Heavy metal is the music critics love to hate, but also the longest lasting mainstay of rock music. More than any other band at the time, Black Sabbath were influenced by their surroundings, heavily industrialised Birmingham. This was even more true for guitarist Tony Iommi, who cut off the tips of two fingers in a steel factory. When he tried to solve this problem by melting a washing up liquid bottle, and forming two 'thimbles' for his fingers, he found that by tuning his guitar down three tones (to C#), he could play just as easily, and also get a very different, altogether much darker sound (although this wasn't used until their third album). Another inspiration for the band came from the movie theatre across the street. Sabbath decided that if people were eager to pay money to be scared, then maybe they should play scary music.

In 1971, when Deep Purple were in Montreux to record the album Machine Head, they were themselves scared by a fire in the casino when "some stupid with a flare gun burned the place to the ground" during a concert by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Since their recording studio was also in the casino, they decided to make the album in their hotel. On the last day they needed to record one more song and decided to simply tell the story of their recording session, which became the lyrics to Smoke on the Water.

Judas Priest introduced twin lead guitars in rock music. When in 1976 Punk dominated the rock scene, they adopted a leather and studs look, which they thought went rather well with their macho look, not knowing the gay background it came from - singer Rob Halford, who suggested it, hadn't yet 'come out of the closet'. Priest were rewarded for continuing Heavy Metal when it slumped in the late 1970s. But a few years later, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was spearheaded by Iron Maiden. In the US, a new twist emerged with Glam metal, with a fluffy hair spray look inspired by Hollywood and made known by Mötley Crüe. Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne made the most unexpected return in rock, despite his 'recreational pursuits' (involving lots of alcohol and cocaine).

By the end of the 1980s, Metal had become too commercial for some fans, with groups like the W.A.S.P., Hanoi Rocks and Poison having huge success. Influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, another new sound had risen to prominence in the US, where metal had a huge following: thrash metal, a style that went beyond in many respects, being faster and heavier than anything that had come before. But playing the guitar ever faster had reached a ceiling and at the turn of the decade, Metallica, one of the inventors of thrash, decided to turn that around and adopt a very slow, heavy, sound. The result was 'The Black Album' which went on to sell over 15 million copies and "proved that metal, never in fashion, but never out of fashion, will always just keep on going".

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