Black Sabbath

Album: Black Sabbath (1970)
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This is the song that became the name of the band. They were playing clubs in Germany and using the name "Earth" when they realized another band had the same name. "Black Sabbath" was lifted from the title of a 1963 horror movie starring Boris Karloff that was directed by the Italian filmmaker Mario Bava.

    The group's lead singer Ozzy Osbourne and bass player Geezer Butler had seen the film, and decided to write a song with that title. When it became clear that the band needed a new moniker, they named themselves after this song.

    The name change coincided with a new sound and image for the group. They had been playing blues (mostly covers), but started writing more original material and found a darker, heavier sound that defined them throughout their Hall of Fame career. Eschewing anything resembling R&B or psychedelia, they found a fan base hungry for something fiendish and new. Critics derided the band, but they quickly became one of the most popular and enduring acts of their time.
  • From Black Sabbath: The Ozzy Osbourne Years: "While rehearsing new material, the band formerly known as Earth experienced a supernatural experience. Geezer and Tony were playing new riffs for Ozzy and Bill when, much to everyone's surprise, they both strummed the same notes at the same tempo - although neither had ever before heard the other one play the piece! Convinced that this was an omen, Geezer christened the song and the group Black Sabbath (after the movie)." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brett - Edmonton, Canada
  • This was the first song on the first Black Sabbath album. The album cost $1200 to make and took about eight hours to record.
  • Thanks to the "Black Sabbath" moniker, many fans associated the band with Satanism, an image they played up throughout their career. This song, however, expresses a healthy fear of the devil.
  • Tony Iommi on "Black Sabbath": "We knew we had something; you could feel it, the hairs stood up on your arms, it just felt so different. We didn't know what it was, but we liked it." "Everybody started putting bits to it and afterwards we thought it was amazing. Really strange, but good. We were all shocked, but we knew that we had something there."
  • During a July 2001 interview with Geezer Butler, Guitar World magazine explained that "having borrowed a 16th century tome of black magic from Osbourne one afternoon, Butler awoke that night to find a black shape staring balefully at him from the foot of his bed. After a few frightening moments, the figure slowly vanished into thin air." Geezer continued to describe how he "told Ozzy about it. It stuck in his mind, and when we started playing 'Black Sabbath', he just came out with those lyrics. It had to come out, and it eventually did in that song - and then there was only one possible name for the band, really!"
  • This has been covered by Vader, Widespread Panic, Dance or Die, Flower Travellin' Band, Amber Assylum, Jello Biafra (with Ice T), Acheron, Mistress, and Cryptal Darkness. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brett - Edmonton, Canada, for above 2
  • Type O Negative covered this, except they changed the lyrics so that the song is from Satan's point of view. The song was called "Black Sabbath (from The Satanic Perspective)." It was on the albums Nativity in Black: Tribute To Black Sabbath and Type O Negative's The Least Worst of Type O Negative.

    Geezer Butler told Jam! Music that this was his favorite ever cover of a Sabbath song. Said the bassist: "That was outstanding. They definitely got the spirit of that song."
  • In 2002, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Phil Collins, and Pino Palladino of The Who played Paranoid at Buckingham Palace in celebration of the Queen's fiftieth year on the throne. The young princes Harry and William asked Iommi why the group hadn't played "Black Sabbath."
  • Former Black Sabbath manager Patrick Meehan bought a race horse and named it Black Sabbath.
  • Guitarist Tony Iommi was briefly hired as Jethro Tull's guitarist in 1968, but shortly returned to Earth because in Tull he was treated more like an employee than a bandmate. However, Iommi did learn from Jethro Tull's regimented practice sessions and upon his return to Earth, "Black Sabbath" was one of the first songs to result from their new early-morning (well, okay, 9am) practice sessions.
  • Godsmack lead singer Sully Erna describes this as "The darkest song ever." Godsmack got a big break when they were invited on the 1999 Ozzfest tour.
  • In November of 1969, Black Sabbath appeared on John Peel's Top Gear radio show. The band played "Black Sabbath," "N.I.B.," "Behind the Wall of Sleep," and "Sleeping Village."
  • Sound effects of bells and thunder were added to the beginning of the song after the album's producer Rodger Bain got some sound effect tapes and suggested they add them. The band thought it was a great idea. (Source for this and some of above: Iron Man: My Journey through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath)
  • Geezer Butler recalled to Uncut magazine: "The first time we played 'Black Sabbath' was in this tiny pub in Lichfield near Birmingham. The whole pub went mental."
  • The band Coven had a different song called "Black Sabbath" on their 1969 debut album. That band really was into the occult; the album closes with a black mass. Furthermore, Coven's guitarist was named Oz Osbourne (Ozzy's real first name is John).

    Coven left their record label, Mercury, that year, and in 1970 a Mercury subsidiary signed Black Sabbath. Coven lead singer Jinx Dawson claimed that the label was looking for a male band to replace them, copying many of their occult themes, but without the verisimilitude.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 43

  • Patricus Rexus from NoybSomeone tell me how to post more songs and threads on this site. Please. Great site but needs more history. Even if there isn't a fancy video attached. Concert recording would do just fine. Anyone who got to see the original line up during any period of their first 4 albums is ridiculously spoiled.
  • Paulo Pereira from Yonkers, NyDylan, that was Geezer Butler's experience, not Tony Iommi's.
  • Glenn from SydneyDoes anyone think about the similarity between the 3 tone riff and the start of Randy Rhoads lead break in over the mountain?
  • Seth from Ingleside, Txit's simple to say: if Black Sabbath wasn't around, heavy metal wouldn't exist
  • Sam from Sydney, AustraliaI thought it was about ones encounter with Death & Hell since the lyrics say "Figure in black which points at me
    Turn around quick, and start to run"
  • Luke from Dayton, OhI always thought it was about the apocalypse.
  • Robert from Atlanta, GaThis song, Paranoid and War Pigs are also on Ozzy's solo album The Ozzman Cometh
  • Josh from Detroit, MiTo clear up a few things... First off, this is one of the few songs Ozzy wrote lyrics for. Geezer wrote just about every other Sabbath song. Black Sabbath was definitely not the band that popularized distorted guitars, as Jimi Hendrix was doing it before them. And many artists used the Devil's Interval before Black Sabbath, it was just more noticeable with Black Sabbath since they tended to play them slower and heavier. The Devil's Interval gets a lot of hype, but anyone who has played around with the blues scale has likely played it. Hell, even the Simpson's theme uses it.
  • Pippin from Rhye, CaHas anyone seen the music video on YouTube of this? The end is hilarious, what with Ozzy dancing around at the end like a demented monkey or what have you...
  • Lundin from Stockholm, SwedenIt is worth mentioning that the album Black Sabbath is by many regarded as the first ever heavy metal album. And since this is the first song of the album, it would make it the first heavy metal song ever.

    Although one can debate forever over which song that was the first metal song, I think it has a certain appeal to think it was this song: It was released in February 1970 on Friday the 13th. One can picture a dark and rainy night that date; there are church bells ringing in the background. Heavy metal was born.
  • Jason from Denver, CoI heard that the opening three notes to this song is sometimes referred to as the "Devil's third". Funny the NBC chime is the same notes. Is NBC considered the devil's network?

    In response to Alex,Los Angeles,Ca The Ozzy Black Sabaath albums are: 1.Black Sabbath 2.Paranoid 3. Master of Reality 4. Vol.4 5.Sabbath,Bloody Sabbath 6. Sabotage 7.Technical Ecstasy and 8. Never Say Die. I hope this information is helpful.
  • Alex from Los Angeles, CaI just recently got into sabbath. And I got all the albums from dio years. But can someone email me a list of ALL Ozzy years albums and/or singles. I would really really really really really appriciate it.
  • Cj from Hamden, CtThe wanted to do this song because they thought it would be a way to get rich because people would pay to be sacred
  • Derek from Dublin, IrelandLommi didn actually use clay fingertips he melted down a plastic detergent bottle and then retuned his guitar from a standard E to C#.
  • Patrick from Corinth, TxFor a while in this album, Tony Iommi was using a stratocaster.
  • Chapel from Columbus, GaJess from Stephentown, I heard that he used clay balls of fingertips. These clay balls provided the slightly muffled sounding guitar for Black Sabbath. The loss of his fingertips devastated Iommi; he said that he was almot at the depressed level.
  • Dylan from Seattle, Waacually this song told by tony iomi (lead guitarest of black sabbath goes somthing like this... Toni was really into the uccult and ozzy just bought toni a 300 and some odd year old book at an atique show all about the occult, hell, satan ect. so toni read this book over a course of a few months and started practicing some of the rituals. then one sunday he practiced a ritual and he the found himself one night in a deep sleep and after he woke up from this mysterious ordeal he saw a dark figgure standing at the foot of his bed, and he said it was the petrafieing and insainley frightening thing he has ever seen in his whole life and he has never practiced seince.
  • Jim from Minneapolis, United StatesNo one really knows how Tony Iommi got his sound on this first album. I think he was using his 62-64 Gibson SG dot neck with P-90 pickups (he put metal covers on them) through a '68 Marshall Super Lead 100 Watt (even though later they got free Laney's and used those in concert). Iommi also claimed to use a Dallas Arbiter Range Master Treble Booster but he mentions no other effect. Obviously the Studio Engineer employed some great reverb throughout the album. I would guess the reverb was added after the guitar signal went through the amp and speaker cabinet and into the the mike. If anyone knows anymore about this most important recording - One of the greatest guitar sounds in rock history (and the bass is unique as well) please do tell. One of my favorite recordings of all times. Seen it performed live in the 70s. LOVE IT!!!!
  • N.i. from Baltimore, MdThe experience that inspired Geezer Butler to write this song sounds a lot like sleep paralysis, a state where it's common to envision a scary black figure standing over oneself.
  • Jeff from La Pine, OrWhen I tell people about this song, I always start at the first thunderclap in the beginning of the song, I will give them a fact and with every thunderclap I'll tell them another fact about the song, but I won't give them the name of the song, then when the first guitar riff comes in I'll just come out and say it, "Black Sabbath."
  • Rocco from , CanadaThe person on the dookie cover, isnt it the woman on the cover of the first album
  • Rocco from , CanadaOne of my favs nice riff sick guitar solo thanks to Tony Iommi, He's one of the reasons i picked up a guitar in the first place
  • Mark from Ann Arbor, Mithe double time part at the end is sick on the reunion CD
  • Mike from Gettysburg, PaThe riff is called the "Devil's Chord." It was forbidden to play in the mid-ages.
  • Anna from Warsaw, PolandOn Green Day's "Dookie" cover there's a person in black with a speech bubble saying "What is this that stands before me?" - I've always thought it's an obvious reference to Black Sabbath...
  • Billy from Otway, OhBlack Sabbath...truly one of the darkest songs ever.
  • Devon from Westerville, Ohthe middle riff during the is it the end my friend part is insane. I saw Sabbath two summers ago and they were awesome live.
  • Windy from Otway, OhThis song was on Wildboyz. The song plays when talking about the LEMON SHARK. Set's the mood,doesn't it?
  • Elanor from Zagreb, MoIced Earth (fabolous power-metal band) covered this song on their "Tribute to the Gods", on which they also cover Blue Oyster Cult,Alice Cooper,... Every metal-fan should have that album!
  • John from Sanfransisco, CaIf you play guitar and use distortion than you should be thankful for Iommi. He invented distortion. He was angry one day because he couldn't get the sound he wanted out of his amp, so he kicked it and broke one of the tubes. This created that dirty sound known as distortion.
  • Ravyn from Hell, NyFirst song Ozzy ever wrote, which is about a man that is about to die and go to hell.
  • John from Oslo, NorwayJosh ..no you got it wrong ..Iommi invented the guitar sound(however was most important) ..but what was Black Sabbath without Gezeers morbid lyrics, Bills hard drumming and Ozzys dramatic voice ? ..and thats the fisrt heavy metal band..the iventers and pioneers.
  • Josh from Las Vegas, NvSince Iommi was missing the tips of his finger and hd the things on the end, he had to lower the feedback so the vibrations wouldn't hurt as much. That's where Sabbath and eventually the rest of metal got the dark sound from. A blessing in disguise?
  • Robert from Chicago, IlAs eddie said, the fourth interval of this song has the forbiden sound known as the Tritone. It was banned by the church because it was considered the "devils interval" and could raise the dark lord himself and was never heard again until Black Sabbath brought it back with this song. Ever since then, almost every metal band has used it at least once.
  • Steve from Louisville, KyEven in Ozzy's solo years, bassist Bob Daisly wrote 95% of the lyrics, even after Daisly left Ozzy's band. Ozzy gets credit for the lyrics a lot of the time simply because he was the singer.

    Far as the flat 5 interval...nearly EVERY rock band used the flat 5, as it (along with the dominant seventh, another tri-tone off the third) is the basis of blues, and therefore the earliest rock.
  • Janelle from New York City, Nyoh one more commment from me. What makes the song so dark is that ozzy's voice is the most eerie here, and makes the song sound so cold.
  • Janelle from New York City, Nydoesn't Ozzy sound drunk in this song?
  • Janelle from New York City, Nyi agree with sully from godsmack this really is a dark song, not the darkest......but dark.
  • Tokie from Mexico City, MexicoNo this song was about buttlers experiences with black magic. He told Ozzy about it and Ozzy wrote the song. Ozzy wrot 95% of there songs that's why they sucked with out him.
  • Royi from Rishon Le Zion, Israel"Black Sabbath" in Hebrew is "black Saturday" and it refers to the arrest of the leaders of the Jewish population by the British, in Israel in Saturday, the 11 in August, 1946, two years before the foundation of the State Of Israel.
  • Jess from Stephentown, NyTonni Iommi was missing two crucial finger tips. He took bottle caps on one tour and glued them to his fingers with the missing tips. He found out that this was a solution but was much harder to play.
  • Eddie from Lachine, MiThe term 'Black Sabbath' also applies to some event in Jerusalem near the end of WWII but I am not sure what it was.
    The doomy guitar riff was written by Tony Iommi, he played a Db note against a G, which is a flatted-fifth or augmented fourth interval. Right when he played it, everyone else looked at him and said "What the hell was that?"
    The flatted-fifth interval is known as a tritone, and has been called "the devil's interval" for centuries. Many metal people use it in harmonies when looking for anger. Black Sabbath was potentially the first rock band to really use it.
    By the way, guitarist Tony Iommi is missing two fingertips from his fretboard hand.
  • Terry from Belleville, CanadaGeezer Butler wrote the lyrics, he also wrote 95% of all Black Sabbath songs.
see more comments

Gene Simmons of KissSongwriter Interviews

The Kiss rocker covers a lot of ground in this interview, including why there are no Kiss collaborations, and why the Rock Hall has "become a sham."

Best Band LogosSong Writing

Queen, Phish and The Stones are among our picks for the best band logos. Here are their histories and a design analysis from an expert.

Christmas SongsFact or Fiction

Rudolf, Bob Dylan and the Singing Dogs all show up in this Fact or Fiction for seasonal favorites.

Benny MardonesSongwriter Interviews

His song "Into The Night" is one of the most-played of all time. For Benny, it took him to hell and back.

Janis IanSongwriter Interviews

One of the first successful female singer-songwriters, Janis had her first hit in 1967 at age 15.

Motley CrueFact or Fiction

Was Dr. Feelgood a dentist? Did the "Crüecifixion" really happen?