It was 50 years ago on Thursday (February 13th) that Black Sabbath released its self-titled debut album. The LP — which was issued in the U.K. first before arriving in the U.S. in June 1970 — arguably set the tone, style and template for what became modern heavy metal. The heavy, crashing guitars, wailing vocals, thunderous rhythms and eerie, occult-drenched lyrics would become influential to untold numbers of bands over the next five decades.
Original Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne told us that the band had no idea at the time it was launching a new genre of music: ["I mean, when you're in the eye of the storm, you never know what's really going on, you know. So it's like, we didn't go, 'I know, let's just all of us sit down and make this stuff called heavy metal.' It just happened, and up the road, I mean, when I started doing the Ozzfest and kids would come up to me and go, 'You know, Ozz, you guys in Sabbath were the reason why we wanted to play,' that's a big bonus."] SOUNDCUE (:20 OC: . . . a big bonus.)
Ozzy, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward recorded Black Sabbath in just 12 hours in October 1969. The album contains such classic metal tracks as "The Wizard," "N.I.B." and the song "Black Sabbath."
Formed in Birmingham, England, Sabbath started out in the late 1960s as a blues-rock act, first called Polka Tulk and then Earth. Their first original song was "Wicked World." Ozzy told us a while back that their earliest songs show the blues influence: ["We were originally a six-piece blues band. We had a saxophone player, bottleneck guitar player but they left, they fell to the way, and then we just started writing our own stuff and it came off blues. And so I suppose when we went and we did the first album, we still had that blues flavor with us, you know."] SOUNDCUE (:17 OC: . . . us, you know.)
The band took its name from an old Boris Karloff horror movie, with Bill Ward saying, "It's true that we were influenced by watching horror movies," but adding that Sabbath's style "matured into something that was almost waiting to arrive. Although a lot of established bands were playing loud rock then, what Sabbath did made it very different."
Critics were not receptive to the album, with then-influential rock critic Lester Bangs called the group "unskilled laborers." Nevertheless, the record sold a million copies by the end of 1970.
The original lineup of Sabbath made seven more albums before Ozzy left the band in 1978. Iommi continued with various lineups and Ozzy pursued a solo career until they reunited in the late '90s for a succession of tours that lasted into the mid-2000s. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
Iommi spoke a while back about the respect that Sabbath earned over the years: ["For a while, nobody would take us seriously. But as we went on, the more we carried on, the more we proved, the more we stayed there, you know? And I think we got the respect from that."] SOUNDCUE (:07 OC: . . . respect from that.)
They regrouped again in late 2011 for a new album and tour, although Ward dropped out after a few months over financial issues and Iommi underwent cancer treatments throughout the recording sessions and tour. The album, called 13, came out in June 2013 and became the first Number One LP of Sabbath's career.
Sabbath did one more tour, a farewell run, that ended in February 2017 with two shows in the band's hometown of Birmingham.
Ozzy Osbourne On Black Sabbath’s Blues Influence :
Ozzy Osbourne On The Influence Of Black Sabbath :
Tony Iommi On Black Sabbath’s Staying Power :