In 1970, four teenage friends from Aston, England (near Birmingham) formed the band Black Sabbath. Born in a time of flower power and musical tranquility, Black Sabbath blazed a trail for the darker, mysterious side of rock that runs rampant today. Fast forward to 2006, and John “Ozzy” Osbourne (vocals), Anthony “Tony” Iommy (guitar), Terence “Geezer” Butler (bass) and William “Bill” Ward (drums) have just been inducted into the U.S. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the U.K. Music Hall of Fame (in 2005). Also, it’s just been announced that the “original” Black Sabbath will release their first studio album of new material since 1978’s “Never Say Die” and will embark on a world-tour in support of this new album sometime in late 2007 or early 2008.
Named after an occult film by author Dennis Wheatley, Black Sabbath pioneered hard-edged music that unapologetically pushed the limits and imaginations of the musicians and their instruments. With a desire to stand out among the bluesy rock–as typified by Cream–and soft rock bands of the day, they became masters of heavy, riff-driven rock. Intensified by untamed, distinctive vocals that reflected danger, fear and the darker side of life, Black Sabbath was unstoppable.
Despite the odds against them, Black Sabbath followed their instincts. And won. They cut their muscle in seedy yet historic venues like the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany, far away from the Swinging London scene of the day and its trend-riddled masses. Their first release Black Sabbath was issued Friday the 13th of February 1970. The album was pummeled by critics and scooped up by rock fans eager for its unique sound and raw emotion. Yet another textbook example of the adage that fans–not critics–buy records. In a matter of months, the album Black Sabbath went Gold in the U.K. and the States, catapulting the back-street roughs to the head of the class and exposing the world to their overpowering devils and decibels.
Nearly four decades later, Black Sabbath has sold over 70 million albums and remains one of the highest selling catalogs in the world. Their influence on all hard rock/metal bands is undeniable, as they continue to impact new generations of young fans. Classic recordings like Paranoid, Masters of Reality, Volume 4 and Sabbath Black Sabbath are a testament to the band’s legendary workingman’s ethic of the album-tour-album-tour cycle.
Ultimately, the torn and tired group collapsed under its own weight in 1979 and Ozzy left the band very unsure of his musical future. Black Sabbath pressed on with the name and the legacy, changing lineups and releasing records to widely mixed reactions from both fans and music trades. At the same time, Ozzy retreated for an extended stay in a Los Angeles hotel suite before coming up for air to launch one of the greatest rebounds in rock history.
Nearly two decades later, after two brief one-off reunions (Live Aid in 1985 & Costa Mesa, California in 1992) the band finally regrouped to headline Ozzfest 1997 (with Mike Bordin on drums). That same year, all four original members played two homecoming shows in Birmingham, England, which were taped and later released as a double-live album, Reunion. A huge commercial and critical success, the single “Iron Man” earned Black Sabbath their first Grammy in 1999.
In 2004 and 2005, Black Sabbath headlined the mega-successful Ozzfest on the heels of their critically acclaimed, career-spanning box set Black Box: The Complete Original Black Sabbath (1970-1978). In a 4-star review, Rolling Stone said the set contained “all the Sabbath you’ll ever need,” while Spin noted, “Black Box collects the first eight albums…all skull-crushingly heavy.” Details raved, “This is evil,” calling the anthology “a boot crushing a windpipe…teeth on bone.” And Time Out New York proclaimed the package “a body of work more central to modern, popular music than that of any band since The Beatles.”
36 years later, Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill are laying claim to their rightful position at the top of the world of hard rock. Make sure you see them or you may end your days with your life being incomplete.
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