More Surprises in Store for Ward and Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath’s early days were marked by poverty. Singer Ozzy Osbourne, at one point, couldn’t even afford a pair of shoes. And any food the four had was shared equally among the band mates, remembers drummer Bill Ward. So, understandably, their appearance was somewhat shabby and rough. To say the four looked like street people wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

Musically, Sabbath’s voluminous riffs, punishing rhythms and eerie, macabre lyrics failed to make a good first impression with critics. Not at all sunny or uplifting, Sabbath in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s was more attuned to the dark side of humanity, unable to turn a blind eye to the horrors of the Vietnam War, mental illness or the breakdown of civilization. Theirs was an unrelentingly aggressive sound, massive and raging with an undisguised frustration, furious angst and equal sympathy for both angels and the devil that, perhaps, even outdid that of The Rolling Stones.

All this, as any good record label executive would tell you, is not exactly a formula for churning out hit records. But there was something about Sabbath that struck a chord with the disaffected, and their money was just as green as everybody else’s. Still, to drummer Bill Ward, the chart momentum Sabbath built with its self-titled debut and then, its masterwork, Paranoid, in 1970 was an absolute shock. And all of the success Sabbath has experienced since then has been no less surprising.
With a sense of bemusement and wonderment, Ward has taken all of it in. And so, the release of a “Classic Albums” series DVD, from Eagle Vision, on the making of the Paranoid LP is, again, one of those pleasant happenstances that keep filling Ward with pride and satisfaction over what Sabbath has accomplished.
“Well, I think it’s a nice surprise. It came as a surprise,” explains Ward. “I don’t have any expectations or leftover ideas of what Black Sabbath [can] do, other than possibly tour and make another album, which is always, of course, in my mind, as it is for all of us from time to time. So things [like this] are surprises, like [when] we were inducted into the [Rock And Roll] Hall Of Fame in New York. I kind of take it as it comes, and I tend to go with the ebb and flow of things that happen. So, you know, I’ve been enjoying it. It’s almost like receiving accolades after so many years of being involved [with Sabbath]. So in that sense, it’s been a very nice surprise.”
As for his thoughts on whether the documentary does a good in detailing the creation of an album that many believe drew up the blueprint for heavy metal, Ward was complimentary of its makers.
“I thought it was pretty good,” says Ward. “Yeah, I thought it was pretty good in the sense that it’s something different. For instance, I don’t think we’ve had an opportunity to see Black Sabbath quite like that before - you know, parts broken down. And it’s somewhat informal and yet very informative at the same time. So I think we’re joining the ranks of TV media (laughs). Finally, we’re getting there. So, in that sense, I think it’s quite good.”

And, in the end, a film like this that celebrates the often-maligned musical abilities and songcraft of Sabbath is confirmation that their critics had it all wrong from the start.

- Peter Lindblad

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