This is a really fun one. It is also sort of a long article, so I will have to split it up in several parts.
Unfortunately I don`t have the next Sounds paper, so this will end a little bit out in the letter N.
Whatever – it is great fun to read these early impressions of this genre of music by two music journalists that have made a lifelong career out of writing about these kind of bands. Kudos to them both!
Rock from `eavy to `umble or
The Sounds A – Z of Heavy Metal
Foreward by Mike Flood Page
Compiled by Pete Makowski and Geoff Barton
Rolling Stone took a page and a half and still wasn`t sure, NME took eight lines and got as close to the truth, and Pete Makowski says however I do it he`ll disagree with my definition of Heavy Metal.
Besides if you want to damn someone these days, and induce cries of `Boring!` from those SOUNDS staff sober enough to yell, you`ll accuse them of being a Heavy Metal band. Visions of subhuman monsters with but one chord and a grunt between them, and enough amplification to project their sound half-way round the globe are summoned swiftly to mind. One thing is sure, nobody can agree on a definition of Heavy Metal.
What follows is of necessity an individual view. After only a few broken limbs and life-long friendships sundered we at SOUNDS settled upon the bands that we list below. At further risk to my own health, I will now set out a personal definition, and pass it to the subs before Makowski gets back from the boozer.
There isn`t even any agreement on where it all began: Pete Townshend dates his own initiation into the possibillities of the electrified guitar to the first time he heard Link Wray`s solo on `Rumble` in 1958; but there are those who will point out that Les Paul first plugged a pick-up onto his guitar sometime around 1935; and there again, claims have been made for practioners of electrified guitar existing here and there in the 1920s. Besides Pete Makowski probably thinks Rock and Roll started with Grand Funk, and Steve Peacock probably thinks Hank Marvin invented the tremelo arm. You can`t please them all.
What is certain is that by the 1950s the electric guitar had been perfected as a popular instrument by blues performers like T-Bone Walker to the point that it was ready and primed, and branded as a dangerous weapon when the first rock and rollers picked it up. From there on it developed gradually until the early 60s when a new generation of British blues guitarists, weaned on rock and roll and turning towards the blues to find something more valid than the brylcreem pap of that era, burst onto the scene.
They had grown up accepting the electric guitar, had marvelled at the echo chamber and the tremelo arm, and they began to take everything a little further. Clapton, Beck and Page – the three linchpins of the movement – all belonged at various times to the Yardbirds, and all were virtuosi. The debate still rages as to who exactly used a wah-wah pedal first, it hardly matters now. But the seeds of the later onslaught on the senses had begun.
For the crucial elements of Heavy Metal – though no band may have all of them – are these: 1) a grounding in the blues which graduates of the British Blues Boom had in abundance, which yielded the characteristic basic riff; 2) a soloist: no matter that by the time of Iron Butterfly`s `In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida` that soloist had only two notes to play. This idea became fashionable with the rise of a self-consciously `artistic` pop music in the mid-60s when Hendrix took wing and Cream arrived. Clapton has subsequently said that Hendrix opened his eyes to the possibilities of the guitar. Until he saw Hendrix play he had been a blues purist, but he reasoned if a black guy could get away with that, then what was he deliberately restricting himself for?
As is well known lesser imaginations seized upon the fifteen minute solo as an excuse to hide their inability to write enough good songs to last out a set and gave the whole thing a bad name, but not before the likes of Clapton and Hendrix had shown to what heights a guitar could soar.
3) Sheer bloody volume! It is said that a small dog unfortunate enough to wander too close to Blue Cheer`s speakers was killed instantly. “Past the pain threshold!” threatened to become the slogan of the Heavy Metal merchants in the late 60s. That they could do this was down to the rapid technological innovations of Jim Marshall, Mr Watkins and many more nameless inventors who found that as fast as they could add another stack of speakers or a fuzz-box or a few more switches and synthis to feed the guitar through some kid would find a way to use them. Reverb, feedback and a whole battery of technical effects come in here.
4) Energy: not to be confused with volume, it is an indefinable quality which can penetrate to the mind of the most doped-out, wiped-out, deranged teenager and have him (or her; mainly him) up on his feet yelling for more, and preferably tearing up the first three rows of seats as well. This often explains why some of the best exponents of the genre are constantly better live than on record.
Of course in its pristine form it couldn`t last. Nothing good ever does; so as we enter the second half of the 1970s Heavy Metal, which for sheer sonic atrocity makes the outrage of the 1950s rock and roller look more like Stone Age by comparison, has begun to break down several different ways. There always was a twofold split in Heavy Metal between the basic pounding beat which gave it its simple appeal, and the technical prowess of some of its best soloists. As it became clear that most guitarists hadn`t three minutes worth of original ideas, let alone fifteen, many bands took the easy option and cut down on improvisation to concentrate on boogie.
You know who I mean.
Others took technical sophistication to its logical extreme so as well as Black Sabbath we have John McLaughlin; for every Grand Funk there is a Carlos Santana. That`s about it, except I forgot the vocals: at their best as in the searing voice of a Robert Plant they recall the old blues shouting tradition taken into the space age; at their worst they are best forgotten.
Uh, oh… here comes Makowski again, I`m off…
Rhinestone rock and roll. Aerosmith look like the New York Dolls and play like rock and roll demons. They were formed in 1970 featuring Joe Perry (guitar), Tom Hamilton (bass), ex-drummer Steve Tyler (vocals), Joey Kramer (drums) and Brad Whitford (guitar). Tyler plus the twin spearheads of the guitars are the main focal point of this US outfit and they have achieved moderate success in the States with their two CBS albums – `Aerosmith` and `Get Your Wings Off`.
The Amboy Dukes
Who plays 150 nights a year to millions of fans? Who is able to break glass with a single note? Who is the king of feedback guitar? Why Ted Nugent of course. He and his merry bunch of Amboy Dukes have been causing havoc in America since 1965. In fact they were probably the most progressive rock band in the late Sixties with well arranged toons n` all. Now they have returned as a metallic three piece, nothing special, just loud and energetic with two albums on Zappa`s label Discrete (`Call Of The Wild` and `Tooth Fang And Claw`) Nugent – the outrageous guitar leader of the band – is still challenging everyone to a duel.
Amon Duul II
Rootless, bizarre German band, often freaky, create a crashing, eccentric wall of sound. The original Amon Duul was (more or less) a studio group that came together once a year in a studio and then broke up again. Anxious to make Duul a more permanent concern, two guys called Chris Karrer and John Weinzierl brought about the formation of II. The band have preoccupation with Lemmings (there`s a compilation album, `Lemmingmania`, currently available on UA), nonsensical lyrics, weird album covers and, more notably, tripped-out song titles: `Flesh-Coloured Anti-Aircraft Alarm`, `Hallucination Guillotine` for example. Even their wailing female vocalist is called Renate Knaup-Krotenschwantz, and you can`t say fairer than that.
Formed when Vincent Crane and Carl Palmer left the amazing Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Palmer soon left – the first of numerous changes, but with the arrival of guitarist John Cann, Rooster had two successive hits in 1970, with a good extension of the Crazy World organ-based sound. More upheavals followed `Tomorrow Night` and `Devil`s Answer`, but through all the changes, most notably singer Chris Farlowe including a label switch from B&C to Pye, Rooster, still based around Crane, failed to recapture their early popularity.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Frank Zappa, Gladys Knight, Women In Rock, Betty Wright, Steve Harley, Peter Frampton, Labelle, Peter Skellern, Ray Davies, Larry Uttal, Chris Spedding, Anne Murray, Sweet Sensation, Bernard Purdie, Mike Harding, Ronnie Lane, Yes.
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