Black Sabbath: “The Eagles were recording next door, but we were too loud for them”

Album by album with the Midlands metal pioneers

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Ozzy Osbourne is in high spirits as he calls from Los Angeles. “I’m having the time of my life,” he says, revelling in the success that has greeted the reformation of the classic Black Sabbath lineup for a new album and tour. “We’re having a fucking blast,” he adds. “We played the Hollywood Bowl last Sunday. The last time we played there it was a fucking disaster. It was 42 years ago: we had to cut the show short because we were all going to pass out from drug overdoses.”

Not this time. The only downside for fans is the absence of Bill Ward (with whom an agreeable deal could not be struck). But all is not lost, Ozzy says,  as he prepares to look back on his nine albums with Black Sabbath. “In the future, all three of us would love to have Bill up there…”

Words: John Robinson. Originally published in Uncut’s July 2014 issue (Take 206).



Vertigo, 1970
The black and blues. The newly christened Sabbath rock out, pretty much live.

OZZY OSBOURNE: We were made by Jim Simpson… he used to have a club, Henry’s Blues House. We used to carry our equipment around in case someone didn’t turn up, and say, “We’ll play”. We started off as a blues/jazz band like Ten Years After, or Jethro Tull: the hip crowd.
TONY IOMMI: “Black Sabbath” was the second song we’d written, so we called ourselves that.
GEEZER BUTLER: The first time we played “Black Sabbath” was in this tiny pub in Lichfield near Brum. The whole pub went mental.
OZZY: The first one was a live album with no audience. The manager said, go to this place Regent Sound… we’d never been into a studio before. We did the album in about 12 hours and then went to do a residency in Switzerland…
GEEZER: [Producer] Rodger Bain was like a fifth member of the band. We’d been to six different record companies and producers, and they’d all told us, “Come back when you can write proper music.” Rodger was the first person on the business side who understood what we were trying to do. He just said, “Play what you do live.”
OZZY: When we come back from Switzerland, Jim said, “Come in and I’ll play you your finished album.” It had a gatefold sleeve and started with all this thunder and lightning – it blew my mind.
GEEZER: I loved the cover – but I didn’t like the inverted cross on the inside. It was the first time we’d had something to take to our parents and show we were doing something constructive.


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