The BBC Four documentary Heavy Metal Britannia this evening was quite entertaining, as this whole series of programmes has been.Â Possibly too long for a casual non-metal fan but too short to do more than scratch the surface it was still a good way to pass 90 minutes. I am wondering where they will go next.Â We have had Folk Britannia, Prog Rock Britannia, Synth Britannia, and probably a few others I can’t remember.Â Then there was the branching out into Latin music which required four parts and a change from Britannia to USA.Â What next?
I don’t think they have done punk, but that has been done so often it is hardly worth it. Post-punk/new wave could be a more fruitful choice.Â Even better would be Pub Rock Britannia – 90 minutes of Dr Feelgood, Brinsley Schwarz, Kursaal Flyers, Kokomo with a bit of Eddie & the Hot Rods on the side.Â The rest of the evening could be filled with the Oil City Confidential film and the ‘coming home’ concert film of the Feelgoods at the Kursaal.
Reggae would be a good one, but would need the four-part treatment to really cover all the varieties.Â It could hardly be a ‘Britannia’ since so much of it originates in Jamaica – but couldn’t be ‘Reggae Jamaica’ either since the scene in the UK really did feed back to Jamaica.Â To really be comprehensive it would have to cover the enormous influence reggae has had elsewhere, like France and Africa.
Rap USA might be another interesting show.Â It has been going for more than thirty years now, so it is not the passing fad some people thought it was going to be, and it is now as ubiquitous as reggae.
Back to HMB though.Â It didn’t seem to cover many acts – Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Saxon, Iron Maiden, Budgie, Motorhead and Diamond Head mostly.Â There seemed to be more mentions of bands that were not heavy metal being cited as fore-runners, or bands that were only borderline heavy metal.
No mention of UFO, Tygers of Pan Tang, Samson, Girlschool or Def Leppard at all, and nothing current.Â Â By current I mean bands that didn’t start up more than twenty years ago, but I suppose that is understandable.Â Bands now will all be death metal, thrash metal, prog metal or some other exotic variety rather than straightforward heavy metal.
There is always one nugget to these documentaries and in this case it was Blue Cheer.Â I have to admit I had never heard of them at all but they appear to be to heavy metal what MC5 or the New York Dolls were to punk:Â i.e. they were doing it years before everybody else.Â I had a listen to them on Spotify after the programme and they really were extraordinarily heavy for their time.Â I can’t imagine what audiences made of them back in 1968.
As the credits rolled I noticed that the narration was by Nigel Planer.Â Didn’t sound like him at all.Â Not that I would expect him to put on a Neil-the-hippy voice or anything, but it really didn’t sound like him.Â Â Makes a change from Richard Bacon or Anthony Head who seem to get 90% of all voice-over work between them these days.