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 Osbourne's desperate vocal. Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler, who wrote the lyric, 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."
Although this was the first Black Sabbath-penned single, the band's debut single was actually a cover of Crow's "Evil Woman Don't Play Your Games With Me" a few months before the "Paranoid" release. "Paranoid" was much more successful. It was released six months after their self-titled first album and had a huge impact in their native UK, going to #4 and becoming one of their signature songs.
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.
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 two or three 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."
Suggestion credit: Tim - Miramichi, Canada
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 song, but there is no logical title amongst 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. Weezer included it on their 2019 covers set The Teal Album.
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) Slugs (2004) 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.
Suggestion credit: 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, someone will often 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."
Zero from The Abyss, NjI truly believe this was the first Thrash Metal song. Listen to the fast chugging palm-muted riffing during the verses and you'll see what I mean. It widely believed that "Symptom of the Universe" was the first thrash riff, but I say it started here.
Ken from Philadelphia, PaAs others have mentioned, this song was literally written in a matter of minutes. Apparently during a lunchbreak, Tony was noodling around with his guitar and played the riff that became the song. Since they needed a quick filler song anyway, Ozzie sat down and quickly jotted down some lyrics. They recorded the song (with Ozzie reading his own recently written lyrics) that afternoon. Sometimes... just sometimes... great Rock and Roll is all about being in the right place at the right time with the right guys around you.
Ken from Philadelphia, Pa"Paranoid" was used on the soundtrack for the movie "Dazed and Confused", and, of course, it was perfect. It is too difficult to explain the context unless you've seen the movie so, if you haven't seen it, trust me, there is no better (or funnier) slice of life movie about mid-70s teenagers and the soundtrack rocks. You will not be disappointed.
Christopher from Santiago, ChileI love to play it on my bass guitar, with a LOT of distortion. :3
Ryan from Anahola, HiTony Iommi is one hell of a guitarist. :-)
Moises from Brasil, BrazilThis song i met when playing Rock'n'Roll racing, at my Super Nintendo back in 90's
Elsa from Los Angeles, CaDang, just when I got the begining riff to this song, my D string breaks. ARGH!
Bryan from West Milton, OhThey just don't write music like this anymore. 70's ROCK is the greatest!
Scott from Boston, MaThe lyrics almost read like a suicide note. I agree that it seems to be more about depression than paranoia. But then again, the title is "Paranoid".
Patient X from Columbia, ScAmazing song by an amazing band
Brian from Vancouver, CanadaMy lifes soundtrack, if your gonna habitually smoke pot 9 years, youll relate BLACK SABBATH RULES
Justin from Virginia Beach, VaI agree with Fyodor who said, "Seems more about depression than paranoia." Am I Going Insane? (Radio) from the Sabotage album talks more about being paranoid.
Hunter from South West, Mithe guitar tab is sweet
Kevin from Monroe, NyIn dazed and confused, another great hit. Tony Iommi had lost the tips of his middle and ring finger of his right hand the last day of his job at a sheet metal factory in Birmingham. Because he was a lefty guitarist he had to make himself metal finger tips that added to the somber sounds in Sabbath's songs. He was only 17 and remained in the band its entire lifespan.
Cooper from North Salt Lake, UtI saw that it said that on the cover for their album parinoid they have a pig with a sheild and sword but i own the album and it looks nothing like that it looks like a regular person but all blurry from motin like when you move when your picture is taken
Charles from Somewhere In, Bosnia And HerzegovinaThis dude's voice is off the hizzy! And this is a great headbanging song
Conrad from Raglan, New ZealandThe first Sabbath song I ever heard.It "hooked" me in to all the other Sabbath stuff from there.No other song has ever had quite the same 100% effect on me.
Cameron from Arlington, TxI think this song is about a man that thinks his wife/girlfriend is out to get him and he breaks up with her.I think this because the first line is "finshed with my women"
thanks p.s the easiest riff ever invented
Zac from Sydney, Australiaexcellent song. probably be better if it was longer and less repetitive... but hey... they had ten minutes and now it's everyone's favourite...well personally i prefer evil woman =P
Justin from Pulaski, Tnjust wondering if anybody liked sabbath after ozy left
Bob from Perth, Waparanoid = awesome song Dudes!
Michelle from Minesota, Mni love this song i think that that song is te best ever and the first black sabbath song that i have ever heard
Steven from West Carrollton, OhNeil of England, because I AM of the British dissent, that still doesn't mean I can't say I hope you repent U-T-T-E-R-L-Y for calling Ozzy a sellout...don't even THINK it, you'd better pray for forgiveness...
Nick Lamb from Sarnia, CanadaHonestly Brandon, from Peoria, IL, the end part DOES indded sound liuke he says END YOUR but mabey I'm crazy but i knew it was "Enjoy" the first time I heard it...it could happen but I would not kill myself If Ozzy told me to.
Matt from Sactown, CaThis song is amazing and absolutely sums up the feeling perfectly.
Brandon from Peoria, Ili have heard that there was a series of suicides following the release of this song (or Megadeath's cover). This song was questioned because of the final lyric..."I tell you to enjoy live, i wish i could but it's too late"...apparently it was misquoted as "i tell you to END YOUR life, i wish..." If anyone else has more info on this please share.
Fyodor from Denver, CoSeems more about depression than paranoia. Exploits the adolescent feeling that one is all alone in the world and no one else can know what you're experiencing.
Dalton from Columbus, United StatesOne of greatest guitar riffs ever!
Dylan from Perth, AustraliaSabbath 4Eva!
Oscar from Stockholm, SwedenWhat i tried to say, was that i think this song is pretty much like a synonym to "good music"... Alright, i just didn't want you to get me wrong...
Marlon from Brooklyn, NyThe main Riff in the beginning is from Zeppelins Dazed and Confused, right before they speed up. It is significantly faster on Paranoid though. Black Sabbath we're greatly Influenced by Zeppelin. Especially their first album Led Zeppelin I.
Mickey from Langley, VaI just read that Britney Spears is recording an album of rock classics. She's doing Paranoid, Stairway To Heaven, Revolution (a duet with 50 Cent), and Born To Run (a duet with Kid Rock), among others. What's next? Maybe Axl Rose should do covers of Cher's greatest hits!
Alexander from Newburgh, NyThis song discribes me totally
Sue from WonderlandI really like this BS song as it appears on my favourite movie, Dazed & Confused. The feeling of the song fits the title well.
Robert from Chicago, IlO Crap i am sooo sorry, i hate misinformation and i just gave u some. thank god mike was their to see my typo, it was not reagan it was nixon.
Krystal from Victoria, CanadaI LOOOVE this song!!! haha and I love dancing to it! its awesome!! one of the few black sabbath songs that can be hyper and dancey.. the other songs I can find to be quite slow and a bit depressing, even though they are also extremely good!
Ravyn from Hell, NyParanoid: The story of a loser who isnt able to fit into real life.
Mike from Chicago, Ilrobert from chicago i dont mean to critcize some one from my home town but why would Reagan be on the cover of war pigs? he wasnt president in 1970 Richard Nixon was...
stick it to the man and rock on
Rip from Daytona Bch, Flagreed.. this is the most popular song in sabbs catalog.. but not the best.. not even the best on the album....d hand of doom kicks butt.. and rat salad is a great drum sole.. .. by the way bill ward has some real good albums of his own.
Robert from Chicago, Iland speaking of making records longer. have you noticed how black sabbath makes the /s in their songs (eg. War Pigs/Luke's Wall, Fairies Wear Boots/Jack the Stripper) that was to make the records look like they were longer because most artists made a lot of 3 to 4 minute long songs while black sabbath could be 5 to 7 minute long. on paranoid (or war pigs) they still didnt have enough songs so geezer sat down wrote paranoid in a matter of a minute and they recorded it. and with that queen incident they were planning on doing Sweet Leaf to "fight the system" but they were not finished with the song at the time.
Phil from Niagara Falls, CanadaThis is my favourite song. The live version is the best.
Dyas from Cardiff, WalesIm sorry Will I must Disagree...this is definatley not there best song but meerly there most popular...
And Junyi i must agree the Ozzy Years (1970 - 1978) were by far the best.
Although i do believe Dio's voice has much more of a dynamic range yet for me Ozzy's voice suits the musicical style so much better...
oh and just for a funny fact... Did u know that on their debut self titled album ozzys name on the inside cover is actually spellt "OSSIE"
Not bad for a 17 yr old kid aye!
Guisseppe from Bradford Uk, EnglandOzzy was requested to do this by the queen, but only because, apparently, harry is a fan....Nazi's eh?
Robert from Chicago, Ilthis is a good song and all but its too short all this is in the album is filler. it took 10 minutes to record the song. when writing this song Geezer did not even no what it meant. he said people were always calling him paranoid so he took a wild guess. the original album was called War Pigs and had a picyure of Ronald Reagan and Henry Kissenger on it but the record company said that was unexeptable and without the bands permission put on a random picture of a blurred soldier coming out of a forest (which has nothing to do with the album).
Neil from London, EnglandMatt, Hudon ' don't be so silly, the queen didn't request this song. In fact, I'm disgusted that Ozzy did that. Stupid queen, stupid royal family, stupid Ozzy for selling out and doing a show that celebrates the family that oppresses an entire nation. Paranoid? Not me mate.
Junyi from Singapore, SingaporeI actually like all songs composed during Ozzy's years there (My favourite band). They are much better than certain bands who do things electronically all the time, who play alternative metal, who did a collabaration with a another person and released an certain album....
Michael Picard from Lapwai, IdThey needed to have the full 4 side 4 side thing and they only had 20 minutes left in the studio so they wrote it in a couple of minutes and then performed it for the Studio and stuff like that. That is what I read. A very classic Sabbath. SABBATH RULES!!!!!
Johnny from Portales, NmI heard or read somewhere in a Black Sabbath interview that they went into a room with a bag of cocaine and wrote Paranoid in a matter of 10 minutes.
Kyle from Montreal, CanadaYou know, I was reading a song fact about the Megadeth cover and Dave Mustaine (singer and rhythm guitarist for Megadeth) said that Ozzy didnt like their cover of Paranoid, haha. Burn :)
Michael from Chino, CaAwesome Song! One of my favorite Ozzy quotes is from "Paranoid":
"Happiness I cannot feel and Love to me is so unreal"
Steve from Bakersfield, CaThe story of a loser who isn't able to fit in the real life.
Mark from Ridgeland, Mswhen it was written, they didnt even know what the word "paranoid" meant, all Geezer knew was that he was called it alot and it sounded cool
Tom from Trowbridge, EnglandWritten in 5 minutes. The album cover (a blurry image of a spage age warrior) was desined to go withy the original name of the album "War Pigs". They changed it because Americans didn't waqnt to be reminded that they were losing the Vietnam War. By the time they changed the name of the album it was too late to change the cover.
Will from Portland, Orthis is Sabbath's best song
Joe from Duluth, MnSabbath Rules!
Andrew from Bowmanville, CanadaAmmazing song! The whole first side of the album is wicked! LISTEN TO BLACK SABBATH!
Melanie from Gatineau, Canadai love this song!
Kirsten from Brampton, CanadaI heard that this song was written by the band in a matter of 10 mins because they needed one more song to complete the album.
Kristina from San Antonio, TxOriginally, the band did not want to put the song on the album. It was sort of a left over track added at the last minute. It was a hit, and also became a staple song for almost all of Ozzy's solo concerts.
Mark from Hudson, MaThis song was performed by Ozzy at the Queen's Jubilee. The song was requested by the queen of England herself.