Geezer Butler grew up in Birmingham following the Second World War, a time when his hometown had been bombed to pieces, in what was a grey and mundane upbringing — before music entered his life, that is.
It’s strange for someone from a Catholic background to become obsessed with Satanic imagery, which is idiosyncratic with his band, Black Sabbath. But as a teenager, Butler began to discover who he truly was by leaving religion behind, and music started to take over.
Initially, The Beatles were his first introduction to rock ‘n’ roll, and as soon as he got a taste for it, Butler became hungry for more. He began playing the guitar in bands when he was around 13, but after attending a concert, Butler realised it wasn’t the instrument for him anymore, and he needed to play the bass.
Jack Bruce from Cream first made him understand what was possible on the bass and persuaded him to try to learn the instrument. He watched the supergroup three times during their short time together, and according to Butler, nobody has ever played it better than Bruce.
“I hadn’t thought about playing bass until then, so fingerstyle was the only way to go for me,” Butler said about the impact of Bruce on his playing style and his decision to play the instrument.
Adding: “I do sometimes use a pick, and I’ve had to resort to playing with a pick on some gigs when the blisters on my fingers have just popped and it was too painful to play fingerstyle. On some solo songs that were hideously fast, like House of Clouds, I used a pick for better clarity.”
In a separate interview, he elaborated on his musical upbringing and how Bruce transformed his life. Butler explained: “Yeah, and The Beatles. I had three brothers who were into Elvis and Buddy Holly. My sisters were into Cliff,” he said, adding: “I didn’t have something that was my own and then The Beatles came along. I was like, ‘Yes, thank you!’ My hero was John Lennon so I learned rhythm guitar, but then Cream came along and Jack Bruce’s style of bass playing blew me away.”
Understandably, after Bruce died in 2014, Butler was beside himself and poignantly paid tribute to the Cream founder on Twitter. He wrote: “So sad to hear of Jack Bruce passing. My biggest influence and favourite bass player. Thank you, Jack. RIP.”
Before joining Sabbath, Butler had never played bass, and Bruce convinced him to leave his trusted six-string behind. It was the best decision he ever made, and he’ll forever be thankful for the Cream bassist guiding him to the light.