It’s easy to see how some Satanists might think that Black Sabbath would be open to their way of thinking, but when Ozzy Osbourne and his bandmates turned down the chance to perform at a special concert they were organising they put a curse on the group.
In 1970, Sabbath were at the beginning of their long road to super-stardom. Having released their self-titled debut as well as following it up with Paranoid, Ozzy and co. were well on their way. But while they were more concerned with white powder than black magic and the occult, the satanic admirers came thick and fast.
Osbourne recalled in his autobiography, I Am Ozzy, of one particular occasion where the band were asked to perform at Britain’s Druid Mecca, Stonehenge: “I couldn’t believe it when I learned that people actually ‘practiced [sic] the occult.’ These freaks with white make-up and black robes would come up to us after our gigs and invite us to black masses at Highgate Cemetery in London,” he said. “I’d say to them, ‘Look, mate, the only evil spirits I’m interested in are called whisky, vodka, and gin.”
He continued: “At one point we were invited by a group of Satanists to play at Stonehenge,” recalled Ozzy. But would the band submit to their apparent dark overlord? “We told them to f*ck off, so they said they’d put a curse on us. Britain even had a ‘chief witch’ in those days… Mind you, we did buy a Ouija board once and have a little seance. We scared the shit out of each other.”
It appears that it wasn’t a one-time incident, either, as the legendary Tony Iommi recalls another moment when the band had a brush with the devil, this time with a far more pleasing end. “One night, after finishing a show, we returned to the hotel and found the corridor leading to our rooms completely filled with people wearing black cloaks, sitting on the floor with candles in their hands, chanting, ‘Ahhhh.'”
He continued: “So we climbed over them to get to our rooms, but could still hear them chanting. We called security, but that didn’t work. So we synchronized our watches, opened our doors at the same time, blew the candles out and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to them. Pissed ’em off. They freaked—they were expecting us to help them conduct a Satanic mass and they got ‘Happy Birthday’ instead.”
While the band were never drawn into the message of the Satanists—or ever really dabbled in their practices aside from the odd animal sacrifice (bats beware)—Ozzy was perfectly aware of the ‘brand power’ they gave the band and how their interest in Sabbath allowed the band to grow exponentially.
Ozzy said: “The good thing about the satanic stuff was that it gave us endless free publicity. People couldn’t get enough of it. During its first day of release, [the band’s first album] Black Sabbath sold five thousand copies, and by the end of the year, it was on its way to selling a million worldwide.”
So the band may have turned down the chance to work with the Devil’s own army, they did have their prayers answered by the group who sent their record sales skyward with angel wings.