Beginning in the industrial neighborhood of Birmingham, England, in 1968, John “Ozzy” Osbourne posted an ad about needing a band to sing for. Friends Bill Ward and Tony Iommi, who had already been playing together, decided to give a go with the singer who Iommi used to pick on when they were school boys. With the addition of Osbourne’ s friend bassist Geezer Butler, the band Earth was formed.
After getting some gigs, mainly playing blues covers, Butler, the band’s main lyricist, took inspiration from a Boris Karloff movie, and the fascination of people willingness to be scared, the band changed their name and Black Sabbath was born. The original line up played for a decade together until Osbourne was abruptly fired, and the line-up changed several times over the next 35 years, with Iommi being the only constant throughout.
Dubbed the Godfathers of Heavy Metal, Black Sabbath has been cited as pioneering the modern metal sound and have influenced thousands of bands since its inception. Although Black Sabbath did reunite for a reunion tour with Osbourne in 1997, and did subsequent Ozzfests, it wasn’t until 35 years after Osbourne was fired that the original line-up sans Bill Ward recorded the album 13, and supported it with a year and a half long world tour.
With the rumor that the band’s show on July 4 at Hyde Park could very well be their last, we look at the first eight albums with Ozzy Osbourne for our Top 10 Black Sabbath songs of that era.
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10. “Fairies Wear Boots” – Paranoid
Admittedly, a Top 10 of Sabbath songs could include all 8 songs from Paranoid, so that’s where we start off, with the first of a few from the iconic album. The last song on the album, “Fairies Wear Boots” builds slowly, with a complete intro with Iommi’s slow guitar playing catapulting the listener into something completely different setting that is the body of the song.
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9. “Symptom of the Universe” – Sabotage
With a chugging riff throughout, “Symptom of the Universe” hits you at every angle, showcasing every instrument. Ozzy’s wails and delivery are infectious, audially giving you his famous leap at every section. The 1975 album Sabotage was noted as one of Black Sabbath’s best albums, in a close second to Paranoid.
8. “Children of the Grave” – Master of Reality
Master of Reality, critically panned at the time, gave us classics “Sweet Leaf”, “Into The Void”, and “Children of the Grave”. “Children of the Grave” is just pure excitement, with a heavy but flowing groove throughout, with one of Iommi’s most classic guitar solos.
7. “Snowblind” Vol. 4
Heavy is probably the best word to describe Vol. 4’s “Snowblind”. The cocaine-laced classic showcases everything Black Sabbath, from the hard hitting groove throughout to Iommi’s thunderous riff and solo, giving room for Ozzy’s vocal to breathe during the bridge. “Snowblind” is a true testament to their songwriting ability.
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6. “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
The album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is revered as an essential album in the Black Sabbath collection, and really a part in the band’s history where their songwriting approach changed, adding synthesizers, strings, and complex arrangements. The title track is no exception to being a stand-out in the band’s catalog, mixing the normal hard rocking riffs with melodic acoustic parts as well.
5. “N.I.B.” Black Sabbath
“N.I.B.” fueled part of the misconception that Black Sabbath were devil worshippers, considering the song is from the point of view from Lucifer himself. Although, like several Sabbath songs, it is a love song, about Lucifer becoming a good person because he fell in love.
4. “War Pigs” Paranoid
“War Pigs” started our three-song run of Paranoid classics, and could really be interchangeable in order depending on the day or just your mood. The anti-war song speaks out against the horrors of war through the desire of a man who wants to kill and destroy. The classic is also one of the most covered song, from several different bands of different genres including Faith No More, Ozzy’s former guitarist Zakk Wylde, to psychedelic band Phish, and southern tinged Gov’t Mule. The remix of the end song to the album Paranoid was most recently used in a TV spot for 300: Rise of an Empire.
3. “Iron Man” – Paranoid
With its tuned down guitar and sliding power chord, “Iron Man” quite possibly has the most classic metal riff of all time. Simply and ferociously monotone throughout much of the song, when the song speeds up at the end it is now doubt that Black Sabbath are true master of their craft, and everyone else are just imitators.
2. “Paranoid” – Paranoid
A staple at any Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne show, usually serving as the closer, “Paranoid” is a head-banging, groove oriented fest to anyone’s ears. Surprisingly, this almost didn’t even make it onto the album, originally to have the title track be “War Pigs”, but studio heads told the band the album didn’t have enough songs on it. Within half an hour, this classic was born.
1. “Black Sabbath” – Black Sabbath
No one can really argue (although I’m sure some will) the song “Black Sabbath” is their most monstrously epic song out there. With quick hammer-on opening riff, then a slow, demonic, beast crawling through the verses, and foot stomping bridge and coda, it was destiny that the title track to the self-titled debut would be iconic, and live forever.