Black Sabbath are one the single most important bands ever to have risen from the primordial goo of that bastardized form of blues we know and love called metal. Their effect upon the genre was profound — by turning the tie-dye hippy movement from peace and flower power into a bleak, industrialised bad acid trip, this Brummie quartet flipped popular music completely on it’s head and scared the life out of everyone who was unfortunate enough to cross paths with them. From that faithful Friday the 13th back in 1970 that saw the release of their debut, through the rampant drug abuse, the line up changes and then finally the gradual reunion and step back towards simply celebrating an illustrious career — sure, the band had their missteps but it never took anything away from the sheer power and influence of albums such as Masters Of Reality or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.
And as a denizen of the internet, you will most likely have heard of the huge uproar surrounding their most recent set of shows — to be precise, the divide between Bill Ward and Ozzy, Tony and Geezer. Members of the band have come and gone over the years but it’s still that original line up that is held in the highest regard and to have them back playing together holds a lot of weight. Ambiguous accusations have come from both sides and people have even been removed from the history of the band, but nothing concrete has actually come to the surface, it’s all ‘un-signable contracts’ and ‘unreasonable demands’ but no real facts and figures. It’s understandable that the music is now a business and has to be run accordingly, probably not unlikely to assume that every statement so far has been meticulously picked over by a representative from either side so as to prevent a PR nightmare. Also, like many disagreements, this probably stems from smaller problems on both sides and is probably, as such, everyone’s ‘fault’. Alas, this is the internet and wherever a small amount of dram-ore is to be mined, it will be picked to the bone. Everyone has already made up their mind and broadcast it to anyone who will listen, so why shouldn’t I?
At the ripe old age of 9, Ozzfest 2001 was my first live concert ever. It was a nu-metal paradise, but most importantly it contained a headlining set from the original line up of Black Sabbath – Tony, Bill, Geezer and Ozzy playing classic tunes to a packed outdoor stadium Even back then, the coincidence of my first gig experience being one headlined by, what many would refer to as, the first heavy metal band was not lost on me.
It made a huge impression on me and while the music didn’t have the instant appeal to my young head that a lot of the other bands playing did, it was obvious that Black Sabbath were held in such high regard for a reason. It was because they were special. A one off. A true legend. Over the years, and with the help of my Dad’s extensive vinyl collection, I trawled through the back catalogue, listening to everything from the classic Paranoid to the more controversial Never Say Die! Every single relic uncovered was filled to bursting point with pure unadulterated heavy metal. The contributions of everyone from Ronnie James Dio to Cozy Powell were present because it took a certain amount of unbridled talent to be a part of the Sabbath legacy and only the best could match up.
The recent years have been turbulent for the band, to say the least. With members of the band suing each other for rights to the band name but more importantly the loss of, the aforementioned god amongst men, Dio and the equally tragic diagnosis of early stage lymphoma for Iommi. What gets to me is that, after all that, these four grown adults can’t sit down as equals and come to an agreement that suits everyone – no money and no egos, just adults conversing about what is best for an institution that means a hell of a lot to a hell of a lot of people other than themselves. It doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong and I don’t feel like anyone should use this as an opportunity to slander either side, but, more than anything, I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that fighting amongst themselves meant more than the chance to get out there with the original line up and show people what heavy metal really means. With each member pushing into their sixties, I’m disappointed that after recent events they couldn’t realise that anything could happen and that no one knows how many more opportunities there are going to get to record new material and play shows. I’m disappointed, not because I wanted to see them, but because who knows what effect that original line up may have on the people they’re playing to each night, it may just inspire a few young disciples to stroll a little further down that dark, dark left hand path…
I never got to see the Heaven & Hell lineup play, even though I was meant to. They unfortunately had to pull out of their European dates as Dio was too ill to play and although I could never expect any band to put the shows before their health, I can’t pretend I didn’t want to see them. And I guess I never will.