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Music

How John Lennon inspired Black Sabbath

@TomTaylorFO

These days it’s hard to place the impact of The Beatles. In retrospect, their influence seems so gargantuan that it has acquired a sort of fictional façade, but that’s simply because something so biblical seems difficult to fathom in today’s watered-down Global Village. 

The overnight hold they acquired on pop-culture is perhaps best described by Ozzy Osbourne when he told Blabbermouth in 2019, “When I heard the Beatles, I knew what I wanted to do. My son says to me, Dad, I like the Beatles, but why do you go so crazy? The only way I can describe it,” Ozzy explains, is to, “‘Imagine you go to bed today and the world is black and white and then you wake up, and everything’s in colour. That’s what it was like!’ That’s the profound effect it had on me.”

However, the Prince of Darkness is far from the only member of Black Sabbath who was stirred up by The Beatles and their new take on rock ‘n’ roll. In a recent interview with Express, bassist Geezer Butler eulogised John Lennon, “I loved The Beatles, still do. They changed the world.”

One of the ways in which The Beatles changed music was by being so unapologetically British, an attitude embodied by Lennon, in particular. Up until they came along and led the British invasion, American music had dominated the charts. Britain, in many ways, was still recovering from the war, and the rarefied world of chart success on the far side of the pond still seemed a million miles away. The Beatles broke-down this perceived barrier and held the door open for an influx of others; as Butler explains, “Unlike previous bands and singers in Britain, they didn’t try to sound American. Their sound was totally British. Theirs was the first music I could truly relate to.”

Owing to the influence and impetus provided by The Beatles, Black Sabbath became a very singular act themselves and, in their own way, changed music once more. For many who have misread the rockers as a bat-head-decapitating band without substance, the fact that John Lennon’s lyrical poetry made such an impression on them may come as a surprise, as Butler told the Express, “Lennon’s lyrics were so different to anything that had come before.” 

However, when due attention is paid to their masterpiece, Paranoid, which is was re-released as a bumper 50th anniversary Super Deluxe Edition, it is clear that beyond the histrionics they have the musicianship and poignancy to add substance to the style. 

The tracks on Paranoid, may not exactly have the same prose style as Lennon, but they enter similar anti-war, anti-pollution and pro-mental health awareness terrain. All in all, it’s far from extreme to call Black Sabbath the Beatles of heavy metal. While The Beatles may claim they created the genre with ‘Helter Skelter’, Black Sabbath picked up the mantle and bludgeoned the 1960s to death with their ground-breaking sophomore release.

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