Black Sabbath: Two of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll

Black Sabbath
Origin: Birmingham, England
Genres: Heavy metal

Black Sabbath pioneered heavy metal music. Three albums -  Black Sabbath, Paranoid, and Master of Reality - defined the genre.

They're number 2 on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock" list, behind Led Zeppelin. Rolling Stone magazine  counts  Sabbath as number 85 of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time."

A 2011 Rolling Stone reader's poll voted the band number 3 of the "Top 10 Metal Bands of All Time."  Two of their songs, "Paranoid" and "Iron Man," are on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll."

Black Sabbath 1970
Black Sabbath 1970

Guitarist Tony Iommi, drummer Bill Ward, bassist Geezer Butler, and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne formed Black Sabbath in 1968. They were from Birmingham, England. The band rehearsed blues covers across from a movie theater. They noticed people's enjoyment of horror movies and set out to re-create that in their music. 

Sabbath's first original songs were dark and menacing. Using the intervals between notes to create a tense, almost evil sound. Lyricist Geezer Butler  wrote a song called "Black Sabbath." He named it after a  Satanic ritual described in Dennis Wheatley's novel, The Devil Rides Out. The band recorded the track for their self-titled debut album and adopted the title as their name. They played up the demonic angle. It was an act. 

Single: Black Sabbath
Album: Paranoid
B-side: The Wizard
Released: August 7, 1970
Genre: Heavy metal, proto-punk
Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, 
Ozzy Osbourne, Bill Ward

The title track of Black Sabbath's Paranoid album was its lead single. "The Wizard," a song from their first album, was the B-side. The band wanted to name the album "War Pigs" after another track on LP. The record company made them use "Paranoid" because it was less offensive. But album art is a literal interpretation of a "War Pig."
The song "Paranoid" was written as an afterthought. 
We basically needed a 3 minute filler for the album. 
Geezer Butler from Guitar World magazine March 2004
"Paranoid" hit number 4 on the UK Singles Chart and 61 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Although they never charted again in the UK Top 10, album and ticket sales made up for it. Like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, they put little emphasis on singles. "Paranoid" is number 34 on VH1's "40 Greatest Metal Songs." Rolling Stone counted it number 250 on their 2004 list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."

Ozzy Osbourne at the Regent Sounds Studios during the recording of Paranoid, 1970
Ozzy Osbourne at the Regent Sounds Studios
during the recording of Paranoid, 1970

"Paranoid" is about a man who is paranoid. A driving guitar and bass create nervous energy to accompany Ozzy Osbourne's desperate vocals. It's a fan favorite but not a band favorite. Tony Iommi told Songfacts: "The song was  a filler for the album - it was never intended on being anything else." 

Iron Man
Single: Black Sabbath
Album: Paranoid
B-side: Electric Funeral
Released: October 1971 
Genre: Heavy metal
Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, 
Geezer Butler, Bill Ward

At Number 52, "Iron Man" was Black Sabbath's highest-charting Billboard Hot 100 single. VH1 ranked the song as the most excellent heavy metal song. In 2004, it was Rolling Stone's number 317 of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. 

After "Paranoid," Black Sabbath waited two years before releasing their next single. They didn't want kids coming to their shows just to hear their hits. This also boosted Paranoid album sales. The follow-up was "Iron Man," a landmark in the heavy metal genre. With a massive guitar riff and apocalyptic lyrics, it influenced every metal band that followed.

Ozzy Osbourne at the Regent Sounds Studios during the recording of Paranoid, 1970
Ozzy Osbourne at the Regent Sounds Studios
during the recording of Paranoid, 1970
The lyric describes a man who travels through time and sees the world's end. On returning to Earth to warn the human race, he became iron in a magnetic storm. Nobody believes him about the end of the world. He gets angry, takes his rage out on the human race, and brings about the end of the world he saw.


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