Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series “Halloween Weekend Edition,”where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore tunes from the 60’s to today. Enjoy the trip! 🎃
Black Sabbath – ‘Black Sabbath’
Inspired by a personal experience bassist Geezer Butler had while obsessed with the occult, Black Sabbath’s ‘Black Sabbath’ – which, surprise surprise, comes from the album Black Sabbath – might be the most sinister song the Birmingham quartet ever made. In addition to Butler’s chilling lyrics of his experience with a Faustian figure, the main riff of the track makes prominent use of an inverted tritone – an interval often associated with Satan – and of course, that chiming bell will make anything sound far more terrifying than it should be.
This is the song that became the name of the band. They were playing clubs in Germany and using the name “Earth” when they realized another band had the same name. “Black Sabbath” was lifted from the title of a 1963 horror movie starring Boris Karloff that was directed by the Italian filmmaker Mario Bava.
The name change coincided with a new sound and image for the group. They had been playing blues (mostly covers), but started writing more original material and found a darker, heavier sound that defined them throughout their Hall of Fame career. Eschewing anything resembling R&B or psychedelia, they found a fan base hungry for something fiendish and new. Critics derided the band, but they quickly became one of the most popular and enduring acts of their time.
From Black Sabbath: The Ozzy Osbourne Years: “While rehearsing new material, the band formerly known as Earth experienced a supernatural experience. Geezer and Tony were playing new riffs for Ozzy and Bill when, much to everyone’s surprise, they both strummed the same notes at the same tempo – although neither had ever before heard the other one play the piece! Convinced that this was an omen, Geezer christened the song and the group Black Sabbath (after the movie).”
Tony Iommi on “Black Sabbath”: “We knew we had something; you could feel it, the hairs stood up on your arms, it just felt so different. We didn’t know what it was, but we liked it.” “Everybody started putting bits to it and afterwards we thought it was amazing. Really strange, but good. We were all shocked, but we knew that we had something there.”
During a July 2001 interview with Geezer Butler, Guitar World magazine explained that “having borrowed a 16th century tome of black magic from Osbourne one afternoon, Butler awoke that night to find a black shape staring balefully at him from the foot of his bed. After a few frightening moments, the figure slowly vanished into thin air.” Geezer continued to describe how he “told Ozzy about it. It stuck in his mind, and when we started playing ‘Black Sabbath’, he just came out with those lyrics. It had to come out, and it eventually did in that song – and then there was only one possible name for the band, really!”
Ozzy Osbourne says it was “Halloween every night” when Black Sabbath played the title track to their 1970 debut album live in their early days. It led off their self-titled 1970 debut album – and Ozzy says without that song, he wouldn’t have been given his famous nickname.
Ozzy said in an interview, “When we started gigging way back when, as soon as we started playing this song’s opening chords, young girls in the audience would fucking freak out. They thought we were Satan’s fucking friends or something.
“That’s when the whole Prince Of Darkness shit started. When people get excited about Halloween coming around each year, all I think is, ‘Well, we used to have Halloween every fucking night.’”
Type O Negative covered this, but changed the lyrics so that the song is from Satan’s point of view. The song was called “Black Sabbath (from The Satanic Perspective).” It was on the albums Nativity in Black: Tribute To Black Sabbath and Type O Negative’s The Least Worst of Type O Negative.
Geezer Butler told Jam! Music that this was his favorite cover of a Sabbath song. Said the bassist: “That was outstanding. They definitely got the spirit of that song.”
Black Sabbath: “Black Sabbath,” Release Date: 13 February 1970