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Black Sabbath are an English rock band, formed in Birmingham in 1968, by guitarist and main songwriter Tony Iommi, bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler, singer Ozzy Osbourne, and drummer Bill Ward. The band have since experienced multiple line-up changes, with guitarist Iommi being the only constant presence in the band through the years. Originally formed as a blues rock band, the group soon adopted the Black Sabbath moniker and began incorporating occult themes with horror-inspired lyrics and tuned-down guitars. Despite an association with these two themes, Black Sabbath also composed songs dealing with social instability, political corruption, the dangers of drug abuse and apocalyptic prophecies of the horrors of war. Osbourne’s regular abuse of alcohol and other drugs led to his dismissal from the band in 1979. He was replaced by former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Following two albums with Dio, Black Sabbath endured countless personnel changes in the 1980s and 1990s that included vocalists Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes, Ray Gillen and Tony Martin, as well as several drummers and bassists. In 1992, Iommi and Butler rejoined Dio and drummer Vinny Appice to record Dehumanizer. The original line-up reunited with Osbourne in 1997 and released a live album Reunion. Black Sabbath’s 19th studio album, 13, which features all of the original members but Ward, was released in June 2013. Black Sabbath are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970) and Master of Reality (1971). 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 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. They have also won two Grammy Awards for Best Metal Performance. 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. They enlisted bassist Geezer Butler and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, who had played together in a band called Rare Breed, Osbourne 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, the name taken either from a brand of talcum powder or an Indian/Pakistani clothing shop; the exact origin is confused. The Polka Tulk Blues Band featured slide guitarist Jimmy Phillips, a childhood friend of Osbourne’s, and saxophonist Alan “Aker” Clarke. After shortening the name to Polka Tulk, the band again changed their name to Earth (which Osbourne 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. Jim Simpson was a manager for the bands Bakerloo Blues Line and Tea & Symphony. Simpson was also a trumpet player for the group Locomotive. Simpson 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, Iommi abruptly 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 with the direction of Jethro Tull, 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. They decided to change their name again. A cinema across the street from the band’s rehearsal room was showing the 1963 horror film Black Sabbath starring Boris Karloff and directed by Mario Bava. While watching people line up to see the film, Butler noted that it was “strange that people spend so much money to see scary movies.” Following that, Osbourne and Butler 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. Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford has called the track “probably the most evil song ever written”. 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. The band’s first show as Black Sabbath took place on 30 August 1969, in Workington. They were signed to Philips Records in November 1969, and released their first single, “Evil Woman” (a cover of a song by the band Crow), recorded at Trident Studios, through Philips subsidiary Fontana Records in January 1970. Later releases were handled by Philips’ newly formed progressive rock label, Vertigo Records. Black Sabbath’s first major exposure came when the band appeared on John Peel’s Top Gear radio show in 1969, performing “Black Sabbath”, “N.I.B.”, “Behind the Wall of Sleep”, and “Sleeping Village” to a national audience in Great Britain shortly before recording of their first album commenced. Although the “Evil Woman” single failed to chart, the band were afforded two days of studio time in November to record their debut album with producer Rodger Bain. Iommi recalls recording live: “We thought ‘We have two days to do it and one of the days is mixing.’ So we played live. Ozzy was singing at the same time, we just put him in a separate booth and off we went. We never had a second run of most of the stuff.” Black Sabbath was released on Friday the 13th, February 1970, and reached number 8 in the UK Albums Chart. Following its US and Canadian release in May 1970 by Warner Bros. Records, the album reached number 23 on the Billboard 200, where it remained for over a year. The album was a commercial success but was widely panned by some critics. Lester Bangs dismissed it in a Rolling Stone review as “discordant jams with bass and guitar reeling like velocitized speedfreaks all over each other’s musical perimeters, yet never quite finding synch”. It sold in substantial numbers despite being panned, giving the band their first mainstream exposure. It has since been certified platinum in both US by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and in the UK by British Phonographic Industry (BPI). 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. 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 off 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 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. Leading up to “Never Say Die”, 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 entire band were abusing both alcohol and other drugs, but Iommi says Osbourne “was on a totally different level altogether”. The band would come up with new song ideas but Osbourne showed little interest and would refuse to sing them. Pressure from the record label and frustrations with Osbourne’s lack of input coming to a head, Iommi made the decision to fire Osbourne in 1979. Iommi believed the only options available were to fire Osbourne or break the band up completely. “At that time, Ozzy had come to an end”, Iommi said. “We were all doing a lot of drugs, a lot of coke, a lot of everything, and Ozzy was getting drunk so much at the time. We were supposed to be rehearsing and nothing was happening. It was like ‘Rehearse today? No, we’ll do it tomorrow.’ It really got so bad that we didn’t do anything. It just fizzled out.” Drummer Ward, who was close with Osbourne, was chosen by Tony to break the news to the singer on 27 April 1979. “I hope I was professional, I might not have been, actually. When I’m drunk I am horrible, I am horrid”, Ward said. “Alcohol was definitely one of the most damaging things to Black Sabbath. We were destined to destroy each otherShare This Post