Revisiting the surreal moment Black Sabbath performed ‘Paranoid’ on Top of the Pops in 1970
The year 1970 was well and truly Black Sabbath’s time. While their self-titled album came out in the February—which was met with phenomenal success for a debut record—it was the band’s second LP, Paranoid, which sent the Birmingham band into the stratosphere.
We are taking a look at their iconic performance of the title track from their second album, a time when Sabbath appeared on ‘Top Of The Pops’ in 1970 and made sure that everybody in Britain knew exactly who they were.
‘Paranoid’ is a barnstorming anthem which set Sabbath apart from the acts who were taking up attention in the mainstream. They felt., at this time, like the pioneering outsiders who were carving out their own unique sound rather than following trends, they were setting them.
For some context, Black Sabbath appearing on ‘Top Of The Pops’ was a moment that signalled that change was on the horizon, The other acts that they appeared alongside were the Australian doo-wop outfit The Delltones and American singer Oliver, who was best known for his soundtrack for the musical Hair.
It’s hard quite to imagine what it must have been like to have been a young adolescent sat at home watching Sabbath, a group of lads from the Midlands who looked and sounded like people you would know on a personal level. This was a stark contrast from The Delltones and Oliver who were these pristine figures that seemed whiter than white rather than the realness that radiated from Black Sabbath.
As you may presume from the song title, the track is about paranoia which is a feeling that they manage to create with the music thanks to the blistering guitar and bass that create nervousness in the listener that accompany Osbourne’s spellbinding vocals.
Bassist Geezer Butler, who wrote the lyrics, explained the meaning behind ‘Paranoid’ whilst in conversation to Mojo in 2013: “Basically, it’s just about depression because I didn’t really know the difference between depression and paranoia. It’s a drug thing; when you’re smoking a joint you get totally paranoid about people, you can’t relate to people. There’s that crossover between the paranoia you get when you’re smoking dope and the depression afterwards.”
Remarkably, despite being the title track for the band’s sophomore effort, it was actually originally an afterthought for the album that then became the lead single. Bill Ward said this of the track: “We didn’t have enough songs for the album, and Tony (Iommi) just played the guitar lick and that was it. It took twenty, twenty-five minutes from top to bottom.”
Sit back and enjoy Black Sabbath perform a blistering rendition of ‘Paranoid‘ in 1970 which proved that they were here to stay.