Black Sabbath

Back Story

  • ORIGIN: Aston, Birmingham, UK
  • CORE MEMBERS: Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne, Bill Ward, Ronnie James Dio
  • GENRES: Psych rock, heavy metal
  • YEARS ACTIVE: 1968-present

No band sounded the death knell of hippy-dom as gloriously as Black Sabbath. If the prevalent mood of the mid-’60s was one of peace, love and optimism no one told the four-piece of frontman Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward. “I tried beads and a kaftan but they looked shit on me,” remarked Osbourne several decades after the band’s inception in Aston, Birmingham, in 1968.

Growing from blues roots, Sabbath forged a sound around Iommi’s blackened riffs, Osbourne’s post-Lennon wail, and the tightly-locked interplay of Ward and Butler, the bassist penning lyrics that drew on reality as much as on his initial interest in spirituality and the band’s developing fright-night aesthetic. “We rehearsed across the road from a movie theatre which used to show horror films,” recalled Ozzy. “Tony said, ‘Isn’t it weird – people pay money to see horror films and get scared. Why don’t we make scary music?’”...(continues below)


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“Tony said, ‘People pay money to see horror films. Why don’t we make scary music?’”

Ozzy Osbourne

This decision – and their use of a Boris Karloff 1930s movie title as their moniker – would help forge Sabbath’s fearsome reputation, while their sound would define the metal genre. Resolutely anti-pop, reviled by the critics, and prone to endless bouts of self-destruction, the original line-up lasted until late 1978 when Ozzy was unceremoniously fired and replaced by Ronnie James Dio. Iommi kept the Sabs flag flying with various line-ups, until a 2011 reformation of the original quartet (at least, ‘original’ until Ward opted out) and the 2013 release of a gnarly comeback album, 13, put a cap on one of the most influential catalogues in heavy music. NB. 2009/2010’s expanded, deluxe, two-disc editions of certain key titles (wot? No Vol.4 yet?) are recommended for the bonus demos and remastered sound.