Black Sabbath: Bill Ward - The Wayward Son
We made contact with Sabbath’s estranged drummer Bill Ward to look back on a legacy that helped shape heavy music.
On the wall of Bill Ward’s living room there’s an aluminium cross, one of four handmade for the members of Black Sabbath by Ozzy’s father, Jack, in 1969. It’s a reminder that while the 67-year-old drummer might not be part of the current Sabbath lineup, Sabbath will always be a part of him.
Ward’s absence from the band is still a source of dispute – Sabbath claim the drummer isn’t capable of undertaking a huge world tour, Ward claims he was presented with an ‘unsignable’ contract – but today Ward doesn’t want to dwell on the negatives, but rather celebrate the legacy of what he and his friends Ozzy, Tony and Geezer created. He might not be a part of Sabbath’s swansong, but speaking to Hammer today, Bill Ward’s humility and obvious love for Sabbath is undeniable, and touching.
You stood alongside Tony and Geezer to accept Sabbath’s Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year, and your pride in the band’s achievements was very evident…
“Yes, I’m very proud of what we accomplished. Sabbath is a great band, and I love the guys. I think we were genuinely a band that changed music.”
If we go back to the start, Earth became Black Sabbath when the four of you undertook your first European tour in 1969. what do you remember of that time?
“Well, when I look back, I do so with real satisfaction. Even though we were having a hard time in terms of being able to eat, and we were sharing a single room with rats, I can romanticise the whole thing these days. It was four guys really discovering ourselves as musicians and learning to interact with one another, and there were some great moments. We played the famous Star Club in Hamburg, like The Beatles, and then played for six weeks at the Beat Club, Hirschen in Zurich. Our audience was probably 10 or 20 people, but it didn’t stop the spirit of what we were doing.”
Do you remember getting your first copy of the Black Sabbath album?
“I do, it was great. When I opened up the inside cover I didn’t expect the inverted cross – none of us did – but I was just completely elated that we’d actually made a record. It felt like we’d finally arrived. It wasn’t a bad record, either. There’s so much energy and musical diversity and intelligence present, and you can hear that everyone is playing from the heart.”
The inverted cross on the album sleeve helped create an image of the band as devil worshippers. Was that alarming to you?
“Yeah, and it was genuinely dangerous at times. It created real chaos, particularly in the Deep South of the US. We got banned from several places, and it created real controversy, and made certain people want to take violent action against us. Looking back, we were quite naïve. Ozzy’s dad Jack made us those crosses out of pure love to protect us, and we wore them for years.”