Rabu, 05 November 2008

Black Sabbath


Inductees: Terry “Geezer” Butler (bass; born July 17, 1949), Tony Iommi (guitar; born February 19, 1948), Ozzy Osbourne (vocals; born December 3, 1948), Bill Ward (drums; born May 5, 1948)
Black Sabbath is credited with creating heavy metal. The success of their first two albums - Black Sabbath and Paranoid - marked a paradigm shift in the world of rock. Not until Black Sabbath upended the music scene did the term “heavy metal” enter the popular vocabulary to describe the denser, more thunderous offshoot of rock over which they presided.


With their riff-based songs, extreme volume, and dark, demonic subject matter, Black Sabbath embodied key aspects of the heavy-metal aesthetic. Yet in their own words, Black Sabbath saw themselves as a “heavy underground” band. That term denoted both the intensity of their music and the network of fans who found them long before critics and the music industry took notice. In a sense, although they’ve sold more than 75 million albums worldwide, they still are a heavy underground band. Though they became eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, they weren’t inducted until 2006. The truth is, they remain one of the most misunderstood bands in rock history.
The Black Sabbath story began in Birmingham, England, where Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward were looking to escape a life of factory work through music. The four musicians got their start in such psychedelic outfits as the Rare Breed and Mythology (although Osbourne had been a short-haired Mod who loved soul music). Influenced by the reigning British blues bands - Led Zeppelin, Cream, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers - the four of them formed Earth Blues Company (shortened to Earth), in 1968.
Everything changed when Butler came to the band with an idea for a song inspired by a disturbing apparition. A fan of horror films and the black magic-themed novels of Dennis Wheatley, he flirted briefly with the black arts. But when he saw what he believed to be a figure from the dark side at the foot of his bed one night, he ceased his dabblings in the goth world. With lyrics by Ozzy, the group composed a song about the visitation, entitling it “Black Sabbath” (after the 1963 Boris Karloff film). It provoked a reaction in audiences unlike anything else in their repertoire, and they knew they’d stumbled onto something powerful and unique. Forced to change their name because there was already another band named Earth, they made an obvious choice: Black Sabbath.
“That’s when it all started to happen, “ Tony Iommi told writer Mick Wall. “The name sounded mysterious, it gave people something to think about, and it gave us a direction to follow.” Black Sabbath was the polar opposite of the Beatles (though they all liked the Beatles). Whereas the Fab Four sang “yeah, yeah, yeah,” Osbourne pleaded “no, no, please, no” in “Black Sabbath.”
“It’s a satanic world,” Butler told Rolling Stone in 1971. “The devil’s more in control now. People can’t come together, there’s no equality. It’s a sin to put yourself above other people, and yet that’s what people do.”
With Butler serving as principal lyricist and Iommi as the musical architect, Black Sabbath pursued such themes as war, social chaos, the supernatural, the afterlife, and the timeless conflict between good and evil. The group was a product of the late Sixties. It was a time when youthful idealism had begun to ebb amid the war in Vietnam, the influx of hard drugs, clashes with authority figures, and the bruising realities of working-class life (low wages, grim labor) that lay ahead for many of them.
“We arrived at the height of the Vietnam War and on the other side of the hippie era, so there was a mood of doom and aggression,” guitarist Iommi told writer Chris Welch in 2003. That’s not to say Black Sabbath were devil worshippers or practitioners or witchcraft, as many believed. Quite a different picture of the band is painted in such songs as “After Forever” (with the lyric, “God is the only way to love”) and Osbourne’s frequent flashing of the peace sign during Black Sabbath concerts.
Black Sabbath recorded its self-titled first album in a single session in November 1969, setting up their gear in a small studio and running through their live set. The lack of frills and contrivance worked to advantage, as the group’s riff-driven, blues-based hard rock came through loud and clear on “The Wizard,” “N.I.B.,” “Warning,” and, of course, “Black Sabbath.” The only effects added to the album were the tolling bell and thunderstorm that provide a chilling opening to the title track. Black Sabbath was released on Vertigo in the U.K. and Warner Bros. in the U.S.
Black Sabbath took a similarly quick and unadulterated approach to the recording of Paranoid, which was also cut in a few days. Generally regarded as the quintessential Black Sabbath album, Paranoid (1971) contained such classic tracks as “Iron Man,” “Paranoid” and “War Pigs.” The last of these is a potent antiwar song - and specifically “an anti-Vietnam statement,” in Butler’s words - whose hellish visions of bloody battlefields and conniving politicians have lost none of their currency over the decades. Together, Black Sabbath and Paranoid - released only seven months apart - were powerful works that pointed rock in a harder, heavier new direction. Many of the most hard-hitting and uncompromising bands who came after them - including Metallica, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest - claim to have been raised on the music of Black Sabbath.
The band’s musicality was generally overlooked, but they possessed an inventiveness and fluency that, in hindsight, makes them seem as much of a progressive-rock band as a heavy-metal one. Their lengthy songs had frequent meter changes, like the works of such peers as Jethro Tull (to which Iommi briefly belonged) and Yes (with whom Black Sabbath toured). There was ample room for improvisation, and Iommi, Butler and Ward were up to the task. In fact, Black Sabbath could swing with a jazzy temperament using bluesy forms and scales. Consider some of their influences: Drummer Ward grew up listening to Count Basie, bassist Butler had his head turned by Frank Zappa, guitarist Iommi found inspiration in gypsy-jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, and vocalist Osbourne was a rabid fan of soul music in general and Sam and Dave in particular. His voice was melodic and well-pitched, and he never resorted to the sort of histrionic screaming that became a hallmark of metal’s lesser lights.
The response to Sabbath’s first two albums was instantaneous. Black Sabbath reached #8 in Britain and exhibited staying power in America, hanging on the charts for 65 weeks. Paranoid repeated the feat, peaking at #8 and charting for 70 weeks. Both albums were certified gold within a year of release. Black Sabbath became an indefatigable road band, touring constantly and playing many of the early-Seventies rock festivals. All of the roadwork improved them as musicians and songwriters, and their next two albums - Master of Reality (1971) and Vol. 4 (1972) - exhibited enhanced range and ambition. The group even threw in some notable changes of pace - such as the ballads “Solitude” and “Changes” and the instrumentals “Orchid” and “Laguna Sunrise” - to create more of a play of light and shadows. Those albums contained their share of crunching Sabbath classics, such as “Children of the Grave” and “After Forever” (from Master of Reality) and “Snowblind” and “Supernaut” (from Vol. 4).
Amazingly, Black Sabbath had released four genre-defining albums in a two-year period while touring at a ceaseless pace. The group’s fifth album, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1974), showed further signs of growth and experimentation, and the title track ranks among their finest moments. As a totality, it comes closest to equaling their early masterpiece, Paranoid. The group wrote and rehearsed the material for Sabbath Bloody Sabbath at a castle in Wales that they claimed was haunted, further fueling their music’s unnerving vibe at a time when the group was testing its own mental and physical limits.
The demanding pace of the road and various lifestyle excesses began catching up with Black Sabbath by the mid-Seventies. Their next three albums - Sabotage (1975), Technical Ecstasy (1976) and Never Say Die! (1977) - all had memorable moments but lacked the unalloyed brilliance of their predecessors. The cracks in Black Sabbath’s façade became permanent when Ozzy Osbourne quit for good in 1978, following the checkered Never Say Die! tour.
Osbourne went on to a highly successful solo career, which also saw him venture into reality TV (MTV’s popular The Osbournes series) and launch the annual Ozzfest tour. Helmed by guitarist Iommi, Black Sabbath persevered through a succession of lineup changes that sometimes did and sometimes didn’t include Butler and Ward. Several of Black Sabbath’s post-Osbourne albums - especially Heaven and Hell (1980), Mob Rules (1981) and Headless Cross (1989) - are highly regarded by hardcore fans. But when all was said and done, the classic lineup could not be bested.
“In my opinion, there’s only ever been one Black Sabbath, and that’s Iommi, Osbourne, Butler and Ward,” Osbourne told Goldmine. “And the beauty of Sabbath is that we’re all still alive.”
The original foursome has reunited on a handful of occasions, most notably for a pair of 1997 stadium shows back home in Birmingham (released a year later as Reunion) and in 1999, 2002, 2004 and 2005, when Black Sabbath headlined Osbourne’s “Ozzfest” festival.
TIMELINE
February 19, 1948: Guitarist Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath is born in Birmingham, England.
May 5, 1948: Drummer Bill Ward of Black Sabbath is born in Birmingham, England.
December 3, 1948: Vocalist John “Ozzy” Osbourne of Black Sabbath is born in Birmingham, England.
July 17, 1949: Bassist Terence “Geezer” Butler of Black Sabbath is born in Birmingham, England.
1968: The band Earth Blues Company (shortened to Earth) begins performing around their native Birmingham, England. Within a year they will change their name to Black Sabbath.
October 1, 1969: Earth performs a newly written song, entitled “Black Sabbath,” at a Birmingham club called the Pokey Hole.
November 19, 1969: The former Earth performs its first gig as the newly christened Black Sabbath, taking their name from the song that set them on their heavy-metal course.
December 1969: Black Sabbath records their self-titled debut album at London’s Regent Sound Studio in a single day-long session.
February 13, 1970: Black Sabbath’s first single, “Evil Woman” - a cover of a song by the American band Crow - is released in England.
February 13, 1970: The debut album Black Sabbath is released in England on Friday the 13th. It will appear in the U.S. three months later, in May 1970.
September 18, 1970: Black Sabbath release the heavy-metal classic Paranoid in the U.K., where it will hit Number One a week later. It will appear in the U.S. nearly four months later, in January 1971.
October 27, 1970: Black Sabbath kick off their first U.S. tour in Glassboro, New Jersey. They will share bills with the likes of Jethro Tull, Small Faces, Badfinger and Mungo Jerry.
March 1971: Black Sabbath’s Paranoid peaks at #12 on the U.S. album chart as they tour the U.S. for the second time, where they perform alongside Grand Funk Railroad, Mountain and the J. Geils Band.
July 21, 1971: Master of Reality, the third Black Sabbath album, is their first to be released simultaneously around the world.
September 25, 1972: Black Sabbath releases Vol. 4, which contains rock’s first power ballad: “Changes.” Thirty years later, Ozzy Osbourne would join his daughter Kelly on a hit remake of the song.
January 19, 1974: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, the fifth classic heavy-metal album in a row from Black Sabbath, is released in the U.S., two months after being issued in Britain.
July 28, 1975: Black Sabbath releases Sabotage, their sixth album. The Sabotage World Tour will find them joined by such opening acts as Lynyrd Skynyrd, KISS and Peter Frampton.
September 25, 1976: Black Sabbath release Technical Ecstasy, their seventh album (not counting the best-of compilation We Sold Our Souls for Rock ‘n’ Roll). The European leg of the tour that follows pairs them with a rising young hard-rock band named AC/DC.
January 1978: Ozzy Osbourne rejoins Black Sabbath after a three-month hiatus, during which he was replaced by Dave Walker (formerly of Savoy Brown).
September 29, 1978: The eighth and final studio album by Black Sabbath, somewhat ironically titled Never Say Die!, is released.
December 11, 1978: Black Sabbath close their Never Say Die! tour in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It marks Ozzy Osbourne’s final performance with the band, as he quits to launch a solo career.
May 1980: Black Sabbath releases Heaven and Hell, its first album sans Ozzy Osbourne, who has been replaced by American vocalist Ronnie James Dio.
July 13, 1985: Ozzy Osbourne joins Black Sabbath onstage for the first time in six and a half years for a three-song set at JFK Memorial Stadium in Philadelphia as part of the Live Aid concerts.
November 14-15, 1992: Another Black Sabbath mini-reunion occurs during encores for what Ozzy Osbourne claims are his “final performances ever.”
January 31, 1995: Black Sabbath’s Paranoid receives its fourth platinum certification from the RIAA, signifying sales of four million copies. It remains their best-selling and most highly regarded album.
May 24, 1997: Three reunited members of the original Black Sabbath - Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler - kick off the Ozzfest tour. Subbing for the absent Bill Ward is drummer Mike Bordin.
December 4-5, 1997: All four original members of Black Sabbath reunite to perform two stadium shows in their hometown of Birmingham, England. The concerts are filmed, recorded and released as Reunion.
Summer 1999: Black Sabbath, featuring all four original members, headline Ozzfest. They will do so again in 2002, 2004 and 2005.
August 20, 2002: The eight-track double-disc Past Lives, by Black Sabbath, is released. It is the first official live album documenting Black Sabbath in the Seventies (excepting the U.K.-only Live at Last).
October 22, 2002: A double-disc compilation, entitled Symptom of the Universe: The Original Black Sabbath, 1970-1978, is released.
April 27, 2004: Black Box: The Complete Original Black Sabbath is released. It includes the original lineup’s eight studio albums, plus a four-track DVD.
March 13, 2006: Black Sabbath is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the 21st annual induction dinner. Metallica is their presenter.


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