Friday's confirmation that the four founding members of Black Sabbath – Ozzy Osbourne, plus guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist "Geezer" Butler and drummer Bill Ward – are to play live again and even record a new album is right up there with this year's revelations that subatomic particles may be able travel faster than the speed of light and that despite trousering £250k a week Carlos Tevez could not be arsed to warm up.
Arch Brummies Sabbath don't give a toss about neutrinos and only Aston Villa fanatic Butler is really interested in football but what they do care and know about is heavy metal. It's not rocket science but despite what most would have you believe, it IS art. Moreover it's an art form that, despite citations for Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple – or, more sensibly, rival claims by supporters of blues rockers Cream or Americans Blue Cheer – they invented over two days spent in London's Trident Studios recording and mixing their eponymous debut album in November 1969. Trident is still there at the weird dog-leg in Soho's St Anne's Court alleyway. There's no blue plaque on the wall but there bloody well should be. And if, by now, you've never seen the mighty Black Sabbath you've now got just one last chance.
Okay, you may have been too young or simply too scared up to 1979 when, after six essential albums, Ozzy first left the band in the sort of drink- and drug-fuelled haze that the word "Herculean" may be inadequate to define. More likely you were doing something far cooler as the band upset quite a few of us by employing the late great Ronnie James Dio to stand at the (much shorter) mic-stand for the early ’80s. You may even have been laughing too much when Deep Purple's Ian Gillan took over for an album in tour in 1983-84 and you'd be forgiven for doing so.
In truth it got much worse after that as Iommi soldiered on with a succession of line-ups that did not justice to the legend of Black Sabbath, until the real deal came together again for two shows at the Birmingham NEC in 1998. Those were better than anyone dared hope (witness the double Reunion album) and that bodes well for dates that will be announced soon by a band who know they shall not pass this way again. As Iommi said at the press conference: "It's now or never for us..."
Sabbath are still important and will deliver a live show that will move even the most determined sceptic
It's also now or never for the curious. If you can beat the devotees and secure a ticket, it's a tour you should not miss. Time will have withered (more likely greyed) them slightly, but Sabbath are still important and will deliver a live show that will move even the most determined sceptic.
Ozzy's reputation as the band's frontman has long since been cemented by a hugely successful solo career. His legend has also, sadly, been re-written by his turn as the hapless star of his own reality TV show, The Osbournes. But never mind all that: in full flow the sound of Black Sabbath is a genuine force, a physical sensation that is the product of Ozzy's primal scream melded to three gifted musicians and not merely sensational amplification. (Though that certainly helps...) Ask any guitarist who has since searched for 11 on his amp. Listen to any drummer who plays like he has more than four arms. Or any bass player who has made himself heard above the combined cacophony of the other two.
Everyone now appreciates Zeppelin, has a soft spot for Motörhead, and probably owns Never Mind The Bollocks by the Sex Pistols and Nirvana's Nevermind... but Sabbath are as important as all those bands. Respect is long overdue.
Five killer Sabbath numbers (don't call them songs, that's just silly)
"Black Sabbath" (1970)
Sound effects of pissing rain, thunder, a bell tolling and a crashing doom-laden guitar riff that invented a genre.
The one song you WILL know. A staple of ’70s rock discos that still sounds great four decades on.
"War Pigs" (1970)
Geezer Butler's anti-war classic. Would have flushed out Colonel Gaddafi much quicker that any NATO bombing raid.
From the cocaine-fuelled fourth album, this takes off like a Saturn V.
"Symptom Of The Universe" (1975)
Quite possibly Tony Iommi's greatest ever riff but brilliant performances by all four of the Sabs.
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