While Black Sabbath blew the doors wide open for heavy metal, many of their peers (and predecessors) were experimenting with their own signature brand of rock n’ roll. And though a lot of these artists were a little, well OK, a lot tamer than Ozzy and company, they did occasionally venture into some hard rock and even heavy metal territory. Their music helped influence and lay the foundation for future rawk and metal artists. You may be familiar with some or even all of these tunes (damn…really?), but it’s an interesting reminder that although these classic bands tended to favor the mellower stuff, there were a few select songs in their respective catalogues that actually cranked the amps to 11. From Pink Floyd to Chicago to The Beatles, they all had at least one killer heavy tune. Here’s a list of 11 heavy songs by bands that aren’t very heavy. Or are they??? (Dun dun dunnnn.) .
Attila “Wonder Woman”
Before Billy Joel went on to play sold-out shows at stadiums performing his mega-hits, he joined forces with drummer Jon Small to create this Deep Purple-esque, organ-infused metal band. If you didn’t know the Piano Man could sort of rock, well – now you do.
David Bowie “She Shook Me Cold”
A track from Bowie’s third studio album, The Man Who Sold the World, this song was clearly outshined by the title track – though it definitely stands out as a unique, proto-metal number in the singer’s catalog.
The Osmonds “Crazy Horses”
Yes, those Osmonds. And before judging, take a listen. It ain’t half bad, and it is actually pretty heavy. This is the 1972 equivalent of Miley Cyrus’ twerking videos.
The Troggs “Come Now”
These cheeky British Invasion vets are most famous for their 1966 grarage band classic “Wild Thing” but veered into harder rocking territory as the decade wore on especially on this 1970 B-side.
Small Faces “Wham Bam Thank You Man”
Before the Rod Stewart-led Faces, there was this first inception of the band, which is now considered one of the most influential mod groups of the 1960s. Though they started out playing R&B and psychedelic pop, they did dirty their hands with heavy rock which singer Steve Marriott would continue in his band Humble Pie.
Jethro Tull “Hymn 43”
Though they won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance for the album Crest of a Knave (much to Metallica’s chagrin), the majority of the band’s music lies in the progressive and folk rock territory. However, they have definitely displayed some metal tendencies, particularly on tracks from 1971’s Aqualung – especially this tune, which carries possibly the heaviest riff in their catalogue.
Chicago “25 or 6 to 4”
Sure, they can be labeled jazz fusion. Or their self-described “rock and roll with horns.” And we all know how soft they got with age. But this track rocks, with one of the most memorable riffs of all time.
The Allman Brothers Band “Whipping Post”
First appearing on the southern rock band’s self-titled debut, the song has become more famous for how it’s played live, where it takes on even more power with longer and more intense performances from the band.
Pink Floyd “The Nile Song”
This track is from the soundtrack/studio album More, which is the band’s first full album without founding member Syd Barrett. The album shows the art-rock icons experimenting with new sounds – especially this tune, which may be the heaviest song they ever recorded.
The Guess Who “Hang On To Your Life”
Perhaps most famous for their hit, “American Woman,” this Canadian rock band was mostly known for its mellower fare but this track was a major exception.
The Beatles “Helter Skelter”
The McCartney-penned tune off of The Beatles (better known as The White Album) is a response to critics who accused him of writing only ballads and has been covered by many hard rock and metal bands including the mighty Motley Crue among others.