Black Sabbath

Last updated 09:10 03/11/2009

The first thing I knew about Black Sabbath was the song Paranoid; as an avid fan of the Tour of Duty soundtrack albums. I wasn't sure if I liked the song or not -

Black Sabbath

the voice was weird, the riff was relentless, but I did like the line about being called insane for frowning all the time.

I was about 12 years old.

A couple of years on I borrowed some albums from my uncle; he was cleaning out the storage and I found copies of Tubular Bells, Best of Cream, Led Zeppelin III, Cosmo's Factory and Pendulum. 

And an album called Paranoid by Black Sabbath.

I had been working my way through what was left of mum and dad's vinyl collection; particularly looking for albums to play along to on my drum-kit. I had worn out a copy of Abbey Road, thrashed (along to) Band on the Run, and The Cream of Clapton and Frampton Comes Alive were hated around the neighbourhood.

So to Mike Oldfield, Cream, CCR, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath - some new material for me; plugging gaps in my parents' record collection (they had foolishly started to give away their LPs, replacing them with CDs).

From the loan-LPs the one that absolutely blew me away was Paranoid, right from the start. The only song I knew was the title track (from Tour of Duty III) - but as I struggled to open and close my hi-hat pedal in time with War Pigs the sound washed over me. I loved every inch of this record - instantly.

ParanoidI loved the cover shot. I loved Planet Caravan with its weird vocals, mercurial guitar (cascading, mellifluous blues) and those bongos! I loved Iron Man with its frightening "I. Am. Iron. Man" robot-intro and that frightening riff; the stomp of the bass-drum, the crash of the snare and cymbals. I loved Electric Funeral; the guitar seeming like it was singing the riff - actually singing. I loved Hand of Doom, the tinker and creep of the drums this time, building, building and then blasting behind the riff as the voice builds in intensity too. I loved Rat Salad; seeming like the impossible to a young, eager drummer. (I thought - and still think - it's way better as a piece and as a solo than Led Zep's Moby Dick.) And I loved Fairies Wear Boots; again the drive behind this song, the drums, bass and guitar all pushing and probing - and again that voice.

Paranoid (the song) had been my (first) intro to Black Sabbath - but my proper introduction was Paranoid (the album).

And for many years I was pretty much just happy to listen to that. I loved it. I don't know that a lot of my friends were listening to it - and I certainly didn't try to push it on anyone; I just listened to it. And loved it.

And then someone gave me Heaven and Hell; I was told it was "a traitor album" because it did not have Ozzy Osbourne on vocals - it had a guy called Ronnie James Dio. I kinda liked the album. It wasn't a patch on Paranoid but the creep and doom of Tony Iommi's guitar was still there. And drummer Bill Ward still pulled out military/jazz-styled snare drum rolls in and around the stomping rock grooves.

But mostly I liked this album because I made a dubbed copy on a tape that was covered in a rough-cast of Twink-pen and tape; meaning that whenever I placed it in the stereo of my car it would jam and I had two options: I could listen to Heaven and Hell, or not (until a mechanic from dad's work would fish it out for a breather).

I joined a band when I was in my final year of high school; we learned the song Paranoid. I jammed with some other guys and we played N.I.B. - I knew this song because I had bought a split Black Sabbath/Judas Priest tape and this had given me N.I.B. and Changes. And also Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (another song I learned to play along to).

Paranoid (on CD) was the extent of my Sabbath collection for a long time. I picked up a double best-of a while ago, but just kept going back to Paranoid.

And then, recently, deluxe editions of the band's self-titled debut, Paranoid and Master of Reality were rolled out by Universal and a new, single-disc Greatest Hits. (I say roll on deluxe editions of Black Sabbath Vol. 4 and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.)

I I Am Ozzylove the album Black Sabbath and bits of Master of Reality and all of the Ozzy albums in fact - but for me it's still Paranoid that is the one.

I've started reading the new Ozzy autobiography, I Am Ozzy, it's good fun - so far. Most important, it has sent me back to the music - already. Last night I blasted all of the albums I've named here. And I wrote this. The book sending me to the music; the music sending me to the memories; the memories reminding me of so much more than just the music.

What's your favourite Black Sabbath album? What are your favourite songs? Did you like anything from the band after Ozzy left? Have you kept up with all the different versions and reformations? Or could you only tolerate them back in the day, at the time? Or were you never a fan?

(I say Paranoid is the one; but for me the best song is N.I.B. and the song Black Sabbath really is the beginning of Heavy Metal; that lingering, creepy riff. Fantastic!)

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36 comments
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Angus   #1   09:25 am Nov 03 2009

Thanks Simon - hadn't listened to this for years but have had some fun going to the YouTube links. Had forgotten how damn good Paranoid (the Album) is. Was really the only Sabbath I listened to.

Used to thrash this as a youngster, along with my Hendrix & Zeppelin etc. Think I might still have my old vinyl copy in my box of LPs.

Looks like I'll have to go out & get the reissued CD.

Lisa   #2   09:32 am Nov 03 2009

Paranoid is my fave album and song. That's because of my sister. She really likes it, so it's a liking because one is forced to listen to it. Though I do actually like it now.

Chris   #3   09:41 am Nov 03 2009

Love Black Sabbath - think it came from osmosis, as my Dad is a HUGE Black Sabbath fan.

And as a drummer you can't do too much better than copying Bill Ward, I love his style.

MJH   #4   10:05 am Nov 03 2009

For me, Sabbath were at their best up until Master of Reality - Vol. 4, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage have some great moments - but nothing ever really came close to those first three albums. "Sweet Leaf" comes to mind as one of their great songs - trace the line from this song to the 90's stoner rock scene - but really Tony Iommi is the undisputed RIFF MASTER. There are so many great things going on in single songs ("Iron Man", for instance), that its hard to pick just one or two. Even the obvious filler ("Paranoid" - they wrote that just to bulk up the album!) is solid gold. As far as post-Ozzy Sabbath goes, the best way to listen to Heaven and Hell is on a turntable at 16RPM!

T-Rex   #5   10:14 am Nov 03 2009

Awesome post. I love Black Sabbath and Ozzy so much. I heard Paranoid for the first time on October 26 2003. I was rather into hip hop and sh***y pop music. I was very much a late bloomer when it came to discovering what genre of music I *really* liked. On my first date with my partner he played Paranoid on his guitar for me (that's what you do when you're 17 and trying to impress a girl). I thought it was pretty shit. He then played the song so loud the walls shook and I was overcome. I'd never heard anything like it before. I turned into an instant bogan. I made him play EVERYTHING he owned by Black Sabbath and then Ozzy. I then progressed to Iron Maiden and ACDC (though I'd heard a bit of it as a kid growing up in Aussie). Along with Black Sabbath that's pretty much all I listened to for two years. And Led Zep. Now every year on our anniversary we toast Black Sabbath too because it's my BS and Ozzy anniversary too. Black Sabbath introduced me to a completely different way of listening to music. I can't really describe it but I really felt alive when I started listening to Maiden and Sabbath. God bless them.

Samuel   #6   10:33 am Nov 03 2009

I love The Wizard !

Darryl   #7   10:35 am Nov 03 2009

War Pigs has to be my fav Sabbath song that hi-hat thing is a fun challenge to master. I can find something to like on most albums up to Sabotage, then things get a bit hit and miss.

Agree with Chris - Bill Ward is pretty amazing, beats the piss out of Bonham for my money.

paul   #8   10:36 am Nov 03 2009

Oh wow... where to start? My first ever metal album (1984)was a cassette copy of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath - that has always been my favourite album - and now I listen to it regularly on CD or MP3.

The Wizard would have to be my favourite Sabbath song. The harmonica riff on that is legend.

Dio brought in some weird elements that got more extreme in his Dio albums (still very cool though).

Kyle   #9   10:53 am Nov 03 2009

I love Sabbath so much, i was raised on this music as it is my fathers generation but I still can not get enough. I remember the first time i heard war pigs! I was like what is this... this blows my mind this is rock n roll. My fav albums would be black sabbath - black sabbath, black sabbath - paranoid and sabbath bloody sabbath. I didn't really get into much after he left and done his solo stuff but don't get me wrong I still love Dio. That holy diver album is insanely good. Heaven and Hell was a terrible album with Dio but still I could never get enough of sabbath too good of a band. Thanks Simon, finally a band to top everything you have done thus far.

Colin   #10   11:01 am Nov 03 2009

Have to agree with Darryl, War Pigs is almost certainly their best.


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