Killing yourself to live: how Black Sabbath survived the 70s
Four decades ago, Black Sabbath faced the end of the road for the first time – and they had to make the most drastic of decisions to survive
While Black Sabbath’s imminent UK tour will see the metal godfathers bow out for good, it’ll be by no means the first time they’ve faced the end of the road. In fact, it was almost four decades ago that Sabbath found themselves in the most chaotic year of their entire career – one that began with drastic amends being made and yet, somehow, ended with Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward riding an out-of-control carousel that was threatening to hurl all four members into the abyss.
It began in January 1978. Mere months earlier, after a seven-year run of albums that had consolidated Sabbath as innovators of an entirely new kind of heavy, Ozzy had rashly decided to quit the band, attempting to put together his own solo outfit before having an equally sudden change of heart.
“It was only three days before we were due in the studio,” recalls Tony Iommi. “He contacted us and said he was keen to come back. We had all the songs written for [Ozzy’s replacement] Dave Walker, but agreed to let him back in. Maybe we should have been a little more ruthless and said no, but it was Ozzy, and we’d been through so much together. I just felt wrong not having him with us.”