Hey, it's cool, I'm roll with a Black Sabbath History month.
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I thought you were gonna at least go full out on the idea. I'll start.


Formation and early days (1968)

Black Sabbath formed in Aston, Birmingham, England in 1968 under the name Polka Tulk Blues Company (soon shortened to Polka Tulk), and later were called Earth, playing blues rock and hard rock.

Guitarist Tony Iommi was greatly influenced both by Hank Marvin's heavy guitar performances in the band Cliff Richard and the Shadows, and by jazz guitar, particularly that of Django Reinhardt. Iommi left Earth for a short time to tour with Jethro Tull. Iommi's efforts can be seen, albeit miming skills, on the film The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. Ward has also expressed a fondness for jazz music, especially drummers like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. Geezer Butler cites bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce of British blues band Cream as a major influence on him: “He was the first player I ever saw who bent the strings and played the bass as a totally independent instrument”. Early versions of Black Sabbath merged elements of blues, jazz, and rock and paid their dues playing cover versions of songs by heavy rock acts including Jimi Hendrix, Blue Cheer, and Cream. Osbourne says he was deeply influenced by The Beatles and his favourite album of all time is Revolver.

Earth moved in a darker direction when their bassist, Geezer Butler, a fan of the black magic novels of Dennis Wheatley, started to dabble in the occult. "Geezer Butler wrote the song Black Sabbath after he was given an occult book in Latin and Butler had a vision of a black hooded figure standing at the foot of his bed and told Osbourne about the vision. (from VH1 Black Sabbath Documentary)". In early 1969, the band found themselves being confused with another local band called Earth. After being called to play a concert, they found out the manager called the wrong Earth. As Tony Iommi put it "We died out there," as told in his interview in The Last Supper. As a result, they adopted the song title as their new band name.

The group found its signature sound almost by accident. When the group was rehearsing in a studio, which was situated opposite a cinema showing a horror movie, Osbourne recalls that Tony Iommi (Reference video: Don't Blame Me) remarked to the rest of the band how it was strange that people willingly paid to see a movie intended to scare them. The band began to purposely write dark, ominous songs in an attempt to be music's answer to horror films, and in rebellion against the prevalent happy pop music of the 1960s. In a VH1 documentary about the band, Osbourne recalled the laughable lyrics of radio-friendly pop at the time, such as "if you ever go to San Francisco, be sure to wear a flower in your hair..." (see: Scott McKenzie) - "screw that" they said, "let's go over there and possess people."

First era - 'original' line up (1968–1979)

Pairing their new heavy sound and the stage antics of Osbourne, the band found success beginning with their first album, the eponymous Black Sabbath, released on Friday the 13th, February, 1970. They signed to Warner Bros. Records in the U.S. and Canada, and Vertigo Records for the rest of the world. Their follow-up album Paranoid, also released in 1970, brought them even greater attention in America and the UK. The song "War Pigs" was written in protest against the Vietnam war and was originally planned as the title track. The band recorded "Paranoid" at the last minute simply to add length to the album. The song ended up becoming the title track for the album and the band's first single to garner substantial radio airplay.

Another innovation was the by-product of an accident. Tony Iommi lost the tips of two fingers on his fretting hand while working in a sheet metal factory. Initially, he forged himself prosthetics from a melted plastic detergent bottle. The injured fingers were understandably tender, so Iommi downtuned his Gibson guitar from standard E to C# (starting with the third album, Master of Reality). The reduced tension of the strings allowed him to play with less pain to his fingertips. Butler lowered his bass tuning to match Iommi's. The lower pitch gave the music a "heavier" or more substantive tone matching the band's lyrics.

Black Sabbath released another album in 1971, Master of Reality. This was the first Sabbath album to feature a significant amount of acoustic material ("Solitude" contained a flute solo by Iommi). This is an often overlooked switch in style by Black Sabbath, as they are largely known only for their simple, heavy, dark riffs. They added more varying musical elements by the time the band released Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 in 1972. Featuring the ballad "Changes" (containing only vocal, bass, piano and mellotron) and hard rock anthems like "Supernaut" and "Snowblind" (which included strings), Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 was the group's most mature record to date.

Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne in 1973

By 1973, the group was one of the most popular heavy metal bands in the world, and were a major concert attraction[citation needed]. Their next release, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, saw the band working with Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman on a session basis. Along with the title track, the album also included the space-rock styled "Spiral Architect," and the prog-rock inspired "A National Acrobat".

By this time the band was heavily addicted to drugs and Osbourne and Ward supposedly took LSD every day for two years. Towards the end of Osbourne's tenure in 1978, he was so embroiled in drugs that he claims he was "very unhappy and got drunk and stoned every day". Many of the band's songs address drugs, both explicitly and implicitly.

The band was suffering major management problems (the group was managed by Osbourne's future father-in-law, Don Arden). The management problems and then a label change in the UK from Vertigo to WWA disrupted the release schedule of the band's new album while the band was still with Warner Bros. in the US and Canada. Despite the troubles, Sabotage was released in 1975 with continued success. However, drug problems, continued experimentation in their music style (Gregorian chants and a chorale of monks highlighted "Supertzar"), the hard rock scene's changing environment, and some internal issues were affecting the stability and output of the band.

Technical Ecstasy (1976) turned out to be a commercial failure. The album was laden with symphony orchestras, synthesisers, and vocals from drummer Bill Ward following a brief departure by Osbourne during the recording sessions. After the 1977 tour, Osbourne stopped turning up at band rehearsals and the remaining band members recorded some music with singer Dave Walker, formerly of Savoy Brown.

Walker took part in the recording sessions for the bands upcoming longplayer by contributing lyrics to several songs. This version of the band even performed an alternate version of the track "Junior's Eyes" on the BBC Midlands 'Look Here!' programme in January of 1978. However, this would prove to be a short-lived incarnation of the band as Osbourne returned to the fold before vocals by Walker were laid down. The new album entitled, Never Say Die!, was re-worked lyrically and eventually released in late September of 1978. By far the band's most experimental release to date, the album contained elements of many genres such as jazz, synth-pop and blues but like the previous album, its sales were poor.

Due to internal conflicts and an evident lack of commitment due to drugs, Osbourne was asked to officially leave the band in 1979. Osbourne stated in a later interview (found as a bonus disk in the album The Ozzman Cometh) that eventually he was glad to leave the band because of the band's daily drug and alcohol problems. Osbourne later married Sharon Arden, daughter of Black Sabbath manager, Don Arden.

Second era - 'The Dio Years' (1979–1982)

Osbourne was replaced by former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Black Sabbath's next album (and first with Dio), Heaven and Hell, proved to be a revitalising success for the band with the band's highest charting since 1975's Sabotage. It was on this tour that Dio popularised the mano cornuta hand gesture, which has since become a symbol of heavy metal music in general[citation needed]. The album also marked the inclusion of Quartz's guitarist-turned-keyboardist Geoff Nicholls as a session musician (Nicholls has not been consistently credited as an official member, and has often been forced to play live shows from backstage for supposed aesthetic purposes, but he has co-written many songs and has stayed with Black Sabbath through all subsequent incarnations until 2001 when he was no longer retained). Also during the tour, drummer Bill Ward quit the band for personal reasons (both his parents died within a rather short period, and Ward was struggling with alcoholism and other addictions).

Drummer Vinny Appice joined to complete the tour and then record the next album Mob Rules, the title track appearing in the movie Heavy Metal. However, the recording featured in the film and subsequent soundtrack album is an alternate version from that which appears on the Mob Rules album.

The release in 1980 of the live bootleg Live at Last (recorded in the Osbourne era during the 1973 Black Sabbath.Vol 4 tour) prompted the band to record a live album properly on the Mob Rules tour, titled Live Evil. However, during the mixing of Live Evil, Iommi and Butler accused Dio of sneaking into the studio at night to increase the volume on his vocals, leading them to fire him from the band. Appice decided to quit the band when Dio left, and joined him in his self-named band.
Third era: Born Again - Ian Gillan Period (1983–1984)

Bill Ward returned to the drum throne and Ian Gillan of Deep Purple fame became the new singer. To quote the singer; "I had no plans to join Black Sabbath. I went out with Geezer and Tony and we got drunk, and I found out the next day that I agreed to join the band. And they're such nice guys. It was great fun and it paid the bills, I had a lovely year with them and that was it."

This line-up recorded the album Born Again, but Bill Ward again dropped out of the band before the tour, being replaced by Bev Bevan of Electric Light Orchestra. On tour, Sabbath played the Deep Purple staple Smoke On The Water as the first encore. Although the album surprisingly ended up being one of their most successful ones to date (hitting #4 in the UK charts), things did not last, as Ian Gillan left to reunite with Deep Purple. Drummer Bill Ward once again returned to the fold, and the hiring of new singer David Donato was officially announced in 1984. However, after six months worth of rehearsals, American Donato was discharged by management when Iommi and Butler squabbled over financial issues.

Lineup instability (1984–1987)

At this point, the band's credibility-destroying line-up changes, Osbourne's increasing success in his solo career and partisanship from music critics combined to put the band under Osbourne's shadow. Founding member Geezer Butler quit and formed the GZR. The original line-up of Black Sabbath temporarily reunited for one three-song show at Live Aid (Children Of The Grave, Iron Man & Paranoid) in 1985. After this, Tony Iommi decided to record a solo album and enlisted the help of long-time Sabbath keyboardist Geoff Nicholls (who was finally made an official member) and vocalist Glenn Hughes, formerly of Deep Purple and Trapeze. Tony Iommi also got engaged to famous female heavy metal star Lita Ford, and enlisted the help of her band's bassist (Dave "The Beast" Spitz) and drummer Eric Singer, (later of Kiss and Alice Cooper) to round off the line-up. However, management and record company pressure caused the album Seventh Star to be released as Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi.

There is a certain amount of controversy around the Seventh Star album involving Jeff Fenholt, who claims to have been Sabbath's lead singer for about seven months.[13] He claims that he left the band due to its incompatibility with his faith. Sabbath members maintain that he was never actually part of the band, only that he recorded some demos for Iommi's solo album. Supposedly some of the material on Seventh Star was written by an uncredited Fenholt.

Before the tour for Seventh Star in 1986, Glenn Hughes got into a fist fight, and suffered severe blood clotting in his throat which made him lose his voice during several shows. An unknown young American singer by the name of Ray Gillen (no relation to Ian Gillan) was recruited for the job and finished the tour. The morale in the band was very high when they started recording The Eternal Idol (former drummer Bev Bevan had returned as a percussionist, and a second bassist, Bob Daisley, was also involved), but the new Black Sabbath hit a devastating series of catastrophes involving mismanagement and financial debt, mainly from poorly planned use of expensive recording studios. As a result Ray Gillen left the band during the recording sessions. He later hooked up with ex-Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Jake E. Lee to form the band Badlands (which also included Eric Singer).

Tony Martin era (1987–1991)

Birmingham-born singer Tony Martin (ex The Alliance) was brought in to re-record all of Gillen's original vocals on the Eternal Idol tapes, and the album was finally released. Though Tony "The Cat" Martin somewhat resembled Dio, Martin clearly had his own style.

After the recording of The Eternal Idol, most of the band quit Sabbath, leaving Iommi, Martin, and Nicholls to recruit bassist Jo Burt and former Clash drummer Terry Chimes for the short-lived 1987 Eternal Idol tour.

In 1988, Kerrang! magazine ran a story that then Vegas-lounge singer Tom Jones had joined Tony Iommi and Bill Ward in Black Sabbath. This was revealed to be a hoax, possibly due to the fact that it was the April issue of the magazine (see April Fool) and during the shifting lineups of the 1980s, the Kerrang! staff seemed to enjoy poking fun at Black Sabbath as it then existed.

A degree of stability had returned to the Black Sabbath line-up by 1988 with the retention of Tony Martin and Geoff Nicholls and the addition of loyal drummer Cozy Powell, who replaced Terry Chimes. Powell, a legendary drummer, had success with his own band, as well as with Rainbow, Whitesnake, Emerson, Lake & Powell and many others. With respected session-player Laurence Cottle replacing Jo Burt, Sabbath released the critically acclaimed Headless Cross album in 1989, their most overtly 'Satanic' and occult-based album so far. An MTV video for the title track received considerable airplay, and was released to mostly positive reviews. After the Headless Cross sessions, Laurence Cottle was replaced by veteran bassist Neil Murray (a former bandmate of Cozy Powell's in Whitesnake). Sabbath released what many fans maintain is their finest album of the Martin era, Tyr in 1990. The group toured extensively throughout 1990 and 1991 to support the Tyr album.

Dehumanizer - Dio reunion (1991–1992)

On August 28, 1990, Ronnie James Dio invited Geezer Butler to a Dio show in Minneapolis as a surprise special guest, performing "Neon Knights" as the encore. After the show the pair reflected on the good times they had enjoyed together in Sabbath and from this meeting the seeds of a reunion were sown. The line-up of Dio, Butler, Iommi, Powell and Nicholls was short-lived, Cozy Powell leaving the fold shortly after to be replaced by Vinny Appice (rumors for Powell's departure include that Dio and Powell weren't getting along, or that Powell had suffered a horse-riding accident at the time). This marked the reunion of the same line-up from 1981's Mob Rules and 1982's Live Evil. Together they recorded 1992's Dehumanizer. The song "Time Machine" from this album was featured in the film, Wayne's World. The version used for the film differs than the version made for the album: the US CD of Dehumanizer features both the album version and, as a final, bonus track, the "Wayne's World version".

Playing to larger audiences than they had in nearly a decade, the rejuvenated Sabbath enjoyed renewed success with the Dehumanizer album and tour. It was around this time that Osbourne announced his retirement from touring and proposed that Black Sabbath open his final two shows at Costa Mesa. Dio refused to participate because he felt Black Sabbath shouldn't be reduced to an opening act, let alone to Osbourne who had insulted them in past interviews. Dio also didn't appreciate the shows being booked and sprung on him without his consultation. However Iommi, Butler and Appice agreed to appear. Dio angrily walked out upon hearing the news of this, and returned to his solo band. Rob Halford, singer for Judas Priest, was brought in as a last-minute replacement, specifically for this event only. The original Black Sabbath lineup, including Bill Ward, reunited to close the second night of performances, on November 15, 1992, performing four songs. Contracts were prepared for a new album and tour from the original Black Sabbath line-up, only for Osbourne to decline the offer at the last minute. In the end, Osbourne decided not to retire (following his No More Tours tour with the aptly titled "Retirement Sucks" tour).
Tony Martin reunion (1992–1997)

After the Dio debacle, Vinny Appice was replaced by former Rainbow drummer Bobby Rondinelli. Vocalist Tony Martin and keyboardist Geoff Nicholls returned to the band and Black Sabbath recorded Cross Purposes, and Cross Purposes Live, a CD and video combination, which was released in late 1994, after which Bobby Rondinelli left the group mid-tour. His replacement for the rest of the tour was, surprisingly, original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward. After the tour, both Ward and Butler parted ways with Iommi, Martin, and Nicholls.

Another reunion was on tap in 1995. This time the Tyr-era group would again join forces, as drummer Cozy Powell and bassist Neil Murray rejoined Iommi, Martin, and Nicholls for Forbidden. The album was produced by Ernie C of the pioneering rapcore group Body Count. To date, Forbidden remains Black Sabbath's last full-length studio album recorded by any line-up. After the recording of the album, Cozy Powell left again and was replaced for the tour by a returning Bobby Rondinelli.

In 1996, Castle Records outside the U.S. and Canada remastered and re-released Black Sabbath's catalogue on CD up through The Eternal Idol (1987), and a 1988–1995 compilation titled The Sabbath Stones was released to finish Tony Iommi's contract with I.R.S. Records.

Original line up reunion (1997–present)

In 1996, Osbourne launched his successful Ozzfest metal festival tour, which he headlined on a nightly basis. On the 1997 tour, for the last part of his set each night, he was joined by Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi for a rundown on several Sabbath classics (Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin was on drums). However, in December 1997, original drummer Bill Ward joined forces with Osbourne, Iommi, and Butler officially to reform the original Black Sabbath on a permanent basis for the first time since 1979.

The reunion prompted the release of Black Sabbath's album Reunion a live double album of their shows at the end of 1997. The album also included the songs "Selling My Soul" and "Psycho Man". These were Black Sabbath's first new studio recordings since 1995, and their first with Osbourne since he left the band in 1979.

Since then, the band has released various compilations, including an epic eight CD box set called Black Box: The Complete Original Black Sabbath (1970-1978). In 1998, Vinny Appice stood-in for Bill Ward after Ward suffered a heart attack shortly before the band's European tour. By the time Sabbath toured the United States as part of the 1999 Ozzfest tour, Ward was back in the band for good. This lineup has remained stable ever since, touring sporadically.

The band had writing sessions together in 2001, with legendary producer Rick Rubin. The band ultimately decided that all work done in that time was not good enough for the "legacy" of Black Sabbath - a decision which Osbourne has stated more firmly than the other members. They did play one new song ("Scary Dreams") throughout the 2001 Ozzfest tour despite this decision. Osbourne's solo contract further delayed progress on the album (Sabbath had planned an attempt at an album in late 2001 but Osbourne worked on his album then and toured in early 2002). Sabbath remained inactive in 2002, because Osbourne had to work on his The Osbournes TV show and headline Ozzfest 2002. His career, as has been the case since the reunion, ran in parallel with Black Sabbath's own.

After no activity at all in most of 2002 and all of 2003, the band returned in 2004. The session keyboardist was Rick Wakeman's son Adam. He had been working with Osbourne and, disappointingly to longtime fans, replaced Geoff Nicholls. Nicholls had been working with the band since 1980's Heaven and Hell album. Black Sabbath headlined Ozzfest 2004 - and again at Ozzfest 2005. In November 2005, Black Sabbath were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame, and the band played at the awards ceremony. That same month it was also announced that they would be inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 13, 2006. This time Sabbath did not play any songs, instead having Metallica play two Black Sabbath songs, "Hole in the Sky" and "Iron Man".

Bill Ward decided not to participate in the Heaven and Hell (see below), but has stated that he would participate in a tour and new album of the original Black Sabbath lineup in late 2007. This has not happened because Heaven and Hell decided to make the tour last a whole year, but confirms the idea that a future with Osbourne is being planned.

In 2007, Osbourne stated on his website that the original lineup of Black Sabbath would join forces in the studio record a new album, the first in over 30 years. Whether this will occur has yet to be confirmed by Tony Iommi or Geezer Butler who have remained vague, though they and Bill Ward have confirmed plans of some sort by Black Sabbath in 2008. Sharon Osbourne is also working on having the original Black Sabbath headline Ozzfest 2008. Whether this will coincide with future releases by the original line-up remains to be seen.


Oh yeah, I knew all of that at the top of my head...

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