[Ads-l] Antedating of "Heavy Metal" (Music)

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sat May 9 12:38:44 UTC 2020

It is odd that the OED, in its first bracketed citation for "heavy metal," quotes William S. Burroughs' passage about "Uranian Willy The Heavy Metal Kid" from _Nova Express_ (1964) but does not quote Burroughs' use of exactly the same character name in _The Soft Machine_ (1961).

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Saturday, May 9, 2020 1:00 AM
Subject: Re: Antedating of "Heavy Metal" (Music)

A bracketed cite for "heavy metal" in the OED entry is from William S.
Burroughs's 1964 novel _Nova Express_: "At this point we got a real break
in the form of a defector from The Nova Mob: Uranian Willy The Heavy Metal
Kid." According to the article below, the Fugs named their publishing house
as an homage to Burroughs.

Deena Weinstein, "Just So Stories: How Heavy Metal Got Its Name -- A
Cautionary Tale." _Rock Music Studies_ 1:1, 36-51 (2014).
"'Heavy metal' was also a term with a literary pedigree wafting through the
countercultural air in the ‘60s, thanks to Burroughs's novels. Burroughs
and the other Beat novelists and poets were known to the hip youth
(hipoisie) of the era on both sides of the Atlantic. The Beats were
celebrities at major American universities and especially celebrated in the
two centers where rock criticism emerged in the 1960s, New York City and
San Francisco. They were well known by key musicians responsible for the
transition of rock to an art form, such as Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Lou
Reed, and the Grateful Dead. These artists interacted with various Beats,
particularly Allen Ginsberg, and were familiar with their writing. Early
underground papers spread the word. Ed Sanders's Fuck You Press published
Beat writers, and his band, the Fugs, embraced their style and message. The
Fugs named their music-publishing company Heavy Metal Music in homage to
Burroughs's _Nova_ trilogy." (p. 47)

I think the name of the publishing house would also merit a bracketed cite,
as a transitional step from the Burroughs usage to the musical genre.


On Fri, May 8, 2020 at 10:34 AM Baker, John <JBAKER at stradley.com> wrote:

> According to New York State online records at the Division of
> Corporations, Heavy Metal Music Corp. was formed as a New York corporation
> on August 17, 1966.  That's probably the same as the "Heavy Metal Music
> Inc." referenced below.  In any case, that pushes the antedating back to
> 1966.
> John Baker
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of
> Shapiro, Fred
> Sent: Friday, May 8, 2020 10:02 AM
> Subject: Re: Antedating of "Heavy Metal" (Music)
> External Email - Think Before You Click
> Very interesting, Larry. I think many of the names for genres of popular
> music had a prehistory where they were used in very general senses or in
> reference to music different from what we now associate with the term. This
> may be true of rock and roll, punk rock, heavy metal, gospel music, rhythm
> and blues, and others.
> Fred Shapiro
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU<mailto:
> ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>> on behalf of Laurence Horn <
> laurence.horn at YALE.EDU<mailto:laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>>
> Sent: Friday, May 8, 2020 8:50 AM
> Subject: Re: Antedating of "Heavy Metal" (Music)
> > On May 8, 2020, at 7:59 AM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU<mailto:
> fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>> wrote:
> >
> > The OED's first citation for the term "heavy metal" referring to a type
> of music is dated 1973. I have previously pointed out that Wikipedia's
> article on "heavy metal music" has an excellent discussion of early uses of
> "heavy metal," with the oldest mentioned occurrence in reference to a type
> of music being in Rolling Stone magazine, May 11, 1968.
> >
> > The following citation reveals a 1967 usage:
> >
> > 1971 _Journal of Popular Culture_ Winter 589 (ProQuest) _Wet Dream_.
> Words and music by Ed Sanders. Copyright (c) 1967 by Heavy Metal Music Inc.
> Some irony involved here, since the classic Fugs love ballad in question
> is about the farthest from heavy metal of any song this side of Schubert's
> lieder. Have a listen:
> (Note that the YouTube video appears under an incorrect title-the singular
> as above is correct, not the plural.)
> LH
> >
> > Interestingly, the earliest citation for the term "punk rock" in the OED
> is a 1970 Chicago Tribune article quoting Ed Sanders.
> >

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