They have long been regarded as the inventors of heavy metal. Not ones to follow a trend, Black Sabbath created their own world and invited us to be a part of it in all its evil genius. The very moment you hear the rain, thunder, and a distant bell tolling, the mind conjures up a vision of a dark desolate town, cobblestone roads, and not a place you'd want to be. Enter that dissident riff of Black Sabbath and eerie lyrics, and you were in a place you'd never been before. Black Sabbath owned your soul.
On the release of their The Ten Year War Deluxe Box Set which contains 8 remastered studio albums on vinyl among other goodies, I wanted to take a look at the crazy world of Black Sabbath back in the day: the stories, the myths, the music.
Polka Tuck Blues Band
That was the original name of the band, that at one short stage, had two extra members, including a saxophone player. After a tour around the northern United Kingdom, the two extras were dumped - no point in having a sax player and not a whole brass section according to Iommi. And then there’s the name, as Ozzy recalls in his book, I Am Ozzy, telling Iommi “It’s crap, every time I hear it, all I can picture is you, with your trousers 'round your ankles, taking a fucking dump.”
Who’s the ‘Figure In Black’ on the Cover of Their Debut Album?
There have been lots of great stories around just who that mystery woman is holding the black cat, the best one would have to be that, there was no woman in the photo, and that ‘she' turned up once the film was developed. Black Sabbath, believe it or not, had nothing to do with the cover, it was all down to the artistry of photographer Marcus Keef, who would shoot with infrared film to great effect. So, the girl is real, a paid actor, but I have no idea who it was. Even the band were perplexed, as Geezer remembers. "We had a gig in, I believe, Lincolnshire in England, and this girl came up to us, dressed just like the cover. And she was allegedly that person. Whether it's true or not, there's no way of proving it."
Plane-Loads of Cocaine
Guitarist and major riff writer Tony Iommi has long corrected people who thought that Ozzy was the only one enjoying the good life back in the day. “Nobody could control anyone else," said Iommi, who almost came to grief one night at The Hollywood Bowl, "I was doing coke left, right and centre, and quaaludes, and God knows what else. We used to have [cocaine] flown in by private plane."By the time Black Sabbath recorded Vol 4, which cost $60,000, they quickly discovered it was $15,000 less than their cocaine bill. Don't try this at home, kids. Wow.
A Bloody Big Iron Bloke Walking Around.
The inspiration behind one of their most iconic songs, Iron Man, came about kind of simply. When Ozzy heard the riff for the first time, he said ‘it sounds like a bloody big iron bloke iron walking around’. With that, Geezer wrote the lyrics in which a man travels time into the future, sees the apocalypse, and in the process of returning to the present is turned into iron via a magnetic field. He is rendered mute, unable verbally to warn people of his time in the future and of the impending destruction. His attempts to communicate are ignored and mocked. This causes Iron Man to become angry, and drives his revenge on mankind, causing the destruction he saw in his vision. GREAT tune.
When Ya Gotta Go, Ya Gotta Go.
Unfortunately, NRL players crapping in hallways isn't a new thing. Ozzy Osbourne took it to a new level in their heydey as Tony Iommi recalls. “We were all in an elevator in this real plush hotel, and Ozzy decides to take a crap. As he's doing it, the elevator is going down to the reception floor. The door opens suddenly - and there's Ozzy with his pants around his knees. And all these people in fur coats are just staring at him with their mouths open." Kids, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
Haunted Castle Nearly Killed Ozzy.
1973’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was an absolute monster album, recorded in a Welsh haunted castle that the band say added to the atmosphere. You can just imagine it, all high on marching powder, paranoid as all get out, Bill Ward sleeping with a dagger every night, Tony and Ozzy following a ghost only for it to disappear. Then, the castle nearly got the front man, as Iommi says “We almost lost Ozzy. We had a room with a big fireplace. Ozzy had a big fire going but had fallen asleep when a piece of coal tumbled onto the carpet. We forced our way in, and the room was ablaze!" Ozzy adds, “I'd set my foot on fire. We were so hellbent on frightening each other, we frightened ourselves! We then made a collective decision to fucking stop this coke thing - it was destroying us."
There’s just a teaser into the wold world of Black Sabbath, and it’s a story well worth checking out in detail in both Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi’s books. They’re a helluva read and will open your eyes as you open your ears to The Ten Year War Deluxe Box Set. Seriously, we’re just scratching the surface here with stories, but I hope you’ve enjoyed a brief look into their chaotic universe.