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



By Steve Newton

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!

To hear my interviews with Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 200 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Alex Van Halen, 1995
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001

….with hundreds more to come

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