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Black Sabbath is a Joke

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Not to put too fine a point on it, but Black Sabbath blows. They’re a joke, a cartoon band. Specifically, they are THE ultimate Beavis and Butthead band, as you may remember. That is to say, they’re a dumb band for glue sniffing teenage boys who have killed whatever brain cells they may once have had.

I don’t want to be mean. The members of the band may be really great guys. Ozzy has become something of a beloved ironic post-modern dad, or whatever the hell that MTV schtick is. I’m sure he’s a nice fellow.

Further, I congratulate them on their success. Being a rock star is nice work if you can get it. It beats pumping gas. More power to them.

However, for unknowable reasons, some fairly large number of people not members of or related to the group are apparently under the mistaken impression that they are a classic band. Not just silly teenage boys, but adults who should know better seem to think this. They have been nominated repeatedly now for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is an outrage against any proper ideas of theology and geometry. It’s a confederacy of dunces, I tell you.

Even chief muckity-muck Blogcritic Eric Olsen says they belong in the Hall of Fame – over Lynyrd Skynyrd, for crying in a bucket. What? I wouldn’t trade you “Simple Man” for the whole Black Sabbath catalogue- much less “Sweet Home Alabama” or “Free Bird”. See, those are real SONGS, with memorable MELODY, by a band that could PLAY their instruments.

Let me try to break it down a bit, starting with Duke Ellington, who famously said, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing”. These guys would not have known a groove if it came up and bit them on the ass. “Lumbering sludge” describes their ideas of rhythm. Think of “Iron Man” for starters. They certainly didn’t make rock and roll. You might call them “rock,” but they had no idea of the “roll” part whatsoever.

Even besides the lacking element of rhythm, they were no great shakes as songwriters. They didn’t have much in the way of MELODY, which is the most important part of having a real song. They managed to come up with a few modest hooks, to be generous, but they did very little to DEVELOP them. The famous first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony made a decent hook, but even that wouldn’t have amounted to anything if he hadn’t developed it with bunches of interesting variations and extensions building up on one another.

The melody of “Iron Man” for example consists most of just four notes of two durations. The melody doesn’t get much more development than the ham-handed rhythm. Most of the verse melody of “Paranoid” consists of ONE note, for crying out loud. Think through the tune of “finished with my woman cause she couldn’t help me with my mind”.

For comparison, contrast Black Sabbath songwriting with Duran Duran. Few people would pick Duran as a Hall of Fame worthy band. I doubt I would. However, they achieved more melodic development in “Hungry Like the Wolf” than Sabbath did in their entire career. Plus, this song has far more rhythmic variation and unique pulse to it- more swing- than Sabbath would ever have dreamed.

Dare I even mention HARMONY, the third major musical element? This is the weak suit among even most of the better rock era composers and performers anyway, but Sabbath is below average even from there. Do they know as many as three chords?

Also, these guys were no great shakes as instrumentalists. They were just purely substandard on a basic level of technical skill, for anyone who would be considered serious musicians. They’d be okay for a bar band playing to a couple of hundred drunks on a Friday night, but they’re not real musicians. Half of even just the bar bands out our direction could play rings around these guys.

As lyricists, they were mediocre- which makes this their strong suite. They exhibit only marginal skill in this, however. They were never storytellers, like Tom T Hall explaining his “Salute to a Switchblade”. Nor would they have recognized a metaphor, such as Paul Simon’s trip to “Graceland”. They never generated immediately visceral imagery like Robert Johnson running from the “Hellhounds on My Trail”. They never approached the fine eye for lyrical detail of Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”. Lord knows they’d never have dreamt of anything witty, such as “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”. Closer to home, they could never mix different emotions together, like Alice Cooper’s “Welcome to My Nightmare”.

In fairness though, they did manage to at least halfway generate a somewhat unique and recognizable personae. They conjured up a little black magic satanic hokum, mixed with their own brand of paranoid schizophrenia. It wasn’t the greatest thing ever, but they did have some flavor.

Defenders of the band might say that they were influential, even that they invented heavy metal. They certainly have been influential, but mostly in a bad way. Lots of bands purposely set out to make humorless sludge, and certainly lots of bands have picked up on their silly satanic schtick. And speaking of satanic, hey – Kenny Rogers was influential, too.

In fairness, the satanic business might have been shocking or provocative when they started doing it 35 years ago. However, there was no depth or nuance to it. Now it’s just fodder for Spinal Tap.

As to inventing “heavy metal”, I’d rather give credit for that to better bands. Jimi Hendrix, maybe, or Led Zeppelin. Heck, even Deep Purple could get some credit.

Again, I don’t want to be a big meany here, but rather I hope to sharpen your music appreciation. If you somehow think that Black Sabbath was a hot band, then you’re probably not really getting it when you hear a band that’s actually good. Let us hone our critical listening skills.

So, next time you start to reach for a Black Sabbath record, just remember that you could just as easily listen to Alice Cooper or Guns ‘n’ Roses.

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  • Agree with the post. Paranoid is the only track played most of the time and the reason is it’s the only track by Sabbath that’s half way good. Soz.

  • Georgio

    The author of this article is a joke.

  • Zak

    This article is pretty cute. Tony Iommi has more talent in the missing tips of his fingers than this author has in their entire body. Not to mention hes actually considered successful in his field. Not just a hack like the author. Keep droning out to the top 40.

  • Jim Thomas

    You’re taking a few very surface components which you misunderstand and trying to use them as a basis to form an overall opinion. Music doesn’t work in this manner. Sabbath have been called “The Beatles of Heavy Metal” for good reason. Their catalog is vast. And one of their greatest attributes is dynamics.

    Tony Iommi received an Honorary Doctorate from Coventry University recently. We’re talking about someone whose work transcends your abilities as regards musical perception.That’s the issue at hand. In other words, the brilliance is there for you to discover. It’s not for other people to discover that the brilliance isn’t there.

    I could wax on about the amazing intricacies and thematic developments in some of their music. I could try to explain restraint and minimalism to you. Or I could refer you to some music they have done that isn’t anything like “Iron Man” or “Paranoid.”

    But I think you’re better off just buying the album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. If you can’t afford it, YouTube the title track or “Spiral Architect.” Then delete this idiotic blog and never confess to anyone that you were this thoroughly confused.

    Good luck.

  • MoonTheLoon


  • Petey

    And what the hell makes you an authority on Rock and Roll? You obviously lack any taste, knowledge and understanding of music. That’s okay, though. Go back to your Katy Perry CD’s, we metalheads don’t need you anyway.

  • marc

    good article I couldn’t agree more after seeing this band live. give me back my bullets is ten times better than the sabbath catalogue

  • Karolis

    I’m sorry if I personally offended you in any way. My comment’s slang and other aggressive words were not said towards you. They were for emphasizing. Don’t take it personally.

  • Karolis

    It seems that Al in his pseudo article thinks that Sabbath has no melody, rhythm and other stuff.
    1. Don’t compare different genres. It’s stupid. You can’t compare a table with a phone.
    2. Band member’s education is not important, so shut the hell up about Ozzy’s shows and other bullcrap. Hendrix couldn’t read notes, so fucking what.
    3. Demoralizing the fans is just absurd. There’s a far bigger and more variable group of fans for Sabbath, than your Skynird.
    4. They’re not “satan worshipers”. Their music just scared the shit out of people, and it was addicting.
    5. Ozzy or Dio is a matter of taste. I for one prefer Ozzy. Nothinig wrong with Dio.
    6. Sure, they’re not super technical like Dream Theater or Steve Vai. But soul doesn’t require complex playing.
    7. Sabbath opened a new era with metal, not rock – like Skynird, etc.
    8. Every damned metal band was one way or the other affected by Sabbath.
    9. Your shitty talk about them not having rhythm, melody, mood, depth etc is really laughable. You’ll find more of everything in them than Skynird.
    10. By defining them as glue sniffing teens, you just make a fool out of yourself, cuz at that time almost every musician at least did some weed.
    11. You’ll find plenty of melody, hooked riffs, depth, rhythm and soul in these songs: Warning, Planet Caravan, N.I.B, Snowblind, Orchid, Solitude, Sweet Leaf, Sabbra Cadabra, MEGALOMANIA and others. In fact, their first albums are like stories, one song flows into another. So you could listen to the whole album first to last song.
    12. It’s okay if you don’t ‘like’ them. Everybody has their taste, i respect that. But not giving them credit for their uniqueness, hooking riffs, melody, deepness, influence is same as not giving your mother a goodnight kiss.

  • Johnny

    “Widely acclaimed and influential band ____ is actually worthless and all their fans just don’t know better”. Seriously? I didn’t think anyone over the age of 15 would still find that line of reasoning plausible.

    Someone who clearly doesn’t like metal doesn’t appreciate Black Sabbath. How revolutionary.

  • Nick

    Tony Iommi is well known for using modes of scales such as Phrygian and Locrian, and he was also known for using Tritone scales. All of these are complicated musical terms that are far from basic, therefor you have no right to say they have no musical knowledge. Also, Tony can play Jazz, such as the guitar solo in Planet Caravan. The drum pattern in The Wizard shows the skills of the percussion side of the band. If you’re into typical 80’s rock, then you may want to listen to Turn To Stone and the hard, fast riff that goes with it.

  • Adam

    Thanks for starting it all, Black Sabbath. But to be honest, I never did care for their own material.

  • Kr24

    This article certainly doesn’t note how REVOLUTIONARY the band was.

  • Good

    Fucking Metal

  • Drew

    DUNCE! My guess is he’s heard a few Black Sabbath songs as he names Iron Man and Paranoid, nothing beyond what you might hear on the radio. Well, singles are typically very simple! Plus, I think all his loving on Lynyrd Skynyrd and Duran Duran shows us where his musical loyalties are, *groan*. Someone ought to tie this fink up and make him listen to the entire Ozzy-era Black Sabbath discography chronologically.

  • Sweet_leaf71

    Ha your an Idiot Sabbath have more talent in their Hair then you will ever have ya sure you can make fun of their two simple songs(paranoid,Iron man) but they have good lyrics good riffs hell man Tony Iommi is one of the best guitarist around. Nobody listen to this Idiot he has no clue what music is!

  • yura sonofovich

    americans sucks. the whole world is ignoring u fuckos. ur lame ass music is the worst. the greatest musicians are in the rest of the world, not americans. cos u guys suck. end.

  • livershot

    I’m a little late to this party but Al is totally wrong, in my opinion. He’s judging Sabbath based on their most popular songs, “Iron Man” and “Paranoid”, which arent even close to being the best ones they did. Try “Supernaut” or “Into the Void” or “After Forever”, or etc. The part of this article that really bugs me is the attack on Sabbath’s rhythmic abilities. No groove? Bullshit. Ok, maybe they didn’t do much that is conventionally danceable, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t swing in their own way. Most of their grooves are too slow or fast to really dance to, but still make you feel like dancing, and all that trapped energy goes to your head and spine, rather than the feet. Finally, Bill Ward’s drum breaks on “Behind the Wall of Sleep” were funky enough for Too $hort to sample as the beat for “Paystyle”, so don’t tell me HE doesn’t know how to lay down a funky groove.

    Anyways, most of your critique goes like this: “They were heavy, loud, dumb, slow, they don’t have pretty melodies, they’re tones are ugly, they sing about ugly things etc.” You’re just bashing them for not meeting a boring standard of whats “real music”. You just don’t get it. Sabbath werent so much about pure aesthetic appreciation (although they DID have some very nice melodies at times), but about pure VISCERAL RAW POWER. You might as well put the Stooges or Ramones up next, and say they suck cuz they didn’t write like Bach.

  • james

    [personal attack deleted] hahaha two pages of you bitching about black sabbath. Dude they are a classic band, and to deny that is just completely stupid. Study what bands are actually famous and sound good, then come back and people wont take you as a fucking joke. [personal attack deleted]

  • jim

    Al Barger:

    You claim that it “is an outrage against any proper ideas of theology and geometry” that Black Sabbath was nominated several times for the Hall. What exactly does Black Sabbath or the Hall of Fame have to do with “proper ideas of theology and geometry”? Care to qualify that? If not, then stop throwing around words you don’t know how to use.

    You want MELODY or RHYTHM? “War pigs” basically sums it up. So does “Heaven and Hell”. And as Keith said (comment #122), “lumbering sludge” is an important aspect of metal. “Sweet Leaf,” anyone? Of course, if you don’t like the way they sound, then so be it. But to deny that they are a classic band is just unintelligent. They pioneered heavy metal. Without Black Sabbath, metal would not be the same. End of story.

    You also said they lack harmony. With one guitarist and one bass guitarist … there just isn’t much room for harmony. But listen to some of Iommi’s dual guitar solos, like on “Children of the Grave” or “War Pigs.”

    And yes, it is acceptavble to criticize Black Sabbath. I think ozzy has a somewhat thin and annoying voice. I think the bridge part of “Electric Funeral” totally kills the apocalyptic atmosphere of the song. But these are just opinions. It is a fact that Black Sabbath is an important band.

    If you don’t like Black Sabbath, fine. It doesn’t really matter to me. Just don’t pretend you actually know anything about music and “theology and geometry” — whatever that was supposed to mean anyways.

  • Keith

    “Lumbering sludge describes their ideas of rhythm.”

    Yep… I believe such “sludge” is a quality of metal music… Something that Black Sabbath perfected.

  • Andrew

    This blog is dead, however I could not help replying.

    Al, what you are saying is blasphemy. If you say Black Sabbath can’t play their music, you’re very wrong. Just like everyone says, try playing bass like Geezer Butler…you’d struggle big time. Also, Tony Iommi lost two fingers and managed to play some of the best riffs ever written.

    And just because a band sometimes is simple, that DOESN’T MEAN THEY ARE BAD. Look at The Beatles..their music is very simple yet it sounds brilliant.

    it’s obvious you’re some idiot critic who judges a band by their songs on the radio.

  • Man, you must be some sort of moron. I’m not convinced you’ve listened to any Sabbath other than the songs played on the radio. Each were among the best at their inatruments, Geezer Butler was an amazing bassist, Bill Ward was an amazing drummer, and Tony Iommi was an amazing guitarist, who had to relearn after having the tips of his fingers cut off. They had a broad spectrum of music, some simple, some intricate. Cimplicity doesn’t mean it sucks, hell, Smoke on the Water is a classic and most often the first song guitar players learn. As far as swing goes, there are few songs they’ve made without a groove, tell me you can’t move to Fairies Wear Boots and I’ll call you a liar. You can just listen to the music and get a feel for what the theme is, not so with the modern crap we must endure. Sex and evil sells, they’ve made millions off of it and have inspired major bands like Slayer to do the same. It’s 3 am, I don’t remember what else I read, but thought I’d say something, I like to point out idiots.

  • Haden – I live in Laurel, Indiana. Let me know when you’re coming to visit, and I’ll bake you a cake.

  • Mike

    Al, you are entitled to your opinion, granted. Other than that, you are kind of an asshole, downing a very popular band that has been around for a long time.

    But, I guess not everybody likes the same thing, your bit. What do you listen to Al? Let us pick apart the things you like and shit on them.

  • D’oh

    Al, different stroke for each, is my motto.

    You have every right not to like something, however, you lose any credibility for objective insight or reasoning when you dismiss something merely because you don’t like it, rather than from understanding it and making your point that way.

    Take Britney for example. Just hearing that heavily processed make believe voice in the formulated pablum it resides in like a roach in plain yogurt, makes my very DNA curdle.

    Yet, I give credit where it’s due, little pop songs can make a lot of money from the bubblegum crowd.

    Yet, even you must admit that from a standpoint of sheer musicality, her entire collection pales in comparison to a single note of Robert Johnson’s guitar, much less the creative innovations and musical stylings of the original Sabbath line up.

    So,m where you may not like them, and it’s your absolute right not to, by trying to deny that they have earned their place in the Hall of
    Fame is an absurdity of objective analysis.


  • Oh D’oh, there’s PLENTY of blame to spread around for Britney Spears. Certainly Disney might be blamed in a general corporate way – but Madonna is clearly the artistic role model of adult Britney.

    But of course, the argument I’m making there is that simply being influential isn’t necessarily a positive achievement. It only counts to the good if you’re a GOOD influence.

    But of course, you’re right on target with the explanation about the only good music being “4/4 with a backbeat, 120 beats per minute, major scales or pentatonic.” That’s certainly the only things that ever cross MY speakers.

    That’s why I won’t listen to Black Sabbath. They’re such GENIUSES that I can’t get my little cracker mind around such brilliant and unprecedented creativity. I’m just not smart enough to get Black Sabbath, like you and Beavis and Butthead do.

  • D’oh

    Ah, duane, ask and ye shall receive.

  • duane

    Good. The Black Sabbath debate has reopened.

    I don’t know how to embed links, but I would recommend looking up their performance of War Pigs live in Paris (1970) on youtube if you want to see a rock drumming tour de force by Mr. Ward, along with Ozzy singing pretty much on key and with power (with different lyrics). And listen to Geezer, too. He’s all over it.

  • D’oh

    No, Al…Disney gave up Britney. but don’t let silly shit like facts get in the way of your rants.

    There are many other types of music besides 4/4 with a backbeat, 120 beats per minute, major scales or pentatonic…you know, “pop” music.

    To each their own, but for any serious student/admirer of Music who approaches the topic honestly and with an open mind…you have to give Sabbath their due, as well as their rightful place in the Hall of Fame.

  • D’oh- Certainly Black Sabbath has been very influential in the creation of some strains of “heavy metal.” But the bands that they’ve inspired have mostly all been just awful.

    Hey, Madonna has been even MORE influential than Black Sabbath. She gave us Britney Spears, after all.

  • D’oh

    Well now, for those who don’t think Sabbath was good music, try duplicating Geezer’s bass playing, or you might want to think of the innovations made to electric guitar playing by Iommi. This worthy lost parts of two fingers, used a prosthetic to play, made his own extra light guitar strings and was the first to tune his guitar down to C#, the bass did the same. It was this innovation , coupled with the usage of a “forbidden” Gregorian scale motif that included the “devil’s note”, or tritone.

    This created an entirely different soundscape for music at the time.

    From Wikipedia: “The group found its signature sound almost by accident. When the group was rehearsing in a studio which was situated opposite a cinema showing a horror movie, Osbourne recalls that Tony Iommi said to the rest of the band, “Innit weird man that people pay money to see a movie that scares the shit out of them?”. The band began to purposely write dark, ominous songs in an attempt to be music’s answer to horror films, and in rebellion against the prevalent happy pop music of the 1960s. In a VH1 documentary about the band, Ozzy Osbourne recalled the laughable lyrics of radio-friendly pop at the time, such as “if you ever go to San Francisco, be sure to wear a flower in your hair…,” – “screw that,”, they said, “let’s go over there and scare everyone !!!”

    Face it folks, this was indeed the birth of “Metal”, and it spoke to quite a few people at the time. Remember the time and what was going on in music then.

    Compare it to the innovation and creativity of this…

    You may or may not enjoy the genre these boys created, but they are to Metal what Chuck Berry was to Rock & Roll.

    deal with it

  • I was in high school when Black Sabbath’s first album came out. They were considered a joke along with Grand Skunk Railroad.

  • Vern Halen

    Sabbath DOESN’T swing – AND THAT’S THE POINT. They took all the blues & gospel & funk and melody & harmony and structure out of the African & European roots of pop music and stripped it down to a slab on noise. Like the Velvet Underground before them and the Ramones after them, Sabbath were minimalists, who proved once again that you don’t have to be technically GOOD to play rock and roll, or metal either.

    To steal a quote (from an author whose name I don’t remember): “….as inspiring as they are uniintelligible.”

  • Howdy, Friendly Neighbor Joe. However, seems to me that you’ve got it about backwards here. See, I’m the one that does NOT like Black Sabbath much, whereas “crucified upside down and pelted with feces” would sound like a Black Sabbath or Marilyn Manson fan’s idea of art.

    Then again, I’d about as soon be crucified and pelted with feces as listen to Black Sabbath, anyway.

  • Joe

    Let me re-phrase my last comment: This is not really even a matter of personal taste. If anyone holds the opinion of this blogger, they should be crucified upside down and pelted with feces.

  • Joe

    Obviously this guy is not much of a musician, or much of a music fan. I suggest he focus criticism on aspects of popular art with which he has some understanding and experience.

  • Nick

    I see that this blog is dead in its grave but I must speak my mind…

    First off this Blog was for attention. Blogs are, for the most part written by losers

    AL, you have no clue, or you have forgotten what Sabbath was about. All 4 members of Sabbath are extremely well respected musicians with legions of people who are forever inspired. The only joke here is your blog and ALL blogs on any website

  • martin

    black sabbath is a very good band … listen to the songs neon knights , in for the kill and children of the grave . you guys rock .. ronnie james dio is a great guitarist and i learn most of his solos on guitar …..

  • Rosetti

    that guy said it ^

  • James

    Try listening to Black Sabbath before slagging them off. Geezer Butler is a genious lyricist. Actually listen to them. Look at “A National Acrobat” Read the lyrics. If you think they aren’t good, then you obviously have no sense of meaning. Iron Man ahs to be one of the catchiest riffs I’ve heard. It’s their style. don’t make up soemthigng great and not use it. USE IT! And don’t make me laugh. Not musicians? Ok if I give you a bass, you could easily learn Bassically, Dirty Women, Fairies Wear Boots, Rat Salad? And what about Tony’s solos? Could you pay them? And how about Bill’s drum solo on Rat Salad? Nope. Didn’t think so. Keep your opinions to yourself, nobody wants to hear you slagging off people who are more successful than you.

  • That is to say, they’re a dumb band for glue sniffing teenage boys who have killed whatever brain cells they may once have had.

    Jeez, Al. That’s what we LIKE about them.

  • uao

    Look at this. Al’s Black Sabbath piece gets 100 replies, stretching over 2 years. Mine only got 2 replies, and one of them is spam.

    Black Sabbath were dissed throughout the 70’s and 80’s. I’m pleased to see them finally getting their due.

  • You suck

    Um Al should be crusified for giving this review. Black Sabbath rules, not that i like them, but still ozzy is a legend.

  • Vital

    Ow please

    Black sabbath has a lot of melody in his songs. I think the guy who posted this is some kind of sick christ loving person who can’t stand succes of an other person.

    Please listen to songs like Solitude and you ‘ll be amazed how much melody Black Sabbath has in their songs.

    thank you very much

  • Name

    Interesting comments. I fail to see how “melodic development” is the key to making good music. Heavy Metal has always been more about rhythm and of course the elusive heavyness. I guess it’s a matter of personal taste. I find the “swing” or “roll” in most music to be utterly annoying personally. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is about as much of a joke as Rolling Stone Magazine. And Alice Cooper and Guns ‘N Roses suck.

  • Josh

    TDavid, where could I find that version of “Gypsy”?

  • >>Ozzy couldn’t sing worth a fuck, but the man definitely paid his dues and he deserves his status.>>

    Sorry, Josh, but in Ozzy’s early days he could sing. Go find yourself an old booleg live version of Sabbath’s Gypsy. The dude could hit some scary notes.

    Not any more though, his voice is toast πŸ™

    However, you can’t count anybody dead in the music business though until they literally have dirt thrown over them.

  • Josh

    By the way, TECHNICAL ECSTASY is a very underrated album.

  • Josh

    Hey! Whoever disparaged Alice Cooper is full of shit! Cooper was the man! And yes, the original Alice Cooper band would’ve put Sabbath to shame any day of the week.

  • Josh

    Sabbath were probably the biggest influence on 80’s metal, which might not be a good thing…

  • Karl, I don’t mock bands without reasons. I gave reasons, examples and counterexamples here to try to explain just WHY I was discounting Sabbath.

    Indeed, I don’t think I really “mocked” them. I went well out of my way to make it a professional rather than a personal critique, and gave them a little bit of credit where I could.

    Nonetheless, I think it important to distinguish the better from the lesser, to separate the wheat from the chaff. That’s the whole point of criticism. Black Sabbath are basically chaff.

  • Josh

    Okay, Sabbath weren’t the most musically talented group in the world, but their influence in totally beyond comprehension. Sure, they were nowhere near as good as Heep, Purple or Zeppelin (their stylistic contemporaries), but they were arguably even more influential than any of those bands. Ozzy couldn’t sing worth a fuck, but the man definitely paid his dues and he deserves his status. Iommi was a limited guitarist but could crank out riffs like there was no tomorrow. Butler wrote some intriguing lyrics and played some great bass, and Ward is one of rock’s most overlooked drummers. If I were hard pressed to choose their best album, I would say SABOTAGE because I usually vote for the underrated instead of the overrated.

    Oh, and I disagree with Eric’s comment a while back, in which he states that Uriah Heep had only one good album. NO WAY! Hell, their first five or six albums were ALL killer. If you can, check out their first album sometime, Eric, simply titled URIAH HEEP. It totally blows away any Sabbath album.

  • Eric Olsen

    Good point Karl, I agree, and I am astonished the Rock Hall hasn’t seen it like that yet either.

  • Karl Leman

    I notice that this comment table has gone on for a while, but I have to add a comment.

    Judging from what is written above, “Al Barger” seems to take great joy in mocking bands without any real reasons. I is a fact that Black Sabbath has played a great role in the history of rock music. Perhaps he doesn’t like their music, but a good critic should be able to see them for what they are even so.

  • Having only just found this post, i would just like to ask if anyone else has heard Rhapsody.
    Sort of a mix between classical and rock, they’re funny but good.

  • Levi

    How dare you mock the group that created heavy metal! You glorify simple, weak bands like Lynyrd SkynTURD, Zeppelin and Bob Dylan, yet you shit on Sabbath. SkynTURD, Zeppelin and Bob Dylan are for sissies and no one in their right mind gives a shit about these dead bands. Obviously, a few of you people don’t have a clue about what good music really is; or is Sabbath just too heavy for you? Stop listening to the hippie sissy shit and listen to some real Rock N Roll.

  • Hey guy! Just respect to you for what you are doing! And for you know exactly the idea what u r talking about!

  • HW Saxton Jr.

    I liked Ozzy more back when he was with Harriet.

  • Sergi

    Three chords, easy melody, bass and drums. This is the esence of metal and the great songs. Blac Sabbath were great songs makers. Dark songs. Songs for raining days.

  • bleudevil

    If only Jim Morrison had sat in with Sabbath for a few sessions…maybe then Al would have some true art to appreciate

  • I don’t recall Alice Cooper ever specifically delving into Satanism, or really even into Black Magic. He had childhood nightmares pretty well covered though.

    Without rehashing old ground, in fairness I think you have to recognize that my complaints have been somewhat more significant than “I don’t like them.”

    Screw John Cage and some half-assed Ween. Ongoing exploration has me currently knee deep in Irving Berlin and Ethel Merman. Far more spiritually and intellectually rewarding than John Cage- or bloody Sabbath.

    Though this weekend has perhaps spoken against the universal verity of Berlin/Merman/Annie Oakley’s classic lament “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun.”

  • In #68 Al admitted Sabbath was OK. Maybe by comment #666, he’ll be fully converted πŸ˜‰

  • 23md

    Couple of quick thoughts:

    1. Al, your opinion of what constitutes music is very shallow and undeveloped. You should branch out and try to grow in your understanding of what music is. Read/Listen to some John Cage. Check out the Boredoms or even Ween. Songwriting (which seems to be what you are into) does not equal music.

    2. The whole thrust of your argument can be summed up as “They suck because I don’t like them,” which is fine and perfectly ok, but realize that it doesn’t translate into anything universal at all and none of the arguments you made can sustain any serious scrutiny, unless you feel like you can give us all a definition of groove LOL. I have to assume like the other poster, that this is baiting, because if you actually know your stuff and have really listened to Sabbath (you use the terms), you know your arguments are unsupportable.

    3. Skynrd, as a band, can be fine to listen to, but are as derivative as they come. What ground did they really break? How can you site a garage rock noodle-fest like Freebird, which is more of a joke nowadays than a classic (is that freedom rock? turn it up!)? Also, an examination of the Lyrics of Sweet Home Alabama reveal it to be largely racist in its content.

    4. Listen to the song war pigs and note the melody, harmony, and even speed changes.

    5. Listen to the cover of the song Sabbath Bloody Sabbath by The Cranberries. Proof of a good song in my opinion is its ability to be translated into another genre and stand up.

    6. Sabbath did indeed spawn a musical revolution by any objective measure, whether it is one whose substance you are able to appreciate or not.

    7. Stand classic sabbath up to the Britney Spears songs, which have rhythm and melody and groove. Are you going to tell me Britney did/is doing more for music than Sabbath under Ozzy?

    8. Sabbath with Ozzy did more than create a signiature sound which has inspired many artists and which many have tried to emulate over the years. They captured a sentiment and an emotion. They found their niche speaking to those alienating emotions we all have felt as an adolescent and even as adults some times. It is their ability to speak to that lonely place in all of us that makes them so powerful and gives them their staying power.

    9. Alice Cooper, who merely cloaks himself in the trappings of satanism/black magic for marketing (he is a member of 1st baptist church in Phoenix), pales in comparison to the real emotion Sabbath exuded.

    10. As far as the who, don’t neglect the albumn Quadrophenia.

  • Gotta lotta love for ya Dan, but I’m afraid that you’ve really stepped into the POOP bad mouthing the Who. Even mentioning their hallowed name in comparison to silly stuff like Sabbath constitutes and art crime. They were never particularly trendy or timely, and I wouldn’t care if they had been. They had the SONGS.

    Crikey, Who’s Next alone puts them over 99% of other bands. Hell, “Behind Blue Eyes” will best whole careers by other people- and that’s not particularly even my favorite song on that one album.

    Tom, even YOU seem to be somewhat missing out here by starting with Tommy. They had an awe inspiring catalogue before we ever heard of the deaf, dumb and blind kid. “Substitute” and “I Can See for Miles” and “Magic Bus” and “My Generation” and… we could go on for a while.

    In short, the Who are only maybe half a step down from being right up there with the Beatles and Prince and Costello.

  • Dan, I’d love for you to justify how the Who “didn’t survive out of context.” What is the context, and why don’t they survive? It can’t solely be because you don’t like them.

    My opinion? You’re wrong, way, way wrong. The Who’s music remains as vital and charged as it ever was, and actually seems moreso nowadays because music today is so sterile and lifeless. The catalog from Tommy through By Numbers (and even some of the hits from their last three albums as well) is solid and timeless because it is all centered around the very things that rock would be built upon in the future. To say it “didn’t survive out of context,” whatever that actually means, is pretty ridiculous.

    Justify yourself. Let’s hear it.

  • Dan

    xaos tehory, did you ever consider that maybe all that drug takin’ perhaps fueled his creativity. Or, more likely, was just a inevitable lifestyle choice for a rock star in creative-frenzy mode. He’s probably lucky to be alive. One might even claim it was all worth it. Every dazzling star eventually becomes a red dwarf.

    Al, you so infrequently scorn a quasi-influential band with the severity you’ve impugned Black Sabbath. I sense you’ve recently got a bad dose. I never purposely listen to it anymore myself, but a few days ago, I caught most of war pigs on the way home in the car, (eclectic college radio station)and it’s interesting how an old tune will give you a lift that way. Some stuff by them admittedly has not survived out of its original context.

    A band that didn’t survive out of context at all, in my opinion, is the Who. I feel vindicated now for never liking them in the first place.

  • What I’m saying is that he wasn’t all THAT even in his youth before he destroyed himself.

  • You have all missed the fact in talking about ozzy’s music that he has destroyed his voice, creativity and virtually all brain-cells in taking more drugs than the proverbial hot dinners.

  • Eric Olsen

    you mean Red Sabbath?

  • Hey, if they can come up with a really good song, maybe Sabbath will someday rank up there with Bloodrock.

  • duane

    I AM PET-ROL MAN…duh duh duh-duh-duh…

    Actually, it seems that Lynyrd Skynyrd is the favorite band of 83% of gas station employees, with Wet Willie coming in a distant second. Hmm….

  • Al pumping gas listening to Sabbath for eternity, now there is damnation for him! LOL

  • Eric Olsen

    A major corner has been turned – alert the media.

    Chuck Berry – no, Lynyrd Skynyrd – hell yes.

  • Oh, Sabbath is OK. Boiling it down to one best-of album comes out with something decently listenable. It’s just that it’s pretty much junk food. They hardly rate being recognized in the same group with Chuck Berry- or Lynyrd Skynyrd.

  • Eric Olsen

    Craig and Al: classic

  • Is that all I needed to do to set you straight on Sabbath Al?

    I wish I had thought about writing fragments with misspellings.

    al I still can’t believe you don’t like black sabbath you should listen to it some more if that happened you would start to like them keep pumping gass

  • Dear John, having seen your insightful analysis [comment 64], I must recant my heretical negative opinion of Black Sabbath, and pronounce them one of the great bands of all times.

    You now represent my idea of a true Black Sabbath fan.

    Thanks for setting me straight.

  • john

    what the fuck do you know about music anyway black sabbath is one of the best bands around you keep pumping gass asshole

  • JR

    Is there a technical meaning to the word “melody”? I’ve never seen it defined as anything other than a sequence of notes. Beyond that, the definition seems to be particular to the person using the term.

    So, by what objective standard do we figure out which sequences are “more melodic” than others? If we go by how many different notes are in it, Schoenberg wins every time. However, I DEFY anybody here to hum their favorite twelve tone melody. Does anybody here even have a favorite twelve tone melody?

    If I had to pick a single criterion, it would be how well a melody works as a meme. Often very simple, even “stupid”, melodies make pretty effective memes. (I’m thinking of a particular Queen record right now.)

    I suppose, just as we can’t agree on one quality that makes a great guitarist, we won’t come up with one quality that makes great melodies.

    But by whatever “objective” standard Al wants to throw at us, I think we’ll be able to demonstrate that Black Sabbath holds their own against other rock bands. So have at it, Al!

  • Tom, I’m not sure I’d want to admit to knowing that much about ELP.

    Eric, you COULD take that point as support for Sabbath, but it was not intended as such. There ain’t a Sabbath song in any form of league with a Chuck Berry classic.

  • Eric Olsen

    And “From the Beginning” too for that matter, but I’m sure we get his point, which is valid. And the point supports Black Sabbath.

  • To make a slightly closer contrast, compare Chuck Berry to some ELP wankfest. Theoretically, there may be a lot fancier notes being played on some of that art-rock stuff, but is there a song in that catalogue with the emotional depth and staying power of “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”?

    Uh, “Tarkus,” man! I get all weepy just thinking about the Manticore defeating poor ravaged Tarkus at the end. That’s heavy stuff, man!

  • i never said “Pump It Up” had a bad melody…but you’ve gotta admit it doesn’t
    have a whole ‘lotta notes in it.

    besides, i like the idea of you sittin’ in the public library with steam coming out of your ears.

  • Yeah, the thought that I had crossed a band in league with Mr. Scratch came to mind when my box went nuts.

    Come on Natalie [#52], you afraid I’m going to be crappy over a little modest criticism? I really tried to be nice. Note how I was making nice about the band personally. I’m sure Ozzy et al are fine, outstanding gentlemen. And I still don’t think they were a major league band. I won’t hate the Spousal Unit for liking Sabbath. Heck, some of my best friends are Kenny Rogers fans, and that dude sits SEVERAL circles lower in my personal version of The Inferno. Did I mention that Kenny Rogers is the anti-Christ?

    Mr. Saleski [#49], “Pump It Up” has a perfectly good melody. Trying to bait me with Elvis? Shame on you. It’s MY goat, and you’re not getting it.

    Duane [#50], you may be significantly overstating it, but the Broadway writers certainly did often have more involved melodies, and especially more sophisticated harmony. True enough. It’s somewhat apples and oranges, though. Rock era writers have other advantages, areas where they have done far more than the Broadway era in rhythm, instrumentation and production.

    Also, more technically sophisticated does not necessarily mean more meaningful. To make a slightly closer contrast, compare Chuck Berry to some ELP wankfest. Theoretically, there may be a lot fancier notes being played on some of that art-rock stuff, but is there a song in that catalogue with the emotional depth and staying power of “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”?

  • No, Eric. SU is the funny one (hilarious, in fact, and, btw, an Internet hater).

  • You think he might be going for the most comments for a post, mb?

    Got to say this is an amusing but rather appalling post. It demonstrates a profound ignorance about heavy rock and its history. Granted Sabbath didn’t invent heavy metal, nor are they best of the genre. They did however have a profound influence on the genre, inspiring loads of bands and producing Ozzy. Some of Ozzy’s solo material is very good, the best being the album No More Tears.

    BS was not a “joke” band but a highly influential one.

    As far as the “Beavis and Butthead” comment, I shall leave that as it does not merit a comment.

    NB: I dont find myself listening to much Sabbath, as much of it is rather boring and predictable.

  • Eric Olsen

    Dabble not in the dark arts, nor mess with eaters of bats.

  • Coincidence or superstition? Shortly after slamming Sabbath, Al’s computer went to hell.

  • Eric Olsen

    You are funny Natalie

  • The following comment is not mine, as I refuse to violate my personal BC posting rules. I post this, quite reluctantly, at the behest of the ball and chain: Spousal Unit, a 42-year-old educator (specialization: literature, grammar, and arts appreciation) and connoisseur of quality music (covering all kinds of rock, jazz, roots musics, and classical), celebrates Sabbath, its influence, and its music. SU says only those with small minds would cast aspersion on people for have differing opinions and tastes in music, and adds, “If he doesn’t like Black Sabbath, fine, but why insult those of us who do?”

    If the author opts to reply, please leave me out of it; instead, write the spouse directly.

  • Eric Olsen

    Duane very forcefully put and right on in a lot of ways. I wouldn’t agree exactly that melody isn’t important in rock – I think you are using a more technical meaning of the word than Al or most of us in general. The “Sweet Home” melody may be simple but it’s super catchy. And while the solos at the end of “Free Bird” may sound trite now after innumerable listenings, at the time they were very exciting, even riveting, and the production on the first two albums by Al Kooper was amazing – just compare the sound he got to the same songs live: no comparison. When the “Free Bird” solos kick in on the studio recording it still gets my blood pumping all these years later.

    But I think your assessment of Sabbath is excellent – no need to denigrate Skynyrd to build up Sabbath. Like you said at the beginning: it’s pork rinds and cotton candy – no comparison, totally different animals.

  • duane

    Something seems to have gone a little off track when
    Black Sabbath and James Brown are being compared for
    melodic content. It’s like comparing pork rinds and cotton
    candy for nutritional content. What the hell do I know, but
    I would say that a very small fraction of the great rock bands
    gave more than two shits about melody. If anything, they care
    about hooks, which usually consists of a few well-placed notes.
    Take Al’s vaunted Sweet Home Alabama. I can count those notes
    on one hand. It is just too simple to be “good” from a melodic standpoint.
    I would be willing to bet that people like that song simply because
    they like it. It’s almost ludicrous to argue that it’s good because
    of its melodic content. If you want melody, go listen to some
    old torch songs. That stuff was written with an emphasis on melody
    and on combining melodic lines with subtly shaded chord structures. There
    are rarely any subtle chord structures in rock. (I said rarely, not never.)
    And no shit, ABBA did write better melodies than most all of our
    favorite rock bands. Like it or not, those two guys (the B and the
    other B) were smart songwriters.

    Al doesn’t like Sabbath. Fine. Don’t like them, but to try to dismiss
    them on the grounds of poor melodic structure. Rock ain’t Rodgers
    and Hammerstein. Sabbath created a mood and an image that was
    the perfect antidote to flower-power peace-and-love smiley hand-holding
    acoustic blue-sky sunshine dirty-haired potsmokers. They wanted to scare
    the shit out of those types. Their music roars and rumbles. It’s dark,
    it’s Terminator soundtrack material. It’s tense, it’s fucking serious.
    Lynyrd Skynyrd music is great for a catfish and hushpuppies barbecue.
    Sure, Sabbath was made up of four dumb guys, unlike, I suppose, the
    brainiacs in Lynyrd Fucking Skynyrd. I can’t help but adding, in the wake
    of the RS guitar ranking, that the guitar solo on Free Bird is the most
    execrable, abominable, gratuitous filler material in any big hit rock song… EVER.
    But I’m sure they’re a great bunch of guys. And Al, no offense. I appreciate
    your opinion, and it’s well-stated. Just remember, Fairies Wear Boots, dude.

  • If there’s no melody, then you have at best a rhythm track waiting for someone to write a song over it

    …oh, i get it.

    like in “Pump It Up”?


  • Contrary to Eric’s guess, I have in fact listened to a fair amount of Sabbath. When I was 18, the inner gatefold sleeve of the “Sold Our Souls” album decorated my dorm room. That picture was a much better argument for necrophilia than anything from my beloved Alice Cooper. The picture was more interesting than the records inside.

    One might argue [comment 33] that “Sweet Home Alabama” and even “Free Bird” are overexposed. That’s a matter of taste, I suppose. It still says nothing about the song and the recording. Yes, they are not much of an important group now. In case anyone missed it, most of the band died in a plane crash. That takes nothing away from classic Skynyrd, however.

    The Allman Brothers were a hot band, no doubt. They might reasonably be argued to be fancier instrumentalists, perhaps. I pick Skynyrd as tops, however, because of the depth of the song catalogue.

    I’d probably actually somewhat pick solo Ozzy over Sabbath. I haven’t picked it apart enough to know, but I suspect this is because of his collaborators, particularly Randy Rhodes. I’d pick “Crazy Train” in particular as a song over anything from Sabbath.

    Responding to comment 34, I’m looking first and foremost for underlying songs. All the fancy production gimmicks in the world won’t make something great out of nothing. Primarily, the core of a song is MELODY. If there’s no melody, then you have at best a rhythm track waiting for someone to write a song over it.

    James Brown had some good melodies. Now some of the funkiest of all times, his rhythm tracks were more the star, though. You can get across with a half-decent melody combined with total kick-assness in other elements. Certainly JB had rhythmic elements ALL OVER Sabbath.

    But he also had melody way over Sabbath. Besides more traditionally tuneful R&B ballad type stuff, even, say, “Cold Sweat” has more tune to it than Sabbath.

    PS I apologize for my lax input here in the last several days. Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m having SEVERE computer problems. I’m writing at the moment from the danged ol’ library. Hopefully I’ll be back to my regular anti-social ways in a day or two.

  • Worst Sabbath vocal performance: Bill Ward on “Swinging the Chain”, from Never Say Die, which rumour suggests Ozzy refused to sing because he thought the song was crap. A strong candidate for worst song in the band’s extensive catalogue.

  • Oddest mellow Sabbath song? Solitude from Master of Reality would probably get my vote. Ozzy’s off-kilter (was he really stoned during the recording?) singing, Geezer’s pounding bass, Iommi’s fretwork and Bill Ward’s chimes are downright disturbing.

    My future is shrouded in dark wilderness
    Sunshine is far away, clouds linger on
    Everything I posessed – Now they are gone

    Of course Changes is a classic so it’s going to get some votes, but I am shuddering at the thought of Kelly and Ozz doing a duet on that song. I hope I’m surprised on how that cover will turn out …

    Anybody else here think that the song It’s Alright from Technical Ecstasy with Bill Ward at vocals sounds more like something from Queen than Sabbath?

  • I have almost always found that something that doesn’t stick with me upon first play tends to get better and better with each successive listen. The opposite is likely just as true – the new Iron Maiden you comment upon is the latest victim for me. First time through, I loved it, but each time I put it in, I feel dragged down a little more by disappointment in it. What’s worse, it’s not offensively bad, where I could say I’m put off by it because it’s just plain awful. It’s not by any means. It’s just so average that it wears me out with blandness. I find that more offensive than being awful. It’s just so pedestrian that I can neither find tremendous fault with it nor can I find anything particularly great about it either. I figure that if something is that blatantly awful that I *hate* it, there might be something at work there that I didn’t grasp yet. Often times, after a number of spins, I find there is. The new Metallica was this way – St. Anger *was* offensive the first time, but by spin #5, I had gotten over the rough production qualities that most people can’t seem to look beyond and it had cemented itself in my collection (face it, most people hate this album because of the recording – and lack of solos – and not because it’s tremendously different than most of their catalog.) The black album, in comparison, invokes feelings of dreaded boredom from me – this is an album so calculatedly commercial that I find it embarassing to listen to. Give me Load and Reload anyday over the black album. But the first time through on the black album way over a decade ago . . . that thing was the best metal album ever! Ahem.

    Not a trend-jumper, I am. I tend to over-scrutinize things that get popular, and am quick to write it off without giving it a real chance. That’s why I force myself to own and listen to things for a lot longer before I exile them to the trade pile. I’m also hyper-paranoid about things that appeal immediately, fearful that they’ll also wind up in that pile eventually too. The life of a music junkie on a budget – almost nothing is so sacred it isn’t considered for trade once in a while. (I’ve learned to be much more finicky about both what I buy and what I sell – I spend too much money buying *back* things I wrote off far too quickly.)

  • Eric Olsen

    Regarding cycles: I loved Zeppelin unto death when they first came out – iwas a budding guitarist and I COULD PLAY a lot of the songs and MAKE THEM SOUND RIGHT even, which was a huge factor in playing the records over and over again to learn the parts. But as a result of this overexposure, and then the punk explosion, they looked bloated and foolish to me from the later ’70s until the later ’90s when everything came around again and I was able to appreciate all the great stuff again without the various prejudice. But I’ll never like them as much as I did in ’72 because I am no longer 14 and learning to play electric guitar and thinking “Stairway” is profound.

  • Tom – you raise an interesting point that music can sometimes take seasoning. Some give up on music before they listen to it enough, I think.

    My first reaction to music is usually not the one that sticks with me long term. I wasn’t a huge Zeppelin fan originally, for example, but then I’ve grown to really enjoy and appreciate their music.

    Currently I’m spinning Iron Maiden Dance of Death and after a dozen or so listens to every song, certain tunes are starting to rise above others.

    I recently went back to Van Halen’s debut albums and have been playing the song Little Dreamer quite a bit. I can’t believe I missed fully enjoying that song on the many times I spun that album in my younger days.

  • Eric Olsen

    I have some rejectionist tendencies as well, but 20 years of DJing live crowds (where people can harm you) helped cure me of that to a certain extent. Actually, as I think about it, I think the DJing sort of bifurcated my sensibility rather than integrate “popular” stuff into my private sensibility, it just created a whole different sensibility, which intersects with my private sensibility to a fair extent but also leaves a lot of stuff in one category or the other but not both.

  • No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

    Seriously, I think I was more reactionary to what was popular as a teen. People loved DLR-era VH? Fine, I loved Hagar stuff to spite them! Now, I’m all grown up and mature (shut up, I am!) and realize how much good stuff I missed out on with stances like this. Thank God for used record stores (and Half.com for $0.50 CDs!) so I can right those wrongs!

  • Eric Olsen

    Tom, thank goodness you have recanted your apostasy re BS and VH or else I fear the Spanish Inquisition would have had its way with you.

  • I may sound like a complete heretic here, but the only Sabbath that connected with me IS the Tony Martin-fronted version. I loved his voice, loved the gloomy pallor cast over the music. Alas, this didn’t last too long as I burned through what Sabbath could provide me at the time. Of course, I was also one of the heathens who preferred Sammy Hagar to David Lee Roth in Van Halen. Now, however, I prefer Roth over Hagar, and likewise, I’d probably enjoy the Ozzy-led Sabbath. Guess I can appreciate that stuff now . . . I was just a dumb kid back then, apparently!

  • JR:

    Tony Martin sang on The Eternal Idol. He sang on the next few Sabbath albums as well, with the exception of Dehumanizer, which Ronnie James Dio returned to sing on. However, that reunion didn’t work out, and Rob Halford of Judas Priest sang with the band for a couple of shows. Then Tony Martin came back and did a couple more albums with the band. It would be tough for any band to top the first six Sabbath albums, but I think a lot of the post-Ozzy material is just as good and sometimes better than Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die.

    I agree that Sabbath certainly wasn’t “relevant” in the 80s, but I think a lot of the band’s back catalog is overlooked. It certainly no worse than a Ozzy’s solo work, much of which is pretty mediocre.

  • How can you argue with the guy who wrote “Catholic Girls?”

  • yep…i kinda go along with Zappa’s (and others’) conception of music, which is that something is music if you peceive it to be music.

    this of course allows me to listen to stuff that sounds like your average refrigerator compressor.

  • This is exactly the point. If we categorized song by technical delivery all the time (which I thought to be a big part of Al’s argument against Sabbath) where would that leave guys like Bob Dylan?

    Plus, a point that I tried to make earlier with the Led Zeppelin thing is that you don’t have to like a band to recognize their importance. I can name a bunch of influential bands that I really don’t like, but I still recognize them as influential, even HOF-worthy.

  • Eric Olsen

    To a certain extent we have gone through this before, but Al seems to evaluate music primarily from the perspective of a certain conception of what makes a good “song.” There are all kinds of other measures of music that are just as valid, and I would think Al’s appreciation of James Brown indicates at least some awareness of this, as Brown certainly didn’t write traditional “songs” once he got maximally funky.

  • Sorry Al, this review seems like intentional baiting and not completely well-informed or reasoned. Barger baiting for comments? Ok, we’re biting.

    The debut Black Sabbath album cemented their place in rock music history. Tony Iommi is known as a “riff machine” and to quote Ozzy “for a guy with 3 fingers chopped off, there ain’t a better fix.”

    Countless bands have named Sabbath as their inspiration (don’t take my word for it, research it!). If anybody reading this doubts that Ozzy once could sing go find a bootleg copy of the song Gypsy live in 1974 in Pennsylvania (it’s out there). His scream on that song will chill your bones.

    As for the incarnations that followed Ozzy’s vocal departure, there were sparks with Dio and others, but the flames were not there like when Ozzy was at the helm. I don’t think, however, it was as unholy as song fans found the concept pressing on with all those different singers.

    Oddly enough, Barger mentions Skynyrd who is a lot more of a shadow of its former self than Black Sabbath. Sweet Home Alabama should be the poster song for being overplayed and over-commercialized. A solid song, but once a song is sung by Ruben Studdard on American Idol and is whored into the title of a movie starring Reese Witherspoon, forget it being about “rock” any longer.

    And comparing Black Sabbath musically to Duran Duran? LOL C’mon Al.

  • i really like the Heaven & Hell-era Sabbath…but really think of it as a completely different band. more Rainbow than Sabbath.

    plus, i saw them on the Heaven & Hell tour. pretty good show for a bunch of aging metalheads.

  • Eric Olsen

    JR, great point about “relevance” – after the punk/new wave revolution, everything that came before seemed quaint for a time, but that which had made a real impact – like Sabbath in the ’70s – came back and asserted itself again. As post-punk and metal merged into nu metal and hardcore, the distinction no longer applied.

  • JR

    I haven’t spent as much time listening to the later Black Sabbath years, but I remember being impressed with Tony Martin as a singer. He was more in the classic Dio mold; by that time Dio’s voice was starting to go.

    I think most people would agree that by the mid-80’s Sabbath wasn’t as “relevent” – those of us who loved them from their 70’s work had found new bands who were moving the genre forward, while Sabbath seemed to be repeating a formula. Much like AC/DC after “Back In Black”.

    Having said that, I remember being impressed with some of the material on “Eternal Idol”, but my CD’s are still packed away after a hurricane so I can’t confirm who sang on that. I believe that would be the album after that other former Deep Purple singer experiment, “Seventh Sign”.

    (BTW, I would like to nominate Ritchie Blackmore as the most important talent scout in heavy metal history.)

    “Born Again” is kind of strange. I have to say, for all that I love Deep Purple I never really got into Ian Gillian. Of course his lyrics bear no relation to the music. And while Ian-the-Octave-Eater was a technically spectacular singer his melodic choices and his phrasing have always seemed kind of “off” to me. Whereas Ozzy always sang exactly the notes I wanted to hear. I remember the first time I heard the song “No More Tears” (from his last good album?); when I first heard that riff sludging along on one note, I thought, “Oh, he’s not going to be able to sing anything good over this”. But damned if Ozzy didn’t come up with a great melody!

    It’s funny how Sabbath without Ozzy is now some kind of sacrilege. As I remember, back when Dio joined Sabbath after his work in Rainbow it sounded like a match made in, well, Heaven. They made a great album (or two) together and if anything Dio’s lyrics seemed like an even better fit to Sabbath’s music. The self-proclaimed arbiters of style were still 15 years away from acknowleging that Sabbath were ever more than “music for glue sniffing teenage boys”, so Sabbath-with-Ozzy had no critical/historical significance. Some of us who actually listened the music at the time were just glad to see Sabbath move on.

  • Eric Olsen

    Tim, no argument about Ozzy now – I can’t even watch the show, his decepitude is just too depressing, and I don’t know about his last decent album because I’ve never cared much about him solo, nor Sabbath without him. A lot of times in music it’s all about synergy. I am just arguing for the importance of the original Sabbath in the ’70s, but due to that status Ozzy deserves his status – the present doesn’t negate the past.

  • Eric,

    Ozzy may have been a great rock icon in his day, but nowadays he’s now a washed up walking “don’t do drugs” advertisment. When did he last make a decent record? You can argue about whether Heaven and Hell is a true Sabbath album or not, but it’s still a great album either way.

    JR, I’ve got “Born Again”. It’s a fair album in the Ian Gillan canon, but it’s just not Sabbath. All the songs are about fast cars and fast women!

    Any opinions of the Tony Martin years?

  • JR

    Weren’t Meat Loaf and Leslie West going to form a band at one point. That could have been the best meal band of all time.

  • Eric Olsen

    Sabbath without Ozzy is like the Doors without Morrison: superfluous.

    Over the long haul the public almost always gets it right. Ozzy is an icon and Dio a minor figure for two reasons: Ozzy is a vastly more important figure in the history of popular music by every possible measurement (other than maybe upper register volume), AND because his wife is a brilliant marketing woman – can’t forget that part. But you can’t get by on marketing alone – Ozzy led and largely determined the image of the best meal band of all time. Dio did not.

  • JR

    “I guess I’m a heretic for liking ‘Heaven and Hell’ with Ronnie Dio…”

    No way! Or… well, maybe.

    But “Heaven and Hell” is a great album. I think “Technical Ecstasy” was criminally overlooked. About half of “Never Say Die” was great.

    “Sabotage” is just bizarre. The way the vocals fade in with that pre-echo effect on “Megalomania” is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever heard on record. And that choir on “Supertzar” was a stroke of (mad) genius! And how about that spliced edit from quiet acoustic guitar into “Symptom of the Universe”, one of the heaviest riffs known to man. “Sabotage” is the album you get into after you’ve played all the others to death.

    I was a bit disappointed with “Mob Rules”; It’s got some good music, but I think it needs a remix. If you’re really into heresy, try “Born Again”.

    Oh, and Ian Gillian opposes anti-sodomy legislation.


    Bill Ward supports civil unions!

    Oh, and Mob Rules-rules!

  • I guess I’m a heretic for liking “Heaven and Hell” with Ronnie Dio (And I think it’s a tragedy that the burned-out washed-up has-been Ozzy is still a major star when the vastly more talented Dio is playing small clubs).

    Still can’t fault classic Sabbath, though. My favourite albums are the more complex and musically sophisticated mid-period, starting with Volume 4, through to the often overlooked “Sabotage” and the underrated “Techical Ecstasy”. The musically cruder early albums don’t do as much for me.


    Geezer Butler suppports Federally funded school lunch programs!

  • Eric Olsen

    I see some genre confusion here that I will have to tease apart at a later date as I am being paged.

  • Taloran

    re: Eric’s mention of Skynyrd and the Allmans –

    The Outlaws
    Molly Hatchet
    Marshall Tucker Band
    Pure Prairie League
    Dickey Betts and Great Southern

    Boy, Southern Rock was great, wasn’t it? Whatever happened to it? It’s every bit as lost in the past as Gregorian chants. Are there any survivors other than the Allman Brothers (who, it must be said, are much more a blues-rock band with a southern feel than a true southern rock band)? I guess I hear about the occasional Firefall show at the local get-drunk-and-pick-a-fight place, but Southern Rock as a hugely successful genre is gone.
    Little Feat still tours, but they were and remain infinitely more complex that the typical southern rock band.

    I guess that genre was replaced by unlistenable hacks (or is it hicks?) like Jimmy Buffett and REM.

  • Taloran

    Spooky Tooth was better than Sabbath. Then again, so was Abba.

    I loved Skynyrd when I was a rowdy teenager, but even then I realized that there was something better about the Allmans. Now I realize that that something was real talent. 39 guitarists jamming together on stage does not good music make.

  • Eric Olsen

    I am not a metalhead – I like the best of almost all genres though, and Black Sabbath was the best metal band ever. Ozzy now is a nonfactor, Ozzy then was a great singer, had soul, and the band made holy, righteous noise. To not see Black Sabbath transcending metal into something precious is to not see James Brown and George Clinton transcend funk, Springsteen working class rock ‘n’ roll, the Ramones punk, even Skynyrd southern rock (although the Allmans are the ones who REALLY transcended southern rock). To see them as anything less is to NOT GET IT, to MISS THE BOAT.

    I enjoyed the scatalogical rant, though, and sense it freed yo ass.

  • Taloran

    And Bravo to Al for having the guts to go against popular convention and actually come out and say Sabbath was a lousy, talent-free, rhythmically impaired group of idiots who happened to fall out of the garbage truck and get picked up by a major record label.

  • Taloran

    That said, Randy Rhoads was brilliant. While his choice of people to perform with left me wanting, I found him to be an enticing, original, and exceedingly talented guitarist. Too bad he played with fucking Ozzy.

  • Taloran

    Alright Eric, I’m gonna try it – see if this is convincing.

    Fucking Sabbath fucking sucks. Ozzy is a fucking gibbering moron who couldn’t fucking write a fucking song to save his fucking shiteating ass. His music fucking sucks, sucked with Sabbath, sucked after Sabbath, sucks on his lame ass TV show with his shitty fucking family. They’re all fucking morons. Fucking Harry Caray could write better fucking songs than fucking Ozzy, and he’d be fucking easier to fucking understand. Fuck Sabbath. Fuck Ozzy. They suck.

  • There was this other guy who came along and wasn’t very good at his instrument. Hell, he wasn’t really a good singer either. The band’s recordings were sloppy and raw. Probably made Rush and Dream Theater fans’ ears bleed.


    You don’t have to be a great technical musician to write great songs and be memorable. This is ultimately what all great bands are judged on. To deny Black Sabbath their just due as a band with great albums and great songs would be criminal.

    For example, I don’t like Led Zeppelin. There. I said it. I don’t like Robert Plant’s voice, and I don’t particularly like any of the songs. It was all lost on me. That being said, I would still include them in a list of the top ten bands of all time because to not understand their place in music is ignorant.

    Same with Black Sabbath.

  • Dawn

    New tagline for Al – “No, I don’t” to the question, does Al have a sense of shame.

    But then again, he wouldn’t be the Al we all know and love.

  • mike

    Al: Have you no sense of shame? First, school lunches, and now this: attacking early Black Sabbath? Just because Ozzy has since produced one of the most execrable catalogs in rock history doesn’t take away from early BS greatness. Plus, if you don’t like their music, you can just take out their vinyl records and play them speeded up. Sounds just like the Ramones.

  • the first four Black Sabbath albums are among the most influential recordings in rock music…especially in things related to heavy metal.

    attempts to pick them apart because of supposed lack of melody, rhythm, etc. are a complete waste of time….mostly because they are wrong.

    a confederacy of dunces? this post is making my valve act up.

  • JR

    I really liked Abominog (1982). I had one or two of Uriah Heep’s 70’s albums on LP, but they never made much of an impression on me.

    Back on subject, Al is way wrong on Black Sabbath. I can respect the fact that he has his preferences, but his attempt to attack Black Sabbath on musical merit is completely uninformed. Want something that “swings”? Try “Fairies Wear Boots” or “Never Say Die” (which even swing in the technical sense). Want melody? Try “Supernaut” or “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, or even their theme song “Black Sabbath”. I mean, if “Iron Man” isn’t a great melody, how did it become the definitive Beavis and Butthead grunt-along. And you want lots of chords? Geez, where to begin? Maybe “Gypsy”, or “Air Dance”, or any of the acoustic songs or the jazzy pieces. Storytelling? Try “Johnny Blade” Visceral imagery? How about “Hand of Doom”?

    While I don’t find Tony Iommi’s guitar work the most difficult to play, I’d rate him against 70 to 80 of the guitarists on that list Rolling Stone came up with. And Geezer Butler and Bill Ward were one of the more respectable rhythm sections in their field, easily more interesting than Lynyrd Skynyrd’s.

    Black Sabbath SPOKE to a generation of music lovers, even if you and the literati think their audience was just a bunch of stoners and dirtbags. In fact, the same could be said about Lynyrd Skynyrd. I think both bands deserve respect by virtue of the fact that they connected with people on a purely musical level, not because fashion mags like Rolling Stone were promoting them as the cool band of the week.

    Stick to what you know, Al. Lynyrd Skynyrd IS a great band, and they DO belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (if you go for that kind of thing). But Black Sabbath vs. Lynyrd Skynyrd? It’s strictly a matter of taste.

  • andy

    I thought it was lame simply because of the dates of the 2 bands as well. That and I don’t see Sabbath and Zep as being related either.

  • Eric Olsen

    LZ was early ’69, Sabbath was mid ’70 so there wasn’t much need for a “bridge” anyway. I see them on different paths anyway – LZ strictly blues-based, at least in the beginning, Sabbath using some blues structures, but mostly creating something more European and angular and consistently roaring.

  • andy

    Cool. I wanted to get your opinion on them because when I bought the record, some dude told me, “oh man they were the bridge between Led Zep and Black Sabbath”. I listened to it and was pretty sure that was bull shit, but I wondered what you thought, cause I’ve heard that from a few people.

  • Eric Olsen

    Nothing wrong with the Heap, just not a real major act – rock on

  • andy

    haha! I like em though. I only have one album, but it’s not Demons and Wizards. I don’t remember what it’s called, but it rocks me. I got it for $.75 hehe.

  • Eric Olsen

    Uriah Heep was a combo hard rock-prog band with mystical leanings that had a few good songs, one good album (“Demons and Wizards”) and a lot of silliness. With the heavy organ sound, more like Deep Purple than Sabbath, though not nearly as good as Purple.

  • andy

    What about Uriah Heap?

  • Eric Olsen

    I can only conclude that Al has not actually listened to Black Sabbath based upon this wholesale denigration. I am not a big Ozzy solo fan – “Crazy Train” is fine but not much else even sticks in my mind.

    But Sabbath is an entirely different matter. Starting with songs: every single song on Paranoid and Black Sabbath 4 are classic, have memorable tunes, have Ozzy’s amazingly impersonal passion (a contradiction but one that is perfect for the music). There are even acoustic songs (the achingly beautiful “Laguna Sunrise,” which evokes just that), “Changes.”

    In addition their sound was utterly unique – they did invent metal as it is recognized today. Deep Purple was a melodic hard rock band with some prog rock and pop-rock leanings early on, got into a bluesier sound, and were really great for a while, but not metal. LZ was an extension of the hard blues-rock of Cream, Yardbirds, more akin to pyscho-blues than metal.

    Sabbath had a pure raging power that only maybe Blue Cheer had achieved but Blue Cheer didn’t have songs, was sloppy as hell and sludgy, which Sabbath was not – for as charged and distorted as Iommi’s guitar could be, his playing was always clean and the instruments achieved both separation and cohesion. How can you listen to “Paranoid” and not hear it as the greatest metal song of all time? Or “War Pigs,” or “Iron Man,” or “Supernaut,” “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”?

    Here’s some perspective: I had a friend in college (the son of Neil Armstrong, by the way), who was about as snotty a prog rock fan as there was – he wanted musicianship, esoterica, complication. He loved Yes, ELP, PFM, Nektar, Soft Machine, all that stuff. And he loved Black Sabbath. The original Sabbath, from ’70 to ’78, is the best metal of all time, is great dangerous music, and makes Lynyrd Skynyrd look quaint, anemic, provincial, dated. Skynyrd had some good songs, but that’s not a revolution, and a revolution is what Black Sabbath started.


    OZZY is a signifying monkey!