Ginger Nuts of Horror
BY AMBER FALLON
It begins with that low hiss, that white noise kiss of static that no other media seems to possess. Then there's a crackle, the meeting of vinyl grooves with a needle, and the music begins.
For most people, music carries memories; listening to it brings us back to different times in our lives. It's almost magical, like being able to fold a snapshot of yourself up like a sweater and tuck it away in a drawer to bring out again later. For me, records remind me of my brother.
Never Say Die! was a complete mystery to me when I first stumbled across it in a used vinyl bin at my local record haunt in 1981. I was in the throes of my initial discovery of the original Black Sabbath catalogue and I had never heard mention of this album in any of the Sabbath literature I’d read up until then. The cryptic image of two masked fighter pilots in full flight gear standing in front of their plane on the cover didn’t quite jive with Sabbath’s typical album art. Regardless of the strange presentation, I was still beyond intrigued and grabbed it.
It was the final studio album released by the original lineup in 1978, and for some reason, it seemed to instantly polarize Sabbath fans into “love it” or “hate it” camps with very little middle ground. To be fair, it is an odd album for them, even in light of the previous year’s release, Technical Ecstasy, which was also a major departure in style and presentation for Sabbath, but which doesn’t seem to draw nearly as much criticism from fans.
BY TERRY GRIMWOOD
Black Sabbath is my favourite band. It’s a simple as that. I have broad tastes, from Vaughn Williams to John Coltrane to Jimi Hendrix and everything beyond and between. But through it all, it is Black Sabbath with whom I shall grow old and finally settle down. It’s a love affair that began one afternoon in 1972. I was sixteen.
Why did I fall for them? No one reason. It was the deep, thunderous soundscapes of their riff-laden music. It was the imagery of the lyrics. It was the raw poetry of what they did. It was the way they tapped into a vein that had already been opened by Irwin Allen, Gene Roddenberry, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Herbert van Thal, Michael Moorcock, Robert Silverberg, Philip K Dick and their like
Black Sabbath are a national treasure now. A band whose final concert was courted by a false and fickle media that hadn’t the slightest clue of what they were about. A media who tiresomely cite Paranoid as the song the band are famous for, in other words, the only Sabbath song that most of them have heard. A band who, in their heyday, were dismissed and even treated with contempt by the music press. But the faithful will always be faithful. So, a romance in three songs…
It's odd, I don't have a favourite Sabbath album. The first six studio albums from 1970 - 1976, and the first album with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, do amount to seven of my favourite records of all time though (and I have a great many records). I can't get a cigarette paper between those seven records in terms of my own listening pleasure. Their influence on the heavy rock music around them at that time, and particularly during and after grunge, was monumental. I sometimes think that these days, it's almost hard to find a metal band without the spirit of Sabbath, and an abundance of its musical ideas, present. Like many metal fans, I also look for Sabbath in other bands. It's probably the highest tribute you can pay to a band. They were so original, and such a precursor; I often wonder what their own awareness was, at the time, of what they were doing with music? Oddly, I also enjoyed listening to these Sabbath albums more from the late nineties until the present day. I think at that time I fully appreciated just how special they were/are/always will be. I often have these records on.
That wasn’t quite what I got. Keyboards? Synthesisers? What the fuck? The record remained untouched amongst my collection for a few years, until I revisited it later, with more mature ears.
I have to admit that when I first heard Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, I didn’t like it.
It was the eighties. I was into hardcore punk, and I liked my music fast, loud and angry. I was also the guitarist in a ragged little punk band. Because I played guitar—however badly—I was drawn to heavy guitar music, and the people who made it. My peer group were all metal fans (we called them heavy rockers back then, kids), so I was drip fed a steady diet of rock—Sabbath, Zeppelin, Motörhead, Maiden, Saxon—but I didn’t own any of it...
I was playing Dungeons & Dragons at my neighbor’s house when I first heard the church bell and the thunderstorm, followed by the diminished fifth–the Devil's’ Chord. It wasn’t until the plea of “Oh, no! Please God help me!” that I stopped all dice rolling and demanded to know who played the soundtrack behind our orc-filled dungeon. It was 1980. I was 10. And Ozzy Osbourne had since been removed from my new favorite band. The good news was there was a whole catalogue of music by the band to discover, and thankfully my neighbors had acquired the majority of it. However, the quest to obtain my own collection had only just begun, which my mother prohibited. It would have to be a tucked away safely out of my concerned parent’s reach.
BY ANDREW FREUDENBERG
So it’s 1971 and those crazy young guys from Birmingham have put out their third album. You’ve kind of dug their first two releases, as bizarre and original as they are, and you’re keen to find out just what the hell they’ll do next. You’ve played ‘Led Zeppelin III’ and ‘Deep Purple In Rock’ to death; you’re ready for some new sounds. So you gather your friends, roll up a fat one, crank the stereo and it’s time. You hear that loop of Tony Iommi coughing and, boom, ‘Sweet Leaf’ is blowing your mind for the first time…
Paranoid may not have created heavy metal in and of itself, but it sure as shit smashed down the doors and led the charge for the genre, kicking up poisonous dust in its wake as it cleaved its way into the hearts and minds of a youth struggling through a tumultuous time in history.
“Sympathy for the music industry!” I hear them shout in unison.
I can relate. There’s a whole lot of bullshit out there.
You know of what I speak. I’m not talking about mainstream pop music here. Modern pop exists in its own mundane, artless bubble, and it’s not worth my time or yours. What really stings, is the lack of real vision, real danger, in mainstream Rock’n’Roll.
I’m talking about all those bands who should know better, who quietly limp along with nothing new to say or bring to the table, recycling the same old well-established ingredients while chasing after the fool’s gold that comes with mainstream acceptability. Inevitably, the results are mediocre, diluted versions of the trailblazing works that have come before them. Lifeless, lacking vision, standing uselessly on the shoulders of the fearless artists who have come before, peering over the wall of their mediocrity at the unattainable genius beyond.