The classic line-up of Black Sabbath. Clockwise from left: Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne
"What is this that stands before me?
Figure in black which points at me
Turn around quick and start to runBlack Sabbath
is a band from Birmingham, England, who are considered to be the pioneers of Heavy Metal
(sharing credit with Led Zeppelin
, Deep Purple
, and Blue Cheer
but to much greater degrees of acclaim), formed by singer John "Ozzy" Osbourne
, guitarist Tony Iommi (Who briefly joined Jethro Tull
in 1968), bassist Terrence "Geezer" Butler, and drummer Bill Ward.
They started out in 1968 as a blues band called "Earth" until changing their style to a darker tone. Apocryphally, this was the result of one of the band members seeing a queue for a horror film at a cinema and commenting on how people pay to be scared. Their name did actually come from a 1963 horror movie named Black Sabbath
, starring Boris Karloff
Their first two albums, Black Sabbath
(both released in 1970) brought them great popularity with songs like "Black Sabbath", "War Pigs", "Paranoid" and "Iron Man". Due to their darker style, they initially received no radio play, and Vertigo Records had to bribe radio stations to play "Iron Man", which scraped the US charts. Their next albums Master of Reality
and Volume 4
spawned a new batch of classics such as "Sweet Leaf", "Children of the Grave", "Into the Void", "Supernaut" and "Snowblind". It wasn't until their fifth album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
that they finally got positive reviews from the mainstream media (even if critics have reversed themselves and retroactively praised
the other four albums).
In 1979, Ozzy Osbourne was fired from the band as his increasingly erratic behavior rendered him generally unreliable. On the advice of the band's manager, Sharon Arden (who would later become Sharon Osbourne), the group recruited Ronnie James Dio
, formerly of Heavy Mithril
, as their new lead singer. Dio's tenure lasted only three years, but he was generally regarded as a brilliant frontman in his own right, and his 1980 debut with the band Heaven and Hell
is an all-time classic.
From 1982-1984, former Deep Purple
singer Ian Gillan joined the Black Sabbath for the Born Again
album and a tour that most notably included the DP song Smoke On The Water
as part of the encore, an unusual move for Black Sabbath.
The band saw multiple line-up changes
(including a reunion of the Dio-era line-up in 1991) until the original four reunited in 1997. As Ozzy again drifted away from the band in the mid-2000s to focus on his solo career and semi-retirement, the other members reunited with Dio and performed under the name Heaven and Hell, until Dio's death in 2010.
In the state of limbo the band was after Dio's death, the original line-up had confirmed its reunion, with a new album and a tour on the way, but Iommi's early stages of lymphoma had to halt all their summer tour dates as Black Sabbath except for Download Festival, with "Ozzy and Friends" performing most of the dates due to Iommi's condition.
In May of 2012 drummer Bill Ward broke from the band, citing contractual differences, leaving the band to perform its first show in Birmingham with Ozzy's current drummer Tommy Clufetos. The latest studio album was recorded with Rage Against the Machine
drummer Brad Wilk (who coincidentally shares the same initials as Ward, and whose name would be an anagram of Ward's if not for one letter).
Their sound has naturally changed over the decades. Their two most celebrated eras, the "classic" years of 1969-1974, and the early Dio years of 1980-1982, are marked by massive changes to the sound. For their classic era, they dabble extensively within Blues Rock
, Jazz Rock, Psychedelic Rock
, early Doom Metal
, and, of course, Heavy Metal
. For the Dio era, they take up a more Power Metal
and traditional metal stance with some instances of Speed Metal
and vestiges of blues metal.
Principal Members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):
- Vinny Appice - drums, percussion (1980–1982, 1991–1993, 1998)
- Bev Bevan - drums, percussion, cymbals (1983-1984, 1987)
- Mike Bordin - drums (1997)
- Jo Burt - bass (1987)
- Terrence "Geezer" Butler - bass, vocals, mellotron, synthesizer, nose flute (1968-1985, 1990-1994, 1997-2006, 2011-Present)
- Terry Chimes - drums (1987)
- Bob Daisley - bass (1986)
- David Donato - lead vocals (1984-1985)
- Colin Flooks (Cozy Powell) - drums, percussion (1988–1991, 1994–1995, died 1998)
- Ian Gillan - lead vocals (1982-1984)
- Ray Gillen - lead vocals (1986-1987, died 1993)
- Glenn Hughes - lead vocals (1985-1986)
- Tony Iommi - guitar, vocals, flute, synthesizer, piano, mellotron, harpsichord, organ, bagpipes, harp (1968-2006, 2011-Present)
- Tony Martin - lead vocals (1987–1991, 1993–1997)
- Eric Mensinger (Eric Singer) - drums (1985-1987)
- Neil Murray - bass (1989–1991, 1994–1995)
- Geoff Nicholls - keyboard, bass, guitar (1986-1991, 1993-1996)
- John "Ozzy" Osbourne - lead vocals, harmonica, synthesizer (1968-1977, 1978-1979, 1997-2006, 2011-Present)
- Ronald Pavadona (Ronnie James Dio) - lead vocals (1979–1982, 1991–1992, died 2010)
- Bobby Rondinelli - drums (1993-1994, 1995)
- Dave Spitz - bass (1985-1986, 1987)
- Dave Walker - lead vocals (1977-1978)
- Bill Ward - drums, percussion, backing and lead vocals, congas, timpani, piano (1968–1980, 1982–1983, 1985, 1994, 1997–2006, 2011-2012)
- 1970 - Black Sabbath
- 1970 - Paranoid
- 1971 - Master Of Reality
- 1972 - Black Sabbath Vol. 4
- 1973 - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
- 1975 - Sabotage
- 1976 - Technical Ecstasy
- 1978 - Never Say Die!
- 1980 - Heaven And Hell
- 1981 - Mob Rules
- 1983 - Born Again
- 1986 - Seventh Star
- 1987 - The Eternal Idol
- 1989 - Headless Cross
- 1990 - Tyr
- 1992 - Dehumanizer
- 1994 - Cross Purposes
- 1995 - Forbidden
- 2013 - 13
- 1980 - Live At Last
- 1982 - Live Evil
- 1995 - Cross Purposes Live
- 1998 - Reunion
- 2002 - Past Lives
- 2007 - Live At Hammersmith Odeon
- 2013 - Live... Gathered In Their Masses
Black Sabbath provides examples of the following tropes:
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- Aerith and Bob: The original lineup. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and....Bill Ward.
- Animated Music Video:
- "Get a Grip" from Forbidden.
- "Bible Black" from The Devil You Know.
- The Band Minus the Face: The post-Ozzy years.
- Averted for the fans that believe that Tony Iommi is Black Sabbath, as he's been in every lineup since the band started as the Polka Tulk Blues Band/Earth.
- Band Toon: Animated versions of the Sabs starred in a parody of this trope on TV Funhouse. Watch it here.
- Butt Monkey: Bill was this in the original lineup. Tony, in his book, admits to setting Bill's beard on fire more than once. Usually it sputtered out on its own in a couple seconds and didn't bother him. But once, ah... it didn't. They still picked on the poor guy, but Tony never again set fire to him.
- In his book, Tony states that Bill lit up like that because he used lighter fluid that time. He also said that he recently asked Bill if he still had the scars on his leg, and Bill pulled up his pantleg to confirm that he did.
- Bill wasn't the only one. The producer for Heaven & Hell, Martin Birch, was known to be very superstitious, so Tony made a fake voodoo doll out of balsa wood to screw around with him, with Geezer and Ronnie getting in on it by acting really shady with each other (talking about fake occult meetings and the like). No one ever told Birch the truth.
- Cluster F-Bomb: The Ozzy-era lineup's comeback live album Reunion (1998) was full of these.
- Black Sabbath live with Ozzy as of recently falls into this trope as well. If one were to take a shot every time Ozzy shouts a variation of "Make some fucking noise!" or "I can't fucking hear you!", you'd either be dead from alcohol poisoning by the end of the show...or very, very, very drunk.
- Determinator: Tony Iommi. First he loses 2 fingertips on his fretting hand- no big deal, melt down soap bottles to make fake ones and tune your guitar down half a stepnote (and create music history in the process). Then some 50 years later he gets lymphoma. No big deal, go back to England to continue treatment, ship your bandmates out there with you so you can still work on the album, and still plan to tour that summer. Bad Ass incarnate right there.
- Disability Superpower: Tony Iommi's signature low-tuned guitar style (see the note above for more info), which almost every subsequent heavy metal band emulates, evolved as a result of him losing two fingertips in an industrial accident and struggling to find a way to play that wasn't unbearably painful, ultimately stringing his guitar with banjo strings and making himself a pair of prosthetic fingertips from melted-down soap bottles. (He was largely inspired by Django Reinhardt, who similarly adapted to playing guitar after two of his fingers were paralyzed.)
- Executive Meddling: A couple of the albums were released under the name of Black Sabbath only because the record label demanded so.
- Fan Nickname: Tony Iommi has recently picked up the nickname "Iron Man," especially prominent after his cancer diagnosis.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: The original four- Ozzy is Sanguine, Geezer is Choleric, Tony is Melancholic, and Bill is Phlegmatic... usually. Ronnie James Dio was both Sanguine and Choleric.
- Freudian Trio: The reunited lineup sans Bill.
- Handicapped Badass: Tony Iommi, who made the most of the loss of his fingertips by tuning down his guitar, and invented a whole new style in the process.
- Bill Ward suffered a perforated diverticulitis in September 2013 (causing him to lose a lot of weight and most of his muscle mass), but it hasn't stopped him from his various pursuits (ie his Rock 50 radio show, his art project "Absence Of Corners", and working on his third solo album).
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Ronnie James Dio, Geezer and Tony Iommi.
- Not so much with Bill and Ozzy anymore. In a recent interview, Bill reveals that he didn't take kindly at all to Ozzy's comments that Bill was out of shape and couldn't cut it anymore (in regards to why Bill was offered that "unsignable" contract). He does however still keep in touch with Tony and Geezer, albeit behind the scenes. He's also open to rejoining the band someday, provided the contractual dispute is resolved (and once he fully recovers from a perforated diverticulitis he suffered in September 2013).
- Lead Bassist: Geezer Butler, chiefly from a combination of his loud Epic Riffs and being one of the band's primary songwriters.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Existed since 1968. Since then, they've gone through a veritable menagerie of singers, bassists, and drummers, not counting touring members. Tony Iommi is the only constant member. They've gone through so many members, they have their own Wikipedia page dedicated to chronicling their gazillion and a half band members.
- Our Angels Are Different: The cover of Heaven and Hell shows a bunch of angels smoking and playing poker.
- Overly Long Gag: With "Iron Man" on the Reunion tour album, Ozzy keeps trying to make the crowd chant louder. It's at 1:06 where he proclaims, "We are not going to continue until we hear the fucking roof rattle, come on!".
- Porn Stache: Tony and Geezer back in The Seventies.
- Revolving Door Band: Black Sabbath have never recorded consecutive albums with the same lineup since Ronnie James Dio left the band in 1982.
- Even more so than that. The two consecutive albums with Ronnie James Dio did not have the same lineup. First, Ozzy left after Never Say Die. Then, Bill Ward left before the tour for Heaven and Hell. Then, after The Mob Rules, both Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice left to form the band Dio.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: The guys in Black Sabbath did a lot of drugs back in the 1970s. Ozzy even claims that during the peak of Black Sabbath's popularity, him and Tony would do acid every day for a year just to see what would happen.
- The Southpaw: Tony Iommi.
- Springtime for Hitler: The album cover of Born Again was designed by Steve Joule, who deliberately tried to make it as distasteful as possible. He wanted to be rejected from the design commission, as he was also retained on a lucrative contract by Ozzy Osbourne's organisation for his sleeve designs. To Joule's horror and surprise, Iommi and Butler approved the image for the album. Ian Gillan, who sang on the album but didn't see the artwork until it was in stores, had more of the desired reaction: "I looked at the cover and puked".
- The Stoic: Tony Iommi. He spends most of his time focused purely on his instrument instead of showmanship. This is most obvious in some live videos with Ozzy, who would clap and cheer and jump around beside Tony, who simply stood there (occasionally adopting a power stance). His stage presence is much closer to that of a jazz player than a rock player, which fits given his roots. And all that while wearing a black leather trenchcoat under the hot lights. Must have Kool-Aid for blood.
- He's only stoic most of the time. Every now and then, he makes what musicians call guitar faces and what normal people call jizz-in-my-pants faces.
- Those Two Guys: Geezer and Bill tend to get overshadowed by Tony's guitar mastery despite his handicap and Ozzy's... everything.
- Unwilling Roboticisation: On the cover of aptly titled Dehumanizer.
- Ur Example: Although bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Blue Cheer paved the way, many people consider Black Sabbath to be the world's first true Heavy Metal band.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The song 'Iron Man' tells a story of someone who travelled time to save mankind but, when he returned, he was turned to steel, leading to everyone ignoring him or rejecting him outright, which causes the titular character to become vengeful and kill the people he once saved.