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Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler: “Heavy Metal” Was Initially a “Sarcastic” Term

"It was like the sarcastic thing ... 'this isn't music, it's a load of heavy metal being smashed together.'"

geezer butler heavy metal sarcastic term
Geezer Butler (photo by Amy Harris)
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    In a new interview, Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler said that “heavy metal” was a sarcastic term before it became the coined name for the music genre.

    Considering Black Sabbath are largely responsible for inventing heavy metal as we know it, Butler’s remarks are intriguing. In his estimation, the label “heavy metal” was used in a slightly derogatory context in early 1970s and Black Sabbath got “stuck with it.”

    “When we were on tour in America — I think it was the second tour in the [United] States — I read this review, and the guy said, ‘This isn’t music; it sounds like a bunch of heavy metal being smashed together.'” Geezer recalled in a new interview with Eddie Trunk. “Somehow that got over to England, and from then on it was like the sarcastic thing they used to apply to us — ‘this isn’t music, it’s a load of heavy metal being smashed together.’ And for some reason we got stuck with it.”

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    Others have credited Steppenwolf’s classic “Born to Be Wild” for coining the term in its opening verses: “I like smoke and lightnin’ / Heavy metal thunder.” Whatever the case, as a genre tag, heavy metal apparently had some growing pains before it became legitimately colloquial.

    Elsewhere in the Eddie Trunk interview, Geezer dove into the origins of one of Black Sabbath’s most literally metal songs: “Iron Man.” The lyrical content was heavily inspired by Jesus Christ, Geezer said, confirming past remarks and assumptions regarding the song’s protagonist.

    “It was sort of based on Jesus Christ,” Butler said. “He’s like, this guy and goes and does good, and then he comes and tries to spread the word and ends up being crucified for telling the truth. And that was Iron Man seeing the future and coming back to tell the world how horrible it’s gonna be, and people turn against him. Whereas Jesus died to save people, Iron Man takes his revenge. That’s the big difference.”

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    Stream the full episode of The Eddie Trunk Podcast featuring Geezer Butler below.

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