Whilst playing at Hamburg’s famed Star Club in 1969 they decided to change their name to Black Sabbath. On their return they went into the studio, still going under the Earth moniker, to record a single titled “The Rebel.” It was destined to be shelved. This initial session was handled by none other than the Gus Dudgeon and Rodger Bain, beginning a productive relationship that lasted through the first three Sabbath albums.
The band played under their new name for the first time on August 30, 1969 at a gig at Malvern Winter Gardens in Worcestershire. The set list included much of what made up their first album. This darker sound quickly established them as one of the heaviest rock bands around at the time. This earned them a slot on John Peel’s highly influential Top Gear programme, a breakthrough that confirmed their growing status.
Black Sabbath was recorded on a budget of £600 in just three days at the Trident Studios. Who can forget the impact it made when it appeared? The cover perfectly captured the macabre darkness of the band’s music. Taken at Mapledurham Watermill in Oxfordshire it showed a caped female figure staring ghost like at the camera. Released on Vertigo on Friday the 13th in February of 1970, the album was a landmark in rock history.
The interior artwork depicated a controversial inverted cross, soon to become the symbol of Black Sabbath. It wasn't until the first time the needle dropped though that the full impact was felt. Anyone around at the time who heard the opening bars of the album will never forget the shock of that first play. The titular opening track made its entrance with thunder, a sinister tolling bell, a thundering Iommi doom riff, and the now trademark Ozzy screams. Black Sabbath had arrived and the world was never quite the same again.
Most of the lyrics were written by Geezer Butler who tapped heavily into the dark imagery of the occult, fantasy, and black magic. Ozzy made his distinctive entrance singing, "What is this that stands before me?/A figure in black which points at me." When Ozzy added his desperate screams of the whole thing created a sinister, nightmarish, and unforgettable impression. Quite simply it scared the shit out of me.
As a statement of evil intent it worked magnificently. The Satanic images caused all sorts of problems for the band who found themselves the focal point for some weird cults around the world, a position that they tried to distance themselves from despite the themes present in the music.