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Black Sabbath History 70's

Black Sabbath formed in Birmingham, England in 1966 under the name Polka Tulk Blues Band (soon shortened to "Polka Tulk"), and later Earth. Initially a blues-rock band, Earth moved in a darker direction when Geezer Butler, a fan of the black magic novels of Dennis Wheatley, wrote an occult-themed song titled "Black Sabbath" (the song name was apparently inspired by a 1963 Boris Karloff film). When the band found themselves being confused with another local band called Earth, they adopted the song title as their new name. Originally, they started as a blues-influenced hard rock group, but as they progressed they added more European folk elements to their sound, a sound that was not like any other group during their time. Thus, this was known as heavy metal, and in due time, the band became what we know as doom metal. Their lyrics dealt with darker issues than most conventional rock as well. The newly-named Black Sabbath adopted darker lyrical themes, and a slower, ominous style - a significant element in the genre that would later be known as heavy metal, often ranked above Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Judas Priest in importance and influence in the genre. Even though Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin, Cream, and Deep Purple may have had a profound influence on the emergence of hard rock and heavy metal music, Black Sabbath is sometimes considered to be the first true heavy metal band. The group found its signature sound almost by accident. After seeing a horror movie together, Ozzy Osbourne reportedly said to Geezer Butler, "If people pay to see scary movies, why wouldn't they pay to listen to scary music?" The band began to purposely write dark, ominous riffs in an attempt to be music's answer to horror movies. However, much of the group's material featured an acoustic guitar, piano, symphony orchestras, keyboards, and even horns. After the band's first three albums, the group became increasingly experimental and progressive, leaving much of their dark metal roots behind. With an extremely gifted rhythm section and the extraordinary on-stage antics of Ozzy Osbourne, the band enjoyed success with memorable songs and brutal riffs beginning with their first album, the eponymous Black Sabbath (1970). Their follow-up album, Paranoid (also 1970), was a tremendous success, bringing them even greater attention in America and the UK. The content of the songs (both originals and cover versions) from both albums demonstrated a tongue in cheek interest in the occult and black magic. This was a crucial step in establishing the "darkness" and "heaviness" of later heavy metal lyrics, and Black Sabbath was the first group to feature such lyrical content, almost to the exclusion of other topics. Led Zeppelin, The Doors and others might have hinted at magic or the occult, but few contemporaries could match Black Sabbath for directness, such as "My name is Lucifer/Please take my hand" (from Black Sabbath's "N.I.B."). Butler wrote most of the lyrics. Another innovation was the by-product of an accident: Iommi's fretting fingers were injured in an industrial accident during his early tenure with Earth. He was working in a sheet metal factory at the time and the tops of the two middle fingers on his right hand were sliced off. Initially, he forged himself prosthetics from a melted plastic detergent bottle. The injured fingers were understandably tender, so Iommi downtuned his Gibson guitar from standard E to C#. The resultant slackness of the string allowed him to play with less bother to his fingertips. Butler also downtuned his bass guitar to more easily follow Iommi's playing. The lower pitch often seemed "heavier" or more substantive, and Black Sabbath were perhaps the first popular group to downtune. The practice of downtuning is now common perhaps even standard among metal groups. Black Sabbath released another smash hit in 1971, Master of Reality. This was the first Sabbath album to feature a significant amount of acoustic material ("Solitude" contained a flute solo by Iommi). This was a crucial and often overlooked switch in style by Sabbath, as they are largely known only for their simple, dark riffs from their earlier releases. By the time the band released Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 in (1972), they were a full-fledged progressive rock group. Featuring the hit "Changes" (containing only vocal, piano, and strings) and sonic rock anthems like "Supernaut" and "Snowblind," Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 was the group's most mature record to date. By this point, the band were one of the most popular bands in the world, and were a major concert attraction. Arguably the band's creative peak, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973) saw the band work with Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman (who remains a close friend of the band today). The album contains some of the best known Black Sabbath material, including the acoustic space rock voyage, "Spiral Architect," and the haunting prog-rock workout, "A National Acrobat." The band was heavily addicted to drugs and for over two years Ozzy and Ward took acid every day. When out of cocaine, Ozzy once snorted a line of ants in replacement. Towards the end of Ozzy's tenure in 1978, Ozzy was so embroiled in drugs that he claims he was "very unhappy and got drunk and stoned every day. The band was suffering major management problems (the group was managed by Ozzy's future father-in-law, Don Arden). The management problems and then a label change from Vertigo to WWA disrupted the release schedule of the band's new album. Despite the troubles, Sabotage was released in 1975 with continued success. However, drug problems, continued experimentation in their music style (Gregorian chants and a chorale of monks highlighted "Supertzar"), the hard rock scene's changing environment and some internal issues were affecting the stability and output of the band. Technical Ecstasy (1976) turned out to be a commercial failure. The album was laden with symphony orchestras, synthesizers, and even drummer Bill Ward singing a Beatles-esque pop song. Some consider it one of the group's most ambitious records, yet fans of the classic Sabbath formula were disillusioned. After the 1977 tour, Ozzy Osbourne stopped turning up at band rehearsals. The remaining band members even recorded music with singer Dave Walker, formerly of Fleetwood Mac, but Ozzy continued on with Sabbath, releasing the highly controversial Never Say Die! (1978). By far the band's most experimental release, Never Say Die! is widely regarded as an excellent album (some hardcore fans call it their best), but a poor Black Sabbath album ("Breakout" featured a 15-piece horn section). Like the previous album, its sales were unfortunately poor. Due to internal conflicts and a shown lack of commitment, Osbourne was asked to leave the band in 1979, leading to a surprisingly successful solo career in the long run. Ozzy went on to become one of the most successful artists in the history of heavy metal. He was replaced by former Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio.


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