Black Sabbath: The Iron MenCultureMusic
Black Sabbath are at the top of their game, even after 46 years in the music business. Last year Black Sabbath enjoyed a US and UK number one album with 13, their first number one album since Paranoid in 1970. They now have the record for the biggest gap between number one albums. They’re proof that hard rock and heavy metal aren’t dead yet.
Black Sabbath never really left public consciousness, what with Ozzy’s ever-present TV presence on The Osbournes and his antics making headlines every few months. Not only that, their brilliant 1970 metal song Iron Man featured on the soundtrack to Marvel’s Iron Man film. Marvel’s homage didn’t stop there either as throughout Avengers Assemble, the character of Tony Stark – Iron Man – can be seen wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt.
A short history
The original members of Black Sabbath were as follows:
- Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
- Tony Iommi – Lead Guitar
- Geezer Butler – Bass
- Bill Ward – Drums
They formed in Birmingham in 1968 and enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom throughout the early 70s with hit albums Paranoid, Masters of Reality, and Volume 4. They had a completely original sound that shocked the music industry with its rawness and allusions to satanic worship. Yet this was purely for effect as the Black Sabbath boys were at that time hard-working, god-fearing lads from Birmingham. This fact didn’t stop them getting threats from the religious community though, which is why they adopted the cross as the band’s symbol.
They first exploded onto the scene with their song Black Sabbath from the album Black Sabbath (not the most original naming ever). However, it wasn’t until their seminal 1970 album Paranoid that they became worldwide superstars. It is still heralded by critics today as one of the greatest albums of all time, with even Rolling Stone Magazine placing it at 130 on their list of the top 500 albums of all time, which is pretty special when you consider the list is littered with classics from The Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. Its long-lasting popularity can be attributed to Black Sabbath classics, such as Paranoid, Iron Man, War Pigs, and Fairies Wear Boots.
In 1979, Ozzy Osbourne was famously sacked for his excessive drug use, which had left him practically useless to the band. He went on to meet Sharon (later Sharon Osbourne) and begin an incredibly successful solo career while the band floundered and jumped from new lead singer to new lead singer, including Ronnie James Dio and Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan. As the years went by the band realised they needed Ozzy back; however it wasn’t until June 2013 that they finally got their act together, got over their differences and reunited. It was then that they released 13 and embarked on a tour to blow all other Black Sabbath tours out of the water. The only problem was that the original drummer Bill Ward would not be returning, but the fans didn’t mind that much – the excitement of seeing Ozzy back with the boys again was too much to handle.
The reunion tour of Black Sabbath. This tour was a world tour that culminated in a pre-Christmas show at the NIA in their hometown of Birmingham; a concert for which I happened to be lucky enough to get tickets. Too young to have been able to see them live in the 70s, people who did said they are even better today – probably due to the fact that the excesses have pretty much ceased. Ozzy’s voice is as strong and unique as ever, which is surprising after the torture he’s put it through over his 65 years.
The date was Sunday 22nd December, the time was 7.30pm and the audience sat in the NIA, eagerly awaiting the band’s appearance. Once we’d sat through the torturous Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats (the name of the opening act) a curtain descended on the stage baring the logo of the band. The excitement was palpable. Then, out of nowhere we heard the distinctive voice of Ozzy asking us “are you ready?!” We in kind replied “yes!”; air raid sirens blared and search lights blinded us before the opening guitar riff of War Pigs destroyed our eardrums. The PA system they used at the NIA must have been good to produce that sound. This was the explosive opening to the greatest concert we’d ever been witness to.
A problem that sometimes arises when one goes to see a music act live is that they focus on their new album and only play a couple of the classics. Not Black Sabbath. They know how to do a concert. What they did was play the two songs that have become big hits from the new album and then proceeded to play their biggest songs from the back catalogue. Out of the 20 or so songs, 18 were the big Black Sabbath staples we know and love and two were the biggest hits from their new album. That is how you do a concert.
The particular highlights were the opening track, God Is Dead? from their latest album, Snowblind off Volume 4, and the encore of Paranoid – an extended version accompanied by thousands of falling balloons from the roof of the venue, spread across the audience leading to one big balloon monstrosity.
The concert ended with Ozzy Osbourne declaring that although he lives in America, he’ll always be a Brummy! People nowadays have a propensity to forget about the music stars of old, but they shouldn’t. A lot of them are still producing great music every year that goes unnoticed among the Rihannas, the Katy Perrys and the Will.I.Ams. Modern music is exciting and fresh, but remember, don’t discount the 60s and 70s: they aren’t over yet!
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Photo: courtesy of Free Digital Photos.Net