Black Sabbath are an English hard rock/heavy metal band, formed in Birmingham in 1968, by guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, singer Ozzy Osbourne, and drummer Bill Ward. The band has since experienced multiple line-up changes, with Tony Iommi the only constant presence in the band through the years. Originally formed as a heavy blues rock band named Earth, the band began incorporating occult themes with horror-inspired lyrics. Despite an association with occult and horror themes, Black Sabbath also composed songs dealing with social instability, political corruption and apocalyptic prophecies of the horrors of war. Ozzy Osbourne was dismissed from the band in 1979 and he was replaced by former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio. After a few albums with Dio's vocals and songwriting collaborations, Black Sabbath endured a revolving line-up in the 1980s and the 1990s that included vocalists Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, Glenn Hughes, Ray Gillen and Tony Martin, as well as multiple members of Deep Purple and Rainbow. In 1992, Iommi and Butler rejoined Dio and drummer Vinny Appice to record Dehumanizer. The original line-up reunited with Ozzy Osbourne in 1997 and released a live album Reunion. Black Sabbath's 19th studio album, 13, which features all original members except Bill Ward, was released in June 2013.
Although Black Sabbath have gone through many line-ups and stylistic changes, their original sound focused on ominous lyrics and doomy music, often making use of the musical tritone, also called the "devil's interval". While their first albums had slight compositional similarities to the progressive rock genre that was growing in popularity at the time, standing in stark contrast to popular music of the early 1970s Black Sabbath's dark sound was dismissed by rock critics of the era. As the band's primary songwriter, Tony Iommi wrote the majority of Black Sabbath's music, while Ozzy Osbourne would write vocal melodies, and bassist Geezer Butler would write lyrics. The process was sometimes frustrating for Iommi, who often felt pressured to come up with new material. In 1966, before forming Black Sabbath, guitarist Tony Iommi suffered an accident while working in a sheet metal factory, losing the tips of two fingers on his right hand. Iommi almost gave up music, but was urged by the factory manager to listen to Django Reinhardt, a jazz guitarist who lost the use of two fingers. Inspired by Reinhardt, Iommi created two thimbles made of plastic and leather to cap off his missing fingertips. The guitarist began using lighter strings, and detuning his guitar, to better grip the strings with his prosthesis. Black Sabbath are cited as pioneers of heavy metal and they have influenced many acts. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970) and Master of Reality (1971). Allmusic's William Ruhlmann said: "Black Sabbath has been so influential in the development of heavy metal rock music as to be a defining force in the style. The group took the blues-rock sound of late '60s acts like Cream, Blue Cheer, and Vanilla Fudge to its logical conclusion, slowing the tempo, accentuating the bass, and emphasising screaming guitar solos and howled vocals full of lyrics expressing mental anguish and macabre fantasies. If their predecessors clearly came out of an electrified blues tradition, Black Sabbath took that tradition in a new direction, and in so doing helped give birth to a musical style that continued to attract millions of fans decades later." In addition to being pioneers of heavy metal, they also have been credited for laying the foundations for heavy metal subgenres stoner rock, sludge metal, thrash metal, black metal, and doom metal as well as for alternative rock subgenre grunge. According to the critic Bob Gulla, the band's sound "shows up in virtually all of grunge's most popular bands, including Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains". Black Sabbath were also one of the earliest to turn gothic music into a genre. They were ranked by MTV as the "Greatest Metal Band" of all time, and placed second in VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock" list. Rolling Stone magazine ranked them number 85 in their "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". They have sold over 15 million records in the United States and over 70 million records worldwide. Black Sabbath were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
Formation & Early days (1968–69)
Following the break-up of their previous band Mythology in 1968, guitarist Tony Iommi and drummer Bill Ward sought to form a heavy blues rock band in Aston, Birmingham. The two enlisted bassist Geezer Butler and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, who had played together in a band called Rare Breed, Ozzy having placed an advertisement in a local music shop: "Ozzy Zig Needs Gig - has own PA". The new group was initially named The Polka Tulk Blues Band (after a cheap brand of talcum powder Ozzy saw in his mother's bathroom) and also featured slide guitarist Jimmy Phillips, a childhood friend of Ozzy, and saxophonist Alan "Aker" Clarke. After shortening the name to Polka Tulk, the band changed their name to Earth (which Ozzy hated) and continued as a four-piece without Phillips and Clarke. Iommi became concerned that Phillips and Clarke lacked the necessary dedication and were not taking the band seriously. Rather than asking them to leave, they instead decided to break up and then quietly reformed the band as a four-piece. While the band was performing under the Earth title, they recorded several demos written by Norman Haines such as "The Rebel", "Song for Jim", and "When I Came Down". The demo titled "Song for Jim" was in reference to Jim Simpson who was a manager for the bands Bakerloo Blues Line and Tea & Symphony. Simpson was also a trumpet player for the group Locomotive. He had recently opened a new pub named Henry's Blues House and offered to let Earth play some gigs in his club. The audience response was positive and Simpson agreed to manage Earth. In December 1968, Tony Iommi left Earth to join Jethro Tull. Although his stint with the band would be short-lived, Iommi made an appearance with Jethro Tull on The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus TV show. Unsatisfied, Iommi returned to Earth in January 1969. "It just wasn't right, so I left", Iommi said. "At first I thought Tull were great, but I didn't much go for having a leader in the band, which was Ian Anderson's way. When I came back from Tull, I came back with a new attitude altogether. They taught me that to get on, you got to work for it." While playing shows in England in 1969, the band discovered they were being mistaken for another English group named Earth, and decided to again change their name. A cinema across the street from the band's rehearsal room was showing the 1963 Mario Bava horror film Black Sabbath starring Boris Karloff. While watching people line up to see the film, Geezer Butler noted that it was "strange that people spend so much money to see scary movies." Following that, Ozzy and Geezer wrote the lyrics for a song called "Black Sabbath", which was inspired by the work of horror and adventure-story writer Dennis Wheatley, along with a vision that Butler had of a black silhouetted figure standing at the foot of his bed. Making use of the musical tritone, also known as "The Devil's Interval", the song's ominous sound and dark lyrics pushed the band in a darker direction, a stark contrast to the popular music of the late 1960s, which was dominated by flower power, folk music, and hippie culture. Inspired by the new sound, the band changed their name to Black Sabbath in August 1969, and made the decision to focus on writing similar material, in an attempt to create the musical equivalent of horror films.
To capitalise on their chart success in the US, the band returned to the studio in June 1970, just four months after Black Sabbath was released. The new album was initially set to be named War Pigs after the song "War Pigs", which was critical of the Vietnam War; however, Warner changed the title of the album to Paranoid. The album's lead-off single "Paranoid" was written in the studio at the last minute. As Ward explains: "We didn't have enough songs for the album, and Tony just played the Paranoid guitar lick and that was it. It took twenty, twenty-five minutes from top to bottom." The single was released in September 1970 and reached number four on the UK charts, remaining Black Sabbath's only top ten hit. The album followed in the UK in October 1970, where, pushed by the success of the "Paranoid" single, it made number one in the charts. The US release was held until January 1971, as the Black Sabbath album was still on the charts at the time of Paranoid's UK release. Black Sabbath subsequently toured America for the first time and played their first ever US show at a club called Ungano's at 210 West 70th Street in New York City. The album reached No. 12 in the US in March 1971, and would go on to sell four million copies in the US, with virtually no radio airplay. Like Black Sabbath, the album was panned by rock critics of the era, but modern-day reviewers such as AllMusic's Steve Huey cite Paranoid as "one of the greatest and most influential heavy metal albums of all time", which "defined the sound and style of heavy metal more than any other record in rock history". The album was ranked at No. 131 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Paranoid's chart success allowed the band to tour the US for the first time in October 1970, which spawned the release of the album's second single "Iron Man". Although the single failed to reach the top 40, "Iron Man" remains one of Black Sabbath's most popular songs, as well as the band's highest charting US single until 1998's "Psycho Man".
Children of the Grave
Into the Void
Am I Going Insane (Radio)
Hole in the Sky
You Won't Change Me
In late 1977, while in rehearsal for their next album, and just days before the band was set to enter the studio, Ozzy abruptly quit the band. Tony Iommi called vocalist Dave Walker, a longtime friend of the band, who had previously been a member of Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown, and informed him that Ozzy had left the band. Walker, who was at that time fronting a band called Mistress, flew to Birmingham from California in late 1977 to write material and rehearse with Black Sabbath. On 8 January 1978, Black Sabbath made their first and only live performance with Walker on vocals, playing an early version of the song "Junior's Eyes" on the BBC Television program "Look! Hear!". Walker later recalled that while in Birmingham he had bumped into Ozzy in a pub and came to the conclusion that he wasn't fully committed to leaving Black Sabbath. "The last Sabbath albums were just very depressing for me", Ozzy said. "I was doing it for the sake of what we could get out of the record company, just to get fat on beer and put a record out." Walker has said that he wrote a lot of lyrics during his brief time in the band but none of them were ever used. If any recordings of this version of the band other than the "Look! Hear!" footage still exist, Walker says he's not aware of them. Ozzy initially set out to form a solo project, which featured ex-Dirty tricks members John Frazer-Binnie, Terry Horbury, and Andy Bierne. As the new band were in rehearsals in January 1978, Ozzy had a change of heart and rejoined Black Sabbath. "Three days before we were due to go into the studio, Ozzy wanted to come back to the band," Tony Iommi explained. "He wouldn't sing any of the stuff we'd written with Dave Walker, so it made it very difficult. We went into the studio with basically no songs. We'd write in the morning so we could rehearse and record at night. It was so difficult, like a conveyor belt, because you couldn't get time to reflect on stuff. 'Is this right? Is this working properly?' It was very difficult for me to come up with the ideas and putting them together that quick." The band spent five months at Sounds Interchange Studios in Toronto, Canada, writing and recording what would become Never Say Die!. "It took quite a long time," Tony said. The album was released in September 1978, reaching number twelve in the UK, and number 69 in the US. Press response was unfavourable and did not improve over time. The album featured the singles "Never Say Die" and "Hard Road", both of which cracked the top 40 in the UK, and the band made their second appearance on the Top of the Pops, performing "Never Say Die". It took nearly 20 years for the album to be certified Gold in the US. Touring in support of Never Say Die! began in May 1978 with openers Van Halen. Reviewers called Black Sabbath's performance "tired and uninspired". The band filmed a performance at the Hammersmith Odeon in June 1978, which was later released on DVD as Never Say Die. The final show of the tour, and Ozzy's last appearance with the band (until later reunions) was in Albuquerque, New Mexico on 11 December.
Following the tour, Black Sabbath returned to Los Angeles and again rented a house in Bel Air, where they spent nearly a year working on new material for the next album. The band would come up with new song ideas but Ozzy showed little interest and would refuse to sing them. With pressure from the record label, and frustrations with Ozzy's lack of input coming to a head, Tony Iommi made the decision to fire Ozzy Osbourne in 1979. Iommi believed the only options available were to fire Osbourne or break the band up completely.
Black Sabbath with Dio: Heaven and Hell & Mob Rules (1979–82)
Sharon Arden (later Sharon Osbourne), daughter of Black Sabbath manager Don Arden, suggested former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio to replace Ozzy Osbourne in 1979. Don Arden was at this point still trying to convince Ozzy to rejoin the band, as he viewed the original lineup as the most profitable. Dio officially joined in June, and the band began writing their next album. With a notably different vocal style from Ozzy's, Dio's addition to the band marked a change in Black Sabbath's sound. "They were totally different altogether", Tony explains. "Not only voice-wise, but attitude-wise. Ozzy was a great showman, but when Dio came in, it was a different attitude, a different voice and a different musical approach, as far as vocals. Dio would sing across the riff, whereas Ozzy would follow the riff, like in "Iron Man". Ronnie came in and gave us another angle on writing." Geezer Butler temporarily left the band in September 1979, and, according to Dio, the band initially hired Craig Gruber (with whom Dio had previously played while in Elf) on bass to assist with writing the new album. Gruber was soon replaced by Geoff Nicholls of Quartz. The new line-up returned to Criteria Studios in November to begin recording work, with Butler returning to the band in January 1980, and Nicholls moving to keyboards. Produced by Martin Birch, Heaven and Hell was released on 25 April 1980, to critical acclaim. Over a decade after its release Allmusic said the album was "one of Sabbath's finest records, the band sounds reborn and re-energised throughout". Heaven and Hell peaked at number 9 in the UK, and number 28 in the US, the band's highest charting album since Sabotage. The album eventually sold a million copies in the US, and the band embarked on an extensive world tour, making their first live appearance with Dio in Germany on 17 April 1980. Black Sabbath toured the US throughout 1980 with Blue Öyster Cult on the "Black and Blue" tour, with a show at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York filmed and released theatrically in 1981 as Black and Blue. On 26 July 1980, the band played to 75,000 fans at a sold-out Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles with Journey, Cheap Trick, and Molly Hatchet. The next day, the band appeared at the 1980 Day on the Green at Oakland Coliseum. While on tour, Black Sabbath's former label in England issued a live album culled from a seven-year old performance, titled Live at Last without any input from the band. The album reached number five on the British charts, and saw the re-release of "Paranoid" as a single, which reached the top 20. On 18 August 1980, after a show in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bill Ward quit the band. "It was intolerable for me to get on the stage without Ozzy." The group then brought in drummer Vinny Appice to replace Ward. The band completed the Heaven and Hell world tour in February 1981, and returned to the studio to begin work on their next album. Black Sabbath's second studio album produced by Martin Birch and featuring Ronnie James Dio as vocalist, Mob Rules was released in October 1981, to be well received by fans, but less so by the critics. Rolling Stone reviewer J. D. Considine gave the album one star. Like most of the band's earlier work, time helped to improve the opinions of the music press, a decade after its release, Allmusic's Eduardo Rivadavia called Mob Rules "a magnificent record". The album was certified gold, and reached the top 20 on the UK charts. The album's title track "The Mob Rules", which was recorded at John Lennon's old house in England, also featured in the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal, although the film version is an alternate take, and differs from the album version.
Unhappy with the quality of 1980's Live at Last, the band recorded another live album titled Live Evil, during the Mob Rules world tour, across the United States in Dallas, San Antonio and Seattle, in 1982. During the mixing process for the album, Iommi and Butler had a falling out with Dio. Misinformed by their then-current mixing engineer, Iommi and Butler accused Dio of sneaking into the studio at night to raise the volume of his vocals. In addition, Dio was not satisfied with the pictures of him in the artwork. "Ronnie wanted more say in things," Iommi said. "And Geezer would get upset with him and that is where the rot set in. Live Evil is when it all fell apart. Ronnie wanted to do more of his own thing, and the engineer we were using at the time in the studio didn't know what to do, because Ronnie was telling him one thing and we were telling him another. At the end of the day, we just said, 'That's it, the band is over'". "When it comes time for the vocal, nobody tells me what to do. Nobody! Because they're not as good as me, so I do what I want to do," Dio later said. Ronnie James Dio left Black Sabbath in November 1982 to start his own band, and took drummer Vinny Appice with him. Live Evil was released in January 1983, but was overshadowed by Ozzy Osbourne's Speak of the Devil, a platinum selling album.
Black Sabbath with Ian Gillan: Born Again (1983–84)
The two original members left, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler, began auditioning new singers for the band's next release. Samson's Nicky Moore, and Lone Star's John Sloman were considered. The band settled on former Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan to replace Ronnie James Dio in December 1982. While the project was not initially set to be called Black Sabbath, pressures from the record label forced the group to retain the name. The band entered The Manor Studios in Shipton-on-Cherwell, Oxfordshire, in June 1983 with a returned Bill Ward on drums. Born Again (1983) was panned upon release by critics. Despite the negative reception of the album, it reached number four on the UK charts, and number 39 in the US.
Hiatus & Seventh Star with Glenn Hughes (1984–86)
Following the completion of the Born Again tour in March 1984, vocalist Ian Gillan left Black Sabbath to re-join Deep Purple, which was reforming after a long hiatus. Bevan left at the same time, and Gillan remarked that he and Bevan were made to feel like "hired help" by Iommi. The band then recruited an unknown Los Angeles vocalist named David Donato. The new line-up wrote and rehearsed throughout 1984, and eventually recorded a demo with producer Bob Ezrin in October. Unhappy with the results, the band parted ways with Donato shortly after. Disillusioned with the band's revolving line-up, bassist Geezer Butler quit Black Sabbath in November 1984 to form a solo band. "When Ian Gillan took over that was the end of it for me", Butler later said. "I thought it was just a joke and I just totally left. When we got together with Gillan it was not supposed to be a Black Sabbath album. After we had done the album we gave it to Warner Bros and they said they were going to put it out as a Black Sabbath album and we didn't have a leg to stand on. I got really disillusioned with it and Gillan was really pissed off about it. That lasted one album and one tour and then that was it." Following Butler's exit, sole remaining original member Tony Iommi put Black Sabbath on hiatus, and began work on a solo album with long-time Sabbath keyboardist Geoff Nicholls. While working on new material, the original Black Sabbath line-up were offered a spot at Bob Geldof's Live Aid benefit concert; the band agreed, performing at the Philadelphia show, on 13 July 1985. The event marked the first time the original line-up appeared on stage since 1978, and also featured reunions of The Who and Led Zeppelin. Returning to his solo work, Iommi enlisted bassist Dave Spitz and drummer Eric Singer, and initially intended to use multiple singers, including Rob Halford of Judas Priest, ex-Deep Purple and Trapeze vocalist Glenn Hughes, and ex-Black Sabbath vocalist Ronnie James Dio, but this plan didn't work as he forecasted. "We were going to use different vocalists on the album, guest vocalists, but it was so difficult getting it together and getting releases from their record companies. Glenn Hughes came along to sing on one track and we decided to use him on the whole album." The band spent the remainder of the year in the studio, recording what would become Seventh Star. Warner Bros refused to release the album as a Tony Iommi solo release, instead insisting on using the name Black Sabbath. Pressured by the band's manager, Don Arden, the two compromised and released the album as "Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi" in January 1986. "It opened up a whole can of worms really," Iommi explained, "because I think if we could have done it as a solo album, it would have been accepted a lot more." Seventh Star, which sounded little like a Black Sabbath album, incorporated more hard rock elements popularised by the 1980s Sunset Strip hard rock scene, and was panned by the critics of the era, although later reviewers such as Allmusic gave the album favourable reviews, calling the album "often misunderstood and underrated".
The new line-up rehearsed for six weeks, preparing for a full world tour, although the band were eventually forced to use the Black Sabbath name. "I was into the 'Tony Iommi project', but I wasn't into the Black Sabbath moniker," Hughes said. "The idea of being in Black Sabbath didn't appeal to me whatsoever. Glenn Hughes singing in Black Sabbath is like James Brown singing in Metallica. It wasn't gonna work". Just four days before the start of the tour, vocalist Glenn Hughes got into a bar fight with the band's production manager John Downing which splintered the singer's orbital bone. The injury interfered with Hughes' ability to sing, and the band brought in vocalist Ray Gillen to continue the tour with W.A.S.P. and Anthrax, although nearly half of the US dates would eventually be cancelled because of poor ticket sales. One vocalist whose status is disputed, both inside and outside Black Sabbath, is Christian evangelist and former Joshua frontman, Jeff Fenholt. Fenholt has insisted that he was a singer in Black Sabbath between January and May 1985. Tony Iommi has never confirmed this, as he was working on a solo release that was later named as a Sabbath album. Fenholt gives a detailed account of his time with Iommi and Sabbath in Garry Sharpe-Young's book Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: The Battle for Black Sabbath.
Black Sabbath with Tony Martin: The Eternal Idol, Headless Cross & Tyr (1986–90)
Black Sabbath began work on new material in October 1986 at Air Studios in Montserrat with producer Jeff Glixman. The recording was fraught with problems from the beginning, as Glixman left after the initial sessions, and was replaced by producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven. Bassist Dave Spitz quit over "personal issues", and ex-Rainbow bassist Bob Daisley was brought in. Daisley re-recorded all of the bass tracks, and wrote the album's lyrics, but before the album was complete, he left to join Gary Moore's backing band, taking drummer Eric Singer with him. After problems with the second producer Coppersmith-Heaven, the band returned to Morgan Studios in England in January 1987 to work with new producer Chris Tsangarides. While working in the UK, new vocalist Ray Gillen abruptly left Black Sabbath to form Blue Murder with John Sykes. The band enlisted ex-Alliance vocalist Tony Martin to re-record Gillen's tracks, and former Electric Light Orchestra drummer Bev Bevan to complete a few percussion overdubs. Before the release of the new album, Black Sabbath accepted an offer to play six shows at Sun City, South Africa during the apartheid era. The band drew criticism from activists and artists involved with Artists United Against Apartheid, who had been boycotting South Africa since 1985. Drummer Bev Bevan refused to play the shows, and was replaced by Terry Chimes, formerly of The Clash. After nearly a year in production, The Eternal Idol was released on 8 December 1987 and ignored by contemporary reviewers. On-line internet era reviews were mixed. Allmusic said that "Martin's powerful voice added new fire" to the band, and the album contained "some of Iommi's heaviest riffs in years." Blender gave the album two stars, claiming the album was "Black Sabbath in name only". The album would stall at No.66 in the UK, while peaking at 168 in the US. The band toured in support of Eternal Idol in Germany, Italy and for the first time, Greece. Unfortunately, in part because of a backlash from promoters over the South Africa incident, other European shows were cancelled. Bassist Dave Spitz left the band shortly before the tour, and was replaced by Jo Burt, formerly of Virginia Wolf. Following the poor commercial performance of The Eternal Idol, Black Sabbath were dropped by Vertigo Records and Warner Bros. Records, and signed with I.R.S. Records. The band took time off in 1988, returning in August to begin work on their next album. As a result of the recording troubles with Eternal Idol, Tony Iommi opted to produce the band's next album himself. "It was a completely new start", Iommi said. "I had to rethink the whole thing, and decided that we needed to build up some credibility again". Iommi enlisted ex-Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell, long-time keyboardist Nicholls and session bassist Laurence Cottle, and rented a "very cheap studio in England". Black Sabbath released Headless Cross in April 1989, and this album was again ignored by contemporary reviewers. Anchored by the number 62 charting single "Headless Cross", the album reached number 31 on the UK charts, and number 115 in the US. Queen guitarist Brian May, a good friend of Iommi's, played a guest solo on the song "When Death Calls". Following the album's release, the band added touring bassist Neil Murray, formerly of Whitesnake, Gary Moore's backing band, and Vow Wow. The ill-fated Headless Cross U.S. tour began in May 1989 with openers Kingdom Come and Silent Rage, but because of poor ticket sales, the tour was cancelled after just eight shows. The European leg of the tour began in September, where the band were enjoying chart success. After a string of Japanese shows, the band embarked on a 23 date Russian tour with Girlschool. Black Sabbath was one of the first bands to tour Russia, after Mikhail Gorbachev opened the country to western acts for the first time in 1989. The band returned to the studio in February 1990 to record Tyr, the follow-up to Headless Cross. While not technically a concept album, some of the album's lyrical themes are loosely based on Norse mythology. Tyr was released on 6 August 1990, and reached number 24 on the UK albums chart, but was the first Black Sabbath release not to break the Billboard 200 in the US. The album would receive mixed internet-era reviews. The band toured in support of Tyr with Circus of Power in Europe, but the final seven UK dates were cancelled because of poor ticket sales. For the first time in their career, the band's touring cycle did not include US dates.
God is Dead?
End of the Beginning