Friday, June 15, 2007

Birmingham's Heavy Metal Legacy

When I heard about the BBC TV series the Seven Ages of Rock, I was interested in watching it until I found out that the first episode was about Jimmy Hendrix. No true history of rock could start at the rock adolescence of Jimmy Hendrix as one Points of View viewer put it; rock started in the 1950's with the likes of Bill Hailey and the comets.

When I heard they were going to have an episode on heavy metal however, I had to watch. Would they mention Birmingham's pivotal role in this successful genre. Amazingly they surpassed my expectations, and effectively attributed the founding of heavy metal to Birmingham.

Tony Iommi, lead guitarist for Black Sabbath, lost his fingers in an industrial accident. To help him play the guitar, he slackened the strings which produced a heavier sound. The music was inspired by the hard working-class sounds of the industrial factories. And it was a conversation between two of the band members which bravely asked the question: people go to see horror movies - why don't they listen to horror music?

So Black Sabbath's role in the origins of heavy metal were shown. Along with Deep Purple, they went on to pioneer the genre. And just like their home city Birmingham, while the music soon got a hard-core following, the "critics" and "experts" panned it.

So far so good (so what?). What I did not know is the influence of another Birmingham band, Judas Priest on the genre. They embraced the term heavy metal, and gave it the leather-clad look (here London gets a mention; the lead singer of Judas Priest came up with the idea for the apparel after visiting a bondage shop in Soho. Typical of the cockneys to lower the tone).

So there you have it. Sod the "Madchester" indy revolution, Birmingham produced one of the longest running music genres of modern times, and along with fantasy books (inspired by JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings) the city really has given a fantastic albeit dark legacy to the world.

Why not celebrate Birmingham's Heavy Metal musical heritage at the Metal symposium on Friday 13th July 2007 (it had to be that date didn't it?).

1 comment:

viagra said...

It was impossible for them not to give Birmingham the right it deserves, the fact that Tony Iommi got injured, the way the factories where essential in Metal music, and Black Sabbath makes it just fair to say that the birth place of metal is Birmingham. And just a little side note, the show began with Hendrix because we are talking about Rock as whole genre and the influence it has in the current living generations from the late 50's on ward.