You can’t blame the members of Black Sabbath for feeling a little disillusioned with hippiedom. The whole ‘flower power’ thing was all well and good for young Californians living under an ever-present sun, but for Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Bill Ward and Geezer Butler – born and raised in industrial Birmingham – it simply didn’t float.
Innovators, more often than not, are those for whom the dominant ideology doesn’t feel applicable; their only option is to invent an alternative. That’s precisely what Black Sabbath did. Dissatisfied with ‘peace and love’, they set about capturing the grit and the grime of their upbringing to create a swirling blend of sludgy rock bristling with occult associations.
Sabbath were living in a “hold in the world” that bore no resemblance to the world of the hippie imagination. Rather than adopting the aesthetics of a movement utterly removed from their reality, they crafted a Hammer Horror version of everyday life that stood in direct opposition to the bucolical world of the hippies. The quartet would go on to establish itself as one of the premiere heavy rock groups of the 1970s. Recalling how the group found their style many years later, Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi said: “‘Wouldn’t be interesting to put this horror vibe to a musical thing?’ Then we started to write doomy music, we used to call it. Death music, doom music.”
Ozzy Osbourne still remembers the look on his parent’s faces when he played them Black Sabbath’s music: “I will never forget when I got the first Black Sabbath album, and I took it home to my parents,” he said in The History of Rock’ n’ Roll. “It started to all the rain, thunder, all the sort of demonic devils and stuff. I could see my mother and my father look at each other in amazement. They both simultaneously turned around to me and said, ‘Ozzy, are you sure you’re just only drinking the occasional beer here?'”
Osbourne’s family always supported his career. His father, Jack, even made crosses for each member of the group to ward off the curses from the various occult organisations Sabbath had attracted after the release of their debut album. “There was some black magic organisation that wanted us to play at a stone circle,” Geezer Butler recalled. “We said no. We were sort of against Satan as opposed to promoting it. So they allegedly cursed us. The head of the white witches called our management and said he knew we had a curse put on us. (She said) we should wear crosses and he’d do a ritual thing. It all sounds so hokey. That’s why we started wearing crosses! (Because Sabbath was afraid of the curse) Ozzy’s father made them for us. He used to work at a metal factory making car parts. So he made us these great big crosses out of spare metal.”
There’s something so endearing about the fact that Osbourne – a man who has been upsetting patents for decades now – was himself so close to his parents, letting them into his dark, twisted world.