Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” chosen as the top heavy-metal song of all time

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 4, 2003

Toronto-based music writer Martin Popoff is Canada’s top expert on heavy metal. Senior editor of metal mag Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles and author of The Collector’s Guide to Heavy Metal, the Trail, B.C.–raised Popoff certainly knows his stuff when it comes to raunchy rock.

The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time is the result of a worldwide poll Popoff conducted, asking loud-rock fans to list their favourite heavy-metal standards. Before reading the results, I decided to throw together a list of my own Top 10 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time, so I could see how my opinions stacked up against those of the masses. No egg-tossing, please. (And keep in mind that one man’s heavy metal is another man’s hard rock.)

From one to 10: “You Shook Me All Night Long” (AC/DC), “Rock the Nation” (Montrose), “Draw the Line” (Aerosmith), “Highway Star” (Deep Purple), “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” (Blue Oyster Cult), “Cowboy Song” (Thin Lizzy), “Supernaut” (Black Sabbath), “Panama” (Van Halen), “Under My Wheels” (Alice Cooper), “Hair of the Dog” (Nazareth).

Now, let’s see what everybody else thinks is so great. According to some 18,000 individual votes tallied, the No. 1 heavy-metal song of all time is…drumroll, please—no, screw that; eardrum-shattering feedback from a 100-watt Marshall, please!Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”. What the f***!? Gimme a break! I mean, sure, it’s got a cool riff—“Dow dow dow, doodle-owdin doodle-owdin; dow dow dow, doodle-owdin doodle-owdin”—but best ever? Come on, Tony Iommi’s riff from Vol. 4’s “Supernaut” kicks way bigger butt! Check it out: “Dow dowdlin dow-dow-dow, dow-dow dowdlin—dowww. Dow dowdlin’ dow-dow-doww dow-woodlin dow-dow-woodlin.” I mean, shit!

“Paranoid” got 3,588 votes, while only 172 chose “Supernaut”, which leads me to believe that today’s typical poll-answering metalheads have their heads up their asses. Further proof can be seen in the choice of runner-up for top heavy-metal song of all time: Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”. That eight-and-a-half- minute raunchfest scored only 10 points less than “Paranoid”, but somebody forgot to mention that it’s BORING!

Clocking in at No. 3 is Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades”, with 3,165 votes. Now, I’m not a huge Motörhead fan—mainly because I prefer lotsa lead-guitar breaks—but I can see why this three-minute slash ’n’ burn punk-metal classic draws a fierce reaction. A lot of voters may also have taken the stance that it’s time to give veteran croaker Lemmy and the boys some long-overdue credit.

Now here’s a winner I can totally relate to: at No. 4, with 2,940 votes, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”. It contains some of the wildest rock guitar ever heard on mainstream airwaves, thanks to influential fretburner Randy Rhoads. And Ozzy never sounded so strong. Between playing it myself and catching it on the radio, I must have heard “Crazy Train” 200 times, which is 200 more times than I’ve heard this book’s fifth-place entry, Slayer’s “Angel of Death” (2,936 points). I’ve never understood the attraction to death metal. What’s the point? We’re all gonna die someday.

Nos. 6 and 7 are both tracks from Iron Maiden’s 1982 album, The Number of the Beast, the title track and “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, garnering 2,896 and 2,591 points respectively. No. 8 is Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” (2,355 points), 9 is AC/DC’s “Back in Black” (1,995 points), and 10 is Sabbath again, with “Iron Man” (1,915 points). I’m pretty sure that were it not for the current popularity of TV’s The Osbournes, Ozzy would not have figured in four of the top 10 metal tracks of all time.

So how did my own Top 10 stack up against the results of Popoff’s poll? Well, the only tune I chose that made a serious dent on his Top 500 was Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”, which came in at No. 14 with 1,729 votes. It should be noted that the author includes his own Top 25 metal songs of all time at the back of the book and that he was smart enough to put “Highway Star” on that list. More importantly, he made Aerosmith’s “Draw the Line” his No. 1 pick!

Atta boy, Marty. Old-school rules!

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