Within annals of rock music we often ask who was responsible for which influence as rock music has become quite complex in its designations over the years. There are a core of bands who with their originality and innovation who spawned a new form of music, sometimes harsh and unforgiving, sometimes melodic and romantic The question here is who created Heavy Metal music or perhaps unthinkingly stumbled upon it by accident. I’m not talking about the well-known “Metallica” or “Skid Row” I’m talking about going back in rock history to 1968 and the genius work of two legendary bands.
Both of these bands released their respective albums around the same time October and November of 1968. One band was very technically gifted musically but lacked the sensitivity of harmony and variety that allowed them to create music that appealed to the masses with amazing affection. Those two bands were the Beatles and Deep Purple, two seemingly unlikely to be the grandfathers of “Heavy Metal” music.
For Deep Purple and gifted guitarist Richie Blackmore the 2nd recording effort in the LP “Book of Taliesyn” we find several cuts that do have much in common with some of the more popularized styles of Heavy Metal today before it descended into cocaine and meth driven “Speed Metal”. Songs such as “The Shield” and “Anthem” though labeled as psychedelic or hard rock formed the basis for future Heavy metal style with a classical guitar influence coupled with highly demanding scales in modern key characterizing the structure of the Deep Purple style with Keyboardist Jon Lord leading the charge.
There’s a controversy over whether the Beatles in the White Album released in November of 1968 created the first “Heavy Metal” type of song in the song “Helter Skelter” or perhaps the tune “Tax Man” from the earlier album “Revolver” with Paul McCartney changing instruments and playing lead guitar while George Harrison played bass on this cut. Yet, there is even another tune that some say became a template for future Heavy Metal influence “Hey Bulldog” off the Album “Yellow Submarine” recorded in February of 1968 but not released until January of 1969. Paul McCartney figures heavily in his frantic vocals in Helter Skelter and his guitar playing in Tax Man. John Lennon, George Harrison, and McCartney were all able guitarists and gifted song writers that have a massive spellbound audience all over the world. Drummer Ringo Starr though somewhat less recognized is hailed as a great drummer who added a dimension to Beatle music that inspired many future drummers to admire and emulate.
One might argue that Ozzie Osbourne and Black Sabbath influenced the future Heavy Metal sound and even Buck Dharma and Blue Oyster Cult would lay down the hard yet fluid sounds that characterize what Heavy Metal music would later become, but that is the interesting aspect of listening to, enjoying the compositions of, but also the musicianship of artists who have worked hard at making quality music that means something as opposed to the weak, often primitive, group think, studio controlled hip hop R&B and pop that leaves so much to be desired today. Perhaps that’s why even now Beatles music still gets millions of hits on channels like You Tube and Vevo. Timeless music such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms withstand the test of the ages and we acknowledge such great composers. However, we salute rock history for the moment, and recognize modern artists who added a new dimension to contemporary music.