It’s difficult to pen down exactly when heavy metal music started. It’s a culmination of many influences coming together to create an original, genuine sound. Who is the first heavy metal band? Many say it’s Led Zepplin, plenty of folks give it up to Black Sabbath. Some say it was The Who before Zepplin and Sabbath and some say it was Judas Priest after. While the Priest may have invented modern metal, the official title of who invented heavy metal goes to: Several bands!! Here’s a timeline.
(Note: this page will be an ongoing work-in-progress which I will expand periodically.)
1958 – 1968: The Dawn of Metal
1958 – Chuch Berry’s “Jonnie B. Goode” becomes the first precursor to the hard rock/heavy metal guitar solo. The song inspired many to pick up the instrument who would go on to start heavy metal.
1962-1964 – The Beatles develop as a band and take over America in 1964 on the Ed Sullivan show. Where Chuck Berry’s sound influenced the blues and technical end of heavy metal, The Beatles influenced many of the melodies and harmonies.
1965 – The Rolling Stones break through with their hit “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. The Who explode with their hit single “My Generation”. Some credit the song as being the first heavy metal song. Jimmy Page joins The Yardbirds.
1966 – Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler create the blues band ‘Earth’.
1967 – Jimi Hendrix debuts. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is release by The Beatles. It is considered the first progressive rock album. Jimi Page leaves The Yardbirds to begin forming what would become Led Zepplin.
1968 – Led Zepplin release their debut album. The wheels of heavy metal are set in motion. The album initially doesn’t sell well due to it’s agressive nature.
1969 – 1979: Metal Rises
1969 – Led Sepplin release their second album. Along with Hendrix, they begin to influence a sound that would directly evolve into heavy metal. Woodstock happens, hippies exist, lots of drugs are taken, nothing gets done.
1970 – ‘Earth’ changes it’s name to Black Sabbath. They create a new sound in response to the hippie movement. “We wanted to scare people,” said Ozzy Osbourne. The coupled with the sounds and dreariness of Birmingham England, heavy metal is born. The follow up to their debut album, ‘Paranoid’ is now one of the most recognized heavy metal albums to this day.
1971 – Other prominent names begin to appear in the metal market such as Alice Cooper, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. Led Zepplin 4 is released goes on to be one of the biggest selling albums of all time.
1973 – Aerosmith debut, along with countless other bands including ZZ Top and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Alice Coopers ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ is released and become one of the first albums to directly go to mega-sales. Selling 3 million copies in a matter of a few months.
1974 – KISS debuts and the album flops. They follow up that fall with their sophomore effort ‘Hotter Than Hell’ which also flops. Many bands spend 1974 tour and making names for themselves for their first few albums. Rush debuts, releases a follow up that fall just like KISS. Both albums don’t sell too much. Both bands tour together and form a friendship.
1975 – Aerosmith and KISS both explode and become the biggest bands of the decade. KISS with a live album. Aerosmith with top notch song writing. Led Zepplin release their strongest album, ‘Physical Graffiti’. Heavy metal takes a huge step forward in general popularity.
1976 – AC/DC debuts, it takes them a few years to become the international sensations they came to be. The punk revolution begins. It is countered by the British ‘new wave’ heavy metal bands. Judas Priest release ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’, which is now considered the beginning of modern heavy metal. Bass prodigy Steve Harris forms the band Iron Maiden. They go on to sell over 90 million albums internationally. Both groups are integral in saving and the growth of heavy metal.
1977 – KISS becomes the first and only band to ever have four consecutive albums on the billboard hot 100. Meat Loaf debuts with ‘Bat out of Hell’. It goes on to sell over 25 million copies alone. Cheap Trick debuts. It takes them about 18 months to get big in the states, but they are in instant hit over the Pacific in Japan.
1978 – Another pivotal year for heavy metal music. Van Halen debuts and shakes the very foundations of what it means to be a guitar player. KISS release their own solo albums and it’s lead guitarist Ace Frehley that unexpectedly comes through with the strongest and best selling of the four. Black Sabbath release ‘Never Say Die’. It’s the final album with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals until the year 2013.
1979 – Cheap Trick have exploded. Their live album ‘Live at Budokan’ goes multi platinum and their follow up studio effort ‘Dream Police’ is just as successful. KISS makes a sonic transition, against Ace Frehley and Peter Criss’ wishes, into pop. Their album Dynasty sells well however, mostly because of Ace’s contributions and success of his solo album. Van Halen continues their winning streak. Judas Priest begins to really gain popularity in the United States.