Quick and Bizarre Rock N' Roll Question:
Can ANYONE even fathom Michael Bolton as the lead singer for Black Sabbath?
Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe by Mick Wall poses this beauty and lays out years and years of drug and alcohol abuse, band in-fighting, mismanagement and financial ruin for the founding members of the mighty Black Sabbath.
If you enjoy reading a classic tale of Good vs. Evil with a sappy happy ending...
this new book is NOT for you!
The story of Black Sabbath is a long and sordid one from their humble beginnings in a rough Birmingham neighborhood to their years of shameful debauchery in Los Angeles. None of the four original members, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne, could have possibly even dreamed of the twisted fate that lay waiting for them in the music business.
Universally scorned by the critics, including Rolling Stone magazine who refused to even review most of their albums, the band battled to the top mostly by word of mouth in the early days. In February of 1970 upon the release of their first record straight in the Top 30, Ozzy admits "...and from that moment on, my life totally went off like a rocket!"
Touring, great songs and more touring led to a meteoric rise in fame. On the first American tour in October 1970, Sabbath was opening for Canned Heat, Alice Cooper and the James Gang. In these short weeks things really starting cooking for our anti-heroes. They opened for The Faces and wickedly won the crowd over "...then Rod Stewart came on and they began throwing things at him. It was just incredible." By November they were heading in Detroit!
Fame brought dissension and alcohol and cocaine. Still outcasts clouded with darkness and drugs, the band remained a rung below most of their contemporaries. 'Even Led Zeppelin, still being scolded as equally derivative heavy metal dogs of war, were considered cultured and not without charm compared to Black Sabbath.' According to Ozzy, "...other bands' roadies got better looking groupies than we did."
'The very top of the very bottom, baby.'
Wall chronicles the band throughout its various lineup incarnations, with Ian Gillian and of course Ronnie James Dio, but also follows the parallel tracks of Ozzy's successful solo career including some wonderful Randy Rhodes' stories. The stories of their management struggles aren't so wonderful.
As typical of the times, Black Sabbath was taken advantage of and completely used by managers, record company executives and lawyers. 'The band spent a fortune in legal fees only to discover that, in effect, they had no real money of their own. The cars, the houses and even the music were all owned by their management company. Don Arden and his daughter Sharon were brought in by Tony Iommi to step in and save them. Decades later, the original band members are still seeking common salvation.
Bill Ward drops his sad summary on the downfall of the band, "I think alcoholism and drug addiction played a great part in the breaking down of the union of Black Sabbath. I don't think it can be overlooked, that has to be acknowledged."
Black Sabbath remains one of the most influential Rock bands of all time and this biography does the group some mighty justice by heralding both the highs and the unseemly lows of life on the road.
It's a crying shame that the ride couldn't have been a straighter one.
Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe by Mick Wall from St. Martin's Press
is out NOW and available EVERYWHERE!
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