Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath both pushed the parameters of hard rock to define what the genre is today. Refreshingly, there was never a rivalry between the two groups, and Ozzy Osbourne only had affection for Zeppelin from the first moment he heard them.
When Led Zeppelin released their debut album in 1969, Black Sabbath were still grinding it out in dirty bars in Birmingham, and Osbourne found it refreshing to see them invade the mainstream without comprising their values. It made him believe that if Zeppelin could do it, it wasn’t out of the equation for Sabbath either.
Later that year, they penned their first deal with Philips Records, and their debut arrived the following February. Zeppelin changed the goalposts, and Sabbath were one of a host of benefactors from their success. Even though Zeppelin were a London-based group, John Bonham and Robert Plant were both from the Midlands, which only heightened Osbourne’s favourable feelings towards the group.
Over the years, he’d also become friends with the pair and later remembered a lost jam session between the two titans of rock. Ozzy recollected in 2019: “We were really good mates with Led Zeppelin. Especially Robert Plant and John Bonham who came from the Midlands. Zeppelin had wanted us to be on their label, Swan Song. But we couldn’t make it work out. During the recording of the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath album, Zeppelin came into the studio for a jam.
“John wanted to play ‘Supernaut’, but we jammed instead. We were in the middle of recording, so it fucked up the session. I know that it was recorded. I’d love to hear it. The tape must be around somewhere,” he added.
Although it’s been a lifetime in rock ‘n’ roll years since Zeppelin first exploded into his life, Osbourne can still vividly remember how they made him feel. “I remember listening to the first Zeppelin album. It was like such a great breath of fresh air for somebody doing something acceptable but yet so different,” he said in the documentary, History of Rock and Roll (via Rock & Roll Garage).
Meanwhile, Ozzy remarked in 2007: “The first two albums had such an impact on my voice, and on my life. Similar to The Beatles when I first heard them.”
Additionally, when he listed his favourite albums to Rolling Stone, Osbourne had to include a record by Zeppelin, and he opted for Led Zeppelin IV. Explaining his decision, Ozzy said: “I’ve always been a huge Led Zeppelin fan. All of their studio albums are classics but this is one of my all-time favourites.”
Throughout the early ’70s, Sabbath and Led Zeppelin had become the two most prominent bands in Britain, pushing the genre’s boundaries to dizzy new heights. Moreover, both were maverick trailblazers who recognised that in each other, and Osbourne’s words speak volumes about the transformative effect Zeppelin had on him as an artist.