Heavy Metal Apologies

Smoke on the Iron Man

Terry Barr
The Riff
Published in
6 min readJun 10, 2024

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Photo by Josh Beech on Unsplash

It’s not that I really know what constitutes the heavy metal genre, though I think I’m right in including Black Sabbath and Metallica at least. Deep Purple, I think, is “Hard Rock” and don’t ask me the difference — that’s just what we called it in the early 1970s.

Mistakes happen. Once, a student in Knoxville corrected me when I labeled Journey “hard rock.” This was after their first record and maybe their second, but definitely before “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Shows you what I know, because I did like “Wheel in the Sky” and I still don’t know how to classify it other than just pure “rock.”

“Smoke on the Water,” Deep Purple’s classic and most known song, seemed hard at the time. Now, it seems as Pop Rock as “More Than a Feeling” and “Living on a Prayer.” At the same rough period, Jethro Tull was churning out its Aqualungs and Locomotive Breaths and Living in the Pasts, and…Bungle in the Jungles. Hard rock? Hard to say.

There were early 1970’s tangents, for sure. One of these, Bloodrock, did a song called “D.O.A.” that wasn’t heavy metal or perhaps even hard rock. But in its yearning macabre chords and plaintive cries, I can’t really testify what it was or even what it made me feel. It got played on AM radio, but listen and try to help me understand what we ever did with it:

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Terry Barr
The Riff

I write about music, culture, equality, and my Alabama past in The Riff, The Memoirist, Prism and Pen, Counter Arts, and am an editor for Plethora of Pop.