Black Sabbath are a heavy metal band from Birmingham, formed in 1968.
The original line-up consisted of:
*Ozzy Osbourne (lead vocals)
*Tony Iommi (guitar)
*Geezer Butler (bass guitar)
*Bill Ward (drums and percussion)
Tony Iommi and Bill Ward wanted to form a heavy blues band in Aston, Birmingham following the breakup of their previous band, Mythology in 1968. The group enlisted Geezer Butler, and Ozzy Osbourne, who had played together in a band called Rare Breed. Initially named The Polka Tulk Blues Company, the new group also featured slide guitarist Jimmy Phillips and saxophonist Alan “Aker” Clarke. After shortening the name to Polka Tulk, the band changed their name again to Earth, and continued as a four-piece without Phillips and Clarke.
Earth played shows in England, Denmark, and Germany. Setlists included cover songs by Jimi Hendrix, Blue Cheer, and Cream.
In December 1968, Iommi left Earth for a short period to join Jethro Tull, but rejoined the band shortly after.
In 1969, the band were being mistaken for another English group with the same name and so decided to change their name to Black Sabbath after Boris Karloff’s horror film Black Sabbath and made the decision to use dark lyrics in contrast to the recent hippie culture in the attempt to create the musical equivalent of horror films.
Black Sabbath were signed to Philips Records in December 1969, and released their first single, “Evil Woman” in early 1970. Later releases were through Philips’ newly formed progressive rock label, Vertigo Records.
‘Black Sabbath’ was released soon after on Friday the 13th. The album reached number 8 in the UK, and number 23 on the Billboard 200 where it remained for over a year selling a million copies.
The band quickly returned to the studio to start the new album which was initially set to be named “War Pigs” after the track of the same name, which was critical of the Vietnam War. However, Warner changed the title of the album to ‘Paranoid’, fearing backlash from supporters of the Vietnam War. The single “Paranoid” was released prior to the album later that year, and reached number four on the UK charts, remaining Black Sabbath’s only top ten hit.
Black Sabbath released their second album, ‘Paranoid’ in nearing the end of 1970 which hit number one in the UK and broke into the top ten in the US selling four million copies after virtually no radio airplay. That year, the band toured the US for the first time. ‘Iron Man remains one of Black Sabbath’s most popular songs.
In 1971, the band released ‘Master of Reality’, just six months after the 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 1980’s. ‘Master of Reality’ contained Black Sabbath’s first acoustic songs alongside favorites such as ‘Children of the Grave’ and ‘Sweet Leaf’. Rolling Stone later placed the album at number 298 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list in 2003.
1972 saw the band record their next album at the Record Plant. Black Sabbath’s Volume 4′ was released and achieved gold status in less than a month becoming the band’s fourth consecutive release to sell a million copies in the US.
Following an extensive tour of the US in 1973, the band traveled to Australia for the first time, and later Europe. Black Sabbath also appeared on England’s Top of the Pops in 1973, sharing the stage with acts such as Engelbert Humperdink and Diana Ross.
Later the same year, Black Sabbath released the critically-acclaimed ‘Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath’. The album 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 April 6, 1974. Black Sabbath attracted over 200,000 fans and appeared alongside the likes of Emerson, Lake & amp; Palmer; Deep Purple; Earth, Wind & amp; Fire and Seals & Crofts. During this year, the band changed management signing with notorious English manager Don Arden.
Black Sabbath began work on their sixth album in February 1975, at Morgan Studios in Willesden. ‘Sabotage’ produced by Black Sabbath and Mike Butcher, was released in July 1975.
‘Sabotage’ reached the top 20 in both the US and the UK. A tour with Kiss was cut short in November 1975, following a motorcycle accident in which Ozzy ruptured a muscle in his back. During the next month, the band’s record companies released a greatest hits record without input from the band, entitled ‘We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll’. The album charted throughout 1976, eventually selling two million copies in the US.
Black Sabbath recorded their next album at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida, in mid 1976. Keyboard player Gerry Woodruffe joined the band. ‘Technical Ecstasy’, released in late 1976 and was certified gold. Touring began in November 1976 alongside Boston and Ted Nugent in the US, and AC/DC in Europe.
In November 1977, Ozzy Osbourne quit the band and was replaced by former Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown vocalist Dave Walker who began working on new songs with the band. On January 8, 1978, Black Sabbath made their first and only appearance with Walker on vocals, playing an early version of the song “Junior’s Eyes” on the BBC Television program “Look! Hear!”. Osbourne initially set out to form a solo project but rejoined Black Sabbath early the following year.
The band recorded ‘Never Say Die!’ at Sounds Interchange Studios in Toronto, Canada. The album was released in late 1978, reaching number twelve in the UK. It featured the singles ‘Never Say Die’ and ‘Hard Road’, both of which cracked the top 40 in the UK, and the band made their second appearance on the Top of the Pops, performing ‘Never Say Die’.
The final show of the tour with Van Halen was Osbourne’s last appearance with the band (until later reunions) in Albuquerque, New Mexico on December 11. Following the tour, Black Sabbath returned to Los Angeles and rented a house in Bel Air, where they spent nearly a year working on material for the next album. With pressure from the record label, and frustrations with Osbourne’s lack of ideas coming to a head, Tony made the decision to fire Ozzy Osbourne in 1979.
Sharon Arden, (later Sharon Osbourne) daughter of Don Arden, suggested former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio to replace Ozzy Osbourne. With a notably different voice, Dio’s addition to the band marked a change in Black Sabbath’s sound.
Geezer Butler temporarily left the band in September 1979 to be replaced by Geoff Nicholls. The new line-up returned to Criteria Studios in November to begin recording work, with Butler returning to the band in early 1980 and Nicholls moving to keyboards. ‘Heaven and Hell’ produced by Martin Birch, was that year peaking at number 9 in the UK, and number 28 in the US, eventually selling a million copies. The band embarked on an extensive world tour, making their first live appearance with Dio in Germany on April 17, 1980.
Black Sabbath toured the US throughout that year with Blue Öyster Cult. On July 26, 1980, the band played at a sold out Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles with Journey, Cheap Trick, and Molly Hatchet to 100,000 fans.
On August 18, 1980, Bill Ward was fired from Black Sabbath after a show in Minneapolis, Minnesota to be replaced by drummer Vinny Appice.
Recorded at John Lennon’s old house in Ascot, Black Sabbath’s second album with Dio ‘Mob Rules’ (1981) was well received by fans. The album was certified gold, and reached the top 20 on the UK charts. The album’s title track featured in the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal.
Ronnie James Dio left Black Sabbath in November 1982 to start a solo project, and took drummer Vinny Appice with him.
Left with just two original members, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler began auditioning new singers for the band’s next release. Former Deep Purple vocalist, Ian Gillan replaced Dio in 1983. Pressures from the record label forced the group to retain the name of Black Sabbath. The band went on to record, ‘Born Again’ at The Manor Studios in Shipton-on-Cherwell, Oxfordshire with a returned and newly-sober Bill Ward on drums. ‘Born Again’ reached number four on the UK charts.
Ward was unable to tour due to the pressures of the road, and quit the band in 1984 to be replaced by former Electric Light Orchestra (see under artists) drummer Bev Bevan for the ‘Born Again’ world tour.
Following the completion of the tour in March 1984, vocalist Ian Gillan left Black Sabbath to re-join Deep Purple. The band enlisted Los Angeles vocalist David Donato who rehearsed with them throughout 1984, and eventually recorded a demo with producer Bob Ezrin in October. However, unhappy with the results, the band parted ways with Donato shortly after. Geezer Butler also left but of his own accord to form a solo band.
Following Butler’s exit, sole remaining original member Tony Iommi began work on a solo album with 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 on July 13, 1985. The band agreed, performing a three song set at the Philadelphia show. The event marked the first time the original lineup appeared on stage since 1978.
Returning to his solo work, Iommi enlisted bassist Dave Spitz and drummer Eric Singer. The band spent the remainder of the year in the studio, recording ‘Seventh Star’. Warner Bros refused to release the album as a Tony Iommi solo release and insisted 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.
Days before the start of the next tour, vocalist Glenn Hughes got into a bar fight with the band’s production manager, John Downing and splintered his orbital bone. The injury interfered with Hughes’ ability to sing, and so the band brought in vocalist Ray Gillen to continue the tour.
Black Sabbath began work on new material in October 1986 at Air Studios in Montserrat with producer Jeff Glixman. Glixman left and was replaced by producer Vic Coppersmith. Bassist Dave Spitz quit due to “personal issues”, and ex-Rainbow bassist Bob Daisley Joined for a short period before he left to join Gary Moore’s solo band, taking drummer Eric Singer with him.
After problems with Coppersmith, the band returned to Morgan Studios in England in January 1987 to work with new producer Chris Tsangarides. Ray Gillen left Black Sabbath next, to form Blue Murder with John Sykes. So the band enlisted ex-Alliance vocalist Tony Martin to re-record Gillen’s tracks, and former drummer Bev Bevan to complete a few percussion overdubs.
Black Sabbath accepted an offer to play six shows at Sun City, South Africa during the apartheid when Artists United Against Apartheid had been boycotting the country since 1985. Drummer Bev Bevan refused to play the shows, and was replaced by Terry Chimes, former member of The Clash.
‘The Eternal Idol’ was released in 1987. Bassist Dave Spitz left the band shortly before the tour, and was replaced by Jo Burt. The band went on to tour Germany, Italy and for the first time, Greece.
Black Sabbath left Vertigo Records and Warner Bros. Records to sign with I.R.S. Records. Tony Iommi opted to produce the band’s next album himself and enlisted ex-Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell and session bassist Laurence Cottle.
Black Sabbath released ‘Headless Cross’ in 1989 which reached number 31 on the UK charts. Queen guitarist Brian May 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 to the line-up.
The ‘Headless Cross’ tour began in May 1989 with openers Kingdom Come and Silent Rage, but due to poor ticket sales the US tour was cancelled after eight shows. The European tour began in September, where the band were enjoying chart success and after playing some Japanese shows, the band embarked on a 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 early 1990 to record ‘Tyr’ which was released a few months later and reached number 24 on the UK albums chart. The band toured in Europe but the final seven UK dates were cancelled, again due to poor ticket sales.
Former Black Sabbath band members, Dio and Butler expressed interest in rejoining Black Sabbath. So Iommi broke up the current lineup, dismissing vocalist Tony Martin and bassist Neil Murray.
Ronnie James Dio and Geezer Butler joined Tony Iommi and Cozy Powell in late 1990 to begin working on the next release. However, Powell suffered a broken hip when his horse died, falling on the drummer’s legs. Powell was replaced by former drummer Vinny Appice, and the band began working with producer Reinhold Mack.
‘Dehumanizer’ was released in 1992 and became the band’s biggest commercial success in ten years peaking at number 44 on the Billboard 200. The album featured the song “Time Machine”, which appeared in the 1992 film Wayne’s World.
Black Sabbath began touring in July 1992 with Testament, Danzig, Prong, and Exodus. During the tour, 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 California to which the band agreed.
Dio quit following a show in Oakland, California on November 13, 1992, the night before the band were set to appear at Osbourne’s retirement show.
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’. Iommi and Butler enlisted former Rainbow drummer Bobby Rondinelli, and reinstated former vocalist Tony Martin.
Under pressure from their record label, the band released their thirteenth studio album, ‘Cross Purposes’, in 1994 under the Black Sabbath name. The album reached 122 on the Billboard 200 in the US. Touring began in February with Morbid Angel and Motörhead in the US. After the European tour with Cathedral and Godspeed in June 1994, drummer Bobby Rondinelli quit the band and was replaced by original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward for five shows in South America.
Following the tour, bassist Geezer Butler again quit the band followed by drummer Bill Ward once again. Iommi reinstated former members Neil Murray on bass, and Cozy Powell on drums, reuniting the ‘Tyr’ lineup. The band enlisted Body Count guitarist Ernie C to produce the new album, which was recorded in London in 1994.
Black Sabbath embarked on a world tour in July 1995 with openers Motörhead and Tiamat. Two months into the tour, drummer Cozy Powell left the band and was replaced by former drummer Bobby Rondinelli. After completing Asian dates in December 1995, Tony Iommi put the band on hold and began work on a solo album with former Black Sabbath vocalist Glenn Hughes, and former Judas Priest drummer Dave Holland. ‘The 1996 DEP Sessions’ was released with Holland’s drums re-recorded by session drummer Jimmy Copley.
In 1997, Tony Iommi disbanded the current lineup to accomodate Ozzy Osbourne to create the original Black Sabbath lineup. I.R.S. Records released a compilation album, entitled ‘The Sabbath Stones.’
Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Ozzy Osbourne officially reunited to co-headline the Ozzfest festival tour along side Osbourne’s solo band. The lineup featured Osbourne’s drummer Mike Bordin filling in for Bill Ward, who was unable to participate due to prior commitments with his solo project, The Bill Ward Band. In late 1997, the group was joined by Ward marking the first reunion of the original four members since Osbourne’s 1992 “retirement show”.
The original lineup recorded two shows at the Birmingham NEC, which were released as the double live album ‘Reunion’ in 1998 and reached number eleven on the Billboard 200, and went platinum in the US. The album spawned the single ‘Iron Man’, which won Black Sabbath its first Grammy award in 2000 for Best Metal Performance, 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.
Shortly before the band were due to start a European tour in 1998, drummer Bill Ward suffered a heart attack and was temporarily replaced by former drummer Vinny Appice. However, Ward returned in time for the US tour with openers Pantera. Following Ozzfest appearances, the band was put on hold again while members worked on solo material. Tony Iommi released his first official solo album, ‘Iommi’ (2000), while Osborne continued work on his next solo release, ‘Down to Earth’.
In March 2002, Ozzy Osbourne’s Emmy award winning reality TV show “The Osbournes” debuted on MTV, and quickly became a worldwide hit.
The band remained on hold until the summer of 2004 when they returned to headline Ozzfest. In November 2005, Black Sabbath were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame, and in March 2006 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.
Warner records released ‘The Dio Years’, a compilation of songs from the four Black Sabbath releases featuring Ronnie James Dio. For the release, Iommi and Dio reunited to write and record three new songs. ‘The Dio Years’ was released in 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 lineup for a world tour. While the lineup of Osbourne, Butler, Iommi and Ward were still officially called Black Sabbath, the new lineup opted to call themselves Heaven and Hell to avoid confusion. Drummer Bill Ward was initially set to participate, but dropped out before the tour began, and was replaced by former drummer Vinny Appice.
Heaven and Hell toured the US with openers Megadeth and Machine Head. 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 .
Here’s a 1974 (questionable) cartoon I found online:
- Black Sabbath (1970)
- Paranoid (1970)
- Master of Reality (1971)
- Black Sabbath, 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)