What's going on with German rock music today?

1970 was the key year of rock musicThe tough ones in the English garden

Music: Led Zeppelin - "Immigrant Song"

When hard rock was born is not entirely indisputable. However, there is agreement among fans and the feuilletons about when he really learned to walk. In 1970.

Music: Deep Purple - "Child in time"

With - in purely tonal terms - unimagined highs. And unimagined depths.

Music: Black Sabbath - "Black Sabbath"

Music: Simon & Garfunkel - "Bridge over troubled water"

A year of breaks and farewells

Looking back, 1970 turns out to be a year of breaks and farewells. Right at the beginning. Simon & Garfunkel, the successful duo among the singer-songwriters, released the album "Bridge over troubled water" with the monumentally poignant title track in January of that year. It remains her parting present. Because even if the partners, who had become strangers at the time, got together several times for tours and concert recordings in the following decades, they never again recorded a joint studio album.

Music: The Beatles- "Don't let me down"

The music world experienced an even bigger break in April 1970: Paul McCartney announced that he no longer wanted to work with the Beatles, and after a few months of back and forth, the breakup of the most successful and probably most influential band of all time was officially sealed. The swan song could be heard in between, in the form of the album "Let it be", released in May 1970. In short: there were a few places in Pop-Olympus free for new heroes. And it was time for new levels of volume and hardness. What kind of distorted power amp noises had already been presented by Eric Clapton with Cream, Pete Townsend with The Who or even the Kinks a few years earlier, had to be improved? The big bang in this respect is February 13th, 1970, when the Vertigo record company released the debut album by four long-haired men from Birmingham with a big symbolic Tamm Tamm - it was of course Friday the 13th.

Music: Black Sabbath - "Black Sabbath’ ’

Heavy metal from the sheet metal press

Even if the four musicians of Black Sabbath had little use for the term heavy metal for a long time, it sticks to the self-titled debut album to this day. And the song "Black Sabbath" from the album "Black Sabbath" by the band Black Sabbath was even considered the first Doom Metal song in the world. This is the name of the metal subgenre, in which everything is played much slower and deeper. In any case, it sounded a lot different from the bands whose music had previously been described as hard and heavy rock, mainly Led Zeppelin. This was partly due to Ozzy Osbourne's wobbly vocals, and partly to the devilish guitar sound of Tony Iommi. The story behind it is always happily told: as an unskilled worker in a metal factory, Iommi had carelessly squeezed the tips of his right ring and middle finger while operating a sheet metal press. In order to still be able to continue playing the guitar as a left-hander, he has since used specially made thimbles and thinner strings and tunes the guitar lower so that it is easier to play. The so-called power chords, which are also easier to grasp, were and are another compulsory stylistic device. Heavy metal - an industrial accident. But Black Sabbath had one thing in common with Led Zeppelin. According to Tony Iommi, their music was:

"We played the blues. We all did that when the first Black Sabbath lineup got together. And one day we were rehearsing and I came up with this riff and everyone was like, man, what's that? And it was the songs Black Sabbath and Wicked World. The others liked it and we made a song out of it. We didn't even know WHAT it was. We just knew that it was very different back then and we said: let's do that in a blues club play and see what happens. And people really liked it. And from then on it went on and on. "

And already the second bang can be heard

Music: Black Sabbath - "Behind the wall of sleep"

Apart from the guitar tuning, the Black Sabbath debut album sounds almost a bit thin, not quite balanced, according to today's listening comprehension. Some song ideas also seem half-baked, like the heavy rock waltz "Behind the wall of sleep". But it always becomes clear that the four musicians - by the way all from poor backgrounds, in contrast to many other successful bands of the time - had a clear idea of ​​a new, own sound. Toni Iommi:

"I experimented with Sabbath from day one. We always tried to make it darker and harder. Because we only had guitar, bass and drums. There was no second guitar, no keyboards, nothing at all, and that's why we wanted that Make sound as big as we could. That's why I tuned down and had a seven-string guitar made for me. But I couldn't use it that often, so I went back to the usual six-string.

Music: Black Sabbath - Wicked World

The second big hard rock bang of 1970 will be heard in Great Britain in June, in Germany in autumn.

Music: Deep Purple - "Speed ​​King"

Anything but a slow seller: the LP "Deep Purple in Rock" on record shelf, released in 1970. (dpa / picture alliance / Daniel Kalker)

Deep Purple has been around for a good three years at this point. The band had been much more successful in the US than in Europe by then, but their fame was largely based on cover versions, including such well-known artists as the Stones and the Beatles. They play Deep Purple either faster or significantly slower, definitely more pompous and, maybe a little harder. But the band has not yet had a real profile, especially since keyboardist Jon Lord persuaded them to give a concert with an orchestra in 1969.

"In Rock" brings the musical turnaround

This is somehow groundbreaking, but with the knowledge of such cruelty as Metallica's live album with string paste or orchestrated Scorpions performances, one wonders: where to? The album Deep Purple "In Rock", their fifth, brings the big turning point. Impressed by the first two Led Zeppelin albums, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore wanted a harder sound. A few years before his death in 2011, keyboardist Jon Lord remembered how it can still be heard today on the official Deep Purple video channel:

Jon Lord: "He's been trying out what Ritchie plays on" In Rock "for about a year and a half. You can hear some of it on the third album. My organ playing got harder too, and I was looking for a way to do it next to Ritchie's And I found him in time for In Rock. That was the direction the band was headed. But it was only made possible with the arrival of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. " Glover on bass, Gillan on microphone. The result: bloodcurdling, as for example in the song "Into the fire".

Bach instead of blues

There will probably never be a hard rock shouter like the young Ian Gillan again. The man is a talent of the century. On the one hand there are these screams, on the other hand there is this lyrical mourning, like in the legendary piece "Child in Time", a song that is so complex and so demanding, not only for the singer, that Deep Purple was closed in the 90s at the latest put the files.

Music: Deep Purple - "Child in time"

Not only the vocal abilities distinguish Deep Purple 1970 from Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. The choice of guns too - Ritchie Blackmore played a Fender Stratocaster, and it just sounds sharper, more clanky than the Gibson guitars that Jimmy Page and Tony Iommi preferred. But Deep Purple's sound was also different because its blues influences are marginal compared to the other two and instead refer to high European culture. Drummer Ian Paice is influenced by jazz, and all members know Bach and Beethoven at least from hearsay, keyboardist Jon Lord even studied them.

An organ like a wild animal

That could be one of the reasons why "In Rock" landed much lower in the US charts than previous Deep Purple albums and, despite a subsequent gold award, sold much worse than the Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin albums of the same year. On the other hand, the instrument of the classically trained Jon Lord provides a significant boost to hardness. You actually play a Hammond organ through a Leslie amplifier, which generates this distinctive modulation through two rotating loudspeakers.

Jon Lord "That wasn't tough enough for where we got" In Rock ". So, I have no idea why, maybe by a brainstorm, wondering what would happen if I got her through a 200- Marshall Watt amps. It became an almost uncontrollable animal that I had to manipulate like crazy to control. It also got a lot more technical, too. But boy - was I happy! "

What Lord means, for example, can be heard in his little interludes in the song "Living Wreck". It could actually be a wild animal hissing and roaring.

Music: Deep Purple - "Living Wreck"

History-conscious fans of hard rock music can confidently agree on 1970 as the key year for hard rock and heavy metal. Whether the Black Sabbath debut should be weighted higher than Deep Purple's new invention with "In Rock" is an excellent argument. Lars Ulrich von Metallica, drummer of the most successful metal band of all time, was born in 1964 and therefore too young to have heard them both as a child. But he made his decision.

Lars Ulrich: "Deep Purple" In Rock! Don't get me wrong, I love and respect Black Sabbath, and they had an influence on me too, but that was much later, when I started making music, Deep Purple was the first Concert that I saw. And they were the closest to me musically for many years. "

The fact that Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich is committed to Deep Purple "In Rock" makes sense in a broader sense. Because Metallica and other Thrash Metal bands were heavily influenced by the British band Iron Maiden in the mid-1990s. That in turn related much more to Deep Purple than to Led Zeppelin. Which sounded completely different in the powerful rock year 1970.

Zeppelin with banjo on board

After the very blues-heavy debut in 1968 and the second album in 1969, which helped to define hard rock, the band retired to the country in 1970 to record number II. And that's what it sounded like. Bassist Jon Paul Jones was able to work as a multi-instrumentalist on synthesizers, mandolin and organ, while guitarist Jimmy Page often used the acoustic guitar or even the banjo. In spite of this, or perhaps because of that, songs like the newly interpreted folk song "Gallow’s Pole" are still original today.

Music: Led Zeppelin - "Gallow’s Pole"

But there were also hard and heavy moments on the third Led Zeppelin album. Anything else would have disturbed the fans too. With the first, the "Immigrant Song", the quartet stamped their feet hard, creating a real heavy metal blueprint in less than two and a half minutes.

Music: Led Zeppelin - "The Immigrant Song"

The third Led Zeppelin album may seem more indecisive from a musical point of view than the Black Sabbath debut or Deep Purple in Rock. But it also shows that this is a band that has already found their style and would like to expand. And which is so full of economic life that it can afford all the freedom.

Sales figures that speak for themselves

For comparison: Led Zeppelin "III" was sold six million times in the USA according to the music association RIAA, while one of the Black Sabbath debut and only half a million of Deep Purple in Rock were sold. Led Zeppelin could quite simply afford to present a failed song fragment like "Celebration Day" to the willing buying audience with a grand gesture. After all, the album had a wheel of fortune cover, on which you could turn a cardboard disc inside to make different symbols appear on recesses in the cover. Who still needs music there?

Music: Led Zeppelin - "Celebration Day"

Led Zeppelin: lead singer Robert Plant (r.) And guitarist Jimmy Page at a performance in March 1970 in Munich. (picture-alliance / dpa)

Guitar prince Jimmy Page sees Led Zeppelin "III" to this day as a document of a time when the whole music scene was in a healthy way in motion.

Jimmy Page: "Oh absolutely, absolutely. Not just guitar wise, but I think music in general. Everything was sort of pushing and moving. It was quiet healthy."

In 1970, for example, the career of Eric Clapton was in motion, who released his solo debut after years with the Yardbirds - which, by the way, Jimmy Page also played with - and the supergroup Blind Faith.

Forgotten debut albums

Music: Eric Clapton - "Blues Power"

Emerson Lake & Palmer also released their first album.

Music: ELP - "Knife-Edge"

Also the British band UFO, which was later also to deliver hard rock blueprints, but still got entangled in the post-psychedelic here.

Music: UFO - "Treacle People"

And another debut from 1970 has long been forgotten by the majority of mankind, although in this case it was a groundbreaking one. The British quartet Wishbone Ash changed the rules of the game for rock bands:

Music: Wishbone Ash - "Errors of my ways"

Cast like the Beatles, up to the singing bassist, but with two lead guitarists who like to play one after the other, with each other, against each other and also by tasteful intervals like thirds or fourths - in any case always played together. The music of the debut album called "Wishbone Ash" is only partially hard rock, actually only in the finale of the more than ten-minute classic "Phoenix". By the way, it ironically contains a quote from Deep Purple's "Child in time", which is only a few months older, perhaps because Wishbone Ash were their opening act at the time. Anyway: Guitarists who later founded metal bands like Iron Maiden also liked to name Jethro Tull or: Wishbone Ash as influences in addition to Deep Purple. The hard rock big bang of 1970 also had its causes where you can't even hear it. Or would suspect. But: It still has an effect today.

Music: Wishbone Ash - "Phoenix"