Explaining the naming of heavy metal from rock’s ‘Back Pages’: A dialogue with Deena Weinstein | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2052-3998
  • E-ISSN: 2052-4005



This article debates (with Deena Weinstein’s work, in particular) the origins of the adjectival phrase heavy metal, as it is seen to emerge from rock criticism in the early 1970s. Drawing on an extensive database of rock writing, sourced from the archives of Rock’s Backpages and Rolling Stone magazine, 1967–2007, I offer i) a quantitative analysis of the patterning of the deployment of the phrase over time, noting in particular negative, positive and comparative uses, and ii) a qualitative analysis of how such patterns indicate the process of discursive construction of the genre name, as it emerges from the reviews and think-pieces of key rock writers. On the basis of this evidence I suggest that the emergence of the genre name, superseding that of white blues and hard rock, reflects a profound lack of critical consensus (a dissensus) in North American rock criticism, to the extent that the popularity of ‘third-generation’ heavy metal bands negatively reflects upon the mature development of the counter-cultural youth movement and progressive or authentic rock styles.


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