The reception that awaited their debut album Black Sabbath was a very different story. Full of occult imagery it was a prototype heavy metal album. Despite receiving awful reviews the fans the band had built up during their relentless gigging rushed out to buy the album. It got to No 9 in the UK Charts and stayed in them for the next five months. Musically it was pretty clumsy, full of megalithic riffs, though these would become the band's trademark. Aside from the title track other stronger moments included a lengthy, doomy version of The Warning, which had earlier been a 45 for Aynsley Dunbar's Retaliation.
Their second album, Paranoid, did even better. By the time of its release the title track was already a Top 5 hit single in the UK. The album, which also contained previous live favourites like War Pigs and Iron Man, topped the UK Charts for two weeks and is generally regarded as an early heavy metal classic.
Next came the inevitable attempt to crack the US market. They toured American colleges in late 1970 and then Warner Brothers released their debut album which climbed to No 23, staying in the US Charts for 65 weeks. Paranoid climbed to No 12 and was in the Charts for as long as its predecessor and the title track had preceded it to No 61 in the Singles Chart.
Their third album, Master Of Reality in June 1971, contained their popular anthem, Children Of The Grave, which was preceded by a brief instrumental, Orchid. Certainly a varied album, it contains arse-kickers like Sweet Leaf and the slower, almost ballad-like Solitude as well as a couple of short instrumentals. The first pressings came in a box sleeve but subsequent reissued came in regular packaging. It peaked at No 5 here and No 8 in the US.
A 45, Tomorrow's Dream, their first for two years, was released in October 1972 as a prelude to their fourth album. It was pretty standard fare but surprisingly failed to chart. The flip side, Laguna Sunrise, was an out of character acoustic instrumental! The 45 is now scarce.
Early pressings of Black Sabbath, Volume 4 came with a free colour booklet, which is now hard to locate. The title was a direct lift from Led Zeppelin's numbering system and musically the band seem on this album to be heading in that direction. Its epic is usually considered to be a lumbering ballad called Changes. Again it sold well, peaking at No 8 in the UK and No 13 in the US.
After this the band replaced manager Jim Simpson with Patrik Meehan and recorded Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Originally issued on Vertigo, it reappeared a few months later with the rest of their album back catalogue on the newly formed WWA (World Wide Artists) label. It peaked at No 4 here and No 11 in the US. WWA also released the title track on a 45 backed by Changes from the previous album, but it sold poorly.
The band again changed management replacing Meehan with Don Arden, whilst Jim Simpson took legal action over what he considered to be a breach of contract. This effectively prevented the band either recording or performing for almost two years during which their new WWA label went under.
When matters were finally resolved in September 1975, their UK contract (and back catalogue) was transferred to NEMS and they embarked on a major UK tour. Their next album, Sabotage, which appeared the same month, was certainly their most disappointing to date. Aside from the lengthy Megalomania, the only other track of note was Am I Going Insane (Radio), which was also released in edited form as a 45. The 45 flopped but the album got to No 7 in the UK and No 28 in the US, although it didn't spend many weeks in either Chart.
The relationship with NEMS also proved brief, ending when the label reissued the first four Vertigo albums and a double-CD compilation, We Sold Our Souls For Rock'n'Roll, without even consulting the band! It only achieved No 35 here in the UK and No 48 in the US and wasn't in the shops for long but early copies came with a colour booklet which contained good photos of the band and some dreadful sleeve artwork - a badly made-up 'corpse' lying in a coffin with a crucifix.
Returning to Vertigo they released Technical Ecstacy. Musically this was another disappointment, perhaps because there had been much friction during the recording. This largely resulted from Iommi's determination to experiment with more complex arrangements, overdubs and horns, which led to much friction with Ozzy Osbourne
, who eventually went on to leave the band the following year because of unhappiness about their musical direction. He rejoined a couple of months later but left for good in January 1979 to form Blizzard Of Oz and launch a successful solo career.
Most people agree the best thing about the album was the sleeve which showed two robots fucking one another.
As we leave the time frame of this book, Black Sabbath were clearly established as the archetypal heavy metal band leading a cliche lifestyle of sex, drink, drugs and endless touring. They continued to prosper well into the eighties and there've been some pretty good compilations of their material which are detailed in the discography.
01. Black Sabbath 6:19
02. The Wizard 4:24
03. Wasp \ Behind The Wall Of Sleep \ Bassically \ N.I.B. 9:45
04. Wicked World 4:47
05. A Bit Of Finger \ Sleeping Village \ Warning 14:16
06. Evil Woman 3:23
Tony Iommi - lead guitar, keyboards;
Ozzy Osbourne - vocals;
Bill Ward - drums.
Released Friday February 13,1970.
Engineered by Tom Allom, Barry Sheffield.
Produced by Roger Bain.