Feb. 13, 1970 may sound like any other day in history, but it’s the day heavy metal was born. Black Sabbath’s eponymous album debuted in the U.K. on this particular Friday the 13th, and 43 years later, the greatest heavy metal band of all-time is still continuing to produce classic hits. By starting the metal movement, the band from Birmingham, England established the musical foundation and opened doors for generations of future metal bands to explore and experiment. Dave Navarro, lead singer for Jane’s Addiction, described how a “direct line can [be] drawn back from today’s metal, through Eighties bands like Iron Maiden, back to Sabbath.”
As Black Sabbath and their fans have evolved throughout the years, so has the music industry. The technology for listening to music has advanced over the years, and radio has played an important role in bringing music to listeners in their homes, cars and social events. KLBJ-FM has been Austin’s leading heritage rock station since its inception 40 years ago, and Program Director LA Lloyd has seen rock change fundamentally. Lloyd describes how the one constant through the years has been the impact of Black Sabbath felt by artists today. “If you ask any band big or small who was their biggest influence, most of them would say Black Sabbath. They are the godfathers to heavy rock and metal. “
In seeking a headliner for KLBJ 40th Anniversary Concert Series, Lloyd worked with the KLBJ-FM Marketing and Events team led by Kevin Brelsford and Promotions Director John Lair to compile a list of potential bands but could never settle on “the one” that would pack a major wow factor. But when the Frank Erwin Center Marketing Director Liz Land called KLBJ about a possible Black Sabbath show, Lloyd pounced at the opportunity to land the epic band. “There could be only one band at the top of the list for the KLBJ 40th anniversary and Black Sabbath is that band.”
By causing a paradigm shift that separated rock away from the fields of Woodstock, Black Sabbath became the definition of the heavy metal genre. With their flawless classic singles that inspired fans worldwide for decades, no other metal band will be able to replicate the pioneering force of Black Sabbath. Press play on their 1970 album “Paranoid” and each song sounds like it was recorded yesterday, thick in the musical density and soul-moving with each progressive listen. Read below to learn more about the most influential hits from “Paranoid” that inspired a new genre of music and provided a benchmark for the future of heavy metal.
Listen to Tony Iommi’s riffs in “Paranoid” and the urge to air-guitar along will be impossible to resist. As Ozzy Osbourne tackles feelings of paranoia and fear, Sabbath’s guitars and drums create a nervous tension with its fast-paced rhythms and crashes. “Paranoid” has etched itself as one of the greatest heavy metal songs of all time with numerous accolades, including being ranked fourth on VH1’s list of “100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs.” Ironically, “Paranoid” was written by Iommi as a last-minute addition to the album because the record company felt the album was too short to be released. Crunched for time, former drummer Bill Ward said Iommi “played the ‘Paranoid’ guitar lick and that was it. It took twenty, twenty-five minutes from top to bottom” to write. From a last-minute filler song to a heavy metal staple, “Paranoid” set the precedent for Black Sabbath’s career of long-reaching influence.
Contrary to popular belief, this rock anthem was not written in connection with the famed comic book character. The comic book superhero “Iron Man” debuted in the April 1963 issue of “Tales of Suspense,” well before Black Sabbath recorded their song in 1970. The song “Iron Man” is about a man turned into steel by a magnetic field who tries to warn of mankind’s impending doom. Although the song was originally titled “Iron Bloke” because Ozzy felt the main riff sounded “like a big iron bloke walking about,” it was changed to “Iron Man” and became an award-winning hit. When the original lineup of Black Sabbath came back together to perform in their hometown of Birmingham in December 1997, they released a 2-CD live album titled “Reunion” and notched their first Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. The live recording that won the Grammy was none other than the classic “Iron Man.” While many stood before the microphone to sing “Iron Man,” Ozzy was born to sing this song. When asked which member of Black Sabbath he would be, KLBJ’s LA Lloyd said, “It’s pretty obvious; the icon of the band is Ozzy.” Ozzy’s influence on all metal fans is echoed as Lloyd elaborates on what makes Ozzy so great. “I would love to step into his shoes for one day and look at his fans from the stage to get a perspective on what it feels like to be one of the biggest front men in the history of rock and roll.”
The thunderously slow beginning of “War Pigs” sounds like Geezer Butler is playing bass with the viscosity of molasses, soon giving way to a sped-up melody featuring an isolated Ozzy on vocals. “War Pigs” is the lead off song on “Paranoid” and delves into the horrors of war and the motivations about the Vietnam conflict with lyrics filled of the war-torn images of the South Asian battlefield. “War Pigs” was originally set to be the title of Black Sabbath’s second album, but their record label Vertigo decided to use “Paranoid” instead. Clocking in at just under eight minutes, “War Pigs” encompasses the greatest of Black Sabbath.
As members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 1996, Black Sabbath is lauded as one of the most influential bands of all time. They regularly receive merit and applause for their outstanding and pioneering work in heavy metal that clashed with mainstream rock. Black Sabbath will rock the house when they perform Saturday, July 27 at the Frank Erwin Center!
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