We’re digging into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you this moment of meta brilliance as Black Sabbath reunite with Ozzy Osbourne to perform for a global audience of 1.9 billion people at Live Aid in 1985.
Black Sabbath are undoubted metal behemoths, led by their enigmatic frontman Ozzy Osbourne, they changed the face of rock. Their roots run back to the very beginning of heavy metal and left an indelible mark on music before Osbourne’s departure in 1980.
The singer went on to have an incredible solo career, establishing himself as an artist in his own right with Blizzard of Ozz in 1980. Meanwhile, the rest of Black Sabbath continued for two more incredible records with Ronnie Dio and some less brilliant work with Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan.
It meant that when the call came from the powers above to join Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Crosby, Stills Nash & Young in reuniting for a special performance at Live Aid in 1985. The event was a dual-venue benefit concert and saw some incredible acts take to the stage in aid of those affected by the ongoing Ethiopian famine.
The event was billed as the “global jukebox” with two concerts being held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, England, United Kingdom (attended by 72,000 people) and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States (attended by about 100,000 people). An estimated 1.9 billion people (40% of the world’s population) watched the legendary gig unfurl and the opportunity to perform for such a global audience proved too alluring for Osbourne and Sabbath to turn down.
Despite being billed as Black Sabbath feat. Ozzy Osbourne the feeling was Live Aid could mark their return. “We probably thought that it might be the first step towards getting back together again,” Tony Iommi wrote in his 2011 autobiography, Iron Man.
The guitarist and Sabbath are famed for their off stage antics and when they got back together one thing was inevitable. Iommi remembers, “We got to the rehearsal space and were supposed to rehearse three songs. Instead of doing that we ended up talking about old times … We went back to the bar afterwards, had a great time together and got solidly sloshed.”
So with acts all pushing for their moment in the spotlight as well as enjoying the occasion for the joyous connection of humanity it was, Osbourne and Sabbath would arrive at the global show as you might expect, incredibly hungover. The band would be sandwiched between Billy Ocean’s bouncy set and Run DMC hip-hop masterclass—not a pleasant place to be.
The band were revealed as Osbourne stood centre stage in a winged purple cape, bejewelled and clearly ready to seize the opportunity despite feeling the effects of the night before. Energised he tries to run the length of the stage and incite some trademark pandemonium from the crowd.
It was not a situation that saw Sabbath rise to the occasion, “I had a dreadful hangover,” said the guitarist. “So I put my dark glasses on and we played ‘Children of the Grave,’ ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Paranoid’ in the bright sunlight. It was a great thing to do and we certainly we aware of the importance of the occasion, but it was over very quickly.”
The band tore through ‘Children of the Grave’ and ‘Iron Man’ with a bloated professionalism. But after an attempt to engage with the mammoth crowd once again before the final song ‘Paranoid’, with a call and response howl lacking the second part of the equation, the casket was closed.
This was not to be the moment that Black Sabbath reunited and soared off into the sunset on a wave of critical acclaim and applause. The crowd may have simply been too varied for Sabbath’s heavy rock to set hearts on fire, or perhaps it was because it was 9:52am and the beer hadn’t yet sunk in, whatever it was, this wasn’t to be Black Sabbath’s big day.
It was just a hangover in front of 100,000 people.
Watch below as the band perform for 1.9 billion people at Live Aid in 1985 while batlling a dreadful hangover.