Saturday, June 13, 2009
Black Sabbath are an English rock band, formed in Birmingham in 1968 by Ozzy Osbourne (lead vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass), and Bill Ward (drums and percussion). The band has since experienced multiple lineup changes, with a total of twenty-two former members. Originally formed as a heavy blues-rock band named Earth, the band began incorporating occult- and horror-inspired lyrics with tuned-down guitars, changing their name to Black Sabbath and achieving multiple gold and platinum records in the 1970s. As one of the first and most influential heavy metal bands of all time, Black Sabbath helped define the genre with releases such as 1970s quadruple-platinum Paranoid. They were ranked by MTV as the "Greatest Metal Band" of all time, and have sold over fifteen million records in the United States alone.
Ozzy Osbourne was fired from the band in 1979, and while initially replaced by former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio, Black Sabbath would see a revolving lineup in the 1980s and 1990s that included vocalists Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes, Ray Gillen and Tony Martin. The original lineup reunited with Osbourne in 1997 and released a live album, Reunion, which spawned the Grammy Award-winning single "Iron Man" in 2000, thirty years after the song's initial release on the album Paranoid. The early 1980s line-up featuring Iommi, Butler, Dio, and Vinny Appice reformed in 2006 under the moniker Heaven & Hell, a title taken from the 1980 Black Sabbath song and album of the same name. In February 2009, Heaven & Hell announced that they are recording a new album, The Devil You Know, released on 28 April 2009.
Following the breakup of their previous band Mythology in 1968, guitarist Tony Iommi and drummer Bill Ward sought to form a heavy blues band in Aston, Birmingham. The group enlisted bassist Geezer Butler and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, who had played together in a band called Rare Breed, Osbourne having placed an advertisement in a local music shop: "Ozzy Zig requires gig- has own PA". The new group was initially named The Polka Tulk Blues Company, after an Indian clothes emporium, and also featured slide guitarist Jimmy Phillips and saxophonist Alan "Aker" Clarke. After shortening the name to Polka Tulk, the band changed their name to Earth, and continued as a four-piece without Phillips and Clarke.
Black Sabbath were signed to Philips Records in December 1969, and released their first single, "Evil Woman" through Philips subsidiary Fontana Records in January 1970. Later releases were handled by Philips' newly formed progressive rock label, Vertigo Records. Although the single failed to chart, the band were afforded two days of studio time in late January to record their debut album with producer Rodger Bain. Iommi recalls recording live: "We thought 'We have two days to do it and one of the days is mixing.' So we played live. Ozzy was singing at the same time, we just put him in a separate booth and off we went. We never had a second run of most of the stuff."
Black Sabbath released their second full-length album, Paranoid in the UK in October 1970. Pushed by the success of the "Paranoid" single, the album hit number one in the UK. The US release was held until January 1971, as the Black Sabbath album was still on the charts at the time of Paranoid's UK release. The album broke into the top ten in the US in March 1971, and would go on to sell four million copies in the US, with virtually no radio airplay. The album was again panned by rock critics of the era, but modern-day reviewers such as AllMusic's Steve Huey cite Paranoid as "one of the greatest and most influential heavy metal albums of all time", which "defined the sound and style of heavy metal more than any other record in rock history". Paranoid's chart success allowed the band to tour the US for the first time in December 1970, which spawned the release of the album's second single "Iron Man". Although the single failed to reach the top 40, "Iron Man" remains one of Black Sabbath's most popular songs, as well as the bands highest charting US single until 1998's "Psycho Man".