If you had to name a handful of the most important bands that Britain has produced, The Beatles would almost invariably be placed in the top spot and Black Sabbath wouldn’t be trailing too far behind. On the surface, that would be seemingly where the similarities between these two iconic bands end but, without the Fab Four smashing boundaries in the vigorous fashion they did, then the world would be a lot worse off and, it turns out, devoid of Black Sabbath.
There is an argument that continues to rumble on about whether it was The Beatles song ‘Helter Skelter’ that invented metal or, in fact, if the genre didn’t truly exist until Sabbath made their own barnstorming arrival. However, simply put, without John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr’s existence, then you don’t get Black Sabbath. Hearing The Beatles for the first time was a liberating experience for millions across the globe, but especially for fellow British kids who had previously only had American rock heroes to cheer on from afar.
For the first time, the UK had rockstars who looked and sounded similar to how they did personally. The fact that The Beatles had the best songs on the planet all the while looking like your friends enchanted British kids, a group that the future members of Black Sabbath fell into. For one member of the band, the Fab Four were the introduction to rock ‘n’ roll they were looking for.
“When I heard the Beatles. I knew what I wanted to do,” Ozzy Osbourne boldly stated to Blabbermouth in 2019. “My son says to me, Dad, I like the Beatles, but why do you go so crazy? The only way I can describe it, is like this, ‘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.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Osbourne says, sharing the first time that his ears were greeted by the dulcet tones produced by The Fab Four. “I was walking around with a transistor radio on my shoulder. And ‘She Loves You‘ came on. And, I don’t know, it just went, ‘Bang! And that’s what I want to do! Wouldn’t it be great?‘”
Osbourne wasn’t the only member of Sabbath to have enjoyed the same lightbulb moment and, after first hearing The Beatles, the band’s bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler bonded with his bandmate over their shared love of the band. “I loved The Beatles, still do,” he explained to the Daily Express. “They changed the world. Lennon’s lyrics were so different to anything that had come before. 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.”
When Osbourne got the chance to hang out with Paul McCartney, he was no longer the unhinged Black Sabbath lead singer and, instead, reverted back to being a Beatles-mad kid, one whose legs crumbled to jelly in Macca’s presence. Without that shot of inspiration that The Beatles gave him when he first heard their beautiful music, who knows what his life would have turned out like.
“Meeting Paul McCartney was fucking phenomenal,” Osbourne recalled to Heat in 2009. “I was in the studio at the same time as him and tried to get him to play bass on one of my songs. But he said he couldn’t improve on the bassline that was there. I said, ‘Are you kidding? You could piss on the record and I’d make it my life’.”
What added to The Beatles’ charm is that their legacy isn’t all music-related although they did, of course, usher in a new era of pop music and are rightly remembered universally as being the greatest band of all time — but that’s not just based on the strength of the songs. A significant reason why their legacy is unbreakably strong is partly down to bands like Black Sabbath who earned the courage to break new ground in new areas like the Fab Four had done previously.
Everything from the way that they dressed, their liberal attitude towards recreational drugs to their Scouse accents played a part in their appeal. The Beatles gave Sabbath a glimpse of hope of a life that didn’t involve working in a factory from dusk till dawn and there was a possible brighter future on the horizon if they gave themselves to music.