The UK’s second largest city sure packs a punch, with five of the world’s most successful bands originating from its streets…
When it comes to the evolution of modern music, the city of Birmingham is firmly cemented in the history books. Not only is it well known as the birthplace of heavy metal, but the city’s acceptance of musical diversity has led to it being instrumental in the creation of other musical genres, such as bhangra, British soul, grindcore, Brumbeat and, more recently, B-Town. So to prove just what a musical heavyweight Birmingham is, here are five incredible bands to come out of the city:
- Black Sabbath
This classic four-piece are widely credited as the leading pioneers in the development of heavy metal, along with fellow Midlanders, Led Zeppelin (two band members came from Birmingham) and Deep Purple. They formed in Birmingham in 1968 with singer Ozzy Osbourne, bassist Geezer Butler, guitarist Tony Iommi and drummer Bill Ward, and their mix of high-volume riff-based songs with dark lyrics and often occultish subject matter, were truly groundbreaking. Their 1970 debut album ‘Black Sabbath’ reached No. 8 in UK charts, while second release ‘Paranoid’ hit No. 1 in the UK, and peaked at No. 12 in the US, remaining in the charts for 70 weeks. The band have sold over 75 million albums worldwide, winning accolades including MTV’s ‘Greatest Metal Band Of All Time’, and placing 85th in Rolling Stone magazine’s ‘100 Greatest Artists Of All Time’.
- Duran Duran
Birmingham’s not all about hard rock though! Duran Duran formed in Birmingham in 1978 and quickly made a name for themselves as part of the New Romantic scene, and by the mid-1980s they were one of the biggest pop bands on the planet. Over their career, Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor had 14 UK Top 10 singles, 21 Billboard Hot 100 US singles and have sold over 100 million records worldwide. The band have their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and have won two Grammy Awards, an MTV Video Music Award for ‘Lifetime Achievement’ and two BRIT Awards, including one for their ‘Outstanding Contribution to Music’ in 2004.
Reggae/pop band UB40 formed in Birmingham in 1978 with frontman Ali Campbell, keyboardist Mickey Virtue, singer Astro, drummer Jimmy Brown, guitarist Robin Campbell, bassist Earl Falconer, percussionist Norman Hassan and saxophonist Brian Travers. In a reflection of Birmingham’s multiculturalism, the ethnic makeup of the band was diverse, with musicians of English, Irish, Jamaican, Scottish and Yemeni parentage. UB40 have had two UK No. 1 albums, three UK No. 1 singles (with ‘Red Red Wine’, ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ and ‘I Got You Babe’ – the latter, a duet with Chrissie Hynde), and have sold over 70 million records around the globe.
- Judas Priest
After forming in Birmingham in 1969, the band struggled to find commercial success until the 1980 release of their album ‘British Steel’, which The Guardian described as a “record that defines heavy metal”. Frontman Rob Halford’s operatic vocal style, along with the band’s uniform of leather, studs and spikes, has been emulated by many. The band were inducted onto the VH1 Rock Honors list in 2006, received a Grammy Award for ‘Best Metal Performance’ in 2010 and have had their songs featured in video games Guitar Hero and Rock Band. They’ve sold over 45 million albums to date, and MTV once ranked them as the second greatest metal band of all time.
- Dexys Midnight Runners
Following the break-up of their Birmingham punk band The Killjoys in 1978, singer Kevin Rowland and guitarist Kevin Archer decided to form a nine-piece new wave soul group. The band achieved major success in 1980 when their second single ‘Geno’ hit the UK No. 1 spot, staying there for two weeks. This was followed by ‘Come On Eileen’ in 1983, which reached the top of the charts in nine countries and has since gone on to become an absolute classic, selling over 1.33 million copies in the UK alone. The song won ‘Best British Single’ at the 1983 BRIT Awards, and in a poll by ITV, it was voted by the British public as the nation’s sixth favourite No. 1 song from the 1980s. The band are still releasing albums today under the name Dexys.
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