This was the first Black Sabbath single. It was released six months after their first album and had a huge impact in their native UK, going to #4. The group never charted again in the UK Top-10, but that wasn't a problem since album and ticket sales more than made up for it. Many UK rock bands, including Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, put little emphasis on singles.
Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler (from Guitar World magazine, March 2004): "A lot of the Paranoid album was written around the time of our first album, Black Sabbath. We recorded the whole thing in about 2 or 3 days, live in the studio. The Song 'Paranoid' was written as an afterthought. We basically needed a 3 minute filler for the album, and Tony came up with the riff. I quickly did the lyrics, and Ozzy was reading them as he was singing." (thanks, Tim - Miramichi, Canada)
As the title suggests, this song is about a man who is paranoid. The driving guitar and bass create a nervous energy to go along with Ozzy's lyrics. Geezer Butler explained the song's meaning to Mojo magazine June 2013: "Basically, it's just about depression, because I didn't really know the difference between depression and paranoia. It's a drug thing; when you're smoking a joint you get totally paranoid about people, you can't relate to people. There's that crossover between the paranoia you get when you're smoking dope and the depression afterwards."
This was the title track to the second Sabbath album. The band wanted to call the album "War Pigs," after another song on the set, but the record company made them use "Paranoid" instead because it was less offensive. The album art, however, is a literal interpretation of a "War Pig," showing a pig with a sword and shield.
The word "Paranoid" is never mentioned in the lyrics.
"The Wizard," a song from their first album, was used as the B-side of the single.
Black Sabbath waited two years before releasing another single, "Iron Man." They did not want to become a "Singles Band," with kids coming to their shows just to hear their hits. This also ensured that fans would buy the albums.
In the UK, this was re-released in 1980 to capitalize on the success of Black Sabbath: Live At Last, which was released earlier that year. The album was taken from a Sabbath concert in 1975 with the original band members.
Black Sabbath played this in their set at Live Aid in 1985.
Megadeth covered this on the 1994 Black Sabbath tribute album Nativity In Black.
A surprising number of movies have used this song. Among them:
Sid and Nancy (1986)
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Private Parts (1997)
Any Given Sunday (1999)
Almost Famous (2000)
We Are Marshall (2006)
Dark Shadows (2012)
This song is used in two music based video games: Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock for the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 2, and Playstation 3, and also in the video game Rock Band for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. (thanks, Mike - A small town in, MA)
In Finland, "Paranoid" has the same status as "Freebird" in the US or "Stairway to Heaven" in the UK, regardless of the band or the type of music they play, at least once during every show, someone will shout "Soittakaa Paranoid!" (Play "Paranoid").
Tony Iommi recorded Paranoid
with a black eye after the band had gotten involved in a brawl with some punks. This incident is also referred to in "Fairies Wear Boots
Black Sabbath played (OK, lip-synched) this on Top of the Pops in 1970.
In 2002 Ozzy, Tony Iommi, Phil Collins, and Pino Palladino (of the Who) played this song in Buckingham Palace during the Queen's Golden Jubilee.