The Roots of Heavy Metal

At about the same time that Iggy Pop and The Stooges tore onto the stage in the late 60s with their uproarious early punk, heavy metal was also emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the rock world.

Heavy metal, or just “metal” boomed in the United States and United Kingdom in the 1970s. With its huge sounds, amp distortion, mind-bending guitar solos, crashing drum sets and intense aggression, metal was never for the faint of heart.

First through the gates into the metal scene were bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. Like all the forerunners in the wider world of rock, these pioneers copped a lot of flack from critics and naysayers. They were often looked on with bewilderment and disgust from the establishment, but that only added fuel to their fires.

Soon other bands were emerging to take this sub genre even further. The infamous Judas Priest stripped away the influence of earlier rock and just went straight to the hard stuff. Iron Maiden and other ‘headbanger’ groups soon appeared. The transformation continued, as these metalheads grew their hair to wild lengths, dressed in black and chains, but was stayed the same was the time honoured tradition of violent, virulent music.

Metal has undergone many iterations since it first burst onto the scene. Like most of the other genres, it became commercialised in the 80s and 90s, with band like Mötley Crüe and Poison taking some of the sharper edges off the sound.

Soon groups like Metallica, Slipknot and Megadeth were household names, with teenages in the first throes of rebellion looking to these musicians for leadership in a world they perceived as soft. Despite the fact that ‘metal’ as a genre of rock has softened and sometimes become indistinguishable from other types of music now, its history is long and checkered and one all rockers can be proud of.

The Emergence of Punk Rock

Towards the end of the 1960s, yet another new page was turned in rock’s colourful history. The Beatles had not long burst onto the scene, and in recent years, rock music had become a vehicle for messages – political, social and individualist messages.

In 1966 the man who would become the infamous Iggy Pop heard a record – the Velvet Underground & Nico – at a party during his time in college. While he hated it at first, he was drawn to it, and over the next couple of months became a fully-fledged convert of the raw, edgy style of music he had heard.

Launching his legendary band The Stooges in 1968, Iggy became an icon of the punk rock movement. The wild, unpredictable and often violent shows marked a true deviation from the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle up to that point, and it’s been argued that Iggy Pop & The Stooges were the first true punk rockers.

For them, and many of the bands that would follow in the genre, punk rock was a way of crushing their boredom. Bored with the vanilla day-to-day of life in the ‘burbs, the outrageous antics, dress and sound of punk rock was a way to shake it up, to find some excitement and to shock all the ‘sheep’ just drifting through their lives to wake up and do something.

Since then of course, punk has become a pillar of the rock world, having been accepted and popularised by the ‘mainstream’. Bands like Blink 182, Green Day, Good Charlotte and Fall Out Boy toned down the violent edges while maintaining the confronting look of punk, making it more accessible as time went on.

Rock In The Rollings 60s

In the 1960s and 1970s, rock was undergoing something of a transformation. The music that had started as a way to have some fun on a Saturday night, to blow off some steam and dance with a pretty girl was quickly changing its tune.

The world was in turmoil – the 1960s are now commonly remembered as some of the most tumultuous years in recent history when it comes to sociopolitical upheaval.

There was a revolution afoot among the common people, who were tired of simply accepting what they were being told by the political and economic elite, and who wanted to carve out a place for themselves in the world. Major shifts in thinking happened around what was right or acceptable in terms of education, gender relations, race, drugs, dress and formalities.

The Vietnam War raged throughout the 1960s, and was arguably one of the most influential factors in the changing face of rock music. The Bay of Pigs threw the underhanded dealings of the US government into high relief, while there were wars of independence erupting all over Africa, and tense conflicts simmering in the Middle East.

While The Beatles were taking the Western world by storm at this time, causing millions of young women to go weak at the knees and causing endless logistics problems every time they went anywhere, there was something much more subversive going on in rock music as well.

Rock music became a political vehicle. It became the soundtrack to the protests that took place that decade, to the rebellion, to the conscientious objection, and to the uprisings. It became the sound of freedom, the sound of throwing off your shackles, of claiming your place in the world among the giants.