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Article 41

Rock On

Black Sabbath

(Published in Times of India, Pune on 13th April, 2002)


R ock Music has been divided into different categories in order to encompass the different hues it takes on as it embraces various influences. You have Hard Rock, Blues Rock, Country Rock, Southern Rock, Soft Rock etc. There are often numerous discussions among passionate Rock fans as to the varied qualities their favorite category possesses. Normally, of course, people stay with the music that they have grown up with and often complain that the music of today just does not cut it, very much like their parents did! One form of Rock Music that however continues to remain the domain of the youth is Heavy Metal and one of its pioneers and foremost exponents, who had perfected this genre to the T, is the quintessential quartet from Birmingham, England, BLACK SABBATH

As kids, we were introduced to Black Sabbath through their seventies hit, "Paranoid". The song had a dark throbbing intensity and a sound that was different from anything we had heard before. The use of minimum instrumentation and Ozzy Osbourne's wild vocals and deadpan earnestness gave the listeners an unusual high. It was Rock at its most elementary! Black Sabbath used horror movie imagery and many of Sabbath's songs dealt with alternative beliefs and practices touched upon in occult writer Dennis Wheatley's novels. It's no wonder that Rock was often labeled by religious zealots as the language of the devil! Of course it was only showbiz at its macabre best and Black Sabbath soon acquired a huge fan club that followed their every move.

The band was to see numerous personnel changes through the years and some its members comprised the Who's Who of British Rock. Rick Wakeman, keyboard player extraordinaire of 'Yes' was in the band for the album "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" but by January 1979, excessive alcohol and substance abuse resulted in Ozzy being fired from the band. Sadly, along with him went the pop hooks that Ozzy loved so much and Black Sabbath began losing their mass appeal.

Ozzy, in the meantime, launched a very successful solo career that would yield many multi platinum albums and sold out concert tours. The former butcher and thief (he spent many weeks in English prisons where he spend the time carving his now famous tattoos on himself) was famous for his eccentric ways. However, it was the bat-biting incident that guaranteed his place in the history of Rock & Roll trivia. At a concert in Des Moines, Iowa someone threw a bat on stage and stunned by the light, the bat lay motionless. Ozzy thinking it was plastic, picked it up and bit the head off. The bat then started to flap his wings and Ozzy soon realized that it wasn't fake! After the show, Ozzy was immediately rushed to the hospital for rabies shots and Ozzy has described this incident as "one of the most horrible, painful experiences of my life."

This was just one of the many bizarre incidents in Ozzy's life (the attempted murder of his wife and urinating on the Alamo are some of others!) and they have served to make him one of Rock& Roll's most colorful characters. Today, Ozzy has joined the mainstream and was honored this Friday, 12th April by a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The docu-drama, "The Osbournes," based on his life is the highest rating show MTV has ever produced and he is an active member of PETA, the animal rights organization along with Pamela Anderson, Janet Jackson, Kid Rock, and Christina Aguilera. Surely a long way to have traveled for a man who would catapult meat (and other leftovers from butcher shops such as stomachs and intestines) at his audience as a part of his live act!

Black Sabbath, devoid of the Pop pretensions of Osbourne, continued their musical journey with numerous personnel changes and musical experiments. The music had begun losing its focus even before Osbourne's departure and even though the vocal seat was occupied by some of the finest talents of the British Rock scene, it was downhill for this band for some time. Vocalists of the stature of Ronnie James Dio (Rainbow), Ian Gillen (Deep Purple), Glenn Hughes (Trapeze, Deep Purple) etc. were part of this band at some point in its hallowed history, as it tried desperately to find the magic formula. Unfortunately, most of Sabbath's latter albums sound unpleasantly similar to the cut-rate metal that they have inspired.

It took the return of Ozzy to bring back the glory to this British Band again. In the summer of '97, the original Black Sabbath, including Osbourne, regrouped for Osbourne's Ozzfest tour and the shows were recorded for posterity. The band released their live reunion album featuring two new studio tracks in October 1998. Simply titled "Reunion", it debuted at number 11 on the Billboard album chart. The fans had welcomed Black Sabbath back with a vengeance and once again, their heavy, doom-laden sound thundered across the airwaves of the world.

Rock on!

Nandu Bhende

http://nandu_bhende.tripod.com


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