From the ground laid in the psychedelic period by Pete Townshend, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix, heavy metal music flourished in the late sixties and early seventies. Hard rock usually depended on a Blues framework. There had already been rumblings of hard rock in 1968. Hush, a song written by Joe South and first released by Billy Joe Royal in the Fall of 1967, enjoyed greater popularity as performed by Deep Purple in a hard rock single released in April 1968 that reached #4 on the U.S. pop charts. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, which seems to enjoy more respect in the early 21st century than it enjoyed when first released by the Iron Butterfly in May 1968, only got so far as #30 on the U.S. single charts, not charting at all in the UK. In June 1968 Blue Cheer released its hard rock version of Summertime Blues, originally a rockabilly hit by Eddie Cochran in 1958. The Blue Cheer version gradually rose to #14 in the U.S. Blue Cheer was largely ignored in the UK. Ironically, The Who released its own hard rock version of Summertime Blues in July 1970; The Who’s single didn’t do as well, making it to #27 on the U.S. pop chart (though it climbed to #38 in the UK).
The most successful of the hard rock groups was Led Zeppelin. While many groups and artists of heavy metal fared better on singles, Led Zeppelin was known for its albums from the start. The group’s first album, simply named Led Zeppelin, released in January 1969, did fairly well, reaching #10 on Billboard and #6 in the UK. But it was their second album, Led Zeppelin II (#1 both in the U.S. and the UK) that made them a super-group who would dominate the 1970s in hard rock much as Pink Floyd dominated progressive rock throughout the decade. The single from that album, Whole Lotta Love, was awarded the #1 position on the U.S. charts upon its release in November 1969.
Among other hard rock groups that emerged in the early years of the 1970s was Mountain, which had been formed with Cream’s producer Felix Pappalardi. He joined forces with lead guitarist Leslie West to try and create a follow-up to Cream’s previous success. The group produced one hit single, Mississippi Queen, released in March 1970, getting so far as #17 on the U.S. charts. Black Sabbath launched their career in the U.S. in August 1970 with a song called Paranoid, a modest success when it reached #61, though the album containing it reached #4 in the UK.
More successful in the U.S. was Alice Cooper, whose first big hit I'm Eighteen, from the album Love It To Death, was released in November 1970 and rose to #21. Alice Cooper’s style of music was also known as “shock rock”, a style derived from the Mothers of Invention. David Bowie would pick up on shock rock to develop the classic glam rocker album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Released in June 1972, Bowie was one of the first acts to capitalize on (rumors of) homosexuality, linking it to a sort of alien weirdness. Ziggy Stardust didn’t play well at the time in the U.S., as the album only reached #75, but it made a stronger impression in the UK, where it charted at #5. Even though a single from the album, Suffragette City, failed to chart upon its release, by the early 21st century Ziggy Stardust has turned out to be one of Bowie’s most popular albums.