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The metal band that exposed Paul McCartney to the "dark side"

When thinking of Paul McCartney, you might consider him to be the most angelic member of The Beatles, singing songs about rather airy subjects, whilst his songwriting partner, John Lennon, got stuck into the nitty-gritty. However, McCartney is actually very adept at writing about the dark side of life. After all, The Beatles song ‘Get Back’ was written as a parody of ethnonationalist politician Enoch Powell and his racist followers. 

Another brilliant aspect of McCartney’s creative side is, in terms of new music, he has always been the most open to hearing new things – excluding the sitar, which he famously wasn’t a fan of when George Harrison began using it on numerous Beatles songs. However, he eventually changed his mind, later seeking out advice from Harrison about the instrument in the years following the break up of The Beatles. 

Reflecting this open nature of his personality, McCartney was also a fan of punk when it burst onto the music scene in 1976, admiring the Sex Pistols to such a degree that he chased down a taxi that Johnny Rotten and his family were travelling in. Lennon, of course, was also a fan: “I love all this punky stuff,” he once admitted. “It’s pure. I’m not, however, crazy about the people who destroy themselves”.

Another band that Paul McCartney admired was metal legends Black Sabbath. At first, you might think this surprising, but come on, if McCartney liked punk, of course, he’d like Sabbath. Heavy instrumentation, dark lyricism and Ozzy Osbourne’s wailing vocals, what’s not to love? As part of an interview for the 2011 documentary God Bless Ozzy Osbourne, McCartney gave his thoughts on the Birmingham quartet and discussed just how refreshing they were when they first burst onto the scene at the dawn of the 1970s. 

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“I mean, listening to it now, it doesn’t sound that crazy, but then it was quite, sort of off the wall. In life we know about the dark side and the light side, the good side and the bad side,” Macca explained. “I think that’s probably the attraction is that it hadn’t been done until Black Sabbath started dealing with it. And people go, ‘Oh yeah, this is great, well cool’. It’s like the attraction of Dracula or vampires. It’s a rich source for exploration, I think”.

This was interesting, as some commentators argue that The Beatles track ‘Helter Skelter’ from the 1968 album The Beatles was the first outwardly heavy metal song. Others claim that it was Steppenwolf’s 1968 track ‘Born to be Wild’, which mentions “heavy metal thunder” in the third verse. 

The typically canny Ozzy Osbourne provided his own take on the matter in an interview with GQ in 2020: “Nah. It’s not heavy. It’s just a fast song about a helter-skelter,” he said. “Maybe you could say ‘You Really Got Me’ by The Kinks or a song by The Who. But I don’t even consider myself as heavy metal. I did a few heavy things, but I’ve done melodic things too, ballady things”.

Either way, both The Beatles and Black Sabbath are two of the most influential outfits to have ever existed. Interestingly though, each of the original Black Sabbath members are huge Beatles fans, with bassist and lyricist Geezer Butler particularly galvanised by the work of the Fab Four.

In a 2020 interview with the ExpressButler showered some high praise on McCartney and his bandmates. He said: “I loved The Beatles, still do. 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. Their’s was the first music I could truly relate to”.

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