Chalk it up to being raised on MTV, but I didn’t “get” Black Sabbath until later in life. Sure I knew “Paranoid” and “Iron Man” just like most people. I also knew Ozzy Osbourne fronted the band and how guitarist Tony Iommi lost his fingertips, but that’s really about it.
I am embarrassed to say it took me years to really discover and appreciate Black Sabbath. Some time back, ago I started listening to The Boneyard on Sirius Satellite Radio and they were playing Sabbath songs I never heard before. The opening bass lines from Geezer Butler on “N.I.B,” the drumming by Bill Ward on “Children of the Grave” is like nothing I’ve heard, it was groundbreaking. And the song which pushed me to learn more about Black Sabbath was the track “Black Sabbath.” I kid you not, here I am a 40-something year old man hearing “Black Sabbath” for the first time and it scared the shit out of me. It is easily the scariest song ever recorded.
What is even more astonishing to me is that Black Sabbath’s debut album, simply titled ‘Black Sabbath,’ was released on February 13, 1970 and the chart topping songs of that time period were “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” by B.J. Thomas, “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5 and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel. Can you imagine hearing little Michael Jackson singing with his brothers or hearing the majestic vocals of Paul Simon one minute then discovering four Brits singing songs about a monster in led shoes or their love for the “sweet leaf,” not to mention all the references to graves, the devil and hell. Plus, to learn that it was recorded live in just two days (with one of those days reserved for mixing), is just mind blowing.
There was no genre of “heavy metal” in 1970; they had to make it up for Black Sabbath, that’s how badass they were.
I recently saw a rerun of “The Metal Show” where they featured Bill Ward. I found it funny, here is this legendary musician known for being in one of the heaviest, darkest bands ever and he came out in dress pants with a nice shirt and a sweater vest on… a fucking sweater vest. He looked like a professor. But when he spoke, he came off so well read and intelligent. He seemed like a very gentle soul in his soft spoken voice. Yet, at 63 years of age he kept up on music. He knew Slipknot, Avenged Sevenfold, Shadows Fall etc. etc. After everything he has accomplished, seen and done it all boiled down to him still being a fan of music.
Even though I like Ronnie James Dio, I haven’t embraced those Sabbath years just yet…and frankly, probably never will To me Black Sabbath is just the original members from 1970-1978. It’s a shame a band so groundbreaking, so legendary let money (or whatever their reasons) come between them in their recent reunion efforts. To me, Black Sabbath is and will always be Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill. Anything else is secondary.