Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Checked Drawers of Destiny

What's your favourite Black Sabbath album? Don't be coy now, I can't imagine that anyone who comes by this blog doesn't have a favourite Sabbath record. Me, I sometimes lean towards Paranoid, but if push comes to shove I'll probably choose the last decent album they made with Ozzy: Sabotage.

In the same way that Ozzy Osbourne is now famous for advertising World of Warcraft and yelling "Shaaaaron!", Sabotage these days is probably best known for appearing on Worst Album Cover of All Time Lists, rubbing shoulders with dodgy country and hip hop records. I've always thought that bands should be able to change or update album covers when they're reissued, in the same way that paperback books are (I'm sure Blind Faith would agree with this idea). Perhaps then, Sabotage would be looked at differently. Which it deserves to be, because it's a remarkable record.

It's remarkable because it's mental. It was made after Sabbath learned that they had been swindled out of heaps of cash due to dodgy deals and that despite having sold millions of records they were poor as church mice. Well, maybe not church mice. Agnostic mice. You know what I mean. Anyway, the resulting album is the Black Sabbath album that really should be called Paranoid. Songs display wild mood swings, gonzoid riffs one minute, chilled out hippy stuff the next: Symptom of the Universe, Thrill of it All, The Writ, none of these were taking their tablets according to the prescription. Sabbath were never really there for the nice things in life, but they never made anything else quite as angry and paranoid as Sabotage. The album is characterised by a furious and impotent anger at their problems, like Caliban raging at his reflection in the water. It's bloody brilliant. 

And then they got rubbish. Their next album, Technical Ecstasy, is awful. Full of songs with titles (Rock & Roll Doctor, Dirty Women, Gypsy) that even Whitesnake would have thought twice about. They never recovered.

Footnote: You know that little piece of music "Blow on a jug" that they tagged on to the end of the album? Well, I have to confess that when I first heard I wondered if it was really part of the record or if their record company had pressed the album on top of another one. My 13 year old self hadn't really figured out the whole record making process. To be fair to him, the record was the reissue on the cheap-as-chips NEMS label. Anything was possible with that crowd.


  1. My favourite Sabbath album is Mob Rules! SHOCK HORROR!!! Full to overflowing with classics and the addition of the legendary DIO!!!

    Ozzy era Sabs would be Master of Reality! 1st Sabbath album I ever bought with possibly the worst cover of all time apart from the ghastly Paranoid cover!

    I suspect Lost-Jimbo wont be too happy with your negative thoughts on Technical Ecstacy. I know he rates Dirty Women as a classic rock track!(as do I)

  2. They never did do particularly good covers though, did they (Paranoid, Master of Reality, and, ugh, Born Again are all rank)? Apart from the debut.

    My favourite album of theirs apart from The Best of Black Sabbath? I'll say Volume 4 as that's the one I played tons one summer on my Walkman.

  3. DF,
    You can't have a Dio one as your favourite Sabbath record! Harrumph!
    I really like Master of Reality too, even though there's only six songs on the album. they tagged on those two short instrumentals to make it look as though there's eight, but they're not fooling Old Thumper.

    There's actually a good inverse correlation between the quality of the covers of the Ozzy albums and the quality of the music inside. i must blog about it sometime.

    Vol 4 is great of course. It was the first of their "cocaine albums". Of course, they thank the "great COKE-Cola company of Los Angeles" on the sleeve and Ozzy whispers the word "cocaine" over Snowblind. You know, just in case you thought it was about Arctic exploration.

  4. Crikeys where to start!

    First of as for 'classic' era Sabs I am torn between just about every album short of the final two. But if it is for sheer bloody wonder I'd like to think I'm going for Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Sabotage - the tracks Sympton of the Universe and Megalomania make the album. But no for me it is the debut release that just edges it, the bluesy jazz dirge and the first real doom laden sounds ever to blight this dear earth - things, Thumper, were never quite the same again.

    Death Face is right, for me I just love the insane Iommi riffery of Dirty Women on Technical Ecstacy. The LP fails against what went before but I do like Gypsy and the title track too, but it is clear too many chemicals were getting in the way of creativity at this stage and well it just went so wrong with Never Say Die which is all bollocks except for Junior's Eyes which always made me greet like a sobbing greeting type person.

    And finally I have said this before and I will say it again that Geezer Butler chappie wrote lyrics that would put the best poet to shame; I still want the words of Supernaut on my gravestone "I've seen the Future, And I've left it behind"
    Oh the irony of it.

  5. Now we've all gone digital with our shuffletastic pods, it probably means that none of us listen to the 'great' albums anymore. My Sabs Best Of won't be the same as yours (or anyone elses for that matter); and I'll put money on the fact that even on yours you'll constantly fast forward it. Am I right? I'm not wrong. Alright then, Volume 4. ShaRUN!

  6. Jimmy,
    It's a fair point, the first six are all great really, (though "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" treads water a bit). The thing I like about the first album is that it's the "anti-hippy" album. There is nothing Peace & Love about it, and as you say, it all started there. As for Technical Ecstasy, well I like about 30 seconds of "Dirty Women" (you'll know the bit I mean). As for the rest ... hmmm.

    I still like to listen to albums, but obviously I don't have as much time to do so as I did when I was a teenager. In fact, when I think about it, I must have spent colossal amounts of time listening to records when I was a teenager, given that I can even now remember the lyrics to most of the songs on duff old clunkers like "Stormbringer". Stormbringer!

    That Sabbath / Zeppelin thing is very good. Mondo linked to this video on his blog recently. I think it might be better than the original.

    *is struck by lightning*

  7. You recall the lyrics of Stormbringer!?
    I don't know whether to applaud or throw something at you...

  8. Tell me gypsy, can you see me, in your crystal ball / I'm asking you, what can I do, my back's against the wall ...

    *dodges flying fruit*

  9. John, the Sabbath/Zep mAsHUp is excellent and is now featured on my own rather meagre bLog @

  10. Thumper! Dio ERA Sabbath was amazing, Heaven and Hell blew me away although it was more Rainbow than Sabbath...but then came the EPIC Mob Rules which was absolute magic an featured the classic Country Girl, yet another Evil Woman type track penned by the Elf ;-)

    PS. RoTTen tOMato x 13

  11. Yes Deathly one, there is nothing wrong with the post-Ozzy era either. I'm not one of those who felt restrained from straddling the two 'genres' of Sabbath. Who could not love the breathtaking speed of Neon Knights or the cataclysmic Falling Off The Edge Of World...


  13. S'easy. Top three Sabbath albusm are;

    1) Heaven n' Hell
    2) Mob Rules
    3) Seventh Star

    Then every album ever done by a lineup of Sabbath that didn't have Ozzy, apart from Born Again, which is rank.

    Then the Ozzy albums, starting with Sabotage, but not including Never Say Die, which I refuse to acknowledge.

  14. Oooh someone doesn't like Ozzy.

    Do you really think that "Tyr" has a better collection of songs than "Paranoid"?

  15. Yes.

    Tyr rocks.

    Anno Mundi (the vision)
    The Sabbath Stones
    The Battle of Tyr
    Odin's Court
    even Feels Good to Me

    For sure, the Forbidden album is a bit rank, but not as mouldy and smelly as Ozzy.