Black Sabbath in 1971. From left to right: Bill Ward, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler
|Origin||Aston, Birmingham, England|
|Genres||Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Doom Metal, Stoner Rock|
|Years active||1968 - 2006, 2011 - 2017|
|Labels||Vertigo/Mercury/Virgin EMI/Universal, Warner Bros., I.R.S., Sanctuary|
|Associated acts||Heaven & Hell, Dio, Gillan, Mythology, Deep Purple, Iommi, G/Z/R, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Rainbow, WhoCares?|
Black Sabbath were a British heavy metal band from Birmingham, England. They are widely credited with creating heavy metal and its subgenres, doom metal and stoner rock. Formed in 1968, they began as a blues-rock band called Earth before adopting a heavier sound, darker subject matter (including war, drug abuse and the occult) and the name Black Sabbath. Throughout their career, spanning nearly fifty years, they had undergone many lineup changes, released 19 studio albums, 6 live albums and 8 compilations while also touring all over the world. Sabbath has managed to sell over 70 million albums worldwide, were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
Guitarist Tony Iommi had been the only constant member of the band since its conception.
Early Years (1968- 1969)Edit
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, which also featured slide guitarist Jimmy Phillips and saxophonist Alan 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.
While the band was performing under the Earth moniker, 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. He 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.
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 folk & flower power popular music of the late 1960s. 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.
Black Sabbath and Paranoid (1970 - 1971)Edit
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 at the time by some critics. It sold in substantial numbers despite being panned, giving the band their first mainstream exposure. It has since been certified platinum in both the US by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and in the UK by British Phonographic Industry (BPI).
To capitalize 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 Bros. changed the title of the album to Paranoid. The title track (and lead-off single) 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, reaching number one on 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 on 30 October 1970 at Esbjornson Gymnasium in Glassboro, NJ. The album reached No. 12 in the US in March 1971 and would go on to sell four million copies in the US despite virtually no radio airplay. Like Black Sabbath, the album was panned by rock critics of the era, but modern-day reviewers have since regarded the album as an all-time classic. 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" would become one of Sabbath's most iconic songs.
Master of Reality and Vol. 4 (1971 - 1973)Edit
In February 1971 after a one-off performance at the Myponga Pop Festival in Australia, Black Sabbath returned to the studio to begin work on their third album. Following the chart success of Paranoid, the band were afforded more studio time, along with a "briefcase full of cash" to buy drugs. "We were getting into coke, big time," Ward explained. "Uppers, downers, Quaaludes, whatever you like. It got to the stage where you come up with ideas and forget them, because you were just so out of it."
Production completed in April 1971 and in July the band released Master of Reality, just six months after the US release of Paranoid. The album reached the top ten in both the US and UK and was certified gold in less than two months, eventually receiving platinum certification in the 1980s and double platinum in the early 21st century. Master of Reality contained Black Sabbath's first acoustic songs, alongside fan favorites such as "Children of the Grave" and "Sweet Leaf." Critical response of the era was again generally unfavorable though some critics were more ambivalent about the album.
Following the Master of Reality world tour in 1972, Black Sabbath took its first break in three years. As Ward explained: "The band started to become very fatigued and very tired. We'd been on the road non-stop, year in and year out, constantly touring and recording. I think Master of Reality was kind of like the end of an era, the first three albums, and we decided to take our time with the next album."
In June 1972, the band reconvened in Los Angeles to begin work on their next album at the Record Plant. The recording process was plagued with problems, many as a result of substance abuse issues, with Ward almost quitting the band at one point and even an incident that led to the cops showing up at their penthouse, as confirmed by both Ozzy and Tony in their respective autobiographies. The album was originally titled Snowblind after the song of the same name, which deals with cocaine abuse. The record company changed the title at the last minute to Black Sabbath Vol. 4, with Ward in particular hating the title.
Black Sabbath Vol. 4 was released in September 1972. Despite dismissal from critics upon release, it achieved gold status in less than a month, and was the band's fourth consecutive release to sell a million copies in the US. With more time in the studio, the album saw the band starting to experiment with new textures, such as strings, piano, orchestration and multi-part songs. The song "Tomorrow's Dream" was released as a single – the band's first since "Paranoid" – but failed to chart. Following an extensive tour of the US, in 1973 the band traveled again to Australia, followed by a tour for the first time to New Zealand, before moving on to mainland Europe.
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage (1973 - 1976)Edit
Following the Volume 4 world tour, Black Sabbath returned to Los Angeles to begin work on their next release. Pleased with the Volume 4 album, the band sought to recreate the recording atmosphere and returned to the Record Plant studio in Los Angeles. With new musical innovations of the era, the band were surprised to find that the room they had used previously at the Record Plant was replaced by a "giant synthesizer." The band rented a house in Bel Air and began writing in the summer of 1973, but in part because of substance abuse issues and fatigue, they were unable to complete any songs.
After a month in Los Angeles with no results, the band opted to return to England. They rented Clearwell Castle in the Forest of Dean, rehearsing in the dungeons. While working in the dungeon, Iommi stumbled onto the main riff of "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", which set the tone for the new material. Recorded at Morgan Studios in London by Mike Butcher and building off the stylistic changes introduced on Volume 4, new songs incorporated synthesizers, strings, and complex arrangements. Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman was brought in as a session player, appearing on "Sabbra Cadabra".
In November 1973, Black Sabbath began to receive positive reviews in the mainstream press after the release of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and further praise from modern critics. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was released in December 1973 and marked the band's fifth consecutive platinum selling album in the US, reaching number four on the UK charts and number eleven in the US.
The band began a world tour in January 1974, which culminated at the California Jam festival in Ontario, California on 6 April 1974. Attracting over 200,000 fans, Black Sabbath appeared alongside popular 1970s rock and pop bands Deep Purple, Eagles, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Rare Earth, Seals & Crofts, Black Oak Arkansas, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Portions of the show were telecast on ABC Television in the US, exposing the band to a wider American audience. In the same year, the band shifted management, signing with notorious English manager Don Arden. The move caused a contractual dispute with Black Sabbath's former management, and while on stage in the US, Osbourne was handed a subpoena that led to two years of litigation.
Black Sabbath began work on their sixth album in February 1975, again in England at Morgan Studios in Willesden, this time with a decisive vision to differ the sound from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Produced by Black Sabbath and Mike Butcher, Sabotage was released in July 1975. As with its predecessor, the album initially saw favorable reviews, with Rolling Stone citing it as possibly their best album at the time.
Sabotage reached the top 20 in both the US and the UK, but was the band's first release not to achieve platinum status in the US, only achieving gold certification. Although the album's only single "Am I Going Insane (Radio)" failed to chart, Sabotage features fan favorites such as "Hole in the Sky" and "Symptom of the Universe". Black Sabbath toured in support of Sabotage with opening act Kiss, but were forced to cut the tour short in November 1975, following a motorcycle accident in which Osbourne ruptured a muscle in his back. In December 1975, the band's record companies released a greatest hits album without input from the band, titled We Sold Our Soul for Rock 'n' Roll. The album charted throughout 1976, eventually selling two million copies in the US.
Technical Ecstasy, Never Say Die! and Ozzy's Departures (1976 - 1979)Edit
Black Sabbath began work for their next album at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida, in June 1976. To expand their sound, the band added keyboard player Gerry Woodruffe, who also had appeared to a lesser extent on Sabotage. During the recording of their next album, Osbourne admits that he began losing interest in Black Sabbath and began to consider the possibility of working with other musicians. By the time the album was completed, Osbourne was admitted to Stafford County Asylum in Britain. Technical Ecstasy was released on 25 September 1976 to mixed reviews and a less-than-positive retrospective with some modern critics. Technical Ecstasy failed to reach the top 50 in the US, and was the band's second consecutive release to not achieve platinum status, although it was later certified gold in 1997. The album included live staple "Dirty Women" as well as Ward's first lead vocal on the song "It's Alright". Touring in support of Technical Ecstasy began in November 1976, with openers Boston and Ted Nugent in the US, and completed in Europe with AC/DC in April 1977.
In late 1977, while in rehearsal for their next album, and just days before the band was set to enter the studio, Osbourne abruptly quit the band. 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 Osbourne 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 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 Osbourne in a pub and came to the conclusion that Osbourne wasn't fully committed to leaving Black Sabbath. "The last Sabbath albums were just very depressing for me," Osbourne 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 states he is unaware of such recordings.
Osbourne initially set out to form a solo project featuring former Dirty Tricks members John Frazer-Binnie, Terry Horbury, and Andy Bierne. As the new band were in rehearsals in January 1978, Osbourne 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," Iommi explained. "He wouldn't sing any of the stuff we'd written with the other guy (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, Ontario, Canada, writing and recording what would become Never Say Die!. "It took quite a long time," Iommi said. "We were getting really drugged out, doing a lot of dope. We'd go down to the sessions, and have to pack up because we were too stoned, we'd have to stop. Nobody could get anything right, we were all over the place, everybody's playing a different thing. We'd go back and sleep it off, and try again the next day." The album was released in September 1978, reaching number twelve in the UK, and number 69 in the US. Press response was unfavorable and did not improve with time, some citing it as one of their weakest albums. The album featured the singles "Never Say Die" and "Hard Road", both of which cracked the top 40 in the UK. The band also made their second appearance on 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, of which reviewers favored Van Halen over the "tired and uninspired" Sabbath in live reviews at the time. 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 Osbourne'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 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 the Spring of 1979, with Ward breaking the news to Osborne.
The Dio Years: Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules (1979 - 1982)Edit
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 Osbourne to rejoin the band, as he viewed the original line-up as the most profitable. Dio officially joined in June, and the band began writing their next album. With a notably different vocal style from Osbourne's, Dio's addition to the band marked a change in Black Sabbath's sound. "They were totally different altogether," Iommi 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 for personal reasons. 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. 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 Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 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 1973 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, Ward quit the band. "It was intolerable for me to get on the stage without Ozzy. And I drank 24 hours a day, my alcoholism accelerated." Geezer Butler stated that after the show, Ward came in drunk, talking about the things where "He might as well be a Martian". Ward then got angry, and decided to pack his things, and get on a bus to leave. 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 praise of fans but less so by the critics. The album was certified gold and reached the top 20 on the UK charts. The album's title track "The Mob Rules" was recorded at John Lennon's old house in England and was featured in the movie Heavy Metal, albeit a different take.
Unhappy with the quality of 1980's Live at Last, the band would record shows across the United States in Dallas, San Antonio and Seattle during The Mob Rules tour for a live album entitled Live Evil, released 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. Butler also accused Dio and Appice of working on a solo album during the album's mixing without telling the other members of Black Sabbath.
Ronnie James Dio left Black Sabbath in November 1982 to start his own band and took drummer Vinny Appice with him, their last performance with the band at that time being on 31 August at Poplar Creek Music Theater in Hoffman Estates, IL. Live Evil was released in January 1983, but was overshadowed by Ozzy Osbourne's platinum selling Speak of the Devil, a live album consisting entirely of Black Sabbath covers performed by his own band.
Born Again: The Ian Gillan Years (1983 - 1984)Edit
The remaining two original members, 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 but 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 and newly sober Bill Ward on drums. On 7 August 1983 Born Again was released (Notably the last studio album to date featuring Ward). The album had been panned by critics but would gain cult status based on the stories surrounding the album cover, the songs and the subsequent tour.
Although he performed on the album, drummer Ward was unable to tour because of the pressures of the road and quit the band after the commencement of the Born Again album. Ward was replaced by former Electric Light Orchestra drummer Bev Bevan for the Born Again '83 - '84 world tour which began in Europe with Diamond Head and later in the US with Quiet Riot and Night Ranger. The band headlined the 1983 Reading Festival in England. Sabbath would also add the Deep Purple song "Smoke on the Water" to their set list out of respect for Gillan and "to give him one song he easily knew."
The tour in support of Born Again included a giant set of the Stonehenge monument. In a move that would be later parodied in the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, the band made a mistake in ordering the set piece. 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.
Seventh Star: The Glenn Hughes and Ray Gillen Years (1984 - 1986)Edit
After Bevan and Gillan's departure 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 and performed three songs (Iron Man, Children of the Grave and Paranoid) 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, drummer Eric Singer and initially intended to use multiple singers, including Rob Halford of Judas Priest, former Deep Purple and Trapeze vocalist Glenn Hughes, and former Black Sabbath vocalist Ronnie James Dio but ultimately things didn't go as planned and after recording one song, Hughes would record the entirety of the 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. Seventh Star incorporated more hard rock elements popularized by the 1980s Sunset Strip hard rock scene and barely resembled the hard rock or doom sound the band was known for. Although later critics would praise and underrate the album, Seventh Star was panned by critics and still to this day remains a much debated release.
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. 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. 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 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 to be replaced by producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven. Bassist Dave Spitz quit over "personal issues", and former Rainbow and Ozzy Osbourne 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 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 Tony Martin Years: The Eternal Idol, Headless Cross and Tyr (1986 - 1990)Edit
Once Ray Gillen quit, the band enlisted former 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. Modern reviewers were also mixed on the album but it has since been praised as a cult classic. 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 both 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 former 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 it was also 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 unsuccessful Headless Cross US 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, reaching 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.
Dio's Return: Dehumanizer (1990 - 1992)Edit
While on his own Lock Up the Wolves US tour in August 1990, former Black Sabbath vocalist Ronnie James Dio was joined on stage at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium by former Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler to perform "Neon Knights". Following the show, the two expressed interest in rejoining Black Sabbath. Butler convinced Iommi who in turn broke up the current line-up and dismissed vocalist Tony Martin and bassist Neil Murray, a decision Iommi would later express regret about.
Ronnie James Dio and Geezer Butler joined Tony Iommi and Cozy Powell in autumn of 1990 to begin working on the next Black Sabbath release. While rehearsing in November, Powell suffered a broken hip when his horse died, falling on the drummer's legs. Unable to complete work on the album, Powell was replaced by former drummer Vinny Appice, reuniting the Mob Rules era line-up, and the band entered the studio with producer Reinhold Mack. The year-long recording process was plagued with problems, primarily stemming from writing tension between Iommi and Dio.
The resulting album Dehumanizer was released on 22 June 1992. In the US, the album was released on 30 June 1992 by Reprise Records, as Ronnie James Dio and his namesake band were still under contract with the label at the time. While the album received mixed reviews it was the band's biggest commercial success in a decade. Anchored by the top 40 rock radio single "TV Crimes", the album peaked at number 44 on the Billboard 200. The album also featured the song "Time Machine", a version of which had been recorded for the 1992 film Wayne's World. Additionally, the perception by many fans of a return of some semblance of the "real" Black Sabbath provided the band with some much needed momentum.
Black Sabbath began touring in support of Dehumanizer in July 1992 with Testament, Danzig, Prong, and Exodus. While on tour, former vocalist Ozzy Osbourne announced his first retirement, and invited Black Sabbath to open for his solo band at the final two shows of his No More Tours tour in Costa Mesa, California. The band agreed, aside from vocalist Ronnie James Dio, who told Iommi in no uncertain terms "I'm not doing that. I'm not supporting a clown."
Dio spoke of the situation in an interview years later:
"I was told in the middle of the tour that we would be opening for Ozzy in Los Angeles. And I said, "No. Sorry, I have more pride than that." A lot of bad things were being said from camp to camp, and it created this horrible schism. So by [the band] agreeing to play the shows in L.A. with Ozzy, that, to me, spelled out reunion. And that obviously meant the doom of that particular project."
Dio quit Black Sabbath following a show in Oakland, California on 13 November 1992, one night before the band were set to appear at Osbourne's retirement show. Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford stepped in at the last minute, performing two nights with the band. Iommi and Butler also joined Osbourne and former drummer Ward on stage for the first time since 1985's Live Aid concert, performing a brief set of Black Sabbath songs.
Tony Martin's Return: Cross Purposes and Forbidden (1993 - 1996)Edit
Drummer Vinny Appice left the band following the reunion show to join Ronnie James Dio's solo band, later appearing on Dio's Strange Highways and Angry Machines (Both of which exhibit a similar sound to Dehumanizer). Iommi and Butler enlisted former Rainbow drummer Bobby Rondinelli, and reinstated former vocalist Tony Martin. The band returned to the studio to work on new material, although the project was not originally intended to be released under the Black Sabbath name. Under pressure from their record label, the band released their seventeenth studio album, Cross Purposes, on 8 February 1994, under the Black Sabbath name to mixed reviews. The album just missed the Top 40 in the UK reaching number 41, and also reached 122 on the Billboard 200 in the US. Cross Purposes contained the song "Evil Eye", which was co-written by Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen, although uncredited because of record label restrictions. Touring in support of Cross Purposes began in February with Morbid Angel and Motörhead in the US. The band filmed a live performance at the Hammersmith Apollo on 13 April 1994, which was released on VHS accompanied by a CD, titled Cross Purposes Live. After the European tour with Cathedral (Featuring Pentagram members Victor Griffin and Joe Hasselvander) and Godspeed in June 1994, drummer Bobby Rondinelli quit the band and was replaced by original Black Sabbath drummer Ward for five shows in South America.
Following the touring cycle for Cross Purposes, bassist Geezer Butler quit the band for the second time. Butler formed a solo project called GZR with Fear Factory vocalist Burton C. Bell, and released Plastic Planet in 1995. The album contained the song "Giving Up the Ghost", which was critical of Tony Iommi for carrying on with the Black Sabbath name, with the lyrics: You plagiarised and parodied / the magic of our meaning / a legend in your own mind / left all your friends behind / you can't admit that you're wrong / the spirit is dead and gone. ("I heard it's something about me ..." said Iommi. "I had the album given to me a while back. I played it once, then somebody else had it, so I haven't really paid any attention to the lyrics ... It's nice to see him doing his own thing – getting things off his chest. I don't want to get into a rift with Geezer. He's still a friend.".
Following Butler's departure, newly returned drummer Ward once again left the band. Iommi reinstated former members Neil Murray on bass and Cozy Powell on drums, effectively reuniting the Tyr line-up. The band enlisted Body Count guitarist Ernie C to produce the new album which was recorded in London in autumn of 1994. The album featured a guest vocal on "Illusion of Power" by Body Count vocalist Ice-T. The resulting Forbidden was released on 8 June 1995, but failed to chart in the US or the UK and widely panned by critics. Iommi would dedicate a chapter to the album in his autobiography titled "The One That Should Be Forbidden".
Black Sabbath embarked on a world tour in July 1995 with openers Motörhead and Tiamat, but two months into the tour, drummer Cozy Powell left the band, citing health issues, and was replaced by former drummer Bobby Rondinelli. After completing Asian dates in December 1995, Tony Iommi put the band on hiatus and went back to solo projects.
In 1997, Tony Iommi disbanded the current line-up to officially reunite with Ozzy Osbourne and the original Black Sabbath line-up. Vocalist Tony Martin claimed that an original line-up reunion had been in the works since the band's brief reunion at Ozzy Osbourne's 1992 Costa Mesa show, and that the band released subsequent albums to fulfill their record contract with I.R.S. Records. Martin later recalled Forbidden as a "filler album that got the band out of the label deal, rid of the singer, and into the reunion. However I wasn't privy to that information at the time". I.R.S. Records released a compilation album in 1996 to fulfill the band's contract titled The Sabbath Stones, which featured songs from Born Again to Forbidden.
Original Lineup Reunion (1997 - 2006)Edit
In the summer of 1997, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Ozzy Osbourne officially reunited to co-headline the Ozzfest festival tour alongside Osbourne's solo band. The line-up featured Osbourne's drummer Mike Bordin filling in for Ward, who was unable to participate because of previous commitments with his solo project. In December 1997, the group was joined by Ward, marking the first reunion of the original four members since Osbourne's 1992 "retirement show". The original line-up recorded two shows at the Birmingham NEC, which were released as the double live album Reunion on 20 October 1998. Reunion reached number eleven on the Billboard 200 and went platinum in the US. The album spawned the single "Iron Man", which won Black Sabbath their first Grammy Award in 2000 for Best Metal Performance some 30 years after the song was originally released. Reunion also featured two new studio tracks, "Psycho Man" and "Selling My Soul", both of which cracked the top 20 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. To date, "Psycho Man" was the last recording to feature Ward on drums as "Selling My Soul" had a drum machine.
Shortly before the band embarked on a European tour in the summer of 1998, Ward suffered a heart attack and was temporarily replaced by former drummer Vinny Appice. Ward returned in time for the US tour with openers Pantera, which began in January 1999 and continued through the summer, headlining the annual Ozzfest tour. Following the Ozzfest appearances, the band was put on hiatus while members worked on solo material. Black Sabbath returned to the studio to work on new material with all four original members and producer Rick Rubin in the spring of 2001 but the sessions were halted when Osbourne was called away to finish tracks for his solo album in the summer of 2001. During the 2001 edition of Ozzfest a new song from those sessions entitled Scary Dreams popped up in setlists, but no studio recording of the song nor the 2001 sessions have surfaced.
In March 2002, Ozzy Osbourne's Emmy winning reality TV show The Osbournes debuted on MTV and quickly became a worldwide hit. The show introduced Osbourne to a broader audience and to capitalize, the band's back catalogue label, Sanctuary Records released a double live album Past Lives, which featured concert material recorded in the 1970s including the previously unofficial Live at Last album. Past Lives would peak at the Billboard 200. The band remained on hiatus until the summer of 2004 when they returned to headline Ozzfest 2004 and 2005. In November 2005, Black Sabbath were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame and in March 2006, after eleven years of eligibility, the band were inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At the awards ceremony Metallica played two Black Sabbath songs, "Hole in the Sky" and "Iron Man" in tribute to the band.
To date the last performance of the original lineup was on 4 September 2005 at Sound Advice Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, FL.
The Dio Years and formation of Heaven & Hell (2006 - 2010)Edit
Also see Heaven & Hell.
While Ozzy Osbourne was working on new solo album material in 2006, Rhino Records released Black Sabbath: The Dio Years, a compilation of songs culled from the four Black Sabbath releases featuring Ronnie James Dio. For the release, Iommi, Butler, Dio and Appice reunited to write and record three new songs as Black Sabbath. The Dio Years was released on 3 April 2007, reaching number 54 on the Billboard 200 while the single "The Devil Cried" reached number 37 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Pleased with the results, Iommi and Dio decided to reunite the Heaven and Hell era line-up for a world tour. While the line-up of Osbourne, Butler, Iommi and Ward were still officially called Black Sabbath, the new line-up opted to call themselves Heaven & Hell, after the album of the same name, to avoid confusion. Ward was initially set to participate, but dropped out before the tour began due to musical differences with "a couple of the band members". He was replaced by former drummer Vinny Appice, effectively reuniting the line-up that had featured on the Mob Rules and Dehumanizer albums.
Heaven & Hell toured the US with openers Megadeth and Machine Head and recorded a live album and DVD in New York on 30 March 2007, titled Live from Radio City Music Hall. In November 2007, Dio confirmed that the band had plans to record a new studio album, which was recorded in the following year. In April 2008 the band announced the upcoming release of a new box set and their participation in the Metal Masters Tour, alongside Judas Priest, Motörhead and Testament. The box set, The Rules of Hell, featuring remastered versions of all the Dio fronted Black Sabbath albums, was supported by the Metal Masters Tour. In 2009, the band announced the name of their only studio album, The Devil You Know, released on 28 April with a tour supporting the album that year.
On 26 May 2009 Osbourne filed suit in a federal court in New York against Iommi alleging that he illegally claimed the band name. Iommi noted that he has been the only constant band member for its full 41-year career, and that his bandmates relinquished their rights to the name in the 1980s, therefore claiming more rights to the name of the band. Although, in the suit, Osbourne was seeking 50% ownership of the trademark, he said that he hoped the proceedings would lead to equal ownership among the four original members.
Ronnie James Dio died on 16 May 2010 from stomach cancer, effectively ending the band. In June 2010, the legal battle between Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi over the trademarking of the Black Sabbath name ended, but the terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.
Reunion With Ozzy: 13 (2010 - 2014)Edit
In a January 2010 interview while promoting his biography I Am Ozzy, Osbourne stated that although he would not rule it out, he was doubtful there would be a reunion with all four original members of the band. Osbourne stated: "I'm not gonna say I've written it out forever, but right now I don't think there's any chance. But who knows what the future holds for me? If it's my destiny, fine." In July, Butler said that there would be no reunion in 2011 as Osbourne was already committed to touring with his solo band. However, by that August they had already met up to rehearse together, and continued to do so through the autumn. On 11 November 2011, Iommi, Butler, Osbourne, and Ward would appear at the Whisky a Go Go with Henry Rollins introducing them and announced that they were reuniting to record a new album with a full tour in support beginning in 2012.
Guitarist Iommi was diagnosed with lymphoma on 9 January 2012, which forced the band to cancel all but two shows (Download Festival, and Lollapalooza Festival) of a previously booked European tour (With all of the remaining dates being replaced by Ozzy's solo band with guests). It was later announced that an intimate show would be played in their hometown Birmingham. It was the first concert since the reunion and the only indoors concerts that year. In February 2012, drummer Ward announced that he would not participate further in the band's reunion until he was offered a "signable contract".
On 21 May 2012, at the O2 Academy in Birmingham, Black Sabbath played their first concert since 2005, with Tommy Clufetos of Ozzy's solo band playing the drums. In June, they performed at Download Festival, followed by the last concert of the short tour at Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago. Later that month, the band started recording an album.
On 13 January 2013, the band announced that the album would be released in June under the title 13. Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine was chosen as the drummer and Rick Rubin was chosen as the producer. Mixing of the album commenced in February with a track list announced in April.
The band's first single from 13, "God Is Dead?", was released on 19 April 2013. On 20 April 2013, Black Sabbath commenced their first Australia/New Zealand tour in 40 years, to be followed by a major North American Tour in Summer 2013. The second single of the album, "End of the Beginning", debuted on 15 May in a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode, where all three members appeared. In June 2013, 13 topped both the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200. "God Is Dead?" earned Black Sabbath their first Grammy Award in 14 years for Best Metal Performance in 2014. Ultimately 13 was praised by critics as a return to the classic Sabbath sound but was criticized for some aspects such as brickwalling and divided fans over Ward's dismissal of the project.
In July 2013, Black Sabbath embarked on a North American Tour (for the first time since July 2001), followed by a Latin American tour in October 2013. In November 2013, the band started their European tour which lasted until December 2013. In March and April 2014, they made 12 stops in North America (mostly in Canada) as the second leg of their North American Tour before embarking in June 2014 on the second leg of their European tour, which ended with a concert at London's Hyde Park.
The End Tour & Possible Reunion With Tony Martin (2014 - 2017)Edit
On 3 September 2015 Black Sabbath announced that Black Sabbath would embark on their final world tour entitled The End. From January 2016 too February 2017 shows were announced all over the world. Initial plans were to compose a follow-up album to 13 but were ultimately scrapped though a live EP featuring four live recordings and the remaining songs from the 13 sessions were released as The End. Despite a few shows being rescheduled due to Osbourne suffering from rhinitis the band would perform all dates and sell out many of them.
On 4 March 2016, Iommi expressed interest in future re-releases of the Tony Martin releases and possibly new material with him in support of the 30th anniversary of The Eternal Idol. In November 2016, Iommi discussed the possibility of plans after the final tour, mainly the idea of writing and recording new material but no touring. In an interview with Blabbermouth, Iommi also mentioned the possibility of one-off performances and future recordings despite the band's retirement after the final shows.
The final shows of The End tour took place at the Genting Arena in their home city of Birmingham, England on 2 and 4 February 2017. Since the band's breakup, Ozzy Osbourne has returned to his solo career with headlining appearances at Rock USA and Chicago Open Air being the first announced performances.
- Black Sabbath (1970)
- Paranoid (1970)
- Master of Reality (1971)
- Vol. 4 (1972)
- Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973)
- Sabotage (1975)
- Technical Ecstasy (1976)
- Never Say Die! (1978)
- Heaven and Hell (1980)
- Mob Rules (1981)
- Born Again (1983)
- Seventh Star (1986)
- The Eternal Idol (1987)
- Headless Cross (1989)
- Tyr (1990)
- Dehumanizer (1992)
- Cross Purposes (1994)
- Forbidden (1995)
- 13 (2013)
- The End (2016)
- Never Say Die (1978)
- Live At Last (1980)
- Black and Blue (1980, With Blue Öyster Cult)
- Live Evil (1982)
- Cross Purposes Live (1995)
- Reunion (1998)
- The Last Supper (1999)
- Past Lives (2002)
- Live At Hammersmith Odeon (2007)
- Live... Gathered In Their Masses (2013)
- Tony Iommi – Lead Guitar (1968 - 2006, 2011 - 2017)
- Geezer Butler – Bass (1968–1979, 1980–1985, 1987, 1990–1994, 1997 - 2006, 2011 - 2017)
- Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals (1968–1977, 1978–1979, 1985, 1997 - 2006, 2011 - 2017)
- Bill Ward - Drums (1969 - 1980, 1983, 1984, 1994, 1997 - 2006, 2011 - 2012)
- Gerald "Jezz" Woodruffe - Keyboards (Live) (1975 - 1977)
- Dave Walker - Vocals (1977 - 1988)
- Geoff Nicholls - Bass, Keyboards, Backing Vocals, Live Rhythm Guitar (1979 - 2004) (Died 2017)
- Ronnie James Dio - Vocals (1979 - 1982, 1991 - 1992) (Died 2010)
- Craig Gruber - Bass (1980) (Died 2015)
- Vinny Appice - Drums (1980 - 1982, 1991 - 1992, 1998)
- Bev Bevan - Drums (1983 - 1984, 1987)
- Ian Gillan - Vocals (1983 - 1984)
- Ron Keel - Vocals (1984)
- Jeff Fenholt - Vocals (1984 - 1985)
- Dave Donato - Vocals (1984)
- Dave Spitz - Bass (1985 - 1987)
- Gordon Copley - Bass (1985)
- Eric Singer - Drums (1985 - 1987)
- Glenn Hughes - Vocals (1985 - 1986)
- Bob Daisley - Bass (1986)
- Ray Gillen - Vocals (1986 - 1987) (Died 1993)
- Jo Burt - Bass (1987)
- Tony Martin - Vocals (1987 - 1991, 1992 - 1997)
- Terry Chimes - Drums (Live)(1987 - 1988)
- Laurence Cottle - Bass (1988 - 1989)
- Cozy Powell - Drums (1988 - 1991, 1994 - 1995) (Died 1998)
- Neil Murray - Bass (1989 - 1990, 1994 - 1996)
- Rob Halford - Vocals (Live) (1992, 2004)
- Bobby Rondinelli - Drums (1993 - 1994, 1995)
- Shannon Larkin - Drums (Live) (1997)
- Mike Bordin - Drums (Live) (1997)
- Adam Wakeman – Keyboards, Back-up Guitar (Live) (2004 – 2006, 2012 – 2017)
- Tommy Clufetos – Drums (Live) (2012 - 2017)
- Black Sabbath Tour 1970
- Paranoid Tour 1970–1971
- Master of Reality Tour 1971–1972
- Vol. 4 Tour 1972–1973
- Sabbath Bloody Sabbath Tour 1973–1974
- Sabotage Tour 1974–1976
- Technical Ecstacy Tour 1976–1977
- Never Say Die! Tour 1978
- Heaven & Hell Tour 1980–1981
- Mob Rules Tour 1981–1982
- Born Again Tour 1983
- Seventh Star Tour 1986
- Eternal Idol Tour 1987
- Headless Cross Tour 1989
- Tyr Tour 1990
- Dehumanizer Tour 1992
- Cross Purposes Tour 1994
- Forbidden Tour 1995
- OzzFest 1997
- European Tour 1997-1998
- Reunion Tour 1999
- OzzFest 1999
- US Tour 1999
- European Tour 1999
- OzzFest 2001
- OzzFest 2004
- European Tour 2005
- OzzFest 2005
- Black Sabbath Reunion Tour, 2012–2014
- The End Tour 2016-2017
- ↑ MusicMight
- ↑ Classic Rock MagazineAccessed 20 February 2017
- ↑ BlabbermouthAccessed 20 February 2017
- ↑ BravewordsAccessed 20 February 2017
- ↑ Tony Martin Q & AAccessed 20 February 2017
- ↑ Rolling StoneAccessed 20 February 2017
- ↑ Classic Rock MagazineAccessed 20 February 2017
- ↑ Jam CanoeAccessed 20 February 2017
- ↑ BlabbermouthAccessed 8 February 2017
- ↑ LoudwireAccessed 8 February 2017
- ↑ Ultimate Classic RockAccessed 8 February 2017
- ↑ BlabbermouthAccessed 8 February 2017