"When I left school I wanted to become a plumber. When I heard the Beatles I wanted to become a Beatle" ...Ozzy
Anyone who listens to rock and roll today has at least heard of Ozzy Osbourne. The contribution he has made to music is
undeniable. From the days with Black Sabbath, where it all began for "The Madman", to his immense solo career, Ozzy
has continued to produce music of high quality and intensity. The late sixties and early seventies were a turning point for
music, when bands were bringing forth a new, raw Sabbath 1978sound, and finding that it was excepted with enthusiasm unequaled
in the industry. "Heavy Metal" began a reign that would last into the 80's, when the label became too easily used
to describe any rock and roll band that liked electric guitars with an edge or distortion...
Black Sabbath, with Ozzy at the helm, paved the way into the era of Metal. They are among the handful of the early pioneers
of the then new sound of Rock.
The Early Years
John Michael Osbourne was born on December 3rd, 1948 in an industrial town in England where he and his five siblings,
mother and father, lived in a 2 bedroom house. To say money was tight would be an understatement.
His family was in poor financial shape, though Ozzy's father worked nights in a steel plant while his mother worked days
in a car assembly plant assembling electrical circuits. The family had no car, and very little money or food. Ozzy determined
at an early age that he would change this. The Birmingham lifestyle was one where the men worked hard all day, and then go
to the pub to drink and play darts, staggering home later to
eat and sleep and get up to another day of the same. For the Osbournes it was no different. While the Beatles were singing
about flower power and love, Birminham residents saw a different reality in their lives - life was hard. Plain and simple.
While in school the other students called 'John' "Ozzy" or "Oz-brain", because of his last name. Ozzy
is how he would be known to the world later, and for the rest of his life. Apparently he became so detached from his real
name that he would fail to answer to it.
Although Ozzy was considered somewhat of a rebel in school, he did take part in many school activities. He participated
in school opera-plays such as H.M.S Pinafore, The Mikado, and The Pirates of Penzance, the early signs of his desire to entertain.
Ozzy disliked school, and so didn't do very well in it. He wanted out as soon as he could, and left when he was
15. His parents argued a lot, and most arguments were about money, so Ozzy thought he would rectify the situation by leaving
school and getting a job, his first one being a plumber's assistant. He would hold several jobs over the next few years, from
toomaker's apprentice to killing cows in a slaughterhouse. None of his jobs brought him satisfaction, and eventually he thought
that perhaps there was more money to be made illegally. He became involved in some petty theft and break and enters, but wasn't
very successful at this either, usually getting caught.
His first time in jail was for break and enters. He was given a fine, but couldn't pay it, and so was sent to Birmingham's
Winson Green Prison for three months. He did time there again later for assaulting a police officer - punching him in the
face. It was in Winson Green Prison where he tattooed the now famous letters O-Z-Z-Y across his left knuckles, doing so with
a sewing needle and graphite.
Ozzy was determined to stay out of jail. Earlier, when he was fourteen, he had been in a band named 'The Black Panthers',
and he decided to try music as a career. It had to be a more productive venture than crime. The Beatles were gaining popularity
at an amazing pace, abd they were a major influence on Ozzy as he built his 1973 objective of singing for a living. He bagan
to look for bands to join and soon found one named "Music Machine" who were in need of a singer, as their regular
vocalist was ill. Ozzy filled in, attracted to the travelling and wild sides of the lifestyle. Later he joined a band called
"Approach", but quit shortly after, disliking the band.
After leaving "Approach" he decided to call himself "Ozzy Zig", placing an ad in the local paper and
music shop which read "Ozzy Zig requires gig. Owns own PA." Another 18 year old (Terence 'Geezer' Butler) saw Ozzy's
ad on a shop bulletin board looked him up. The two then decided to form a band named "Rare Breed" which did two
shows and then disbanded.
Ozzy's old schoolmate (whom he had never gotten along with) was teaming up with an 18 year old truck driver named William
Ward. They had begun to form a band of their own (The Rest) and recruited a singer named Chris Smith. The band moved north
to Carlisle, renamed themselves "Mythology" and gained a large following. They played mainly blues and were inspired
much by groups like The Yardbirds, Cream, The Beatles and John Mayal.
Mythology eventually split up; Iommi and Ward returned to Birmingham and and ran across Ozzy's advertisment in the music
shop. Iommi hoped strongly that this was not the same 'Ozzy' that he had so disliked in school, but of course it turned out
to be the one and the same. They decided that it would not be a good idea to try to start a band together, given their dislike
for one another, but Tony did later supply Ozzy and Geezer with a drummer - Bill Ward. Ward was at Iommi's place when Ozzy
and Geezer approached him, and Ward agreed to join as the bands drummer if Iommi could also join. And so the group began to
form, with a slide guitar player named Him Phillips and a sax player, they returned to Carlisle where Iommi and Ward had been
enjoying some success previously. Ozzy 1975the group wasn't happy as a six piece band however, and in order to be rid of what
were considered to be two unnecessary members, they broke up. Regrouping as a foursome that consisted of Ozzy, Iommi, Ward
The group learned eighteen songs their first week together as a foursome and Ozzy renamed the band "Polka Tulk Blues"
apparently after a can of talcum powder, though some say that the name came from a Pakistani clothing store named 'Polka Tulk
Trading Company'. Iommi was now the lead guitar player, and so Geezer Butler switched to playing bass guitar. The group couldn't
afford a new bass guitar, so they simply removed two of the strings and re-tuned to. Another name changed occurred, and the
group was soon know as "Earth".
Jim Simpson was a musician and the manager of the 'Bakerloo Blues Band'. In order to better promote the band he opened
'Henry's Blueshouse. The Blueshouse was an major success, and shortly after it was opened it had to stop accepting new bands.
Among the first to play there was Led Zeppelin. In 1969 the four members approached Simpson, requesting to play at Henry's.
They also asked him to become their manager, as they knew nothing of the business side of music. Simpson arranged for the
band to open for 'Ten Years After' and agreed to manage them. Earth was pleased to have found a manager, and with the opportunity
to play at Henry's, but the arrangement would eventually turn into a nightmare for the band, though it would be a long time
before they realized it themselves.
The group recorded a song in tribute of their new manager entitled "Song for Jim", which is still widely sought
after by Sabbath fans, thought extremely hard to find. The band also received some of Simpson's jazz records to inspire them
in their writing.
While waiting to go into rehearsal one day, the group noticed a movie playing called "Black Sabbath" and Geezer
said he thought it strange that people would go to a movie to scare themselves silly. They group decided to use the name for
the title of their first original song. Until this point they had played other artists music.
The name went from that of a song to the groups identity when they realized that there was another band with the name
'Earth'. When they entered Henry's to do a gig, someone mentioned that they liked the bands single. Having never released
a single, they immediately realized there was a name problem. That night was disastrous - the crowd being upper-class and
expecting a totally different type of music than that which the group gave them. As a result of the incident, Geezer suggested
that they change their name to "Black Sabbath' after the Karloff movie. This gave the band a name and title song. It
has also been said that the name came from Geezer's interest in occult writer Denis Wheatley...
Not having any money, the band relied on Iommi's mother who owned a chocolate shop. They used her van, and Ozzy's House
1969she provided them with food and cigarettes. Sometimes the group would land gigs on their own, but more often they would
show up at places where other bands were scheduled to play, and if a band failed to show up, Sabbath would take their place.
When they played the Star Club in Hamburg in Jan. 1969, (a place the Beatles had made famous) they were so popular that they
were booked for another five shows. They would play seven shows a day, writing new material as they went. This is evident
in their early albums where the songs lyrics differed from the stage to the final album version.
Although Sabbath has long been plagued by cries of 'Devil Worshipers' and 'Satanists', the devil had nothing to do with
the choice of the name, regardless of how dark and satanic the name sounded. This point is strengthened by the following incident:
As the band began to make news a group of satanists asked them to play at their "Night of Satan" at Stonehenge.
They flatly refused, for which they were later informed by the head witch, Alec Sanders, that the group had placed a hex on
the band members. Ozzy apparently asked his father to make them up some aluminum crosses, and they wore them 24 hours a day
for protection, seeming to take the threat seriously.
Tony Hall, an independent producer, paid for the band to record some demo songs at the Regent Sound Studio on Tottenham
Court Rd. Roger Bayed produced these songs, and his name appears on many of the albums. One demo cut, 'Evil Woman', was released
on the Fontana record label in January 1970, and, unbeknownst to the band, did quite well. Another demo was called 'The Rebel'
and is played as a ten second sample in "The Black Sabbath Story - I" video. The song, about a reclusive voyeur,
is one of the rarest Sabbath songs, as it did not make it to the final album.
Black Sabbath's first completed album was released on Friday February the thirteenth, 1970. It was recorded in only eight
hours and cost only 800 British pounds (approx. $1200 US). It was recorded on four tracks on an eight track machine. The band
was not very popular at the time of the recording, and they simply wished to do what they liked best - sing about the darker
aspects of life. They likely never thought that they would make it big in the music business at this point. In fact Ozzy has
said that he was just happy to show his mother that his voice could be recorded on a piece of vinyl. It was not an altogether
easy process - it took 14 tries before Jim Simpson finally found a company (Vertigo) that would carry the album.
The record company took it upon itself to place an upside down cross on the gatefold of the album, and this immediately
caused people to associate the band with Satanism. Sabbath did not want the upside down cross, but bowed to the record companies
marketing methods. Inside the inverted cross was a poem that seemed to correspond with the album's cover - a woman standing
in a countryside, in a gothic appearing setting. The poem is called "Still falls the rain" (as on the previous page).
Ozzy proudly brought the album home to show his parents, but the reception was not what he had hoped for. The Osbourne's
were a family that would sit around the phonbograph, listening to music, sipping beer, and singing along. When his parents
heard his music, his father remarked "Are you sure you were just drinking
alcohol?, this isn't music, this is weird." The first song began with rain falling in the background and a church
bell tolling earily. This was also the first time Ozzy had heard the final product, which would reach #8 on the UK charts,
and #23 in the United States.
The four unknowns were now beginning to make a name for themselves with the release of an album. The same month that their
album came out, Black Sabbath broke the attendance record at Simpson's club - a record set and untouched for over a year by
Jethro Tull. Success was nearing, and of course with an album came touring, and with touring came the united States. America
would have a great impact on the young band. In fact, America washed over them like a tidal wave, bring them into a world
unlike they had ever experienced. They had their groupies and took in the incredible sights that America offered them, and
began to taste the sordid side of Rock and Roll.
One of their first American shows was played at the Fillmore East. Some of their first trip overseas can be seen on the
commercial video "The Black Sabbath Story - Volume 1". On this particular video tape, drummer Bill Ward speaks of
the prodding the band would engage in trying to get the audience to do more than sit and listen to the music: In New York,
the audience was doing this, and the band, putting 150% effort into their songs, was becoming discouraged by their idleness.
Ozzy would often yell at the audience to get up and go crazy, and on this particular show this had no affect. Bull Ward, frustrated,
picked up his drum set and threw it at the audience. As a result, Ward claims that the band did seven encores that night.
By the time they reached Los Angles, people were talking about this band called Black Sabbath.
While working on their next album, the band released a single called "Paranoid". The single was amazingly popular.
On October 23 1970 the band was playing at the Mayfair Ballroom in Newcastle, to a drunk and noisy crowd, who began to crawling
over the stage and equipment. The group begins playing "Paranoid" in an attempt to get them off of the stage, but
by the time the show is over, the band has had equiptment smashed and stolen. The audience had gone crazy over the new single.
Ozzy, extreemly upset by the ordeal, said "If it means us having to give up putting out singles then we will. We want
people to listen to us, not try to touch us. I was really terrified, shocked out of my mind." This gig would also give
birth to the song "Fairies Wear Boots" which was written as a result of the band being attacked in the street by
a group of skinheads. Iommi's arm was seriously injured during the attack, and they were forced to cancel their next show.
The song "Feiries Wear Boots" was the bands way of making fun of the 'punks'.
It was fairly common practice for Sabbath to become verbally abusive if the audience was not responding well to their
performance. If they were talking, the band would crank the music louder. Bands were so loud in this period that the Leeds
City Council introduced a "96 decibel law". If any band's music rose above this level the amplifiers would cut out.
Black Sabbath did not consider their night's work complete if they did not have at least three cut-outs a night.
The album 'Paranoid' was recorded in four days, again at Regent Sound, and released in January 1971. The cover shows a
person running out of the forest with a sword and shield in hand. It seems a strange representation of being paranoid, but
the album was actually intended to be called "War Pigs" (mans constant desire to have weapons of destruction and
killing). The record company objected to the title, and so they named the album after the song on the album, "Paranoid".
The song "War Pigs" actually came about when the band had been told tales of horror and war from soldiers at an
American Air Force Base while the band played there. The Paranoid album reached first place on the UK charts and twelveth
in America. It was in the time between Paranoid and the Master of Reality albums that Sabbath fired thier manager,