Sunday, or better yet, the Sabbath. No better day than today to say goodbye to (with apologies to Led Zeppelin) the godfathers of Heavy Metal, Black Sabbath.
Birmingham's finest (wow - between them and Duran Duran, there is quite the Brummie musical legacy): Ozzy Osbourne (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass) and Bill Ward (drums) were influenced by British blues giants - Cream, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and Zeppelin - formed Earth Blues Company (shortened to Earth), in 1968.
FUN FACT: their true first band name was the Polka Tulk Blues Band. Sheesh.
Thank the good Lord (or Beelzebub) for Geezer Butler, who came to the band with an idea for a song inspired by a disturbing apparition.
See, good ol' Geez was a huge fan of horror films and the black magic-themed novels of Dennis Wheatley, and dabbled a bit in the black arts. But then he believed he saw a hooded figure at the foot of his bed one nigh and ended his flirtation with the occult right then and there.
With lyrics by Geezer and Ozzy and heavy usage of the tritone riff, otherwise known as the Devil's Interval, the group came up with “Black Sabbath” (after the 1963 Boris Karloff film) about the visitation. The reaction from their audiences was so powerful that the song (plus the fact that there was already another band named Earth) became an eponymous one.
Their debut album made them the most evil band in the world, but their 1970 sophomore effort, Paranoid, made them huge (and provided a quality theme song for Tony Stark):
Master Of Reality in 1971 laid the foundation for the doom and stoner metal genres, while Vol. 4 was experimental locationally (L.A.!), musically (Piano! Gospel blues!) and pharmaceutically (*ahem* cocainecocainecocainecocaine). Sabbath Bloody Sabbath almost never happened until they left L.A. and set up shop in an English castle dungeon to kickstart their muse, which took them into acoustic guitars, strings and prog-rockish synths.
FUN FACT #2: Tony Iommi plays detuned, lighter-stringed guitars while wearing leather/plastic thimbles on two fingers on his right hand. Why? He severed the tips of said fingers whilst working in a sheet metal factory pre-Sabbath. HE EVEN WORKED WITH METAL!!
Sabotage was yet again pushing the musical envelope and a quality-yet-underrated chapter in their career, but signs that the band might go supernova began to appear (more drugs, going to court with their record company). Heck, you don't even have to listen to the album to know this. The cover alone can tell you things are getting ugly. Tony's looking like he's going to produce a Bee Gees record right after taking the photo, Ozzy's wearing a daishiki paired with platform boots, Bill Ward's crosslegged with a laser-guided death stare, and Geezer's wearing pants so tight that we would see less if he were naked. If only they'd turned around and faced that GIANT MIRROR to take a look at themselves...
Technical Ecstasy (brilliant elements yet all over the place) and Never Say Die! was the end of the original lineup, with Ozzy leaving the band, then coming back, with an ex-Fleetwood Mac (?!?) singer and Bill Ward providing vocals in between. That and the fact that the band was even physically capable of playing anything at the time made this a trainwreck-yet-miracle of an album. Ozzy was fired after that album's tour because of his out-drugging the rest of the band, and Sabbath's future seemed bleak.
Enter Ronnie James Dio (R.I.P.).
He would've been a legend even if his sole contribution to society was the Devil Horns hand gesture, but the former Rainbow lead singer came to Sabbath when all seemed lost, and gave them a solid kick in the tuchas.
He also was a great interview.
After 4 quality years, Tony Iommi and Geezer fell out with with Dio in '82 and hired ex-Deep Purple singer Ian Gilliam and released the panned album Born Again. The highlight of that period being the inspiration for the "Stonehenge" gag in Spinal Tap, only instead of the set being Lilliputian in nature, it was mistakenly ordered as 15 metres high and not 15 feet.
The rest of the 80's happened with the original lineup reuniting at Live Aid and Tony Iommi wanting to release solo efforts but the record company forcing him to to call them Black Sabbath albums. Geezer left the band and glam metal had taken over.
Dio and Geezer came back to the band in '90 to record Dehumanizer, although relations between Dio and Tony were still somewhat tense. Ronnie left again when Ozzy announced he was retiring from music after a decade of solo success, and the rest of the band went on stage with Ozz to play a set with him.
Tony went on with his revolving door of members and forgettable albums until 1997, when the original members officially reunited, beginning with a co-headlining tour with Ozzy's band. They began to record an album with producer Rick Rubin (me: schoolgirl-like *gasp!*) but the project never made the light of day. Tony got back together with Ronnie James Dio in 2006 to record a few new tracks for Heaven & Hell, a compilation of Sabbath songs during the Dio years. They were so happy with the end result that they went out on tour as Heaven & Hell, eventually recording an album in 2009. Oh yeah - Sabbath was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, Metallica doing the inducting and providing a suitable musical tribute. No biggie.
The original lineup reunited yet again 2011 to tour and record an album, but Bill Ward left, again, due to contract squabbles. The album 13, produced by (me: schoolgirl-like *gasp!*) Rick Rubin, came out in 2013. The album went #1 in the UK and U.S. and had this little Grammy Award-winning gem:
But after over 70 million records sold, influencing countless artists (don't forget Spinal Tap!) and creating entire musical genres, Black Sabbath played their final show (but without Bill Ward) on Thursday, February 4, 2017 at Genting Arena in (fitfully) their hometown of Birmingham.
So in honour of their final show, here's to Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill. You will forever inspire future rockers and haunt the dreams of the rest of us.
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The officially unofficial blog of Faux Rawk. Everything you read is true, although some of what you read is 100% false. Whoa... trippy, man.