Are We Hair Yet?

I have a confession to make. I’m a Ratt fan.
Why is this a big deal? Keep reading…

 
As a young metalhead eager to see where the genre was headed as the NWOBHM phenomenon waned, I followed the thread of Metal’s evolution even as it seemed to split into two very disparate directions. One road led into the mainstream, and the more commercial brand of Metal that exploded in popularity after the success of Quiet Riot’s ‘Metal Health’ album; the other led to the underground and the burgeoning Thrash movement. For a while, I didn’t see the split, and was buying records on both sides of the divide. But as these two divergent directions solidified into two clearly definable musical sub-genres, it dawned on me that as the underground stuff got heavier, so did the commercial stuff grow more lightweight, more… safe. As the two styles quickly headed for opposite poles, I felt I had to choose a side.

 
At some point in 1984, I re-evaluated my record collection, and purged a bunch of records by bands that I decided had crossed the line, and no longer belonged in my collection: Dokken’s ‘Tooth and Nail’. Motley Crue’s ‘Shout at the Devil’. Quiet Riot’s CBS debut. Ratt’s first two major label releases: dumped. Once I realized where this new strain of Metal was headed, it was easy for me to kick these bands to the curb. This wasn’t real Metal! It wasn’t MINE. I was NOT the target audience for this music. What was I thinking? How did these records get into my collection? I felt like I had been tricked, duped, ripped off. I felt violated. I share all of this without exaggeration.

 
In strictly musical terms, ‘Pop Metal’ (the term ‘Hair Metal’ came much later) quickly solidified into a recognizable sub-genre with easily identifiable features: the throbbing single-note bass line, the gang vocal shout-outs, the glitter canon snare drums, the bag-of-tricks guitar solo… Lyrical content centered around women/sex, partying/rocking, and … well that’s about it. And, of course, the mandatory power ballad. All of these features were pretty easy to spot, and sure enough, I started to notice these elements creeping into the records some of my heroes were making…

 
It was true. Some of favorite bands were undergoing a shift in style, streamlining their sound by simplifying song structures, sweetening the backing vocals, adding keys… and generally sliding toward a faceless, generic sound that worked on the radio, but lacked authenticity or bite. So I also tossed some albums from some of my heroes, and simply stopped following others. It wasn’t easy, but the changes that some of these bands were making to their music felt like betrayal. Deciding where to draw the line was also difficult. In some cases the slide into commerciality was gradual, unfolding over two or three albums, without a clear delineation between authenticity and artificiality.

 
These were turbulent times, and these were not easy decisions. Walk with me now along the dividing line between the music I loved, and the music of compromise; the blurry border between truth and artifice, where the siren song of worldwide fame and fortune during Metal’s boom years led many a great band astray. You may have drawn that line in different places; you may not have drawn it at all. But here’s how I made my determinations during my Great Pop Metal Purge:

 

Rainbow
Departure Point: ‘Straight Between the Eyes’ (1982)
Red Flag: ‘Magic’ & ‘I Surrender’ from ‘Difficult to Cure’
Deal Breaker: ‘Stone Cold’

‘Stone Cold’ placed JLT-era Rainbow squarely into Foreigner territory. Rainbow’s foray into FM radio-friendly territory began with Russ Ballard’s ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, and the JLT era began with the excellent ‘Jealous Lover’, but the ‘Difficult to Cure’ album was a mixed bag, and ‘Stone Cold’ was so bland that I passed on the ‘Eyes’ album altogether. This was before ‘Metal Health’ arrived and changed the landscape for the rest of the 80s, but it foreshadowed the issues I’d face the following year.

Re-Assessment: I did buy this record and its follow-up, ‘Bent Out of Shape’ later when Polydor made Rainbow’s catalog available on CD. Compared to the disappointments to come, my initial disapproval of Rainbow’s radio-friendly shift in direction seems kinda silly now, as these are solid records with some great songs and some very fine playing.

 

 

Def Leppard
Departure Point: ‘Pyromania’ (1983)
Red Flag: ‘Photograph’
Deal-breaker: The Full Mutt

When I first heard the Lep’s 1983 single, ‘Photograph’, it was over for me. I couldn’t believe these guys were making a mainstream move after only two records! This was not NWOBHM, it wasn’t even Metal, even by early 80’s standards. I chose not to purchase ‘Pyromania’. It was easy for me to dismiss this record as a sell-out, with records like fellow NWOBHM pioneers Iron Maiden’s monstrous ‘Piece of Mind’ available as a comparison point. Nonetheless, I bought ‘Pyro’, but only listened a few times; I never needed to put it on, as for almost two years it was inescapable.

Re-Assessment: Listening with today’s ears, the music on ‘Pyro’ sounds like a very natural progression from the ‘High n Dry’ album, but with a much more commercial sheen. I view it as a ‘crossover’ record, in that the Leps had thoroughly crossed over from NWOBHM to Pop Rock. In retrospect, this is probably a great record, but it’s just not my thing.

 

Saxon
Departure Point: ‘The Power and the Glory’ (1983)
Red Flag: Where’s Pete Gill?
Deal-breaker: New version of ‘Suzie Hold On’

Not another NWOBHM band pandering to the American market? Alas, ‘The Power and the Glory’ sounded different than any of Saxon’s earlier records, sporting a ‘bigger’, arena-ready sound. Gone was the scrappy NWOBHM sound we had known and loved; this was Saxon on steroids, ready to kick American ass. Beyond the cavernous production, the US version of ‘Power’ featured a beefed-up re-recording of the band’s 1980 single, ‘Suzie Hold On’. The song’s inclusion on US pressings bumped the more metallic ‘Midas Touch’, sacrificing some real heft to make room for a much more commercial song. This kind of needless fuckery was really starting to piss me off.

Re-Assessment: No doubt this album rocks hard, but I maintain that the huge leap in production values buries their scrappy old-school NWOBHM charm, and it still doesn’t sit right with me. Un-Saxon-like songs like ‘Nightmare’ and ‘The Eagle has Landed’ are ambitious and even somewhat successful, but give me the first four albums any day.

 

 

Blackfoot
Departure Point: ‘Siogo’ (1983)
Red Flag: Keyboards (Ken Hensley???)
Deal-breaker: ‘Send Me an Angel’

First JLT-era Rainbow starts sounding like Foreigner; then Blackfoot starts sounding like JLT-era Rainbow. Not what you wanna hear from Blackfoot, the most ass-kickin’-est southern axe slingers of the era. I played this record exactly once and could never bring myself to try it out again. I just found it disingenuous and flat out dull. Blackfoot had lost their balls. Looking for answers, I noticed that some outside writers were listed in the writing credits, which I thought might at least partially explain how BORING this record was, and um WHAT THE FUCK IS KEN HENSLEY DOING IN BLACKFOOT?

Re-Assessment: Well, I tried it out again. It was difficult to get through. I would rather hear an all-in Def Leppard sell their souls to Mutt Lange than an insincere, half-hearted, middle of the road exercise in compromise like ‘Siogo’. Honestly, find this kind of record deeply offensive.

 

Krokus
Departure Point: ‘The Blitz’ (1984)
Red Flag: The cover art
Deal-breaker: Everything

I never bought ‘The Blitz’; seeing/hearing the video for ‘Midnite Maniac’ sealed that deal. Coming directly after ‘Headhunter’, easily the most Metal album in the Krokus catalog, this pap was a real slap in the face. Krokus had reworked their look and sound, AGAIN, this time adopting all the requisite Pop-Metal tropes as perfectly as they had duplicated AC/DC’s sound just a few years earlier. After this move, Krokus stood revealed as shameless bandwagon jumpers… I forgave this band once already, for their unabashed AC/DC thievery, but not for this.

Re-Assessment: All frosting and no cake. The production is lightweight, the songs are tame, the cheesy radio-friendly cover of ‘Ballroom Blitz’ is nauseating, and the cover art is… Yuck. Krokus were always at their best when they sounded like Krokus. Pity they didn’t do more of that.

 

Y&T
Departure Point: ‘In Rock We Trust’ (1984)
Red Flag: That robot
Deal-breaker: That stupid fucking robot

This was a tough call. Y&T had always existed at the commercial edge of hard Rock and Metal; their best albums– ‘Earthshaker’ & ‘Black Tiger’– masterfully balanced their poppier inclinations with their more metallic edge. But for me, they crossed a line on ‘IRWT’, bringing in outside writers to sweeten the tunes, using some silly production tricks on ‘Lipstick and Leather’… Or maybe it was just one too many songs about Rock. My girlfriend loved this album… ‘Nuff said.

Re-Assessment: Decades later, this record really doesn’t sound that different from the few before it; it’s really just a matter of degree. There’s little too much sugar on top of this one for my taste. And that goddam robot…

 

Scorpions
Departure Point: ‘Love at First Sting’ (1984)
Red Flag: It was inevitable
Deal-breaker: Can’t quite put my finger on it…

Look, the Scorps INVENTED the power ballad, so I didn’t begrudge them the success of ‘No One Like You’ from ‘Blackout’; I think we all expected that, at some point, one of theirs would strike gold. ‘Still Loving You’ was a well-deserved victory lap, and as I cut ties, I wished them well. I just couldn’t hang to celebrate the Scorpions’ mainstream breakthrough, as I thought the rest of ‘Sting’ was severely lacking in that patented Scorpions …sting. I found the songs lame, the production tame, and the one balls-out rocker (‘The Same Thrill’) cliched and unconvincing. And is that even Herman Rarebell on the drums? I’m skeptical.The Scorps sounded spent here, after three scorchers in a row. Auf Wiedersehen, meine Freunde.

Re-Assessment: This isn’t the shameless sell-out that some other records I’m covering here are. Scorpions hadn’t changed their sound or style very much at all on ‘Sting’, they just took the next logical step on a journey they began a decade previous. I might actually re-buy this one. I said ‘might’.

 

Whitesnake
Departure Point: ‘Slide It In’ (1984)
Red Flag: Mickey Moody
Deal-breaker: John Sykes, Cozy Powell, and …Colin Hodgkinson?

When David Coverdale revamped Whitesnake, he fired Mickey Moody, the heart and soul of the band’s original Blues Rock sound, and replaced him with John Sykes, guitar masturbator extraordinaire. Cozy Powell also entered the mix, and while there’s no denying his place in the upper echelon of Rock/Metal drummers, I felt he was wrong for Whitesnake. I had pretty much decided to boycott this record based on those two changes alone; hearing that the album had been ‘remixed for the American market’ reinforced that decision. I’m not sure I even heard the entire record until it’s 35th anniversary edition was released…

Re-Assessment: I love this record. I bought the double-disc anniversary edition, which contains the UK & US mixes of the record, and I was blown away by an album I had written off without hearing. Of course, I prefer the original mix, as it leans a little more toward their classic Blues Rock sound, but Coverdale sounds great on both, the songs are strong throughout, and the real Hair bomb hadn’t hit yet.

 

Twisted Sister
Departure Point: ‘Stay Hungry’ (1985)
Red Flag: The cover art
Deal-breaker: The cartoonish videos

As Twisted Sister dived head first into the music video era, I bid them farewell. The image that the band chosen was ridiculous, and the videos were embarrassing cartoon garbage. None of this spoke to the music on the album, I know, but that’s where I was at the time: I was making qualitative judgments about albums based on non-musical factors. So I passed on ‘Stay Hungry’ on principle, even after I’d heard enough to be was pretty sure it was better than their previous record. Damn you, MTv!

Re-Assessment: This is actually a pretty worthy record; crunchy, punchy and aggressive. I still believe that the songs overall are better than the material on ‘You Can’t Stop Rock n Roll’, but even after all these years, I still can’t separate the music from the silly visuals stuck in my head due to the over-exposure of this record on MTv.

 

Loudness
Departure Point: ‘Thunder in the East’ (1985)
Red Flag: Signing to Atlantic Records
Deal-breaker: ‘M! Z! A!’

At this point, due to the mounting number of disappointing albums released by the old guard, I was dropping older bands from my fandom roster at the drop of a hat. Mistakes were made (see: Whitesnake). When I first heard the ‘Crazy Nights’ single from Loudness, I felt the same way I did when I had heard Scorpions’ ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’: Ugh. Simple, safe, predictable, BORING. Loudness had apparently dumbed-down their music after signing with Atlantic and were in the big leagues now, clearly playing to the cheap seats. Unfortunately, I was getting used to cutting ties with bands I had loved for years, and it was getting easier.

Re-Assessment: Solid album. I bought this and the follow up, ‘Hurricane Eyes’, a few years back; both are worthy Loudness records. Kudos to these guys for not cashing in their chips completely while playing the major label game. I was wrong about ‘Thunder in the East’, a record more than worthy of your attention.

 

Van Halen
Departure Point: ‘5150’ (1986)
Red Flag: Sammy Hagar
Deal-breaker: ‘Why Can’t This Be Love’

Van Halen were, for a time, the most dangerous band on the planet. When Sammy joined, I assumed he wanted to get his Montrose mojo back, so hey, maybe this could work? Suddenly, Van Halen was fronted by a guy who could actually sing, but the result was obnoxious junk like ‘Why Can’t This Be Love’. I did not buy ‘5150’ based on my impression of that single alone. Diamond Dave’s presence and EVH’s guitar abstractions had (barely) saved the synth-heavy ‘1984’ and the paper-thin ‘Diver Down’ from total Pop disaster, but now Dave was gone and Ed had lightened and brightened his guitar tone, while continuing his annoying flirtation with keyboards. Dead to me.

Re-Assessment: I don’t think I have ever heard this album in it’s entirety until just now. Ed’s ‘new’ guitar sound just ruins it for me. And there’s just too much damn fun going on. All of the danger and edge that made Van Halen so badass is gone, and we’re left with a party band with funny haircuts and parachute pants. I hope I never hear another second of this record again.

 

Judas Priest
Departure Point: ‘Turbo’ (1986)
Red Flag: the cover art
Deal-breaker: ‘Turbo Lover’

This one still hurts. For many years, The Beast that is Priest was the living embodiment of the phrase Heavy Metal. Cutting my teeth on albums like ‘Sin After Sin’ and ‘Hell Bent for Leather’ made an album like ‘Turbo’ impossible for me to take. I had given them a pass on ‘Take These Chains’, and tried hard to like ‘Defenders of the Faith’ despite the over-processed production and lack of quality songs. But when I got about 60 seconds into ‘Turbo Lover’, I knew I could never be a fan of this band again. NOTE: 1986 was also the year of ‘Master of Puppets’, ‘Peace Sells…’, and ‘Reign in Blood’. After hearing ‘Turbo’, the road ahead was clear.

Re-Assessment: I’m just as disappointed today as I was 30+ years ago. No redeeming qualities at all. Just awful.

 

Aerosmith
Departure Point: ‘Permanent Vacation’ (1987)
Red Flag: Rehab
Deal-breaker: ‘Angel’

Wait— the band that wrote ‘Toys in the Attic’ and ‘Rocks’ needs to bring in outside writers? What the fuck for? So they can have huge hits like ‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’, and the wretched power ballad ‘Angel’, that’s why. Well, if this schlock was the result, then my hometown heroes would have to complete their career makeover without the likes of me. Oh, how I wanted these guys to recapture the dark magic of their first handful of records… I couldn’t have been the only kid who secretly wished these guys would start doing hard drugs again.

Re-Assessment: Not my Aerosmith. Props for surviving, but this almost sounds like parody to me. There are a few moments where the Aero boys almost catch fire, but if I were forced to include a post-rehab A-smith album into my collection, it would be ‘Pump’.

 

Accept
Departure Point: ‘Eat the Heat’ (1989)
Red Flag: Udo’s exit
Deal-breaker: Udo’s replacement

This record had no chance with me. Zero. Accept had replaced Udo Dirkschneider with an American singer, David Reece. I knew what it would sound like before I even heard it. I think I got a free promo copy of this on cassette, popped it into my car deck, listened in shock for a few songs, popped it out and into the trash. The music was vaguely recognizable as Accept, but as soon as the vox kicked in, this could’ve be any L.A. Glam Metal band with above-average chops and a misspelled name.

Re-Assessment: I can’t. I’m sorry. I tried. Unlistenable. Imagine Motorhead with Joe Lynne Turner on vocals; that is the schism we were presented with on ‘Eat the Heat’. Time has done nothing to make this epic mis-step more listenable.

 

Bonus Entries: In the interest of completeness, I also re-listened to the records that initially tipped me off to the faux Metal charade. Yes, I once owned these records. For a short time. Briefly. I think. Anyway, here are my current takes:

 
Quiet Riot / Metal Health (1983)
The Slade cover is brilliant. And that, my friends, is the best thing I can say about ‘Metal Health’. Actually, here’s something else: It’s better than ‘Shout at the Devil’, though that’s not saying much. After the reasonably metallic title track, and the brilliant Slade cover, the rest of this record is over-produced, under-written commercial Metal with a serious saccarine aftertaste. But could a record this crappy really be so influential? Yes, because when a record hits the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, it immediately begins to influence the genre it operates within. Listening with fresh ears, I am struck by how this album set into place a strict template that most successful Pop Metal records that came after followed rigorously. A sub-genre is born?

 
Motley Crue / Shout at the Devil (1983)
Full Disclosure: I have come to believe that Motley Crue are the worst band in the history of music. But back in 1983, I thought the Motleys were OK enough, having been a big fan of at least one of their tunes: ‘Live Wire’ from their debut album. But listening today, ‘Shout’ feels strangely empty; It’s pretty plain to me that this record is packed wall-to-wall with filler. ‘Knock em Dead, Kid’ on Side Two is simply a re-write of ‘Looks That Kill’ from Side One, the album’s intro is a ‘Number of the Beast’ rip, and the Beatles cover sux. Oh, and the Satanic nonsense is just plain silly.

 
Dokken / Tooth and Nail (1984)
I bought the debut on Carerre in 1982, due to the buzz surrounding George Lynch, and I hoped ‘Tooth and Nail’ would be more and better. Well, the cover was better. In hindsight, though, this album is probably as good as a 100% certified Pop Metal album could be. Damning with faint praise? Okay, how about this: If your girlfriend popped this into the cassette deck on your way to the beach, you could do a lot worse. By the way, this guy is NOT a great singer. A stronger vocalist might have saved this record’s spot in my collection.

 
Ratt / Out of the Cellar (1984)
Ah yes; Ratt. I bought ‘Out of the Cellar’ based on my love for Ratt’s debut indie EP, and I liked the album a lot. I even saw them live on the tour supporting this record. But when I purged the Pop, I deemed the Ratt records to be part of the infection in my collection, and into the dumpster they went.

 
Since then, Ratt’s ‘Round and Round’ became one of the most persistent earworms I’d ever been inflicted with. It like a small section of my brain had been rewired to loop that song over and over (round and round?) forever and ever. Recently, it was suggested to me that the best way to remove an earworm was to listen to the offending song, so I did. I re-bought ‘Out of the Cellar’. And I had a blast revisiting this record. I love it! Somehow, Ratt had achieved the impossible, creating a record that exists simultaneously on both sides of the border I drew back in the 80s, with plenty of appeal for both true 80s metalheads and their Hair Metal counterparts. In my current collection, it sits comfortably alongside my Riot, Raven, and Rainbow albums.

 
And there you have it: A journey back through a difficult time. Lessons learned since then? Sure. Drawing such strict genre barriers when I was younger caused me to have to later re-buy several albums I had once decided were garbage; that was an eye-opener. Not to mention the countless hours of listening enjoyment I cost myself by being such a purist. I’m I’m happy to report that I’m a little more open-minded nowadays, but back in the 80s, this really was all a very big deal to me. And I couldn’t have been alone with all of that inner conflict… When and where did you draw the line? Did you draw one at all? And most importantly: Which side was Ratt on?

Mary Long and the Three Different Pigs

Who is Mary Long?

 
It’s fairly common knowledge these days that the lyrical inspiration for the Deep Purple song ‘Mary Long’, Side One/Track Two on their ‘Who Do We Think We Are?’ album, came from two separate individuals: Mary Whitehouse and Lord Longford. For ‘Mary Long’, written in the summer of 1972, Gillan was inspired to move away from the ’emptiness, eagles, and snow’ of previous DP records and write an overtly political statement condemning a specific public figure. Or figures, as Whitehouse and Longford were combined into one ‘character’, and savagely lampooned in a brilliant work of social commentary. What may not be so well known is that Gillan was almost certainly writing in response to Whitehouse’s headline-grabbing attack on Alice Cooper in the summer of 1972.

 
In a nutshell: Mary Whitehouse rose to fame in the mid-1960s as a self-appointed, and much derided, guardian of British morals. She was the founder of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, whose mission was to clean up British television, which she perceived as corrupting the nation’s morals. Francis Longford was a Labour Party politician and social reformer, known as a campaigner against pornography.

 
Whitehouse’s crusade to clean up telly had previously included campaigns against the likes of Benny Hill (for its sexual content), Doctor Who (violence), sitcom ‘Til Death Do Us Part’ (profanity), and coverage of the US war in Vietnam (‘desensitization’). She successfully forced Stanley Kubrick to withdraw his film ‘A Clockwork Orange’ from UK theatres. After unsuccessfully attempting to ban Chuck Berry’s hit ‘My Ding-a-Ling’ from the BBC airwaves, which, despite the good lady’s urgent disapproval (or because of it; more on that later), reached the top of the UK pop music chart, Whitehouse turned her attention to Alice Cooper’s 1972 single ‘School’s Out’.

 
The controversy began with Alice Cooper’s lone UK date on the ‘School’s Out for Summer ’72 Tour’ on June 30th at Wembley Pool Empire in London. Sensational press coverage in the weeks before the show, most of which highlighted Alice’s ‘killing’ of a chicken thrown on stage during the band’s set at a Chicago festival (the chicken was killed, but not by Alice) ensured that the show sold out, which increased the sales of the British release of the ‘School’s Out’ single enough (AC’s previous British single, ‘Be My Lover’, had failed to chart) to garner the band an appearance on BBC Tv’s ‘Top of the Pops’. Mary Whitehouse was watching…

 
No doubt the good lady was horrified. Alice Cooper performed ‘School’s Out’ with twenty local students dancing and cavorting on stage beside the band, who mimed along to the single. The kids had been given free tickets to the taping, and clearly had a ball. Alice could not have looked more badass, as he slashes through the air with a sword, violently knocks his mic stand to the ground, and pulls on one of the young female students’ hair. As he lip syncs the song’s final line, he looks squarely into the camera and simulates cutting his throat with the sword. Whitehouse saw the broadcast and began a fervent push to ban AC from the BBC airwaves completely.

 
Whitehouse stated that she held “the gravest concern over the publicity which has been given to Alice Cooper’s record ‘School’s Out’. For weeks now ‘Top of the Pops’ has given gratuitous publicity to a record which can only be described as anti-law and order. Because of this, millions of young people are now imbibing a philosophy of violence and anarchy. This is surely utterly irresponsible in a social climate which grows ever more violent.”

 
Whitehouse’s public comments and the ensuing publicity she generated pushed School’s Out’ to the No 1 spot on the UK Pop charts, where it stayed for 3 weeks straight. Coming after the ‘My Ding-a-Ling’ affair, the School’s Out’ episode comfirmed it: Mary Whitehouse was now a certified hit-maker. The #1 ranking ensured the band another appearance on ToTP, which Whitehouse tried unsuccessfully to block. Alice was so grateful for Whitehouse’s attention that he sent her a bouquet of flowers and a thank you note for putting him on the map in England. Years later, Alice remembers the period fondly… and perhaps with just a pinch of sarcasm:

 
‘I have been taught many lessons and one of those lessons came from the lovely Mary Whitehouse. I learned a big lesson about marketing and perception. We could not have had better publicity for the song and it went to No 1 in the British charts. She did so much for my career and I have never forgotten her, there is always a place in my heart for that wonderful lady. Thank you Mary.’

 
The following year, when Alice announced another tour of the UK, this time to promote the ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ album, the upright citizen’s brigade was ready. Leo Abse, a prominent member of Parliament, launched a campaign to ban Alice from entering the country. Referring to AC’s oeuvre as the ‘culture of the concentration camp’, Abse claimed that Alice’s ‘incitement to infanticide and his commercial exploitation of masochism is evidently an attempt to teach our children to find their destiny in hate, not in love.’ The Labour MP petitioned the Home Secretary to prevent the band entry into the country. AC opted to pass on the UK that year, so kids in the UK were deprived of the B$B spectacle. Coop was also banned from entering Australia and the USSR.

 
At this point, every teenager in the UK wanted desperately to see Alice Cooper. One of those teenagers was named John Lydon. Lydon was 16 in 1972, a member of the Alice Cooper Fan Club, and a HUGE fan. In the introduction to the book included with AC’s 1999 box set ‘The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper’, Lydon gushes about his passion for AC as a young lad:

 
‘Killer’ is the best rock album ever made, which, of course, followed the masterpiece ‘Love it to Death’. These two albums put together were just too much for an angst-ridden teenager such as myself to handle… I thought those records were the best it could be!’

 
Lydon also relates that his musical career began with his audition for the Sex Pistols, where he was asked to sing along with to song on a jukebox; Lydon, aware that he couldn’t sing a note, opted instead to mime his way through a tune instead. The song he chose? ‘I’m Eighteen’. He got the job, changed his last name to Rotten, and the rest is history. Lydon/Rotten further espouses at length on the genius of AC:

 
”Alice Cooper is the original rabid dog on a rope. A very frayed rope. It’s the wild-craziness barely contained on a leash. And we like that. The restraint is what gives it power. Society has such foolish rules that the individualist will always shine as long as there is such a dark thing called society. So in a weird way, we need it. Chaos only works well inside four very strict brick walls.’

 
That ‘chaos’ comment essentially explains The Sex Pistols, and Punk movement they spearheaded in a Conservative Britain near the end of the 70s. And of course it makes perfect sense that a young Alice Cooper fan would end up fronting a band that exploded into British culture’s greatest nightmare. He compared AC’s artistic approach to that of his own:

 
‘I’ve referred to the Sex Pistols as “musical vaudeville” and “evil burlesque”, and for me, there was definitely Alice influence in there. And I’m very proud to say so, because, without that, I don’t think I would have had that extra kick when I was young… It’s brave to do those things.’

 
The Pistols inked a deal with EMI in October, and the ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ single was released a month later. As the Sex Pistols began live work around London in the spring of ’76, violence and controversy followed. When a live interview on BBC Tv’s ‘Today’ program ended with a hostile, expletive-ridden exchange with the show’s host, angry headlines screamed from the front pages of the weekly tabloids for days. Political pressure was applied, and the Pistols were dropped by EMI. The negative coverage in the national media resulted in the band’s becoming household names virtually overnight. And then, suddenly… The ‘Anarchy in the UK’ single reached the top of the British Pop charts: Number One. Imagine that.

 
A&M records quickly snapped the band up in March of ’77, but dropped them in just 6 days. 10,000 copies of the band’s second single, ‘God Save the Queen’, had been pressed; all were immediately destroyed. In May, Virgin Records signed the band and became the Pistols’ third record company in six months. Virgin released the single soon after, to much public outcry. The record’s sleeve and the song’s lyrics prompted fresh moral outrage throughout the country. The record was banned on the BBC and most independent radio stations; several major music retailers refused to carry the single. Despite the lack of radio promotion and presence in record shops, the record sold 150,000 copies in ten days, leading the Daily Mirror to predict that the single would debut on the charts at No. 1.

 
‘God Save the Queen’ entered the official chart at No. 10, and looked as if it would hit No. 1 during the Queen’s Jubilee Celebration week. Political pressure was this time applied to the chart’s compilers, and so for just one week, the official rules were changed: record shops owned by record companies could not have sales of their own records recognized in the chart. Since Virgin Records released ‘God Save the Queen’, Virgin Record Stores’ sales of the single were barred from the stats, which resulted in the song stalling on the chart at No. 2, while Rod Stewart sat at the top spot with “I Don’t Want to Talk About It.”

 
In October ’77, the Sex Pistol’s debut album was released. With the Queen’s Jubilee six months behind it, ‘Never Mind the Bollocks: Here’s the Sex Pistols’ crashed into the album charts at No. 1. The album’s title and cover caused even more controversy, resulting in an obscenity trial that stole headlines for weeks; once again the sensational (and free) national media coverage fueled sales. The Sex Pistols, fronted by a student of Alice Cooper’s ‘musical vaudeville’/evil burlesque’, had cut the very frayed rope that held the rabid dog at bay and walked away with three No. 1 records. Well… two and a half. Just three months after the release of ‘Bollocks’, the band split; but during their brief reign of terror, the Pistols and the chaos they created within British culture’s four very strict brick walls changed the musical and cultural landscape of the UK forever.

 
Roger Waters paid close attention to the Sex Pistols explosive ascent. Pink Floyd started work on their tenth studio album, ‘Animals’, in their new South London HQ in April of 1977, at the same time that the Sex Pistols began to receive negative (and therefore positive) press coverage for the confrontational nature of their performances and the violence that seemed to erupt regularly at their gigs. The debut album by the Ramones began making waves in Britain’s underground in April, and in July the Ramones gig at Dignwalls was attended by nearly everyone in the burgeoning UK Punk scene. Also in July, two new ‘punk’ bands, the Damned and the Clash, made their live debuts opening for the Pistols… Something big was happening.

 
The Floyd were tuned into the underground art and music scenes in and around London, having once been an underground band themselves, and looked on with considerable interest. But this new breed of underground band was singing overtly-political lyrics, and their aggressive, anti-establishment stance challenged not only the political establishment, but the established musical order as well. Punk wasn’t concerned with skilled musicianship, elaborate concept albums, or 20-minute jams; rather it was decisively anti- all of those things. Punk was about immediacy, nihilism and confrontation. When a photo of Johnny Rotten wearing his now-infamous ‘I Hate Pink Floyd’ t-shirt appeared in one of the weekly music papers, Waters knew that Pink Floyd needed to find a way to connect with this movement in order to re-establish relevance and survive the punk onslaught about to overtake Britain’s music scene.

 
David Gilmour, pre-occupied with the birth of his first child, contributed only one song to the album, ‘Dogs’, leaving Waters to compose the rest. With the Punk Rock movement erupting all around him, he fashioned a concept loosely based on George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, in order to comment on the social-political conditions of late 1970s Britain. Waters replaced Orwell’s take on Stalinism with his own ideas about Capitalism; and the focus on the warring social classes was tailor-made to connect with Britain’s disaffected youth. Musically, the tone was harder, the mood more cynical than on previous Pink Floyd albums, but it was Waters’ lyrics that really cemented the punk rock angle.

 

In ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’, Waters skewers three different prominent public personalities to further the album’s iconoclastic tone and perhaps garner some anti-establishment points with the punks. The identities of two of the ‘Pigs’ Waters outlines in the song are unknown, while the identity of the figure in the third verse was very clearly established within the song itself, and later confirmed by Roger Waters to be none other than… Mrs. Mary Whitehouse.

 

Hey you, Whitehouse
Haha, charade you are
You house proud town mouse
Haha, charade you are
You’re tryin’ to keep our feelings off the street
You’re nearly a real treat
All tight lips and cold feet
And do you feel abused?
You gotta stem the evil tide
And keep it all on the inside
Mary, you’re nearly a treat
Mary, you’re nearly a treat, but you’re really a cry

 

Mary Whitehouse died in 2001 at the age of 91. She is the only known actual person to feature in the lyrical canons of both Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. How cool is that? 

 

Couple things:

Nick Mason would produce the second album by The Damned, ‘Music For Pleasure’ in the Autumn of ’77.

Pink Floyd’s next album, ‘The Wall’, would be produced by Bob Ezrin, who had previously produced ‘Love it to Death’ and ‘Killer’, the two Alice Cooper albums that young John Lydon felt ‘were the best it could be!’

Bob Ezrin would also go on to produce two Ian Gillan-fronted Deep Purple albums.

Ian Gillan’s Book of Magic

Of the three major offshoots that emerged after the break-up of Deep Purple in 1976, Gillan (the band, not the man) was certainly the most musically daring. And Gillan’s most daring album just might be their last: 1982’s ‘Magic’. Yes, the keyboard-heavy record carries a glossy, polished sheen; yes, it contains a pair of obvious stabs into ‘hit single’ territory; and yes, the off-the-rails kinetic chemistry of the Torme years is largely absent. But it’s not the music that makes makes ‘Magic’ Gillan’s most fascinating record; it’s the words. Truth be told, ‘Magic’ could and should be looked at in hindsight as a concept album, as the lyrics throughout revolve around a common theme: Gillan (the man, not the band) was laying out his future plans right before our very eyes, misdirecting our attention with another album’s worth of musical hocus pocus while planning the greatest magic trick of all: making himself disappear.

 
Some context: After leaving Deep Purple in June of 1973, Ian Gillan spent a few years away from the music biz, eventually launching The Ian Gillan Band, who released 3 albums of what can only be called jazz-rock, to limited success. Gillan scrapped the IGB but retained keyboardist Colin Towns, whom the vocalist regarded as a valuable writing partner. The pair re-emerged in 1978 with a new band, re-christened simply ‘Gillan’, and a self-titled album, released only in Japan. Perhaps sensing the coming NWOBHM, Gillan, Towns and bassist John McCoy revamped the band’s line-up to include guitarist Bernie Torme and drummer Mick Underwood, heading in a much harder-rocking direction. This bunch released three UK Top Twenty albums (including a #2 & #3) before Torme left; enter Janick Gers, and two more UK Top Twenty records. Add to that six UK Top Forty singles, and you’ve got one heckuva four-year run.

 
In Britain, during the NWOBHM, Deep Purple’s offspring: Gillan, Whitesnake and Rainbow, dominated the UK Heavy Rock scene. But the first whispers of a Deep Purple Mk II reunion began to circulate in early 1982, as the NWOBHM fire began to fade, and probably caused the five members of DP’s classic line-up to pause and reassess. Ritchie Blackmore seemed content, having found his pot of gold at the American end of his Rainbow, and bassist Roger Glover was a key factor in the band’s US success. Whitesnake, which then included Jon Lord and Ian Paice, were on the verge of implosion, as David Coverdale began retooling the band in an attempt to replicate Rainbow’s success in the US. Paice bolted; Lord stayed. Gillan’s response to the MK II reunion rumors was hidden in plain sight: within the lyrics of what would be his namesake band’s final album, ‘Magic’.

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A quick look at the track listing reveals a lot: Titles like ‘Caught In A Trap’, ‘Long Gone’, ‘Living A Lie’ imply a theme; non-album tracks used as b-sides and giveaways such as ‘Breaking Chains’ and ‘Purple Sky’ continue that theme. Even on the surface, we find an indication as to where Gillan’s mind was at during the process of putting together the ‘Magic’ album. Delving deeper, and looking at the lyrics to these songs, and several others on the album, allows an even deeper insight. The concepts IG was working with here center around themes of entrapment, escape, and rebirth… as well as deceit. The lyrics on ‘Magic’ paint a picture of one trapped in an undesirable circumstance, while covertly working toward a more favorable situation. Which is pretty much exactly what occurred while Gillan maneuvered himself into position for a DP reunion.

 

‘Magic’s lyrics contain ample evidence that, by the time that the lyricist put pen to paper, Ian Gillan had already made his mind up to end the band. Of the twelve original tracks recorded (several covers were also recorded, though only one made the album), eight of them contain hints and clues about Gillan’s mindset and the band’s imminent demise. Some of these red flags are woven into the material with great subtlety; others are startlingly direct. These weren’t just lyrics; they were a letter of resignation. Gillan’s work on ‘Magic’ is akin to a that of a master criminal who intentionally litters his crime scene with tantalizing clues and dares us to put the pieces together, before it’s too late… Or how about Gillan the Escape Artist; stunning his audience by extricating himself from certain doom with seconds to spare, through mystifying means that could only be described as ‘Magic’.

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Entrapment/Escape, Rebirth
Some additional context: After a few albums and an extensive amount of touring, the members of Gillan became concerned at their lack of financial success (see: Bernie Torme’s exit), and Ian himself has stated that the band were badly in debt by 1982. Gillan had financed the band entirely with his own money, and by around this time, the Gillan band was deeply in debt. A reunion of the classic Purple line-up just might do the trick…

 
This snippet from the b-side ‘Breaking Chains’ contains several hints of Gillan’s financial woes:
Ten years of hard sweat, I’m sitting here with a mess of bad debt
I’m down, flat broke, sitting here and you know it’s no joke
I ain’t tired, I ain’t dead, going crazy getting out of my bed, here we go, got another show
Hot dog, cool bitch, feels good but you will not get rich, here we go, got another show
‘Chains’ also speaks to Gillan’s imminent freedom:
How can I be so sad? I gave everything I had
Now that I’m free again, I’m strong and I’m breaking chains
Here’s the dream that I’ve been searching for, I know ’cause I’ve been here before
‘Here’s the dream – I’ve been here before’ is a reference to his previous tenure in DP and the potential upcoming reunion.

 

The chorus to ‘Caught in a Trap’ also shows Gillan looking forward to revisiting his past in the future (!) but feeling stuck:
In a gateway, I’m trapped in a gateway, Look where I’m going, look where I’ve come from
I’m caught in a trap

 

‘Long Gone’ has many surprisingly overt references to Gillan’s as-yet-unknown decision to end the band. Musically, this song was an obvious choice for one of the album’s singles, although with these lyrics on top, the choice was a bold one; here IG unflinchingly reveals that his decision is made: He’s gone, long gone:
Say what you’re going to say. I’ll never turn you away but you’ll never make me stay
I’ll come back when the trees stop growing, I’ll come back when the tide stops flowing
I’ll look around when there’s no complaining, I will not return
Send love to the old ways, love to the city haze, I’m gone, long gone

 

The album’s magnum opus, ‘Demon Driver, contains the following:
I’m trapped here in this tomb, Hell fire here in this womb, this earth
‘Driver’ also includes many uptempo sections that utilize the concept of driving as a metaphor for escape:
Goodbye habit, boring Sunday, Monday slow death
Hello freedom, faster freeways, clean air sweet breath

 

The album outtake ‘Purple Sky’ is another hidden-in-plain-sight clue about Gillan’s future plans. The was kept off the album, and was not used as a b-side, but rather it was relegated to a flexi-disc and given away free with the purchase of an issue of Flexipop magazine. This excellent song would have been a stellar addition to the album’s track list, but perhaps the title/chorus was too much of a giveaway? The song opens with the line:
‘My old lady, have a lot of fun, when she look the other way, I begin to run’
The first proper verse leads right into the chorus like this:
When I’m cruising you know I’m confusing my head                                                                              When I’m choosing there’s no one that I want instead
Purple sky, get me by, purple sky get me high, get me high, free and high, purple sky

 

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Deceit
Gillan began work on the Magic album in July of 1982, and the album/tour cycle lasted until the band’s final performance in December; Gillan’s lyrics had to have been completed during the July/August recording sessions, at the very latest. That means that IG kept his plans to end the band a secret for six whole months…
‘Bluesy Blue Sea’ is about a man about to embark on a journey, as he prays to the sea that he will get to his destination. He suspects that his departure will upset those he left behind who are as yet unaware of his decision, but feels he must stay true to himself despite the fallout and hopes that they will understand the reasons behind his leaving:
Sitting here with the bottom line, you wanna know what, I’m gonna take my time
It may be good but it could be bad it drives me mad
Looking deep in my moody eyes, feeling good well I got a big surprise
Lock me up if I’ve done you wrong, you’ll never sing my song
Got a dream in December days, I can’t reach it but I’m gonna change my ways
Forget the wind and forget the now, you gotta let me go
Sitting here like a lunatic, you wanna know what and don’t it make you sick
Yes I may be right I may be wrong, but you can’t sing my song
Bluesy Blue Sea won’t you favor me

 

In ‘Driving me Wild’, Gillan outlines another reason he had privately decided to move on:
What can you do when you stay is your soft and easy life, when ambition is burning to make a break?
What can I do? Lost in a haze, telling you how but I’m just in a daze
That ‘telling you how‘ bit could be seen as a bold admission that the truth is here if one cares to look.

 

‘Long Gone’ offers more hints at the covert nature of Gillan’s decision throughout the creative process of the album, in the two cryptic instances of ‘it’s not what you think’:
Long gone, out of this place, long gone, it’s not what you think
Long gone, don’t want a new face, long gone it’s not what you think

 

‘Living a Lie’ appears on the surface to be about a person who has fallen out of love with their partner, yet remains in the unhealthy relationship. In the context of the rest of the lyrics on the album, it’s all too easy to understand that Gillan is actually relating his feelings about his relationship with his band. The middle eight section reads as follows:
Going down going down, down to deceive, coming round, around I believe
Lay me down, lay me down I can’t breathe, I’m living a lie
This line is sung three different times in the song over a solemn, church like organ riff, and is quite striking in its stark declaration:
It’s just another lie
The song ends with this line, softly spoken and drenched with reverb, over the same quietly somber organ backing… feeling more like a confession than a song lyric.

 

And finally, ‘Demon Driver’, includes this ominous admission:
Look past my eyes, you’ll be surprised
Inside this civilized master, there lies a human disaster

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Gillan dissolved Gillan the band at the end of the Magic tour, after their final gig at Wembley Arena on December 17, 1982, exactly as foreshadowed in ‘Bluesy Blue Sea’ with that ‘Got a dream in December days’ lyric. Clearly IG had the band’s demise planned right down to the month of the final gig. Claiming the need for throat surgery, Gillan was now free for the Deep Purple Mk II reunion… which was scuttled by Ritchie Blackmore, who opted to one more album/tour cycle with Rainbow. Gillan now had a year to kill, and so less than two months after his namesake band’s final gig, he was announced as the new lead vocalist of Black Sabbath. The quick turnaround was a shock to the other members of Gillan, leading them to believe they had been *ahem*, misled about the reasons for Gillan’s ending the band. The Sabbath detour turned out to be a one-off, as the fabled Mk II reunion finally became a reality in April of 1984.

 
The remaining members of Gillan were all quite vocal about their perceived betrayal, expressing their acrimony in the UK music press as well as in songs written about their ex-bandleader’s behaviors and motivations. To hear the band’s impressions of what took place, without the lyrical sleight of hand employed by their former boss, check out John McCoy’s ‘Because You Lied’, a direct response that pulls no punches; McCoy felt so close to the singer that he named Gillan godfather to his first daughter. Colin Towns gave ‘How Does the Cold Wind Cry’ to Roger Daltrey, who recorded the song for his ‘Parting Should be Painless’ collection, a loose concept album inspired by the break-up of The Who. Towns’ song fit into Daltrey’s theme seamlessly; the lyric is a sad and haunting take on his betrayal by someone he had loved and trusted for almost a decade.

 
So Gillan the Magnificent pulled off quite an amazing trick with ‘Magic’, turning Gillan’s fifth record into a concept album about his breaking up the band right before our eyes… and right under his band’s noses. In retrospect, this IS the same guy who wrote a very unflattering lyric about Ritchie Blackmore over a song on Deep Purple’s ‘Who Do We Think We Are? LP (‘Smooth Dancer’) which went wholly unnoticed by the Man in Black, so his ‘Magic’-al mischief was not without precedent. One wonders if any of the former members of Gillan ever had had an inkling of what was happening, after hearing those lyrics night after night on the road, or perhaps a head-smacking moment years later— “Of course! How could I not have seen it!” But by then, The Amazing Gillan had packed up his travelling Magic show and moved on to Purpler Skies and greener pastures…

The Secret Sabbath Songs: A Listener’s Guide

I first heard Black Sabbath at a friend’s house, sometime in 1978. I was 14 years old. That same year, I saw them get utterly destroyed by a young and hungry Van Halen, who opened for them on Sabbath’s ‘Never Say Die’ Tour. Behind the scenes, Ozzy had previously quit the Sabs, but was coaxed back to celebrate the band’s 10th Anniversary with one final album & tour. But somebody must have said ‘Die’, as for all intents and purposes, Black Sabbath as we knew them were over, seemingly the very moment I discovered them.

Although I started buying Sabbath records with 1980’s ‘Heaven and Hell’, I back-filled all of the Ozzy-era albums over the next few years. By the time I started collecting records, all of the Ozzy-era Black Sabbath albums were into their umpteenth pressings, and so I unfortunately missed out on some neat features found only in the initial production runs: UK copies of ‘Black Sabbath’ originally shipped in a gatefold sleeve with a creepy poem lurking inside; ‘Master of Reality’ originally came in an embossed cover and included a full-color poster; the early run of ‘Volume IV’ was not only produced as a gatefold, but also had several pages of color pics bound within, like a book. By the early 1980s, none of these features were still in production.

Since I completed my Ozzy Sabbath collection in the pre-internet age, I had no idea that any of these earlier variants existed, until I found a gatefold copy of the debut at a flea market at the local mall. But the most mind-blowing revelation was finding a dilapidated copy of ‘Master of Reality’ at a used record store in Boston in the late 80s. The copy was sans poster, but the vinyl within sported the old khaki green Warner’s label. Cool. I examined those labels closely. What the—

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On those labels were titles of songs I had never seen before… ‘The Elegy’… ‘The Haunting’… ‘Step Up’… ‘Deathmask’…?? The room spun around me. Was this some kind of bootleg? Nope, the Warner’s logo was front & center. Did the original version of Master of Reality contain extra songs that had for some reason been removed from subsequent pressings?? Then, like a 5-pound sledgehammer: WERE THERE OZZY-ERA SABBATH SONGS THAT I HAD NEVER HEARD BEFORE???

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Well… kinda. Actually, no.

Follow me, if you will, as we ascend downward and backward, into the murky darkness of Black Sabbath’s early years, where we’ll attempt to unravel one of the greatest mysteries of their classic Ozzy-era catalog… We’ll explore musty and worn album covers, moldy old books and faded record labels for the keys to unlock the keys to the Sabbath Code… We’ll travel to that to that cursed and unholy place where Art meets Commerce in an eternal battle for our musical souls. Because it’s true what they say: the Devil is in the details.

Nerd Alert!

On their landmark 1970 debut, Black Sabbath put their live set down on tape as-is, almost completely live, including Iommi’s guitar solo showpiece. Parsing these recordings for a proper track listing was likely a bit problematic in such a free-flowing, jam-like presentation, particularly during the final third of the album. When the original European ‘Black Sabbath’ was released in Europe in February 1970, this arrangement was listed as just two songs: ‘Sleeping Village’ and ‘Warning’, with an extensive untitled guitar solo section occurring inside of ‘The Warning’; four months later, when the album was released in the US, the solo section was given a title: ‘A Bit of Finger’, and all three ‘songs’ were grouped together into one single 14-minute track.

If this was an attempt to clarify this convoluted cluster of music, it failed, because while ‘Finger’ is listed first, the album’s 14-minute climax actually begins with ‘Sleeping Village’. With the last guitar note from ‘Village’ still ringing, ‘Warning’ begins with bass and drums, with no clean break between the songs. Then at around the 7-minute mark, ‘Warning’ transitions into ‘A Bit of Finger’, Iommi’s 6-minute lead guitar showcase, after which the rhythm section re-enters at around 13:00, providing a brief musical bridge for the band to reprise ‘Warning’ and give it a proper ending. Exactly why ‘Finger’ appears first in the track list is a mystery. So, if not to clarify, why alter the track listing at all?

Side One features the same phenomenon: The UK version lists ‘Behind the Wall of Sleep’ and ‘N.I.B.’ as two songs; the US version listed this music as four separate works combined into one track, adding something called ‘The Wasp’, and also gave Geezer Butler’s solo intro to ‘N.I.B.’ a clever title: ‘Bassically’. These changes to how this music was identified resulted in two songs becoming four. Again: Why were intros, and other sections of songs broken out and given their own titles for the US market, identifying them as distinct pieces of music?

Simple answer: Money. The Warner’s deal for the US afforded band an opportunity to negotiate a new publishing deal, and more songs = more publishing money, for both band and publisher. Bill Ward has himself once responded to an interview question regarding these titles by stating that the band needed a minimum of 10 songs per album to satisfy the requirements of their publishing agreement; Ward was likely referring to their US publishing deal, as each Sabbath album that had less than 10 titles listed on the UK version contained 10 or more titles when released in the US.

For confirmation that these ‘extra’ titles were added after the albums were recorded, one only need to check out the handwritten track notes on the original tape boxes for the Sab’s first three albums (reproduced in Sanctuary’s 2009 CD reissues), indicating that these titles were not in use during the recording sessions. So: Extra song titles were added to each of Sabbath’s first five US releases to satisfy a stateside publishing deal. Mystery solved?! Probably.

Now that we have surmised the origin of these phantom titles, nagging questions remain: Were these titles just conjured out of nothing and slapped onto record labels for mere monetary gain? Or are they connected to any of the music on these records in some way? We can only guess… Um, hold on a minute… Besides also appearing on early cassette or 8-track tape runs, these song titles actually DID appear in one other notable place…

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Hal Leonard Publishing, the music notation juggernaut, produced ‘easy guitar’ songbooks that were published concurrently with each of the Sab’s first five albums, and are still in print today. All of our phantom songs are included in these books, each of which provides ultimate confirmation of exactly where these musical mysteries reside. Where does ‘The Elegy’ end and ‘After Forever’ begin? Through the precise language of music notation, the Hal Leonard songbooks express these delineations explicitly, marking exactly where all of these ‘songs’ begin, end, and in some cases, reprise. While the titles and their sequencing on the early WB record labels provided clues, understanding exactly where these ‘songs’ reside is a futile exercise… Unless you can read music.

To save you the trouble of learning how to read music notation and/or spending fifteen bucks a pop on the HL songbooks, I’ve provided a rundown of Sabbath’s mystery songs, along with some pointers to understand exactly where and when they occur on each album. As you’ll see, some of these tags make perfect sense, while others seem quite random… the intro riff from ‘Lord of This World’ gets a title, but the intro riff from ‘Under the Sun’ doesn’t…? But again, the band only needed to choose two or three sections to name in order to reach that magic number of ten titles per record. Anyway, here we go:

I’ve already dissected ‘A Bit of Finger’, and ‘Bassically’ is pretty self-explanatory, but ‘The Wasp’ is a little tougher to nail down; Hal Leonard confirms that this piece of music acts as the intro to ‘Behind the Wall of Sleep’, it initially ends at the :32 mark and then kicks back in again at 2:30.

‘Luke’s Wall’ is the two-minute section that closes ‘War Pigs’. It starts at approx. 5:40 and ends the song by speeding up the tape to the point where this Black Sabbath masterpiece sounds like an Alvin and the Chipmunks song. Like, wow, man.

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‘Jack the Stripper’ is the intro to ‘Paranoid’ album-closer ‘Fairies Wear Boots’. It wraps up it’s initial appearance at about 1:10, where the drum break carries us into the classic ‘Fairies’ riff; it reprises again at around 3:30 and repeats its lead-in to the main song.

‘The Elegy’ is the section of music that introduces ‘After Forever’, coming in immediately after that ominous phased tape loop that bookends the song. ‘Elegy’ reprises several times within ‘Forever’, and early Warner’s pressings listed this grouping as ‘AFTER FOREVER (Including ‘THE ELEGY’)’.

‘The Haunting’ is nothing more than the ghostly edge-of-feedback bent note that soars and dives throughout the slow fade at the close of ‘Children of the Grave’. Ozzy whispering the song title as the section fades was undoubtedly the inspiration for the iconic sounds that signal the arrival of Jason in the Friday the 13th movies. I can’t be the first one who’s noticed that…

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‘Step Up’ is the riff that repeats for 30 seconds at the start of ‘Lord of This World’. It’s listed on the original solid green Warner Bros label as occurring before ‘Lord’ and its duration is time-stamped at :30, although it does appear again within the song, just after the chorus.

‘Death Mask’ is not only the greatest/heaviest muthafuckin’ riff of all time, but it’s also the intro to ‘Into the Void’. It’s likely that this was conceived as an song idea and given a title before it was attached to ‘Void’, as this segment was played live by itself as part of an extended jam inside an elongated ‘Wicked World’ in 1973 (See: ‘Live at Last’).

‘The Straightener’ is the instrumental section that quickly fades in and closes ‘Wheels of Confusion’ on the ‘Volume 4’ album.

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‘Every Day Comes And Goes’ is the section in ‘Under the Sun’ where the song breaks down into a new riff, at double speed. The vocals start with the line ‘Everyday just comes and goes/Life is one long overdose’ etc, before moving into some jazzy soloing from Iommi and solo bits for Ward.

‘You Think That I’m Crazy’ is tacked onto ‘Killing yourself to Live’ and occurs between 2:45 – 4:08 (ish); while ‘I Don’t Know If I’m Up Or Down’ kicks off directly after that and winds up the song. These two pieces were likely written separately (and perhaps even assigned titles?) and connected during the songwriting process. The recognition of these two ‘ghosts titles’ imposes some structure on this somewhat-meandering piece of music and reveals ‘Killing Yourself to Live’ as a 3-part suite. Mind = Blown.

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‘Prelude To A Project’ is the 45-second solo acoustic intro to ‘Spiral Architect’, the gorgeously epic finale to the ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ album. The ‘Crazy’, ‘Up or Down’, and ‘Prelude’ titles never made it onto any official release, not even on any of the record’s labels, and have only ever appeared in the official songbook from Hal Leonard in 1973.

So there you have it: we’ve cracked the Sabbath Code, solved a decades-old riddle and uncovered hidden dimensions in the understanding of Black Sabbath’s essential catalog. These troublesome titles have caused confusion and consternation among fans and collectors for decades– at least for those who were aware of their brief existence– but no more.

The inexplicable disappearance of these titles from subsequent US pressings, and the fact that these titles never appeared on any album covers (just on the labels) has made these ‘songs’ the stuff of legend and added to the dark mystique of early Black Sabbath. For you skeptics and/or agnostics who would prefer your Sabbath remain dark and mysterious, I will submit that I have not examined these titles for any secret messages, biblical codes or mathematical formulas… If anyone out there wants to take a crack at it, go for it. Let me know what you come up with. But please, be careful…

Legal Discliamer: This blog exists for infotainment purposes only. Consume at your own risk. In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from the summoning of demons, initiation of Armageddon, loss of soul, or insanity, arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this blog.

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(This article copyright 2019. All rights reserved. Not to be republished without the express permission of the copyright holder.)

Special Thanks to my bud Monte Conner for instigating, inspiring, and informing this article with his November 25, 2018 Facebook post about this phenomenon, and to all who contributed to the thread. Oh, and to Hal Leonard!