 18, 1968

Steppenwolf: Steppenwolf
“Born to be Wild”
Recorded: Fall 1967
Released: Jan 29, 1968

Amboy Dukes: Journey to the Center of the Mind
Recorded: 1967
Released: April, 1968

Iron Butterfly: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
Recorded: May 27, 1968
Released: June 14, 1968

Deep Purple: Shades of Deep Purple
“And the Address,” “Hush”
Recorded: May 11-13, 1968
Released: July 17, 1968 (US); Sep 1968 (UK)

Deep Purple: Book of Taliesyn
“Listen, Learn, Read On,” “Wring that Neck”
Recorded: Aug - Oct 1968
Released: Oct 1968 (US); June 1969 (UK)

The White Album
“Helter Skelter,” “Yer Blues”
Recorded: May 30 - Oct 14, 1968
Released: Nov 2, 1968

Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin
Recorded: Sep - Oct, 1968
Released: Jan 12, 1969 (US); Mar 31, 1969 (UK)

Deep Purple: III
Recorded: Jan - March, 1969
Released: June 21, 1969 (US); Sep 1969 (UK)

Abbey Road
“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”
Recorded: Feb 22 - Aug 20, 1969
Released: Sep 26, 1969

King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King
“21st Schizoid Man”
Recorded: June – Aug, 1969
Released: Oct 10, 1969

Led Zeppelin: LZII
Recorded: April - Aug, 1969
Released: Oct 22, 1969

Grand Funk Railroad: Grand Funk
“Paranoid,” “Inside Looking Out”
Recorded: Oct 10-21, 1969
Released: Dec 29, 1969

Black Sabbath: Black Sabbath
Recorded‎: Oct 16, 1969
Released‎: ‎Feb 13, 1970 (UK); June 1, 1970 (US)

Mountain: Climbing
Recorded: 1969 - 1970
Released: March 7, 1970

Deep Purple: In Rock
Recorded: Oct 14, 1969 - Apr 13, 1970
Released: June 5, 1970

Uriah Heep: Very ‘eavy, very ‘umble
Recorded: July 1969 – April 1970
Released: June 13, 1970 (UK); Aug 1970 (US)

FOOTNOTE: Black Sabbath was recorded at Regent Sound in London, apparently in one day (Oct 16, 1969). In Rock started recording at IBC in London on Oct. 14; sessions then scattered between De Lane Lea and Abbey Road, also in London, through April 13, 1970. Were the bands aware of each others' activities? Did DP get to hear any of BS in the 4 months between its recording and 2/13/70 UK release, and did it influence them? Why was the Sabbath album held an additional 4 months before getting a US release - and why were DP albums usually released in the US before the UK? Seems to me questions like that would need answers before sticking a FIRST HEAVY METAL ALBUM sticker on either album.

Not that it matters much.


I just read this the other day, thought it was an interesting perception.

"Often cited as the first heavy metal song (and with quite good reason too), "Helter Skelter" is seriously hard-hitting with its droning guitar tone and pounding drum workout. Released in 1968, this uncompromising powerhouse went completely against the grain in terms of what was expected of the fab four."


A respectable overview. Pieces like that are almost always provocative in that they're working with an agreed consensus, and even that can be arguable.

I am curious as to how many artists/bands agree with the genre with which they've ultimately been pigeon-holed. Most of them simply consider themselves 'blues' or 'rock' or 'folk' or 'country' etc, it's the music journalists and A&R people that tend to create the ever more subtle distinctions.
Something fresh comes along and its purveyors feel compelled to invent a name for it (oh, like 'Rock & Roll').

I will confess; with the variety out there it does ease the search for music, if considered as keywords to start. I feel secure in knowing there is a difference between 'Shoegaze' and 'Dream Pop'

'Heavy Metal' has always struck me as white blues more infused with anger and rage, rather than sadness or melancholy. I'm generalizing of course, but it's not just about the music it's also the attitude. Waxings of sex, Satan, and/or the apocalypse is always helpful. 'Punk' has all the anger and rage, but (to me) is more pop structured.

Frankly I've always been perplexed/bemused by the term; 'psychedelic music'. Who decided that one? Another example of someone feeling compelled to label something when they write/talk about it, to define it. it's always struck me as a rather broad and lazy term for a genre. Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were all listening to Ornette Coleman, Bob Dylan, and Ravi Shankar. And the Grateful Dead considered themselves a blues band. So, which came first; the chicken or the acid?

Nonetheless, whomever the culprit, its coining paved the way and inspired some wonderfully bizarre and ridiculous (often delightfully charming) music in the late 60s and early 70s.


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