Never Say Die

Tony Iommi, living legend. Metal pioneer. Riff machine. Cancer survivor. Solely responsible for keeping the greatest Heavy Metal band of all time, Black Sabbath, alive for 45 years, withstanding decades of changing musical trends and never-ending line-up changes. But is this last bit something we should applaud Iommi for? Looking over Sabbath’s long history and vast body of work, how much of it really lives up to the legacy? Can Black Sabbath even be called a ‘band’ after 1983? Do half of these records even qualify as ‘Black Sabbath’ records?

Let’s start the discussion with something we can all agree on: Those first 6 albums are untouchable. Every one of them should form the core of any self-respecting metalhead’s music collection. They are the reason that the name ‘Black Sabbath’ will be among the few 20th century music artists that will be remembered hundreds of years in the future. Is this not a fact? Is there anyone out there that would argue this?

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We can debate about ‘Technical Ecstasy’ and ‘Never Say Die!’; both are often included when discussing Sabbath’s unquestionable classics, as both feature the band’s original/classic line-up. But there is no consensus of opinion on these 2 albums, and fact that their relative worth is constantly debated means that there is significant doubt about their status in the Sab’s discography.

We may also argue about the Dio era, especially since the line-up that included Vinnie Appice on drums actually dropped Black Sabbath name and began calling themselves ‘Heaven and Hell’ in 2006. Some fans think a name change should have come with the release of the ‘Heaven and Hell’ album in 1979; changing it in 2006 created an interesting conundrum… Is ‘Mob Rules’ a Heaven and Hell album? Is ‘The Devil You Know’ a Black Sabbath album? Shades of grey abound.

Perhaps even more questionable is 1983’s ‘Born Again’, an album that both Iommi and Geezer Butler claim was not originally intended to be released as a Black Sabbath album. So BA carries with it some controversy, but is now seen by most as just as worthy of the Black Sabbath name as the 2 that came before it. However, having arrived at ‘Born Again’, and taking a look back at those unquestionable Original Six, one can see clearly just how far off track we have drifted. That said, I still include ‘Born Again’ in the larger discussion of ‘legit’ Sabbath albums, in fact, for me it is the final album by Black Sabbath proper.

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The post-‘Born Again’ Sabbath story is a fucking circus, with Tony Iommi the Ringmaster. After Gillan and Butler departed, American singer David Donato was hired and demos were recorded, with Bob Ezrin producing. A Black Sabbath album produced by the producer of Kiss’ ‘Destroyer’, Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, and all of Alice Cooper’s classic albums would likely have been amazing, regardless of who Iommi had in the line-up at the time. Alas, this all led to …nothing. Donato did an interview with Kerrang! as Sabbath’s new lead vocalist, before he was officially hired… and was promptly fired.

Iommi planned his next project as a solo album, but the suits at Warner Brothers insisted it be released under the Black Sabbath banner. Despite the ploy, we all know better, and the ‘Seventh Star’ album is now widely acknowledged as an Iommi solo record, no matter what’s printed on the sleeve or CD insert. Moreover, all five of the ‘Tony Martin Era’ albums that followed are also Iommi solo albums. Aren’t they? When the musicians who contribute to an album aren’t properly credited; when the recording line-up is different than the touring line-up, and when the list of players in your ‘band’ changes each album/year in an never-ending revolving door of musicians, putting even Rainbow to shame… That’s not a band. So let’s call these records what they are: solo albums.

Another Deep Purple singer, Glenn Hughes sang on ‘Seventh Star’, but was fired 5 dates into the world tour and replaced by the unknown Ray Gillen. That’s Gillen with an ‘E’. Eric Singer and Dave ‘The Beast’ Spitz played drums and bass. That Spitz gets to forever promote himself as a ‘former member of Black Sabbath’ simply because Warners forced the Sabbath name onto the record irks me to no end. And what’s the real difference between ‘Seventh Star’ and the five ‘Black Sabbath’ albums that followed? Not much.

Spitz was replaced by Bob Daisley after the first sessions for the next album ‘The Eternal Idol’. Daisley also wrote the album’s lyrics, but Ray Gillen quit shortly after recording them. New recruit Tony Martin then recorded new vocal tracks. Bev Bevan and Geezer Butler returned to the band for the tour, but Butler quit after learning that the band were booked to play in South Africa (wtf?), and was replaced by Jo Burt. Then Bevan was out, swiftly replaced by former Clash drummer Terry Chimes…! As I said, fucking circus. ‘The Eternal Idol’ would be the last ‘Black Sabbath’ album for both Warner Brothers and Vertigo, as the labels dropped the ‘band’ after 18 years. It would be the last ‘Black Sabbath’ record released on a major label for 25 years.

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‘Headless Cross’ appeared in 1989 on I.R.S. Records. Chimes was out, Cozy Powell was in. Jo Burton was out, Lawrence Cottle was in, but only for the album; Neil Murray played bass on the tour. Murray stuck around for the next album, ‘TYR’, as did Powell and Martin. The album featured lyrics about Norse mythology; the cover featured Nordic runes that for some strange reason spell out ‘TMR’. Someone didn’t do their homework. Lyrics about Norse mythology? Hey, ‘Born Again’ haters: how you like me now?

in 1992, Geezer, Ronnie Dio and Vinnie Appice were coaxed back into the fold, reuniting the 1982 ‘Mob Rules’ line-up for ‘Dehumanizer’. Thankfully, this record breathed a little life into the tired Sabbath carcass with a pile of strong songs and a successful tour. ‘Dehumanizer’ entered the UK Top Forty and hit #44 in the US. But is this the 16th Black Sabbath album? Or is it the second ‘Heaven and Hell’ album?

Ronnie Dio left again, after refusing to appear with Sabbath as support for Ozzy Osbourne’s two ‘final’ shows in November; Dio called Ozzy a ‘clown’ and quit. This turn of events led to Rob Halford, who had just recently departed Judas Priest, being drafted at the last minute to sing both sets. Everyone involved acknowledges that there was talk of Halford joining the band permanently. How amazing would that have been? Halford fronting Sabbath, looking all Anton LaVey, with a vocal range the band’s previous few singers could only dream of… And he certainly would have nailed it in the lyrics department. But it didn’t happen; surely he was touched by Sharon Osbourne’s Hand of Doom. On the second of those two shows in Costa Mesa, Ward, Butler and Iommi joined Ozzy at the end of his set and played four songs as Black Sabbath. And this led to …absolutely nothing.

Iommi assembled yet another line-up, finally convincing Geezer to stick around and reactivating Tony Martin. Bobby Rondinelli was hired on as drummer. ‘Cross Purposes’ featured cover art blatantly stolen from Scorpions’ ‘Send me an Angel’ single from three years earlier. As the Sabbath circus lurched through 1994, Rondinelli quit and was replaced by Bill Ward for the final five shows of the tour. Immediately after the tour ended, Geezer left again, forming GZR; their debut album contained a song called ‘Giving up the Ghost’, which featured the following lyrics:

“You plagiarized and parodied the magic of our meaning/A legend in your own mind, left all your friends behind/You can’t admit that you’re wrong, the spirit is dead and gone”

Ward also quit. Iommi called Cozy Powell and Neil Murray back, which resulted in a reunion of the ‘TYR’ line-up (yay?). But none could foresee that right around the corner lurked the worst nightmare ever conjured under the name of Black Sabbath… ‘Forbidden’.

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Some context: The mid-’90s were not exactly kind to ‘old school’ metal bands. I’ve written previously about the struggles of bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest in this time period, and steering the SS Sabbath through these Grunge-infested waters couldn’t have been easy. The sad truth is, in the late 80s and throughout the 90s, several bands were utilizing the classic Sabbath sound, at times sounding more like Black Sabbath than Iommi’s ‘Black Sabbath’ records did. Corrosion of Conformity, Trouble, Electric Wizard, Cathedral, Candlemass, and others all clearly worshipped at the altar of the Original Six, while Iommi seemed stuck on plodding rehashes of ‘Heaven and Hell’.

By the time of ‘Forbidden’, Iommi had tired of keeping the Sabbath flag flying single-handedly and was eager to take get a full-on Black Sabbath reunion underway. A return to the original Sabbath line-up had been in the planning stages since Ozzy’s 1992’s Costa Mesa gigs, but Iommi was obligated to deliver one more album to I.R.S. The label knew it would be their last chance to do business with the prestigious Black Sabbath name and were ready to take some chances.

Everyone involved in this debacle should have known better. ‘Rap Sabbath’? Seriously?? The band were summoned to London for a meeting to discuss the direction of the album. Iommi was told that Sabbath needed to regain some street cred, get hip with the times, and other such bullshit. Ernie C., guitarist for Body Count, the infamous ‘metal’ band fronted by hip hop icon Ice-T, was drafted in as producer for ‘Forbidden’. That the record sounds awful is of secondary concern. The real issue here is that the the song that opens the album, ‘The Illusion of Power’, features a rap by Ice-T. Here it is again in all caps: THE SONG THAT OPENS THE ALBUM, ‘THE ILLUSION OF POWER’, FEATURES A RAP BY ICE-T. Even Tony Martin raps/speaks his verses in the song. It’s godawful. And it’s only the first song…

After the Forbidden tour, Iommi was, once again, the last Sab standing. Since recording ‘Born Again’ in 1983, Iommi had burned through 6 drummers, 6 bass players, and 5 singers. The fact is that Ozzy Osbourne, ‘solo artist’, had more changes in his line-up between 1983 and 1995 than Black Sabbath, the ‘band’. Take that, Blackmore! Rather than gather another bunch of hired hands (who was left? Rudy Sarzo? Tommy Aldridge? Oh no, no, please God help me!) he wisely opted to put the Sabbath name on hold and until the inevitable reunion. You know, the reunion that started coming together at the Costa Mesa gigs in 1992; the reunion that, according to Iommi’s book, ‘Iron Man’, was being ‘managed’ by Sharon Osbourne?

Here’s how a snapshot of Sharon’s ‘management strategy’: After the band first reunited for Ozzy’s ‘final shows’, six years passed before the original Black Sabbath met with Rick Rubin to discuss an album and then entered the studio to write new material… but Sharon put everything on hold so she could turn her husband into a clown on TV. Ronnie Dio warned us of the danger! Because making herself a TV star by whoring out her family and presenting Ozzy to the world as a mindless drug-addled idiot was more important than a new Black Sabbath album. So talking, planning and writing was as close as we ever got.

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Today, 17 years later, we’re no closer. In fact, at this point, it may never happen. The Dio-era line-up, reunited as Heaven and Hell, wrote 3 new songs for a comp, then recorded a new album, and toured the world twice, all in just 4 years. Sharon has had 23 years to put a reunion together with all four original members of Black Sabbath. The original Black Sabbath only worked together for 8 of those years, and under Sharon’s ‘management’ were only able to produce one proper tour, a few jaunts as part of Ozzfest, one live album, and one recording of one new song. It’s almost as if she’s been working to prevent a reunion from ever happening. Hmm…

To my mind, the epic Black Sabbath run can be broken into three distinct ‘eras’: the ‘Original Six/Subsequent Six’ era, the ‘Tony Iommi Solo Albums’ era, and the ‘Sharon Osbourne-Controlled, Utterly Fruitless, Nearly-Twenty-Year, So-Called Reunion’ era. That third period is the longest of the three. Thirty years after ‘Never Say Die!’; I’m thinking that, all things considered, maybe it would’ve been OK to say ‘Die’ after all.

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Legacy of a Madman

Plenty has been written about Sharon Osbourne and what a detestable witch she is; here’s a few more sentences: Sharon Osbourne is the Devil. She is a corruptor of careers, poisoning every artist and all the art that she touches, manipulating and distorting their histories and legacies, and can only be described as Evil. This petty, vengeful shrew has made heroes into villains, stolen glory from the gifted, and turned her own husband into a clown. The amount of damage to the world of Hard Rock and Metal that this woman has done is epic, and in my eyes makes her the musical equivalent of Hitler or Stalin.

Thanks for letting me get that out of the way. Anyone who wants further detail about the exploits of the most hated woman in music since Yoko Ono should read Bob Daisley’s excellent book ‘For Fact’s Sake’, which focuses in incredible detail on the years he worked with the Osbournes. For now, I’m going to try to focus my lens on just one single bit of debris left in Sharon’s wake: Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Diary of a Madman’ LP. An amazing, important album, this record turned the tables on the Ozzy vs. Sabbath debate and set His Ozzness on a course to superstardom. But within this single album and its convoluted history lies enough evidence of her withering touch to condemn her for all eternity. Read on.

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After Ozzy was fired from Black Sabbath in 1979, he (or rather, his handlers) formed a band. Randy Rhoads, Lee Kerslake, Bob Daisley and Ozzy himself all felt that it was a true ‘band’, not a solo project, and they named the band ‘Blizzard of Ozz’. They agreed that having ‘Ozz’ in the band’s name was concession enough to their high-profile lead singer. Even their label, Jet Records, produced promo material using the band name ‘Blizzard of Ozz’. On the band’s debut album, however, the title and logos present the album title as ‘Blizzard of Ozz’, and the artist’s name as ‘Ozzy Osbourne’. (In some territories, the album was released without ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ on the cover at all.) Right out of the gate Ozzy was being represented as a solo act, thus diminishing the contributions of the other band members. For their follow-up album, ‘Diary of a Madman’, the name ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ is nowhere to be found.

Here’s were things get really ugly. Lee Kerslake and Bob Daisley were both fired from Ozzy’s band (by Sharon, not by Ozzy) soon after the recording sessions for ‘Diary’ were completed. The pair had done the unthinkable: question management. Months later, DoaM was released, with an inner sleeve that included a picture of Ozzy’s new ‘band,’ and what one would assume are performance credits, including ‘Rudy Sarzo – Bass’ and ‘Tommy Aldridge – Drums’. The script above the band pic is written in the Theban alphabet, and reads, ‘The Ozzy Osbourne Band’. Back in pre-internet 1981, it took a while for the truth to leak into the rock press, but eventually it was revealed that DoaM was recorded by the same line-up of musicians that recorded ‘Blizzard of Ozz’. Bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake are credited in the sleeve notes as songwriters, but not listed anywhere as contributing musicians… Johnny Cook, who played all of the keyboards on the album, is also uncredited.

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(Side Note: Rudy Sarzo’s early career has always baffled me. He was in Quiet Riot with Randy Rhoads before DoaM, which explains how he got the Oz gig… But while his picture is on the cover of the second QR album, and he is credited in the notes with playing bass on the record, he didn’t. So the first two records Sarzo’s discography credit him as the bass player and feature his picture in the album art, but neither record features his actual bass playing. So the basis of this guy’s considerable reputation is his being credited with the bass tracks on two albums that he had nothing to do with? Awesome.)

And thus began the epic legal battles undertaken by Daisley and Kerslake. I won’t go into them all here; but I will mention that in 1986, Daisley & Kerslake settled one suit filed against Don Arden, owner of Jet Records, for unpaid royalties and proper accreditation for his work on DoaM. Oh, and did I mention that Don Arden is Sharon Arden’s father; Sharon Arden managed Ozzy’s band, and would become Sharon Osbourne in 1982. This twisted triangle set the stage for the dirty dealings detailed in Daisley’s book. So: if you’re Ozzy Osbourne, your wife is you manager, and your father in-law holds your recording contract. Your manager and your label are screwing your band, and you yourself are screwing your manager. What do you do? Nothing, because you’re Ozzy Osbourne, clueless idiot.

The years rolled on, and, despite their settlement with Arden, Daisley & Kerslake never saw any performance royalties from The Blizzard’s first two albums. Daisley continued to collaborate with Ozzy as a bassist, lyricist and songwriter through 1991’s ‘No More Tears’ album, although the unpaid royalties and performance credit issues resulting from his work on DoaM remained unresolved. The first two Blizzard records were re-mastered and re-released in 1995, almost a decade after their settlement with Arden. With new versions of these now-classic albums were hitting the stores, Daisley & Kerslake beleived that they would finally see themselves properly credited for their contributions to both albums… Nope. The credits on these new versions read “Drums – Tommy Aldridge” and “Bass – Rudy Sarzo”. Still no money; still no credit. Arden’s settlement had been a complete sham. The lie that had been perpetuated for a decade had been re-told to a new generation of rock fans.

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Refusing to give up the fight to be credited and paid for his work, Daisley responded with more legal action. The bassist eventually became such a fly in Sharon’s ointment that she famously had the Blizzard’s first 2 albums deleted, and in 2002, reissued them with Daisley and Kerslake’s performances erased and replaced with new tracks played by Rob Trujillo and Mike Bordin. Daisley and Kerslake would no longer be able to claim performance royalties on this new version of the album. This move might very well be viewed as the biggest ‘Fuck You’ in the history of rock music. The notes on the back of these CDs, unattributed to anyone specific, say that the new tracks give the albums ‘a fresh sound’… Bullshit. Both players copy every note played on the original records exactly. Great pains were taken to capture the same sounds as those on the original versions. Good job, guys.

(Side Note: Mike Bordin? Fine drummer. Rob Trujillo? Fine bassist. I do question, however, their professional ethics. I’m sure they made a pretty penny recording these tracks, but I’ve no doubt they were aware of exactly what they were contributing to: the bastardization of a classic album, and their aiding and abetting of Mrs. Ozz in the ultimate insult to a fellow musician. Shitty.)

Ozzy has said that he had nothing to do with this decision, that it was all Sharon; Sharon has said that it was solely Ozzy’s decision. Based on the Ozzy we watched on the TV show ‘The Osbournes’, the most challenging decision Ozzy was capable of making in 2002 was which cereal to eat for breakfast, so I’m thinking that the decision to replace those tracks was Sharon’s. Ultimately, after several years of sleepless nights, wracked by guilt, a deeply ashamed Sharon Osbourne finally had Daisley and Kerslake’s tracks restored to DoaM, just in time for the record’s 30th anniversary. We can be sure that her decision had nothing at all to do with the years of vociferous fan backlash, abysmal press and weak sales figures that resulted from her bogus 2002 version… Well, at least this version would be another chance to get the credits right and restore this classic album to its proper form and standing. Just Kidding!!!

The 30th Anniversary Legacy Edition of ‘Diary of a Madman’ includes no performance credits at all for the DoaM album which comprises Disc One, not even for Ozzy and Randy’s contributions. The 2nd disc, which features a live show from 1981, is properly accredited to Ozzy, Randy Rhoads, Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge. These credits are placed in the CD booklet after the info for Disc Two, creating the impression that these four musicians were responsible for the music on both discs. Intentional? You betcha. It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point to learn that none of the pictures used to illustrate the booklet feature Daisley or Kerslake; in fact, in some instances, their likenesses have been awkwardly photoshopped out of some pics that are probably familiar to many fans.

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The 30th Anniversary Boxed Set included both the ‘Blizzard’ and ‘Diary’ albums, and also came with a DVD called ‘Thirty Years After the Blizzard’. It purports to be a documentary on the making of the ‘Blizzard’ & ‘Diary’ albums, although, by avoiding any mention of Daisley and Kerslake, its presentation is skewed to say the least. It’s the Ozzy and Randy Show, and it paints a picture of two gifted musicians coming together and making magic. Ironic, because Ozzy himself has said that he had little input into these albums beyond contributing vocal melodies, as at the time of their recording, he was a complete mental and physical train wreck. While there is some classic RR footage to be found here, along with several touching moments featuring Ozzy reminiscing about working with Rhoads, leaving one half of the band/songwriters/performers (including the album’s primary lyricist) out of the picture does history a grave disservice.

‘Diary of a Madman’ has had 4 major releases on Compact Disc: 1987, 1995, 2002 & 2011. Only the bastardized 2002 version contains the proper performance accreditation. The casual fan would have no idea which version of this album they were buying from iTunes, because most mp3s don’t come with credits or liner notes attached. If you hear ‘I Don’t Know’ or Flying High Again’ on the radio today, do you know who you are listening to? DoaM has sold over three million copies since it’s release. Three million lies, told again and again, for over three decades. Don’t support Sharon Osbourne’s 30-year campaign of deceit. Find the vinyl version. The truth is out there.

The denial of credit to Daisley and Kerslake is nothing more than a game to this vicious, vengeful bitch, played for her own amusement at the expense of two excellent musicians and all fans of great music. And it’s a game she continues to play… The music world is currently watching this despicable cow destroying Black Sabbath from the inside out, by stabbing at its heart: drummer Bill Ward. There is ZERO doubt in my mind that this detestable hag is behind the curtain, pulling the strings to ensure that the original Sabbath will never play or record together ever again, because this time it was Ward who did the unthinkable: he asked to be fairly compensated for his contributions to one of the greatest bands of all time.