For this week’s Metal for Friday post I decided to reach back into hallowed antiquity and dust off one of the greatest songs from one of (in my opinion) the top 5 metal albums ever recorded–Deep Purple’s classic Machine Head. Known mostly for “Smoke on the Water,” the album begins with this awesome high-tempo, high-energy, fuzzy-riff-heavy song “Highway Star,” which, in addition to infusing the relatively new genre of metal with an innovative sound, also celebrates the car and van fetishism that would mark youth culture in the 1970s.
Machine Head came out the year I was born. Deep Purple is, of course, one of the big three in the founding pantheon of metal (Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath) and seamlessly fused what was sometimes termed “acid rock” with a blues sensibility, which some people claimed was the definition of metal. Of course metal’s roots went back farther than that; I maintain that Link Wray invented heavy metal in 1958, nearly fifteen years before the world first heard Machine Head, but this sort of argument becomes a chicken-and-egg thing if you go back too far.
Nevertheless, “Highway Star” is justifiably a classic. You hear it on the soundtrack of just about every 70s nostalgia movie. When hearing it you may think of shag-carpeted vans, lava lamps and thick clouds of pot smoke, but the reality of heavy metal in the early 1970s was actually quite different–you might think of the grimy industrial towns of England (where Deep Purple and Black Sabbath came from) and the morally confused times of growing up in American suburbia (where heavy metal, at least in America, incubated).
Have a great Friday! Shabbat Shalom.