It was billed as ‘The End’; the final show of the final tour, but it was so much more.
A fifty-year-old band playing a gig in Birmingham would rarely be of much significance, but then again Black Sabbath were not only the first ‘heavy metal’ band, they transcended the underground. Originally Sabbath contained none of the ‘glamour’ of Zeppelin or Purple or Cream. This was music for and by sheet metal workers. Industrial, bleak, escapism yes, created without waiting on the say so of an Artist & Repertoire man.
Iommi and Butler worked in factories after leaving school, Ward delivered coal. Ozzy, after stints in a slaughterhouse and a car plant, broke bad. Music was their escape.
“It wasn’t a great place to be at that time,” recalls Butler.
“We were listening to songs about San Francisco, the hippies were all love and peace and everything. There we were, in Aston, Ozzy was in prison from burgling houses, me and Tony were always in fights with somebody, and Bill, so we had quite a rough upbringing. Our music reflected the way we felt.”
The band would, in time (briefly) introduce some glamour, in the shape of Dio, some arena friendly musicians, such as Cozy Powell, but for many, Sabbath are best defined as the undiluted original line up. So it was fitting that the three surviving members should be the ones to finish in front of their home crowd.
After 19 studio albums, 31 singles with sales of over 75 million albums (and millions of embroidered iron on Patches) how can you possibly define the importance and influence of Sabbath? Perhaps the best place to start with is the first track of the final setlist.
What is this that stands before me? Oh nooo!
Released on Friday the 13th (when else!) February 1970 by Vertigo Records, Black Sabbath the album named after the band, opened with the track Black Sabbath and simultaneously invented a new genre of music, whilst bringing a sonic end to the 1960s. Here was a sound that would scare parents and dictators alike, a slow ominous tritone riff, full of the menace of a jackboot stamping on a hippies face forever, or a Charlie Manson family gathering. There had been heavy rock before, notably the sound of Clapton who influenced Iommi, but this time the intensity was different.
It’s worth watching and listening to the video of the original version:
The lyrics were distinctive, Butler’s Wheatley inspired vignette given gravitas by Ozzy’s low tenor voice, whilst Ward added his typical nimble jazzy drumming – allowed plenty of room for Ozzy to lend full melodramatic emotion to the phrases.
Black Sabbath ‘as iconic as the opening of ‘’Anarchy in the UK’’, ‘’Whole Lotta Love’’ or even ‘’A Love Supreme’’. Pete Marsh
Can you help me occupy my brain?
Without Sabbath it would be difficult to imagine fellow Birmingham bands such as Judas Priest or Napalm Death or the Californians Slayer and Korn, or many others. It seems unlikely they will add anymore studio albums so its fitting that they should go out playing live, laser etched into the memory, riffing in front of their fans. The last line of the last song at The End, the very end also seems fitting, ‘I tell you to enjoy life I wish I could but it’s too late.’
01. Black Sabbath
02. Fairies Wear Boots
03. Under The Sun / Every Day Comes And Goes
04. After Forever
05. Into The Void
07. War Pigs
09. Hand Of Doom
10. Supernaut / Sabbath Bloody Sabbath / Megalomania (medley)
11. Rat Salad
12. Iron Man
13. Dirty Women
14. Children Of The Grave