Week of May 15, 2022

That’s So Metal


“Top brass,” which now indicates the highest-level leaders in an organization, is based on the metal decorations used by officers in European militaries.


The Bronze Age, which lasted from about 3300-1200BC in the Fertile Crescent, was called that because earlier stone tools were replaced with bronze in many Middle Eastern civilizations. Copper had long been in use by that time, but the addition of tin to make the stronger alloy bronze brought these civilizations out of the “Stone Age” and was followed by the “Iron Age.”


In the classic film “The Wizard of Oz,” the Tin Man is first encountered when immobile with rust, and is thereafter afraid of watery things. However, tin does not rust. Only iron, or metals containing iron, rust.


Winston Churchill coined the term “Iron Curtain” to describe the post-WWII divide between more open democracies in western Europe and the more closed-off Soviet-controlled states.


“Tin Pan Alley” refers to types dance music, ballads, and vaudeville songs that began in the late 19th century and were named for the “tin pan” sound of pianos as the musicians promoted the songs for the concentration of music publishers originally found on 28th Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.


Only one metal – mercury – also bears the name of a planet and a Roman god. Unfortunately for we mortals, that planet is uninhabitable and that metal is toxic.


An accident with real metal played a major role in the birth of heavy metal music. At age 17, future Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi was working as an industrial welder. Assigned to an unfamiliar guillotine-type machine one day, he lost the tips of two fingers in an accident and nearly gave up playing guitar. However, he created his own prosthetics and changed his playing style to accommodate them. This became the deeper, darker sound associated with this pioneering band and the heavy metal genre as a whole.