“My Name is Lucifer Please Take my Hand”

It would have been more than ideal to say that Heavy Metal was born out of one and only album. Or that it was a job done by four friends that had a vision and created this album from to A to Z. Even more comfortable would have been to claim that this was a distillation of social riots, antiwar climate and this was actually the working class soundtrack, as its youth was trying to sound rebellious, as a reaction of being tired of its conservative parents that ruled the economy and the wicked society. Or that the album was embraced and was received from the masses and the Press as an instant classic. Still we should be fair enough to show our respect to these Brummies that managed to blend with extreme accuracy their influences and record a full of quality, magic and mayhem album, in only one day, a historic album that magnificently featured the riffs, the suffocated atmosphere, the mold of the Midlands and the industrial melancholy that the boring routine sickened the productive population. Low budget wasn’t a problem either the four track studio. The new era was breeding, the future was there. While everyone else was still wrapped up in the hippy and psychedelic ideas of the ‘60s, this was something totally new. Music was once again dangerous. The sound was scary, distorted, vicious and mysterious, while the lyrics was dark morbid and gloomy, something that made them unique and different them from the majority of the bands, if not almost everyone, out there. 

Musically speaking the guitars were dominant taking as first ingredients The Kinks’ 1964 hit single You Really Got Me, the 1968 debut album from Blue Cheer, Vincebus Eruptum, the 1967 Cream’s Disraeli Gears and the Iron Butterfly record In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968). Of course also Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple that had planted the seeds and now Black Sabbath was coming like the headless hero upon the horse from the Boris Karloff’s same title motion picture to harvest the crops. The four lads had started out under the name of the Polka Tulk Blues Company in 1968. It was the combination of a Carlisle band called Mythology (Tony, Bill) and Rare Breed (vocalist Ozzy Osbourne and bassist Geezer). Located in the Aston area of Birmingham (which Iommi has likened to Detroit) featuring guitarist Jimmy Phillips and saxophonist Alan Clarke, they were a heavy blues band, who quickly changed to Polka Tulk, and then Earth. At some time Jimmy Phillips and Alan Clarke had gone. In late 60’s there was a panspermia of bands that was playing the blues in their area and that helped Sabbath to improve their playing and the way that they viewed music. As they were playing live 45 minutes long sets shows (sometimes even 7 or 9 of them!) and as they had few songs they were filling their time with jamming and extended versions of their own songs featuring drum and guitar solos. The live appearances were taking place in the only rock venue in Birmingham• Henry’s Blues House, above a pub in the middle of Birmingham. This was run by Jim Simpson, who was to become the band’s manager and who, in 1969, packed them off to play regularly in Germany, especially at the Star Club in Hamburg, made famous earlier in the decade by Ozzy’s favorites The Beatles. The band survived the temporary loss of Tonny Iommi who has recruited by Jethro Tull. After the Jethro Tull experience, Tony was more professional as he witnessed how the music industry was working from the inside.

In 1969 still, the band couldn’t get a contract. It was that time around when their producer decided they wanted an outsider writer. They recruited Normal Haines from Locomotive, that had just split up by the time and Jim Simpson asked the keyboardist to join Earth. As another British act called Earth, who played pop and Motown covers, the band thought they had to change their name. Geezer Butler suggested they could use the name of the aforementioned Karloff’s movie from 1963. Plus they decided not only to change their moniker, but also name Black Sabbath a dark song of their own, that its lyrics very influenced by the supernatural. On August 22, 1969, now as Black Sabbath, they went into Trident Studios in London’s Soho area to record a demo of “The Rebel”, with Norman Haines (who compose it) himself sitting in on piano and organ. The session was produced by Gus Dudgeon and engineered by Rodger Bain. The Sabs weren’t the nicest guys on earth and certainly not easy to collaborate at all. There was another recording with another Normal Haines song, “When I Come Down” (sometimes called “When I Came Down”), but Jim Simpson couldn’t get Sabbath sign a record label. Having nothing to lose Jim Simpson made a deal with one-time producer and jazz critic Tony Hall. It was agreed that Hall would put up the capital for Sabbath to do a full length album, and then try to buy it to a record label.

On November 10, 1969, the band went back to Trident to have another go at recording a commercial cover. The song chosen this time was “Evil Woman (Don’t You Play Your Games With Me)”. It was obvious that the four lads couldn’t work like that. They had no experience on studios, but mostly they weren’t comfortable with covers. They knew they had to trust their songs as their material was closer to their personalities. So they outside help was a disaster and it was their decision to work with the producer Rodger Bain that made this album possible. A week later, on November 17, 1969, the band went to Regent Sound Studios in London – and they had one fucking day to finish the recordings. The rest is History…or better saying the rest is Doom…

Nevertheless it would be naïve to do a track by track presentation of an album that for half a century creates fanatics all over the world and has million and millions haunted with its hymns. Paradoxically some of their myth was born by decision that others made for them. The rain and thunder intro of the album and the track listing was Bain’s and Tom Allom’s idea, the artwork cover with the photograph of the ghostly figure dressed in black robes standing in the Mapledurham Watermill, located in Oxfordshire, England, was a work of Keith MacMillan, aka Marcus Keef, the inside the gatefold huge upside down cross and finally even the day that black Sabbath was released (Friday the 13th, 1970) was Patrick’s Meehan (manager of the band) idea, while eventually it seemed that Lady Luck had a crash on Sabs as the man who signed them to Vertigo was label boss Olaf Wyper, who’d actually seen Sabbath just once by accident. After all an accident was responsible for Iommi’s distinctive playing style as we all know…Even if these four young musicians just wanted to escape from poverty and their wagon to do it was music, at the end Lucifer had other plans for them…and us…