For some time now I have followed a documentary on rock music on BBC 2. It’s aired every Saturday night and I find it really interesting. Last week it was about punk and how The Sex Pistols and The Clash shape the music scene in the ’70. This Saturday it was about heavy metal.
The seven ages the documentaries deal with are:
- The birth of rock: Blues-based Rock 1963-1970
- White light, white heat: Art Rock 1966-1980
- Blank Generation: Punk 1973-1980
- Never say die: Heavy metal 1970-1991
- We were the champions: Stadium Rock 1965-1993
- Left of the dial: Alternative Rock 1980-1994
- What the world is waiting for: Indie 1980-2007
So I missed the first two, but intend to see the rest for sure. I find it interesting because my generation forgets where influences come from, if they even know that there are people who influenced! Many things get sampled, but many bands get forgotten. Shame.
In the Never Say Die documentary, heavy metal and how it came about was told. Near Birmingham a new band took the scene: Black Sabbath. They played very differently to the bands before and started to write darker music, with horror elements in their lyrics.
Picture: Black Sabbath 1970’s – source here
unfortunately, lead singer Ozzy Osbourne was put out of the band because of the excess lifestyle taking a toll on the bands survival. But they paved the way for bands like Judas Priest, who in fact created almost the entire leather look so many band took over. Of course this caused a lot of controversy: the long hair, the black looks, the spandex pants (oh my!), the dubious lyrics… heavy metal took rock to a whole new level.
I did know Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the water’, but didn’t know it was in fact based on an actual event they witnessed. In the documentary, the band members said that they want to Geneva to record a new album. In the hotel where they were supposed to record, Frank Zappa gave a concert which Deep Purple attended. Some crazed fan in the audience shot a flare into the ceiling, which resulted in the whole (wooden) hotel burning down. According to one of the band members the only thing he saw the next morning was the smoke hanging over the lake. I found that interesting. They still recorded their album in Geneva, but were 7 minutes short of an album. So they added the track ‘Smoke on the water’ and it is now one of the best known tracks (and guitar riff) known to date.
An other chapter was about Iron Maiden who took metal to a whole new level of their own, with now two lead guitars playing unlike before. I’ve always admired their album artwork. frightening as it may be, the artwork was consistent to all their work. My brother has many LP’s.
Finally the documentary takes you to Metallica in the mid-’80s. In America a lot of bands follow one after the other, glam rock with guys in high heels, with Mötley Cruë in the lead. Metallica tried and succeeded in giving metal a more honest sound and really taking rock to a faster way of playing guitar. As a little kid of about 5, my oldest brother taught me the lyrics of Metallica’s Enter Sandman. I didn’t understand English, so I had no idea what I was singing along to. Now all those years later, I may think it was the turning point when my life took this strange path. It explains a lot now… why I’m a bit strange.