Posted by SR on January 27, 2005
In Reply to: Heavy metal posted by Michael Jahn on January 27, 2005
: When I posted a message in August 03 claiming to have coined the term "heavy metal" regarding a form of music. I invited correction by anyone who knew better than me. I wind up correcting myself. The origin of the term was with Sandy Pearlman, a rock journalist writing in Crawdaddy magazine in 1968. At least he says he did, and he's a man whose writing and opinions I respect.
: Mike Jahn
: January 27, 2005
Here is what Wikidpedia has to offer on the subject...
Origins of "heavy metal"
The origin of the term heavy metal is uncertain. An early use of the term was by counter-culture writer William S. Burroughs. In his 1962 novel The Soft Machine, he introduces the character "Uranian Willy, the Heavy Metal Kid". His next novel in 1964 Nova Express, develops this theme further, heavy metal being a metaphor for addictive drugs. Another aspect of these novels is the use of recorded sound to free oneself from a programmed life and the alienation caused by an increasingly mechanical world.
"With their diseases and orgasm drugs and their sexless parasite life forms - Heavy Metal People of Uranus wrapped in cool blue mist of vaporized bank notes - And the Insect People of Minraud with metal music"
Burroughs, William S, . Nova Express. New York: Grove Press. p. 112
Given the publication dates of these works it is unlikely that Burroughs had any intent to relate the term to rock music; however Burroughs' writing may have influenced later usage of the term.
The first use of the term "heavy metal" in a song lyric is the words "heavy metal thunder" in the 1968 Steppenwolf song "Born to be Wild" (Walser 1993, p. 8):
"I like smoke and lightning
Heavy metal thunder
Racin' with the wind
And the feelin' that I'm under"
The word "heavy" (meaning serious or profound) had entered beatnik/counterculture slang some time earlier, and references to "heavy music" -- typically slower, more amplified variations of standard pop fare -- were already common; indeed, Iron Butterfly's 1968 debut album was entitled Heavy. The fact that Led Zeppelin (whose moniker came partly in reference to Keith Moon's jest that they would "go over like a lead balloon") incorporated a heavy metal into its name may have sealed the usage of the term.
In the late 1960s, Birmingham, England was still a centre of industry and (given the many rock bands that evolved in and around the city, such as Led Zeppelin, The Move and Black Sabbath) some people suggest that the term Heavy Metal may have some relation to such activity. Biographies of The Move have claimed that the sound came from their 'heavy' guitar riffs that were popular amongst the 'metal midlands'.
Sandy Pearlman, original producer, manager and songwriter for the Blue Oyster Cult, claims to have been the first person to apply the term "heavy metal" to rock music in 1970.