Early Years Black Sabbath
|Origin||Heaven and Hell|
|Years active||1968–1978, 1978–present|
“What the fuck is a Black Sabbath?”
“I love the song Iron Man. It's about me, you know.”
“I did what?!?”
Black Sabbath is a Gospel rock band/satanic church, formed in the Deepest Depths of Hell, New England in 1968 by Ozzy Osbourne (lead vocals and priest), Tony Baloney (AKA Tony Iommi (guitar), Old Maid (bass), and Ward Bill (drums and percussion). The band has since experienced multiple lineup changes, rituals, and bizarre initiations, with a total of over 9000 former members.
Mumbling baritone Ozzy Osbourne had tried out for the Fifth Baptist Church of London's choir, and was rejected without so much as an explanation. He assumed it was because of his ethnicity and brought his grievances to fellow African-Americans Tony Baloney, Ward Bill William, and Terrance Geezer Butler, all of whom repeatedly asked Ozzy to repeat himself. It was eventually decided that Ozzy would be an excellent singer as his indecipherable singing would distract away from the still-learning musicians Tony, Ward, and Old.
In honor of their ethnic background and love of Christ, they took on the name Black "Bloody" Sabbath. They began to write up-beat gospel hymns, and sought out a record deal. Despite moderate popularity playing church ice cream socials (and even one Bar Mitzvah), they could never seem to attract the attention of radio stations or record executives. Their sound eventually transformed into a blend of blues, rock, punk, funk, junk, and a throbbing headache, mainly because of Baloney accidentally chopping off his penis, leading to him tuning down his guitar to negative F-billion so he could strum it with his new "stub" more easily.
The new sound didn't impress the gospel promoter who eventually did give the band a listen, and suggested they stick to "something you're good at, like rap or basketball." Not understanding what rap was (having not been invented by Snoop Doggy Dog yet), but understanding the racial slight of the basketball stereotype, Black Sabbath made a choice that would forever change the face of rock music.
Blaming their being black on their lack of musical success, they also began blaming God for making them black. The next logical step was to blame God for their lack of musical success. They eventually became "unborn Christians" and devoted their lives, and their music, to Satan.
American and British youth, high on Alice Cooper songs and eager for more dark and sinister music, instantly gravitated towards the ominous sounds and whiny vocals of Black Sabbath. In spite of not having written an entire song as of this point, the band members complained of writer's block. Figuring if they came up with a cool name for the album that the songs would soon follow, Ozzy and company locked themselves in the basement of an abandoned church, drank goats' blood, and prayed to Satan for inspiration. Four days later they emerged, having chosen an album title of "Black Sabbath". By this time, their antics began to attract a lot of attention, and even a record deal. Desperate to create their first hit single, they band once again turned to Satan and a year and a half later came up with the title for their first song, which was "Black Sabbath".
Up against a deadline (the next day) to release their album, and having no real musical talent, Ozzy mumbled his way through a critic's review of the 1963 Italian cult-horror film, "Black Sabbath" while Tony and Old played the same three notes on their guitar and bass respectively. The album was released with only one track, and that track lacking drums. The album was a smashing success none-the-less.
Once concluding their successful tour, the band was pressured to release a follow-up album. Old Maid, being a fan of Robert Downey Jr. movies, penned a song about the super-hero Iron Man. Then one of the most memorable riffs in all of music was created. Interrupting a Satanic prayer of the other band mates, Old showed them the lyrics and was reported to have said, "And the bass riff for the song will go something like, Da...da...da.da.da...dadadadada.da...da.dada." Tony followed up with, "I've got a really cool guitar riff to go with that. It goes: Da...da...da.da.da...dadadadada.da...da.dada." Eventually, Bill created a drum beat sounding sort of like Da...da...da.da.da...dadadadada.da...da.dada. Ozzy, not wanting to be the odd man out, simply sang Old's lyrics in the same droning rhythm and the classic song was born.
By this time, Tony learned his second power-chord on his guitar, and this opened up a new area of the band to explore. The more complex, progressive sound of utilizing two power-chords created the hypnotic, mesmerizing sound that eventually became the song "Paranoid". Sabbath made further use of the two chord sound for "War Pigs", which also incorporated the two-symbol percussion sound. These songs eventually found their way into their next album, "Paranoid". For the cover art here they used the scariest thing they could think of, which was a sword-wielding black man in a forest.
Black Sabbath's two chord sound would dominate most of their music, although fans also responded well to songs like "Children of the Grave", which they felt was a effort on the part of Black Sabbath to pay homage their one-chord roots. Consequently, this song would forever be the basis of every musical creation of Rob Zombie (not to be confused with Al Jourgenson, who is not to be confused with Al Jolson).
Black Sabbath soon eclipsed the Beatles as Earth's most popular and successful act, and this success went to Ozzy's head. Feeling that he could make more money as a solo artist and television star, he announced his departure from Black Sabbath in 1979. Unfortunately, his slurred gibberish could not be understood by his band mates, and thus they were unaware that he had quit. One week later, after Ozzy had missed several rehearsals, Tony Iommi informed him via telephone that he was being fired for "missing too many fucking rehearsals". Ozzy landed on his feet, accepting the role of heart-throb Dr. Drake Rockford on television's General Hospital, winning a Daytime Emmy for his portrayal in 1980. Along the way he married Sharon, a quiet woman who shunned the spotlight and had little interest in controlling everything she possibly could. Ozzy was then bitten by the rock 'n' roll bug again and launched an immensely successful solo career which spawned several #1 singles and landed him a lucrative endorsement deal with "Gravy Train" dog food, for which he provided the now classic jingle. He soon gave up drugs and alcohol, and became a devout Christian and family man. He and Sharon had three talented and humble children and they all lived happily ever after.
Meanwhile, back in Birmingham, Black Sabbath sobered up and came to the realization that they needed a replacement singer. Fate then stepped in. Ronnie James Dio, who was returning from an audition as Sneezy in a nearby production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, dropped in and sang to the forlorn Sabbath members in an attempt to cheer them up. They liked his singing so much that they offered him the job, which he accepted. Black Sabbath then vowed to never undergo a membership change again, and they all lived happily ever after.
Falling Out: The Sequel
Fame and fortune would eventually give Ronnie James Dio an even bigger God complex, where he would eventually change his last name from the Italian word for "God", to "Ronnie You Will All Worship Me Because I Am the God of All Major Religions and Cultures". He would form his own heavy metal band, and Ronnie You Will All Worship Me Because I Am the God of All Major Religions and Cultures would have many hits like "Holy Diver" (written after he bought his swimming pool) and "The Last in Line" (written while trying to get his license renewed at the DMV).
Meanwhile, back in Birmingham, Black Sabbath struggled to remain relevant. Having been rejected by an incomprehensible drunk AND an unattractive dwarf with a God complex, they then re-animated the corpse of drummer Bill Ward and recruited former Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan. Gillan soon quit, saying "I thought I was supposed to leave the band... I mean, it's Black Sabbath, isn't it?". Black Sabbath would eventually break-up, reform, re-unite, reform, break-up, break-up again, carry on with no original members for a few years, re-unite to reform, then finally re-u-form and tour. At one point they recruited people off the street to join the band, offering minimum wage plus tips. It has been estimated that since 1985 over 4.5 million people have been members of Black Sabbath at one time or another. Although never quite reaching their level of earlier success, each band member was thankful to have a job.
Image and Legacy
Black Sabbath has left a lasting mark on hard rock and heavy metal, much akin to the skid-marks left behind by a drunk-driver crashing into a graveyard filled with dead cocaine addicts. Inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, only bassist Geezer Butler showed up to the ceremony, as the rest of the band were too drunk, stoned, or pissed off at each other. There was also a great deal of confusion as to who could be considered a member of Black Sabbath, due to the thousands who claimed to have been in the band at one time or another. The band thus initiated a rule stating that you had to be in Black Sabbath for at least seven days in order to obtain "Official Black Sabbath Member" status, which also included a t-shirt, official membership card, spyglasses, and a Black Sabbath pension which kicks in at age 65.
To honor Black Sabbath's groundbreaking work, the Local Union of Heavy Metal Garage Bands passed a by-law that every band must not only be able to play the song "Paranoid", but must also perform it at every practice and gig.
- Sacrificial Swine (1967)
- Lucifer Sam and the Coal Black Demonboy (1969)
- Master of Underworld Realty (1974)
- Dancing With The Pale Fairies in a Winter Wonderland...In Hell (1976)
- A Cold Day in Hell (1987)
- Kicked Out of Heaven and Hell (2009)
- Pre-Natal Paranoia: The Origins of Black Sabbath (2011)
- Ex-Nihlist (2012)