The Origins Of Heavy Metal

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Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Today we all take the term heavy metal for granted, knowing instinctively what it means. The origins of the term, as it applies to rock bands, are difficult to pin down.

Did the rock critic who wrote that Jimi Hendrix’s music was like “heavy metal falling from the sky” in 1967 cause the naming of the genre?

Was he thinking of William S. Burroughs’s character, Uranium Wllly, The Heavy Metal Kid, from the novel The Soft Machine (no prizes for guessing where the Canterbury band of the same name took theirs from).

The phrase “Heavy metal thunder” turns up in Steppenwolf’s 1968 song, Born to Be Wild recorded in late 1967. Like all these things it was probably no one thing, but a whole mess of influences.

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