This article is from the The Osbourne FAQ, by Mike L. with numerous contributions by others.
"When we hit America we were the wild bunch. We bought dope and f***ed
anything that moved" ...Ozzy
While waiting to go into a rehearsal one day, they noticed a Boris Karloff
movie playing named "Black Sabbath" (1935). Geezer mentioned it was strange
that people would go to a movie to scare themselves silly. Until this time
they had only played other artist's material. They decided to use the name
of the movie as the name for their first original song.
One day the band showed up to do a gig at Henry's. There, someone mentioned
they liked the bands single. The only problem was the foursome hadn't ever
released a single! They then realized that there were two bands by the same
name. The audience were of upper class and expecting a totally different
type of music. Unable to back out of the show, the scruffy four played
blues and rock to the audience. It was a disaster! The band however did
have some fun in watching the crowd try to dance to their type of music.
As a result, Geezer came up with the idea to change their name to that of
the Karloff movie, 'BLACK SABBATH' to avoid being confused with the other
band named Earth. They now had a song and a band name taken from the
movie's title. This would also reflect the groups interest in the occult.
It has also been said that the name Black Sabbath came from Geezer's
interest in occult writer Denis Wheatley.
Not having any money, the band relied on Tony's mother who owned a
chocolate shop, for the use of a van, food and cigarettes. Sometimes the
group would get gigs on their own, other times they would show up at a
place where another band was to be playing. In the event that the scheduled
band failed to show up, the Sabs would take their place. 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 to come back for 5 more shows.
They would play 7 shows a day, and write new material as they went along.
This would also explain why their early songs had different lyrics than the
final album versions.
As Black Sabbath made news, a group of Satanists asked them to play at
their "night of Satan" at Stonehenge. They refused. The head witch of
England, Alec Sanders who was a regular fan of Sabbaths, informed them that
these Satanists had placed a hex on the band members. Ozzy asked his father
to make aluminum crosses, which he did, and then had them blessed. They
wore these crosses 24 hours a day for protection. The cross remains a well
known Black Sabbath symbol even to this day. You see, Black Sabbath as
Satanic and dark as the name sounded, had nothing to do with the devil when
they chose their name.
An independent producer named Tony Hall paid for the band to record some
demo songs at the Regent Sound studio on Tottenham Court Rd. These were
produced by Roger Bayed, whose name appears on many of their albums. One
demo cut, a single called "Evil Woman", was released on the Fontana record
label in Jan. 1970. This was a cover song from a Minnesota band named Crow,
which did quite well unbeknownst to the band. One demo was called "The
and is played as a 10 second sample in "The Black Sabbath Story - I" video.
The song, about a reclusive voyeur, is one of the rarest Sabbath songs in
that it did not make it to the final album. (For those who are trying to
The Rebel and A Song for Jim, the only known person who has these is said to
be Pete Sarfas who used to run the old Black Sabbath Fan Club. Jim Simpson
won't even answer your mail.)
Their first completed album was released on Friday, Feb. 13th, 1970. It
took them only eight hours to record and cost a mere 800 British pounds
(approx. $1200 US). The album was recorded in four tracks on an 8 track
machine. The band was not that popular at this time, they simply wanted to
do what they liked best... sing about the darker, more depressing things
that surrounded them. It was not likely they ever intended to make the big
time, in fact Ozzy has said he was just happy to show his mother that his
voice was recorded on a piece of vinyl. It was not as easy as it sounds
though, it took them 14 tries before Jim Simpson found a record company
(Vertigo) that would carry the album.
The record company chose to put an upside down cross on the
gatefold of the album and thus people readily associated the band with
Satanism. The band knew nothing about this and did not want the upside down
cross, however they backed down from the record company's "wiser and
higher" marketing methods. Inside the inverted cross was a poem. The poem
seemed to correspond with the album's cover showing a woman standing in a
countryside, apparently in a gothic setting. The poem is called "Still
Falls the Rain". Due to requests by fans, it is shown below:
*** STILL FALLS THE RAIN ***
"Still falls the rain,
the veils of darkness shroud the blackened trees,
which, contorted by some unseen violence,
shed their tired leaves, and bend their boughs
toward a gray earth of severed bird wings.
Among the grasses, poppies bleed before a gesticulating death,
and young rabbits, born dead in traps,
stand motionless, as though guarding the silence
that surrounds and threatens to engulf
all those that would listen.
Mute birds, tired of repeating yesterdays terrors,
huddle together in the recesses of dark corners,
heads turned from the dead, black swan
that floats upturned in a small pool in the hollow.
There emerges from this pool a faint, sensual mist,
that traces its way upwards to caress the feet
of the headless martyr's statue
whose only achievement was to die too soon,
and who couldn't wait to loose.
The cataract of darkness forms fully,
the long black night begins, yet still
by the lake a young girl waits.
Unseeing she believes herself unseen, she smiles faintly
at the distant tolling bell, and the still falling rain."
The first album contained the following songs:
1) Black Sabbath (a dark doom sounding song)
2) The Wizard (a song about a wizard who walks through towns cheering
people up through the use of magic)
3) Wasp/Behind The Wall of Sleep
4) Bassically/N.I.B. (a song about the devil falling in love with a
mortal woman and changing to a good person)
5) Wicked World (society, and our struggle to survive)
(Euro versions had 'Evil Woman' instead, another great single)
6) Sleeping Village/Warning (a very blues influenced song that is an
easy listener, about found/lost love)
This was definitely NOT a satanic album! Today there are still people who
hear the words "Black Sabbath" and think hard rock devil music. This is
plain ignorance. Remember the band was originally a blues band, and there
is a definite blues sound in their debut album.
Ozzy brought the album home to proudly show his parents. The Osbourne's
were the type of people who would sit around the phonogram with a beer and
merrily sing alone to the records. This was not to be though. When Mr.
Osbourne heard the album he asked John, "Are you sure you were just
drinking alcohol?, this isn't music, this is weird." The first song began
with a church bell tolling and the sound of rain falling in the background,
and was eerie to say the least. Ozzy too had not heard the final product
until now. It would reach #8 in the UK charts and #23 in the United States.
The four unknowns were now finally making a name for themselves with the
release of an album. It is of interest to note that their album followed
the release of Led Zeppelin's first album. Both bands knew one another
personally since they both played in the same club and the music scene was
a close knit group. It came in the form of a surprise to the Sabs when
someone put on a brand new album from Led Zeppelin. Bill Ward was close to
Zeppelin's drummer, John Bonham. He talks about the relationship between
the two bands in the book, "The Story of Black Sabbath".
It is of interest to point out that in February of 1970, the same month
their debut album came out, they broke the attendance record at Simpson's
club which had remained untouched for over a year by Jethro Tull. Tony had
made the right choice in returning to Sabbath it would seem. With an album
comes touring, and with touring comes America. America would have a great
impact on them as well. Ozzy has said that people would go around saying,
"if you go to San Francisco be sure to wear a flower in your hair". This
mystified him because he did not know what or where San Francisco was. When
the band eventually did tour America, it took them by storm. They had never
seen anything like it. They had their share of groupies and took in the
marvelous sights of America. They played one of their first shows at the
Fillmore East. Some old 8mm footage of their first trip overseas can be
seen on the commercial video, "The Black Sabbath Story - Volume 1". It must
be said, that on this particular videotape, Bill Ward the drummer relates
an interesting story: While playing in New York, the audience was still at
the stage where they would simply sit there and listen to the music. The
band wanted a stronger reaction from the audience since they were putting
150% effort into their songs. Ozzy would often yell at the audience to get
up and go crazy (as many bootlegs can attest to). At one particular show
they were growing fed up with the audience just sitting there and Bill
picked up his drum set and threw it at the audience. Bill says that as a
result, that night they did SEVEN encores. Can you think of any band in
today's scene which does seven encores? By the time they reached Los
Angeles, people had already heard about this "Black Sabbath".