The two metal bands Keith Richards called “jokes”

In the extensive tapestry of rock and roll history, there’s a pivotal moment where Keith Richards shrugged off concerns about others’ opinions of his musical preferences. While some argue he never cared from the start, Keef was notorious for bluntly expressing when he thought something was subpar or when a tune wasn’t coming together in the studio. Though he could be harsh on his contemporaries, the execution of songs by both Black Sabbath and Metallica often bordered on the comedic.

Examining Richards’s approach to songwriting reveals a less-than-complex melodic foundation. A key figure in the British Invasion’s songwriting realm, Richards, deeply rooted in the blues, utilized Mick Jagger as his vocal vessel to create rebellious masterpieces like ‘Satisfaction.’

While blues played a pivotal role in his career, Black Sabbath elevated songs about romantic misfortune to a new level. Guitarist Tony Iommi’s introduction of the tritone in his riffs created an ominous tone that set Sabbath apart from the usual blues jams. Paired with Ozzy Osbourne, the band crafted demonic-sounding riffs, influencing Metallica profoundly. James Hetfield, inspired by Sabbath, fused Iommi’s riffs with punk-rock intensity, ultimately becoming a powerhouse in 1980s music.

When Sabbath and Metallica earned rock god status, Richards was unimpressed. He deemed much of the emerging metal music as incompetently approaching parody, expressing his views to Guitar World: “It sounds like a dull thud to me. For most bands, getting the syncopation is beyond them. It’s endless thudding away, with no bounce, no lift, no syncopation. Millions are in love with Metallica and Black Sabbath. I just thought they were great jokes.”

Yet, Richards viewed it from a distinct perspective. Taught the blues by legends like Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson, his musical roots were deeply embedded in blues as a foundational element, not just a stylistic choice.

While Sabbath and Metallica incorporated the blues scale, their interpretation birthed a unique musical language. Unlike the familiar I-IV-V chord progressions, metal aimed for something genuinely sinister, eschewing sing-along tunes for an evil resonance.

Despite Richards’ reluctance to acknowledge it, there’s a substantial chance that both bands unknowingly built upon what he started in the early 1960s. The Rolling Stones guitarist may harbor reservations about metal music, but he may very well be the unintentional forefather of the genre.

Leave a Comment