Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath
00:26 Don Seckler: Welcome to Inside the Album. I’m Don Seckler. This is Tommy Hilcken. How are you doing, Tom?
00:32 Tommy Hilcken: Hey, Don.
00:32 DS: Good to see you.
00:33 TH: Good to see you.
00:35 DS: Brand new podcast, we’re just starting out, and what we wanna do is take some of our favorite albums and tell you guys the stories behind those albums. So we’re gonna talk a little bit about our impressions of the album and different songs, and also what was happening with the band, how these songs came about and how it all fit together and kinda bring the album to another level of life. The one thing I wanna remind everybody, no matter what platform you’re on, make sure you subscribe to the podcast, if you wanna see the future issues. We’re gonna be going through all of your favorite albums in the future, so you don’t wanna miss a thing.
01:11 TH: Amazing. We’re talking about albums, and at least they’re coming back now, so people will have an understanding of what an album is, right?
01:19 DS: Right.
01:19 TH: ‘Cause we’ve been through it all, man, so it’s good to talk about the albums, talk about vinyl. Listen, it was our love, our life, so I’m glad.
01:29 DS: We also are gonna build in a charity aspect to the podcast, and Tom, you wanna tell us about our charity that we’re working with?
01:37 TH: Well, hey, thanks, Don. But the charity that’s working around this with us, Inside the Album, is… It’s called Music for Mark. A friend of my daughters, he died suddenly in a motorcycle accident at 19 years old, and the kid was just so musically inclined and he brought music to the world. He was a beautiful guy. So we started a foundation called Music for Mark, so where we could keep on his legacy of being a nice guy and helping people and being that guy, and what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna provide once, twice a year musical instruments and musical lessons to kids who can use them.
02:12 TH: So anybody who’s possibly struggling, and their kid has musical talent, but can’t get out there, we’re gonna help them get out there and bring the music to the world. So musicformark.com is where it’s at, and I look forward to more people learning about it, and I know our show is gonna get people turned on to it. So thanks for bringing them into this.
02:28 DS: Yeah, I’m super excited. Anything we can do to help, especially in the musical area, is really exciting to me as well, so I am so happy that we’re able to do that.
02:37 TH: Love it. Perfect.
02:39 DS: So we’re gonna start off with an all-time classic album from an all-time classic band led by this guy right here, Ozzy Osbourne. We’re gonna be talking about Black Sabbath. And we’re not gonna start off with the, I guess, probably the most popular album which is Paranoid with a lot of big hits, but we’re gonna start off with the first Black Sabbath album which is titled Black Sabbath. So tell me, Tom, what do you like about the album? What was your first impression?
03:10 TH: Well, it was truly… When you listen to it… As you said, Paranoid got to the point of where it was like the hits, the radio play. But once you learned about Sabbath and you went back to the album Black Sabbath, that’s when you fell in love with Sabbath. It is truly the deepest, the greatest, the emotional part of being a Sabbath fan, this album. It’s truly one of the greatest albums you’ll ever listen to, and there’s a lot of stuff behind it that we’re gonna cover, I know, but for me, it was, once I get turned on… Yeah, like everybody else, Paranoid, you heard it on the radio, “Who’s this Sabbath?”
03:47 DS: Sure, yeah.
03:47 TH: It happens with most artists, but, man, oh, man, once you got into the catalog and you got back to the album Black Sabbath, that’s when life changed for me.
03:57 DS: Yeah, just… Again, Sabbath is really kinda known as the first heavy metal band, and you could kind of debate that because Zeppelin was out right before them, right?
04:08 TH: Yeah.
04:09 DS: The first couple albums, but Sabbath really drove that kind of heavy doom, and there’s a lot of factors that went into the sound that they got, which we’re gonna go through. But I think it was that really kind of that almost evil sound that really nobody was doing, and they kinda went for this horror vibe at first, and so we’ll talk about all that stuff. But for people who don’t know, I just wanna run through the members of the band. Of course, Ozzy Osbourne, the lead singer, just… Everybody knows Ozzy, whether you know him from music or from the reality show a few decades ago.
04:50 TH: Yeah, I think you could stop at everybody knows Ozzy.
04:52 DS: Yeah, pretty much, right? Who doesn’t know Ozzy? And the other guys in the band, Tony Iommi, the guitar player, and we’re gonna talk about Tony. Tony had an accident when he was a kid, was working in a sheet metal factory and actually cut off the tips of the two middle fingers on his fretting hand. Well, he’s a lefty, so he’s done it on his right hand.
05:14 TH: Oh, those fret fingers, yeah.
05:15 DS: So Tony actually created fake fingertips from a plastic detergent bottle, like what you would say like a Dawn or whatever today. And so this guy is playing with missing fingertips, and so one of the things that he had to do was he had to detune his guitar to make it easier for him to bend the strings since he was missing those fingertips, and he also had to play fifths as opposed to like fourths and other chords. That’s a little more in the music theory thing, but those are kind of… That’s the big chunky bump, bump, the real heavy stuff. And so that detuning the guitar, loosening the strings, his fingers, and how he had to play really made that… It makes that really meaty, kinda ballsy deep sound that the original Sabbath has. And that…
06:07 TH: And you think about that, right, Don? If he didn’t lose his fingertips, he would have never had the Black Sabbath sound. It’s like…
06:14 DS: He could have been a blues player. He could have ended up in something completely different, but it forced him to go into this. And what happened… You have Geezer Butler, who’s the bass player, also wrote some of the songs, but Geezer was not a traditional bass player with the bass riffs underneath. He followed Tommy, so that kinda even made the sound even heavier because it was so thick with that bass and the detuned guitar, and it really gives it that real thickness that you don’t hear these days very often.
06:49 DS: And then, of course, there’s… Bill Ward is the drummer of the band, and so these are the original members, and they shifted that throughout the years. Ozzy left in a little bit in the late ’70s through the ’80s, and so they had a couple different singers, but when you think about Sabbath you think about Ozzy.
07:06 TH: Yeah.
07:07 DS: It’s always Ozzy; it’s never Ronnie James Dio or the other guys who were singing with the band.
07:14 TH: Not in my world.
07:14 DS: No, no, no, of course.
07:16 TH: I’m just gonna leave it at that. [chuckle]
07:17 DS: Yeah. So, another interesting thing is, so Ozzy and Tony Iommi actually went to the same school, so they knew each other as kids. Ozzy and Geezer were in another band before Sabbath. So these guys were… Kind of grew up together and knew each other; they were all living in the same area, I think it was Birmingham in England. And so it’s a group of friends who just really gelled once they got together.
07:45 TH: Yeah. And the reason they got together was literally… Though they met in school, but they weren’t good in school. [chuckle]
07:53 DS: Right.
07:54 TH: Ozzy talks about that. There’s a reason they’re in music; all four of them, was school wasn’t their thing, that’s what I love about it.
08:02 DS: Yeah, exactly. But thank God.
08:04 TH: Yeah, like attracts like. It’s like, you know who you… I can remember who I hung out with in high school as well and what we created; it’s interesting. So yeah. But what was the name of their first band? It was pretty interesting…
08:17 DS: Yeah. So yeah. The first band name…
08:18 TH: I thought that was interesting.
08:20 DS: It’s crazy. So they were actually named… I think it was after a talcum powder or something like that. It was the Polka Tulk Blues Band.
08:29 TH: There it is. [chuckle]
08:31 DS: So…
08:31 TH: I wrote that down, I wanted to talk about that. That’s cool.
08:34 DS: It was so weird, and I was like, “Polka, where did this come from?” So it was some kind of product, household product. I think it was a talcum powder or something that they took that name from. And at that point they actually had extra people in the band; they had six people. They had a saxophone player, and Ozzy hated that original name. They became this… They shifted to calling themselves Earth, and then they actually ran into… There was another band using Earth at the time, and so they moved over to Black Sabbath, which they… That was the one that really stuck for them, and they really leaned into that with the first album, including the song Black Sabbath, which, what we’re gonna talk about in just a second.
09:19 DS: But the interesting thing to me, though, is… So this album was recorded in 1969, so just the very end of the hippie days. Released in 1970 in the UK in February, and then June in the US, and so we kinda… I took a look at what was on the Billboard charts for 1970, so here’s the music environment at the time. It’s Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water.
09:46 TH: This is great.
09:46 DS: It’s the Carpenters, Close to You. The Guess Who, American Woman, alright, a rocker in there; BJ Thomas Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head.
09:53 TH: There you go; Midnight Cowboy.
09:56 DS: The Jackson Five was in there; Beatles; Rare Earth; Three Dog Night, Mama Told Me Not to Come. So that was the kind of stuff that was out there, and so when you look at those songs, those albums even, or those bands, musically Sabbath was a real punch in the face. It was something that, it was so original, so different than anything that was going on at the time.
10:21 TH: Well, yeah, not only in the pop culture, pop music was so big, but you gotta remember in the late ’60s, the psychedelic music was in as well. Tune in, turn on, turn out, whatever it was. And to think this was a completely something… A whole new genre, it really was. And that’s why it hit you right in the face. No one had ever heard anything like that before.
10:45 DS: Yeah.
10:45 TH: We’ll talk about it as we go along. Many, many people… If not the kids, but the parents were afraid of it, which is pretty interesting.
10:52 DS: Oh, yeah, yeah, and we’ve got a great story about that.
10:54 DS: It’s an interesting one. So it actually did pretty well on the charts and it actually got up to number 23 on the Billboard 200, and it was also included in a book called 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. So this album, while it’s probably a little less popular than Paranoid, it’s still super, super important in terms of the history of rock, and especially of metal, when every metal band out there now is… They all go back to Sabbath as a huge influence.
11:32 TH: Yeah. When you think about it, it’s… I guess the original name “heavy metal” came from them where people started to… Had to label it. That’s the reason I was mentioning it earlier is that with all the different genres in music, this one had no name. It had no name.
11:49 DS: Right, yeah. Right. That’s the thing; it was something so brand new, and it’s interesting the way those things work out, and how these names come about in these different types of music.
12:00 TH: Yeah. And think about it, though, it fits it well; heavy metal fits it well.
12:03 DS: Yeah.
12:04 TH: Yeah.
12:04 DS: So let’s go back to… We’ll go back to 1969. Here’s Black Sabbath, these guys are a band and they’re playing locally around England and a little bit of other places in Europe, and… So at the time, right before they recorded this, they’d been playing these crazy shows where they would play five, six sets, 45 minutes apiece. All day they’d just be playing.
12:30 TH: Oh, yeah.
12:30 DS: So basically they’re just jamming live; working on these songs; refining them and playing a ton, a ton of stuff. So when the opportunity came to record the album, first of all they didn’t have a lot of money, so they got the studio for one day. So this entire album, they went in and recorded the entire thing straight through in 8-12 hours. You hear different stories when you ask different guys, but they’re, at this point who can remember 40, 50 years ago.
13:06 TH: Not them.
13:06 DS: Yeah, exactly. So basically, they came in and did their live set and just recorded it, and there really weren’t a lot of overdubs, there were some guitar work that was reworked a little bit, some doubling of some sounds of voices and things like that, but Ozzy even, I think there was on the song Warning, Ozzy wanted to go in and redo some of the vocals, and they said, “Nope, that’s it.” And so they just went in there and cranked it out, which is amazing.
13:33 TH: The best. You know, when I learned about that story, that they just went in and this is what we do live, and they recorded it and they ran right through it. I mean, like you said, they wanted to edit some stuff out, Ozzy being Ozzy, wanted to change some things up. The record company said no. And listen, when we look back on it, we should all be glad that it just is, it’s raw, it’s the first, it’s Black Sabbath.
13:57 DS: Yeah, it definitely makes a difference when you hear that, you know, these are the stuff that they just… They were so good at playing because they were doing it so much.
14:06 TH: Yeah.
14:06 DS: And the funny thing is, so when the recording session ended that day, the next day, they were off to Switzerland or something to go play a gig for £20. So they basically recorded the album and then left, and the record company, the people did the sequencing, they did the mixing, they created the album artwork. All this stuff was kind of done with very little input from the band. And so one of the things you see them sometimes complain about is they said, “Oh, well, we went away and then we came back, and the record company put an upside down cross on the inside of the album cover, we had nothing to do with that.” And it made it all of a sudden this… They said that this kind of Satan thing was a thrust upon them, but is that really true? Because when you got a song about a girl who’s doing it with the devil, [laughter] you know, they protest about the satanic thing a little, but they also wrote these songs that had that content.
15:13 TH: Right. It was dark, it was gloomy, it had meaning to them, but I just wanna touch a little bit about back in the day, which you don’t see as much, is that pretty much you were owned by the record company back then. There was no complaining or they would just drop you. Yeah, they created you, they promoted you, they put the brand behind you, so literally they could look back, and I’m sure they do now, the band, Sabbath that, you know, thank God we had a record company behind us that created us.
15:49 DS: Yeah, I read a quote from Geezer who said, in the end, they knew what they were doing, we just were players. While they kind of protested about it, I don’t think they really were that upset about it, but then Tony Iommi, so they come back and the album gets released, and all of a sudden, they had Wicca high priests and satanists are showing up at the gigs, and the record company in the US even launched the album and had a party that involved the head of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey, back in the day. So he was kind of overseeing the launch party of the album, which is crazy. So Tony Iommi said, “Well, all of a sudden Black Sabbath were Satan’s right-hand men.” [laughter]
16:36 TH: Yeah, that was it. It gave them an audience. [laughter]
16:39 DS: Yeah, yeah, so…
16:42 TH: And I was thinking about this, I wanted to throw it out to you when we were discussing this, and I was glad we were gonna discuss this album. The difference between the late ’69, ’70s was, you heard more about Satan worshippers. You really did, it was like a big thing, “Oh, my God, they worship Satan.” And it’s kind of taken its course and kind of sort of pestered and festered away, so it was interesting. It was a good time for it. It really was, it was a perfect timing for this kind of a cult kind of thing.
17:13 DS: Right, right. And so the album is, as people who’ve listened to it know, it is dark and it’s heavy, and it’s, you know, we’ll talk about the specifics of some of the sounds that they used in it that create that kind of gloomy, creepy sound. One thing was that, so Tony Iommi started off recording this album on a white Stratocaster and the pickup broke, and it’s not like today where you could have somebody run down to Guitar Center, get a new pickup and put it back in. This is something you had to order from somewhere, they weren’t readily available.
17:47 DS: So he used his backup guitar, which was a Gibson SG, which it then kind of became the Sabbath sound, even though it wasn’t, like that wasn’t intentional. So it made that heaviness, that fatness even fatter because the Telecaster or the Stratocaster is a little bit more kinda high end, a little bit tinnier sound, and the Gibson guitars, especially that SG with those humbucker pickups, is a much thicker sound and you can get it to be really kind of a little muddy and stuff. And so that, again, added on top of that sound, and that’s really what we know how their sound came about and where it is today or through the years.
18:34 TH: And you know, all these things that were discovered as we’re hearing, talking about, it’s like discovered by accident, you know? With Iommi’s fingers picking up the guitar, having to use that guitar, all of a sudden the sound changes, you know; this is what they were all about. They were so original that they were actually just discovering their sound along the way, right. Which is, could you ask for more? You know, it’s not like they ever had to copy any… They never copied anyone.
19:00 DS: Right. The other thing I wanted to talk about, just bring up, is the critical reaction at the time. So when the album came out, I don’t know how many people are aware of Lester Bangs, a legendary rock critic who was the writer for Rolling Stone, is featured as a character in the movie, Almost Famous. So if you’ve seen that, him… And sometimes the critics, I think, are just kind of negative on purpose, always looking for something that’s not there.
19:29 TH: Sure, sure.
19:31 DS: And he said that the album was just like Cream, but worse. [laughter] So he actually… He dismissed it as a “shock,” which I’m not sure exactly what that means, but he said, “Despite the murky song titles and some inane lyrics that sounded like Vanilla Fudge playing doggerel tribute to Aleister Crowley, the album has nothing to do with spiritualism, the occult, or anything much except stiff recitations of Cream cliches.” [laughter]
20:05 TH: Wow. Wow, interesting.
20:08 DS: They weren’t… The album was not really well-received by the critics because people… There was a bit of jamming in it a little bit, which people were kind of sick of I think at the end of the ’60s, because the ’60s were really the jam time for rock and roll.
20:23 TH: Sure. Yeah.
20:25 DS: So it’s interesting to see that that was the first thought from these critics.
20:31 TH: I just love that, you don’t even think about it, but when was the last time you mentioned Vanilla Fudge in your world, right?
20:38 DS: Yeah, right? Yeah. I don’t even know that.
20:41 TH: So Cream and Vanilla Fudge, to me, knowing who Cream and Vanilla Fudge was, to me it makes no sense in the world, ’cause I’ve listened to both, I often did when I was younger and had my albums. And still to me, I don’t know how that review came out, but to me it made no sense whatever.
21:00 DS: Yeah, yeah. Sometimes it doesn’t, right? [chuckle]
21:02 TH: Well, you know, what you said, it keeps them in the limelight. Every critic needs to be somewhat controversial, so people say, “Oh, I wonder what he has to say today.” I did look into that whole thing about… And did you see Ozzy’s feelings about critics?
21:18 DS: No, what did he say?
21:20 TH: Ozzy’s line was pretty much, all these guys went to college, so they’re fantastic how they can look at something and tear it apart. He goes, “Listen, we barely got through high school. All we know is music, we don’t know anything about critiquing or what it sounds or what it should sound like. We get up there and we play.” So Ozzy back then knew exactly who he was and never got worried about what the critics had to say.
21:45 DS: Right, yeah, and thank God, because when you start listening to those outside people… These guys are super creative, super talented musicians, and you just gotta go and let your creativity go and don’t worry about what people think. And now they’re legends because of it.
22:02 TH: Yeah.
22:03 DS: So one of the things that I really love about this album is, the openings of some of these songs are just so, so classic.
22:13 DS: So my three favorites are, of course, Black Sabbath, which actually starts with 35, 36 seconds of rain and bells and thunder, and that was all added afterwards, so they didn’t… That was not part of the song when they recorded it, but then you get this.
22:46 DS: So that, what that is, it’s called a triad, and so it’s a very dramatic kind of sound and they just leverage that to that opening noise and then that opening lyric and what is it, “What is this that stands before me?” So that kind of opening, really, that’s what I love. The other ones that I do love are the opening also to this one…
23:18 DS: The Wizard, right? With Ozzy…
23:19 TH: Who is it? Who is it?
23:19 DS: On the harmonica. Heavy metal harmonica, right?
23:25 TH: But listen, the key it’s in, right? Everything is always in the Sabbath key, right? Even the harmonica doesn’t sound harmonica.
23:39 DS: It’s great, right? And then this was my introduction of Sabbath, was this song, NIB, which I think is one of my favorite all-time riffs. Starts off with that little bass intro called Bassically, it actually has a name. But here it is, right?
24:02 TH: UFO.
24:04 DS: Now the band comes in.
24:14 DS: It’s classic. So hearing those openings, to me, that just draws you in and now you’re fully bought into this song. And so I think they were so powerful with those openings, and then the songs would go on… A lot of the songs on this album, it depends which pressings you see and how the songs are split up, so sometimes some of the songs are shown as one track, like you could see Wasp, Behind the Wall of Sleep, Bassically, and then NIB is sometimes all listed as one song, sometimes it’s broken out. But for the most part, the songs are longer, so you’re talking about four, five, six, eight-minute, nine-minute songs, and so that really gives you a chance to kinda dig into the meat of what’s going on there musically.
25:00 TH: Yeah, I just wanna throw this in, just my thoughts on the album Black Sabbath itself, right? It’s the kind of thing that you take home and, back in the day, you’d have this giant stereo system that this is truly meant to be turned up. It’s not party music. It’s just…
25:17 DS: With those big speakers, right?
25:19 TH: Yeah, the big speakers and the woofers, and you’re getting hit, but you’re getting hit by the sound, it’s not so much the ears. And I mean this when I say this; the meaning behind it for me was to feel it, you feel this album, you’re not so much you hear it, you feel it, you get part of it, every chord that’s getting hit, hits you emotionally and hits your nerves.
25:39 DS: Yeah. And it comes back to that sound.
25:40 TH: It comes back to that sound…
25:44 DS: It’s so different than anything that was out.
25:47 TH: And when you take this… And this album is… And I have to share this, because when this album is taken and played live, right, and you hear this live, it’s an experience of a lifetime. It’s just something that you just can’t even explain or imagine the energy in the air from the people and these songs is just so powerful. I mean, you get emotionally attached from the first chord, right?
26:11 DS: Yeah, for sure.
26:12 TH: And like you were saying, nothing like it, you feel it inside of you and that’s why…
26:16 DS: It moves you.
26:17 TH: That’s why I fell in love with it, I mean that. It wasn’t like, oh, wow, I really like this song. It was like, oh, my God.
26:24 DS: It’s visceral. It’s in here.
26:27 TH: Yeah.
26:27 DS: It’s in your chest and you feel it and it moves you.
26:29 TH: No doubt about it. No doubt.
26:29 DS: Like any great music. That’s why I’m always shocked when you go to concerts, even with nowadays, we’re older, the bands are older, but I’m always shocked when people just sit down, and I don’t know why you’re there if it doesn’t move you to get up and… You don’t dance or whatever, but feel it in your body.
26:49 TH: Yeah, yeah, great point. Great point. Well, yep, you know what, and I agree with you. It’s everything that I go and everything I love, and I still… When I put this on, I still feel the same way. When we were going over this and I had my headset on, and I had to crank it, it’s the way our world was. And man, oh, man, some of the greatest music, and this album being one of the… It says, 1001 albums you have to hear, I’d put it into 11. [chuckle]
27:17 DS: Yeah, it’s a top 20 for me, for sure.
27:22 TH: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, to listen to.
27:24 DS: Yeah, oh, yeah.
27:25 TH: Not to just play in the background. I will say that about this album, it’s not background music, it’s just not like, hey, oh, Sabbath’s on. You gotta be in there, you gotta be in there with it.
27:36 DS: So let’s talk about the songs and some of the stories behind each of the… Or not every song, but most of the songs. This is kind of a short album, actually, even though the songs are long, overall time-wise it’s not a super long album; it’s one of those records when you put it on there’s a fairly large space close to the label.
27:54 TH: Yeah, it is actually quite short.
27:57 DS: Yeah. But it’s interesting. So some of these things we dug up, we’re looking at the song, the actual song, Black Sabbath.
28:05 TH: Yep.
28:06 DS: And it turns out that Bill Ward was listening to a lot of classical music at the time, was playing a classical song and… He was playing it on the bass and then Tony kinda came up with the riff based off of what he was doing. So it was kind of a mix of like some classical listening and then their own take on it and turn it into rock. So sometimes these ideas can come from anywhere, and sometimes your heavy metal heroes are a classical music fan or something else that’s different.
28:47 TH: It literally comes down to, you gotta understand, what did you grow up with, right? What was being played in the background for them? I grew up… My dad loved The Ink Spots, and I could mention The Ink Spots, nobody knows who The Ink Spots are.
29:01 DS: Yeah.
29:01 TH: But back in the day, tremendous music, The Ink Spots. And that’s what I grew up with, which naturally I progressed into my kind of music, but I imagine they grew up the same way, listening to what their parents listened to.
29:17 DS: Yeah. And part of Tony Iommi’s process when writing was… And this is kind of a common thing that you see with a lot of very talented musicians, a lot of them like that loud, quiet, dark, light, kind of contrast within a song, and you definitely hear that here. You hear that in the song Black Sabbath, you hear it throughout the album where there’s those parts where it’s a little bit down and then those other parts come crashing in and it’s so emotional, just really…
29:46 TH: It really is, it’s like you get lured in and then you get punched in the face, right? It’s like, you’re sitting back… No, no, no, you can’t sit back. Boom, let’s go, right? Yeah.
29:57 DS: But the problem that they had… So they had the idea, this is gonna be, okay, we’re gonna do kinda horror music ’cause people love scary movies, and that’s where they got the original concept. So it wasn’t originally, “Hey, we pray Satan,” and most of the guys were, I think, Catholic actually. So one of the things that came out of this was the music was kinda scary. And so Ozzy complained that when they started playing the song Black Sabbath, he would see the girls go running out of the venue screaming, like literally screaming, ’cause they were so scared.
30:29 TH: I love it. I love it. That’s great.
30:30 DS: And Ozzy’s like, “Well, if we’re scaring away all the girls, what are we doing this for?”
30:36 TH: Yeah, this is rock and roll, man. [laughter] And we’re losing the girls.
30:39 DS: Yeah.
30:41 TH: Right? I love that. Yeah.
30:42 DS: You always hear these guys, “Well, yeah, I learned to play guitar to get girls, you know,” so… [chuckle]
30:48 TH: I didn’t know if you were gonna touch on it, but we were talking about horror and they were into the… Geezer Butler was into a lot of horror movies, and the name actually came from something from Boris Karloff, who was huge back in the day, and that’s… There was a movie or something with the fact that Black Sabbath was in the movie. So that’s how they brought that to the forefront was something with an old Boris Karloff thing.
31:11 DS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, good point.
31:13 TH: “Hey, what do you… ” Imagine, “Hey, what do you think of Black Sabbath?” [chuckle] “Hey, alright.” You wish you could have been in the room, right?
31:23 DS: Right. Right.
31:24 TH: The stuff that was going on, and like, “Why are we doing this? What do you guys… ” How many times they must have heard, “My God, what are you guys doing?” When you think about it, right? Rubbing against the norm. When you go against the norm, you gotta have courage, you gotta have conviction.
31:39 DS: So different… Yeah, so different than what was out there, again, you know.
31:42 TH: Oh, my God, yeah.
31:44 DS: And so…
31:44 TH: Generally, record labels are afraid of different.
31:47 DS: Sure.
31:48 TH: Because they want money-makers.
31:50 DS: Right. They want the same thing that was working, yeah.
31:53 TH: Here’s what’s happening now. Let’s get more of it.
31:53 DS: Yeah, exactly. The album cover, there’s a figure in black, it’s a woman with a hood. And we’ll show the album cover. So there’s this kind of shadowy figure that Geezer came up with because he had seen it in a nightmare.
32:09 TH: Wow.
32:09 DS: And it was like really scary, so he told this to Ozzy, and he said to Ozzy, “It was a horrible presence that frightened the life out of me.” So some of this was based on their own real kind of fears and Ozzy’s like, “Well, that’s pretty scary. Let’s do it.”
32:25 TH: Let’s do it. That picture, that album, that house is still there.
32:29 DS: Oh, really?
32:30 TH: Yeah, the woman was a model back in the day, and they brought her in and my favorite part about it was they just wanted her to feel the part. So all she was dressed in was that robe, nothing else; they literally… They were gonna go for a different look and have it in a more sexy kind of a thing, and then they realized to just have her standing there with the long hair hanging down and just her hands by her side. And it worked perfectly, ’cause it’s a perfect album cover. Which we’ll some day…
32:58 DS: So it’s kind of creepy and weird and stuff, but the sexy thing would not have worked at all, so I’m glad they didn’t go that route.
33:06 TH: But that was the record company, again, suggesting to them what they thought would work. And again, some day we’ll talk about that in another podcast, in another conversation, but we grew up having some of the greatest album art ever. Which would be a great conversation one day if we do that.
33:24 DS: We could do a whole whole episode on that. So the song NIB, great, great, awesome song, my all-time favorite Black Sabbath song. That was something that they wrote… They were playing clubs in Germany, like The Beatles used to do, and just getting in there and playing these, like I said before, these seven sets a day, 45 minutes, basically jamming, and so NIB kind of grew out of that, they came up with the riff and just took it to another level there. And it’s also a song about a woman basically hooking up with the devil.
34:05 TH: It’s my favorite. [laughter] “Hey, let’s write a song.”
34:06 DS: “Yeah, here’s an idea.” And again, at the time, that was just scandalous.
34:11 TH: This will go over big. [laughter] This will go over big.
34:15 DS: Yeah, with middle America in 1970, right?
34:17 TH: No. That’s great. That’s great.
34:21 DS: The other thing, so NIB, a lot of people think it means Nativity in Black or Name in Blood, and that is not accurate. And the actual story is that they’re in the dressing room before one of these marathon shows and they’re smoking weed or something, and Ozzy says to Bill, “Hey, Bill, your face looks like a pen nib.” Because he had this pointy beard. And so they called Bill Nibby for a while, and then that ended up taking that and using that as the actual song title. And then Ozzy said, “Well, let’s put periods in between the letters and that’ll make it seem very fancy.” [chuckle]
35:02 TH: How great is that? But when you see about the following they started to create when we’re talking about this, everybody took their own perception of what it was. That’s why Nativity in Black, all the things that came up, right, those whole things came up because it was being created by their own audience. So they were really building a cult following who were literally calling it whatever they wanted.
35:27 DS: Yeah, sure.
35:29 TH: To get where it was going for them, NIB, they just put it up there, people started to call it what they wanted, what they believed it was. I think there was more legend of the audience believing about Sabbath than Sabbath was actually putting out.
35:43 DS: Yeah, I think it kind of feeds off itself. So as you see that and people start talking and make stuff up, tell their friends. But that…
35:51 TH: The legend of Black Sabbath.
35:53 DS: Well, and it happens with so much music, so you hear so many stories about a band or artist writing a song and talk… Writing the song, and then it means something different to the audience than what they had originally intended. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s not. But it’s interesting how… But I think that’s part of the enjoyment of music is what it means to you. If it doesn’t mean anything to you personally, then what’s the point? Why do you bother?
36:20 TH: Yeah, it has to impact you some way, and I think that’s what we’re talking about today. And the reason we started with this album, of all the albums and all the artists in my life, this impacted me in a positive, positive way. But then again, I was a rebellious kid, so I enjoyed the fact that I was putting on Sabbath in my house, making my father’s head explode. That was…
36:43 DS: That was your goal, right?
36:46 TH: Well, that’s what it was good for. But then again, I realized, you know, no one understood the music behind it, the actual quality of what it really, really was. The musicians, nobody ever gave it the thought of the musicians behind the music and what became behind the album, like we’re talking inside the album here. Really, skills and talents that these people had were tremendous. So to me…
37:10 DS: Yeah, phenomenal.
37:12 TH: Yeah, it was… It meant so much more.
37:15 DS: So let’s talk a little bit about The Wizard, which is another great song. And the story was originally that, the people had, again, another fan story, that it was an ode to the band’s drug dealer, when the Wizard walks by, everyone is happy, but Tony Iommi said that that’s not true. So he explained that Ozzy and Geezer were wandering around, wasted, and some guy was leaping around outside being silly, probably drunk or wasted as well, and he looked like kind of an elf to them, and so they kinda named the song after this guy, that was the impetus. So it’s some wasted guy outside of a club.
37:57 DS: And then also when you look at the lyrics of the song, and Bill Ward said, “When I think about the lyrics to The Wizard, some people could probably feel that they’re laughable, but they actually meant a lot to the band.” And so they felt that this was kind of an opportunity for them to show people what was inside of them, so even though these songs are kinda heavy and “demonic,” they still are expressions of these musicians. And so that’s always interesting to see. It comes from a little bit different point of view than what you originally thought.
38:31 TH: You know, you just said something, so I’m just gonna share a little aspect of mine, if you don’t mind here.
38:37 DS: Sure.
38:37 TH: I never… And it’s funny, I guess it was my love of music, and you know my love of music and the shows and people I’ve seen, and that’s why we’re together talking music is we both have this foundational love for music. I never got wrapped into it of demonic or Satan. It never crossed my mind, and I mean that, but I fell in love with the music. And that’s the interesting part for me is it had no meaning to me whatsoever, except, man, this is great music, and I think once Sabbath broke through that and people started to see them go through it, that the artists that they truly were, and the impact they were having on the music world, you mentioned earlier, all the followers of heavy metal praise Black Sabbath. And there’s a reason for that. They’re not saying because, “Oh, look what they did with the satanic music.” They’re saying, “My God, these guys were great artists, look what they brought to the world.”
39:36 DS: Great songs, yeah, yeah. The satanic stuff, I mean, there’s some of that in metal, I guess, still, with these crazy like the death metal and black metal and all these types of things and whatever, but it always comes down to the songs for me. You know, I’m not a satanist or anything, I don’t really care about any of that stuff.
39:55 TH: Come on, come on.
39:56 DS: But I just enjoy it. I enjoy it, I love going to see Slayer, I’m not a… You know, I’m not into of that stuff, but I love the music and enjoy it totally just as music and art.
40:10 TH: Me too, me too, I get exactly what you’re saying. You know, I don’t take… And like I said, it’s the music, I don’t have to go any deeper than that. It’s what I’m hearing and what I’m feeling, not what somebody’s putting into my head, not what somebody’s saying to me, like if somebody was gonna say to me, “Oh, you listen to Black Sabbath, you must be into Satan.” “No, shut up, I’m into the music.” And I mean, that’s what I always carried with me. I never fell in to that. And to tell you the truth, man, I would turn my kids on to Sabbath and did. You know, I have three daughters. They know who Ozzy is, they know Black Sabbath. My daughter went to… My youngest daughter went to Ozzfest, [laughter] and was I worried? No. Go have a good time.
40:51 DS: Right. Exactly.
40:51 TH: That’s the way we looked at it.
40:55 DS: So, did you know this, did you know that Tony Iommi actually joined Jethro Tull for a brief period?
41:01 TH: Oh, wow.
41:03 DS: Yeah, right before Sabbath started recording, Tony Iommi actually left, went with Jethro Tull, I think he was on the road with them, or worked with them for a short period of time. Said it wasn’t for him. The thing that he said that he picked up from working with those guys was work ethic, and so when he came back, the first song he wrote was Wicked World, and that was kind of from that Tull, “Hey, here’s what we gonna do. We gotta get in the studio, get this written, or sit down and write this song,” and that re-focused work ethic, he said made a huge difference in his life going forward, so he’d learned that from Ian Anderson and being in Jethro Tull, which is interesting.
41:49 TH: Yeah, well, you know what, Ian Anderson, he ran a band like a band, man, he always did.
41:54 DS: Yeah.
41:55 TH: Full credit to him. He was in the music business.
41:58 DS: Right, right.
42:00 TH: He was a smart cat. Yeah, listen, think about this, man, and we can talk about it now, you don’t stick around in music world 50 years for no reason whatsoever.
42:09 DS: Exactly.
42:10 TH: And now we’re talking 50 years.
42:12 DS: Right. It is a business, and those guys, the bands that managed the both sides, the creative side and the business side, the best, are the ones that last forever. You look at the Rolling Stones, because Mick Jagger runs that business like a corporation, and you could say, okay, the Stones don’t put out the best records these days, but they’re still the Rolling Stones and they’ve been around since the beginning of time. So…
42:39 TH: Yeah. We’ll have another story about the Stones one day.
42:44 DS: Well, we’re definitely gonna have some Rolling Stones stories.
42:47 TH: Yeah, we’ve got some Stones stories. I’ll throw it in here now, I just got one personal story ’cause it’s always fun. So when I first, in high school, 1976, I started to really develop a love for Sabbath, and I got to go to my first show and I always share this, it’s like, “What is your worst nightmare?” Alright, going to see a Sabbath show. And to share this with you, Ted Nugent opened up the show for Black Sabbath, so you knew it was gonna be a good night. But halfway through the Sabbath show and I look up in the Garden, and I look up and there’s a row of chairs on fire in the upper deck of Madison Square Garden. [laughter]
43:25 DS: At Madison Square Garden, yeah.
43:29 TH: Right, so at 16 years old, I’m looking and going, “How cool is that?” Now, you realize that the place is on fire. [laughter]
43:38 DS: Right. There was a lot of craziness in Madison Square Garden in ’70s and ’80s.
43:42 TH: Yeah.
43:44 DS: There was an Ozzy Show where Metallica opened where basically the floor was destroyed, every seat in the place was ripped off the floor, and it was a nightmare. But that’s back when we were younger. These days, I wouldn’t… It would be a little tougher for me to handle that kind of stuff. [laughter]
44:00 TH: Ain’t it the truth? Yep. It’s like the old… Going to see the Ramones and standing in the mosh pit.
44:09 DS: Exactly, right, yeah.
44:10 TH: There was a time when I’d be in the last row at a place waiting to walk out the doors when the show’s over. It’s tough getting old, my friend, it’s tough getting old.
44:18 DS: So one last little tidbit or… Well, I got one tidbit about a song, and then a couple of other interesting facts I wanna go over here. So the song, Sleeping Village, people may not be as familiar with that song, it’s not one of the more popular songs. It’s a slow, haunting acoustic song about the Salem Witch Trials and it was originally titled Devil’s Island. So again, there’s Sabbath stoking that satanic thing that they claimed that that was forced on them by the record company, but it’s kind of hard to walk away from that when you’re calling your songs Devils Island, sort of things.
44:58 TH: It was working for them, and you know what? When you’re starting out, you’ll brand yourself whatever you need to get a following. Listen, it’s rock and roll, you know what I mean? The bottom line is, no matter how we look at it, no matter we wanna put it… It still falls back to rock and roll, and we can go back to Chuck Berry, wherever you wanna go. But it’s still rock and roll.
45:21 DS: For sure, for sure. And I mentioned before about the songs being listed in the album in different ways over the years in different countries, and probably the reason that that was done was because their contractual requirements made them ask for 10 songs per record. So, they have a longer piece, they would then… Like the intro to NIB, is that base riff, right? Well, that is called Bassically on the album, and it’s just a minute or two long, but that was to fill the record contract, that’s the reason why they did that.
45:55 TH: That’s crazy. That’s a great little nugget right there.
46:00 DS: To this day you’ll see their songs listed in different ways, either broken out or put together. And the other interesting fact is that most of War Pigs and Fairies Wear Boots were also written at this time, so while they’re in this zone and they took out this time to record this initial album, they were still writing, because they were playing so much in these jam sessions and at these shows that they were doing, and a lot of these other songs were also coming together but weren’t used for these albums, they used for later albums.
46:30 TH: You know, you just mentioned War Pigs and what else did you say? Fairies Wear Boots.
46:35 DS: Fairies Wear Boots, yeah.
46:36 TH: And being that we’re on a Sabbath kick, there was messages that were put out in songs, and I’m just thinking about this one ’cause it just came to mind. I’ll just say it, whatever it is. Killing Yourself To Live, one of my favorite Sabbath songs. And if you listen to it, there’s really a message there about people are going every day out there killing yourself to live. And Ozzy’s point was, what are you doing? And it always stuck in my head, and you know what? And the message came to me loud and clear. Most people are going out killing themselves to live. So Sabbath had a great impact on me emotionally as well as, now, these guys were well thought out, Ozzy and the band, no dummies, no dummies.
47:19 DS: No, no. They act very, Ozzy always says, like you were saying before about the guys being smarter, went to school and everything, but a lot of that is BS. They really are… These guys are on top of their game not only musically, but how they run their business and everything, otherwise they wouldn’t be around.
47:39 TH: Yeah, how they kept the brand alive.
47:41 DS: Yeah, exactly.
47:42 TH: Keeping the brand alive. How many people can say that they’ve done that? We can look through the careers of music, people have come and go, and there’s a reason why. It’s carrying the brand and staying true. One of the things I’ll always say about, from the first album, Black Sabbath, all the way through, no matter who was in the band, they stayed true to the brand, that this is Black Sabbath and we don’t get away from Black Sabbath. This is it, and that’s one of the greatest things I’ve learned and liked about them. They always stayed true to the brand, and they didn’t think of themselves as heavy metal ’cause they didn’t know what heavy metal was. But they knew what Black Sabbath was and they stuck to it.
48:25 DS: Yeah, exactly.
48:26 TH: And I love that.
48:26 DS: There are things like the song changes and things like that. There are things that Sabbath has done that are not even close to metal.
48:34 TH: Good point. Good point. But it’s not like Beth. You know what I mean?
48:41 DS: No, no, no. Nothing’s like that.
48:43 TH: Figure I’d throw that in. [laughter]
48:45 DS: We’ll talk about that when we get to Kiss. [laughter]
48:48 TH: No, we won’t. [laughter]
48:51 DS: Now we’re definitely doing it. [laughter]
48:54 TH: Only if you play it in the background while we’re talking about it.
48:57 DS: Of course. Of course.
49:00 TH: It was like how to split the concert in two. Jam upfront, go in to Beth and then finish up the show. That’s right.
49:06 DS: Right, right, exactly.
49:07 TH: That’s for another talk.
49:09 DS: Exactly. Alright, so that’s Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath. That’s Inside the Album with Don and Tommy, and make sure you subscribe and check out our next episode. We don’t know what it’s gonna be yet, which album, but it’s definitely gonna be something good.
49:25 TH: It’s gonna be fun. I look forward to it.
49:27 DS: Yeah, thanks, Tommy.
49:28 TH: Hey, Don, good being with you, man. I’ll see you next time.
49:31 DS: Alright. Take care, everybody. Have a great day.
49:33 TH: Thank you, guys.