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Posts Tagged ‘Ozzy Osbourne’


I was not a Black Sabbath fan. I heard some of their songs on the radio but didn’t buy any of their albums. Then Ozzy was kicked out of the band for his substance abuse. That was ironic since the whole band at the time had substance abuse issues.

A blurred photograph of a man wearing a helmet and sash and brandishing a sword with the title of the album and artist written in the backgroundBut Ozzy began a solo career and his first two albums featured Randy Rhodes. I owned those records and played them often. After Rhode’s untimely death in an airplane accident they released the Tribute live album. Among the songs on that album were some Black Sabbath standards found on Paranoid. I finally took the dive and bought the album. I was not disappointed.

I’m not sure why this didn’t turn into more of Sabbath’s albums. This is even more surprising since former Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio took over for Ozzy. That seemed like a no brainerh but who knows why we do all we do. But when Ian Gillan left his own band to join Black Sabbath before the Deep Purple reunion, I bought that album- Born Again. After I became a Christian, that album seemed to freak me out at points.

Back to high school…. in those days they made us cover our textbooks. We used paper bags cut to fit the books. This was before we decided that paper bags were not environmentally friendly. One one of life’s great inexplicable ironies they were replaced with small plastic bags which were obviously made using oil, didn’t hold much and tore when the wind blew. Much more environmentally friendly.

Those paper book covers were begging to be drawn on. Mine were covered with band logos, like Van Halen’s. It was also covered with song lyrics. Paranoid  made the cover. As a high school outsider it resonated with me.

Like Led Zeppelin, Sabbath (named for the Boris Karloff movie, not Satanic devotion) released its first two albums in less than a year. The first, Black Sabbath, was recorded in a 12-hour recording session on one day according to guitarist Tony Iommi. It was released on February 13, 1970. While the critics didn’t appreciate it, the record-buying public did. Based on its success, they re-entered the studio in June. The album would be released in September 1970. Two albums in 7 months!

Iommi was the man behind the riffs with most of the songs for the album coming together during improvisational jams. Then bassist Geezer Butler would work on the lyrics and Ozzy on melody (I’m still not sure how that works for a Black Sabbath song).

Their songs were heavy, helping to trigger heavy metal. But when you listen you hear elements of jazz at times. Iommi is a fan of jazz great Djano Reinhardt’s guitar playing which provides an influence. Some songs have the feel of classical pieces with the different movements common in progressive rock.

The album begins with War Pigs which was originally called Walpurgis, the Satanic version of Christmas. For Butler, the real Satanic force was the warmongers. The song is not a celebration of Satan, but an anti-war song. As the generals pursue war, “Satan laughs, speads his wings.” This song was initially going to be the title song. It did become one of their standard songs, however.

The opening notes of War Pigs reveal the “heaviness” of the album: they are deep, full of bass. Then the siren kicks in before the music slows.

“Generals gather at their masses

like witches at black masses

evil minds that plot destruction

sorcerers of death’s construction”

The music repeatedly changes time like ebbs and flows. But with a dark subject matter lots of bass and Ward’s destruction of the drum kit with his often frenetic playing this is one of the original heavy metal albums. Butler’s bass is not plodding at all but fully match for Iommi’s guitar and Ward’s drumming. The song includes the politicians in its indictment for the plague of war. They draw pictures of the destruction and the cries for mercy from the war pigs before the God of judgment. This classic song with all its musical twists and turns takes up the first 8 minutes of the record.

Paranoid was one of the last songs written but shows up second on the album. They didn’t have enough material and needed to write more. Iommi played a riff they liked and they claim it took about 25 minutes to pull together. Butler put together some lyrics and the song was done is about 2 hours. It barely exceeds 2 minutes.

Butler says it was about depression, which he experienced as paranoia partially due to the effects of his pot smoking. Butler thought the song was too much like Zeppelin’s Communication Breakdown. They both have riffs reminiscent of a fast moving steam locomotive. The studio saw potential in Paranoid as a single and decided to name the album after it even though the album art had already been completed. In this case, their instincts instead of Butler’s were right as the song became their highest charting single and a classic rock radio staple.

The riff. like Communication Breadown, sets the pace for too many later metal riffs. It can be repetitive. Which isn’t bad when you are an originator, and the song is short (in both cases). The solo is not repetitive, but rather quite good.

Planet Caravan is a gigantic shift. It starts with bongo drums and bass, sounding more like psychedelic rock. Ozzy’s vocals are muted, almost gently crooning about some voyage among the planets. Iommi’s guitar is mostly in the background, including his solo. Suddenly piano appears during that solo as the bongos continue to set the stage. It is a very weird sort of song, but it works, somehow, in between the two heavier songs.

Iron Man was not the original name of this heavy metal song with progressive elements. Thankfully it did not remain Iron Bloke. That title was their response to the plodding riff. Ozzy noted it sounded like a guy walking in an iron suit. Butler says it is about a man who travels to the future and sees the apocalypse. When he returns he’s rendered mute, unable to warn people about the impending destruction of the world. The magnetic field turns him into steel. He is mocked, grows angry and brings about the destruction he saw. Maybe it was the drugs that prompted this song’s story line. But the music is a monster.

In addition to the main riff, there is Ward’s drumming filled with rolls and cymbal crashes. He’s a heavier version of Keith Moon. Like Paranoid it is a song of isolation and fear.

Then the music shifts. The guitar fades despite a solo with focus on bass and drums with the time shift before a return to the dominance of the guitar and the main riff. After the final verse the time shifts back to the beginning with the groaning guitar and another soul while the drums and bass are all over the map. There is a second guitar line in the background (is my mp3 ruining it???).

Electric Funeral begins with another heavy riff. Ozzy’s vocals seem to have some echo on them. As a teen I remember reading The Fate of the Earth. This song, in part, is about the effects of thermonuclear war with numerous references to radiation. But there are also the robots. The music explodes during the musical break. The music shifts again as Ozzy’s vocals speed up the pace. Then the odd chant of “electric funeral” by one of the band members. The final verse, like War Pigs, focuses on a coming judgment. In Sabbath’s universe, there is a moral code. War is one of the big no-nos, and for good reason.

Hand of Doom was about the results of the Vietnam War. Some of the soldiers returned addicted to heroin. They became aware of this after playing at two U.S. bases. This is one of the ironies of rock bands. They basically do an anti-drug song but abuse drugs. Other drugs, granted. Maybe there is a pecking order of drugs so heroin users are near the bottom. I don’t know.

The music is subdued at first. It has a bit of a jazz feel mixed with San Fran flower rock. And then the vibe amps up. Instead of the mass effects of war on the civilian population, this is the effects on the soldiers who wage it.

My, how they’ve aged.

But the music shifts for a bridge that doesn’t quite seem to fit. The same with the lyrics. There is a questioning of how the soldiers could this. Is he referring to the waging of war or doing of the drugs? This is probably my least favorite song on the album at this point. But it returns to the style of the earlier section which was more interesting, as the soldier dies from a drug overdose.

Rat Salad is an instrumental derived from Ward’s drum solos in concert. When they started they didn’t have many songs so they had to fill numerous sets at a venue with long improvised sections.

Don’t worry, there is plenty of guitar on this short song. And then Ward will go into extended rolls. Then around 1:20 they all drop off so Bill can play a solo for about 40 seconds. It is a great little piece of music that changes the pace a bit in a good way.

Fairies Wear Boots has lyrics by Ozzy based on one of his experiences (Wikipedia). But Genius attributes it to Butler He had an encounter with some skinheads that didn’t go well. Well, the band apparently

There used to be fighting all the time. I used to be a football [soccer] fan—well, I still am—and I’d go down to watch the [Aston] Villa [Football Club]. I had long hair at the time. Then this one day, the skinheads, or hooligans, turned on the people with long hair, even though we were fans too. So after that, I couldn’t go down there. This other time we did this gig in the seaside town of Weston-super-Mare [in North Somerset, England], and we had a fight with all these skinheads. I think that’s where the lyrics for “Fairies Wear Boots” came from.

It begins with drum rolls and a guitar solo before finally settling in to the odd lyrics. At the end the doctor attributes all this to his smokin’ and trippin’. Did this encounter happen? It likely did, but they are mocking the skin heads as we see a bit more of their sometimes twisted moral compass (everyone has one).

In one of life’s twists, in 2017 Iommi worked on a choral piece based on Psalm 133.

A few years ago the Classic Albums series was on Netflix. The episode on Paranoid is very interesting and informative. If you can find it, it is worth watching. Here is the trailer, but Eagle Rock hates America and the series isn’t available on YouTube here.

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Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church cover image

Peter Hubbard, like Jesus, is not content for us to merely be gracious to homosexuals in Love Into Light. He’s not content to change the climate in the church regarding people who struggle with same sex attraction (SSA). He wants repentant, believing strugglers to be a focus of outreach and part of our community.

This doesn’t happen accidentally. We need to be wise in how we live in community and go about outreach. In talking about community, he starts with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which is a pretty good place to start. Community is important, essential, but it can often be idolatrous too.

“The one who pursues community to escape loneliness is trying to escape from himself.”

I’ve seen that happen. I’ve experienced that to an extent. We just experience the loneliness, and don’t really understand what is going on in the heart. We should not forget that we are made in the image of God, however. As a result, we were made for relationship; for community. God is the eternal community of Father, Son & Spirit living in loving harmony. We were made for that. We also recognize that each person within the Godhead is differentiated. They have a sense of self. Loneliness can be a sign that we don’t have a strong sense of self, or enjoy being by ourselves.

“So in one sense we don’t need each other (God is enough). Yet in another sense we desperately need each other (He reveals Himself to us in community).”

Many people in the church who struggle with SSA often agonize alone. They fear rejection, if people knew. They need the acceptance of the group, and the group needs their honesty. This is a hindrance to community if there are any sins that are kept private. We don’t let anyone into our hearts and are … alone.

He relates how his congregation had a frank discussion of homosexuality. It prompted one member to think more deeply about their sin, and how it was “natural” to them- meaning they had a predisposition to anxiety.

“I”m being challenged to realize that we all may have something in our ‘nature’ that is sin, and we cannot choose to condone our own sin, even though we have a propensity for it. He have to fight against it as the Holy Spirit frees us from it.”

Community deepens as we recognize this fact about ourselves. If we do, we see that while their sin is different in the details, it is not different in kind. If worry is 2nd nature to you, a life-dominating sin, you can understand what it would be like to continually be attracted to the same sex. Just try for a second to consider what it would be like to know that your very attractions are wrong. Every day presents numerous opportunities to stumble in your heart. Of course, even heterosexuals face this as our hearts are tempted to move beyond fidelity, lusting for our neighbor’s spouse or a single person.

(more…)

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