The first thing I knew about Black Sabbath was the song Paranoid; as an avid fan of the Tour Of Duty soundtrack albums. I wasn’t sure if I liked the song or not – the voice was weird, the riff was relentless, but I did like the line about being called insane for frowning all the time.
I was about 12 years old.
A couple of years on I borrowed some albums from my uncle; he was cleaning out the storage and I found copies of Tubular Bells, Best Of Cream, Led Zeppelin III, Cosmo’s Factory and Pendulum – and an album called Paranoid by Black Sabbath.
I had been working my way through what was left of mum and dad’s vinyl collection; particularly looking for albums to play along to on my drum-kit. I had worn out a copy of Abbey Road, thrashed (along to) Band On The Run and The Cream Of Clapton and Frampton Comes Alive were hated around the neighbourhood.
So to Mike Oldfield, Cream, CCR, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath – some new material for me; plugging gaps in my parents’ record collection (they had foolishly started to give away their LPs, replacing them with CDs).
From the loan-LPs the one that absolutely blew me away was Paranoid; right from the start. The only song I knew was the title track (from Tour Of Duty III) – but as I struggled to open and close my hi-hat pedal in time with War Pigs the sound washed over me. I loved every inch of this record – instantly.
I loved the cover shot. I loved Planet Caravan with its weird vocals, mercurial guitar (cascading, mellifluous blues) and those bongos! I loved Iron Man with its frightening “I. Am. Iron. Man” robot-intro and that frightening riff; the stomp of the bass-drum, the crash of the snare and cymbals. I loved Electric Funeral; the guitar seeming like it was singing the riff – actually singing. I loved Hand Of Doom, the tinker and creep of the drums this time, building, building and then blasting behind the riff as the voice builds in intensity too. I loved Rat Salad; seeming like the impossible to a young, eager drummer. (I thought – and still think – it’s way better as a piece and as a solo than Led Zep’s Moby Dick). And I loved Fairies Wear Boots; again the drive behind this song, the drums, bass and guitar all pushing and probing – and again that voice.
Paranoid (the song) had been my (first) intro to Black Sabbath – but my proper introduction was Paranoid (the album).
And for many years I was pretty much just happy to listen to that. I loved it. I don’t know that a lot of my friends were listening to it – and I certainly didn’t try to push it on anyone; I just listened to it. And loved it.
And then someone gave me Heaven And Hell; I was told it was “a traitor album” because it did not have Ozzy Osbourne on vocals – it had a guy called Ronnie James Dio. I kinda liked the album. It wasn’t a patch on Paranoid but the creep and doom of Tony Iommi’s guitar was still there. And drummer Bill Ward still pulled out military/jazz-styled snare drum rolls in and around the stomping rock grooves.
But mostly I liked this album because I made a dubbed copy on a tape that was covered in a rough-cast of Twink-pen and tape; meaning that whenever I placed it in the stereo of my car it would jam and I had two options: I could listen to Heaven And Hell, or not (until a mechanic from dad’s work would fish it out for a breather).
I joined a band when I was in my final year of high-school; we learned the song Paranoid. I jammed with some other guys and we played N.I.B. – I knew this song because I had bought a split Black Sabbath/Judas Priest tape and this had given me N.I.B. and Changes. And also Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (another song I learned to play along to).
Paranoid (on CD) was the extent of my Sabbath collection for a long time. I picked up a double best-of a while after, but just kept going back to Paranoid.
And then, more recently, deluxe editions of the band’s self-titled debut, Paranoid and Master Of Reality were rolled out by Universal and a new, single-disc Greatest Hits. And then I grabbed Vol. 4 and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath).
I love the album Black Sabbath and bits of Master of Reality and all of the Ozzy albums in fact – but for me it’s still Paranoid that is the one.
What’s your favourite Black Sabbath album? What are your favourite songs? Did you like anything from the band after Ozzy left? Have you kept up with all the different versions and reformations? Or could you only tolerate them back in the day, at the time? Or were you never a fan?
(I say Paranoid is the one; but for me the best song is N.I.B. and the song Black Sabbath really is the beginning of Heavy Metal; that lingering, creepy riff. Fantastic!)