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.