Black Sabbath ZANI – How They Killed The Hippy Dream
- Category: Music Archive
Some days I find myself genuinely shocked by the music press. Since May, I've noticed a complete lack of excitement regarding the Black Sabbath remasters. How can you ignore the Sabbath? Do critics begrudge them for pissing on and killing the hippy dream? I think they might. After all, the band introduced working-class anger, stoner sludge grooves and witchy horror-rock to flower power. Black Sabbath confronted the empty platitudes of the 1960s and, along with Altamont and Charles Manson, almost certainly helped kill off the hippy counterculture.
Not every one was happy with the doomy arrival of Black Sabbath and critics would often cringe at their records – Rolling Stone described their debut as "just like Cream, but worse". Yet the discordant power in their songs had a weird draw and the tones were incredible.
Their debut – which took just 12 hours to record, on a budget of £900 – perfectly encapsulates the Sabbath sound. Guitarist Tony Iommi worked in a Birmingham factory and became fascinated with the sounds and rhythms of the machinery. Eventually he used those industrial influences in the music of Black Sabbath and, along with other pioneers such as Blue Cheer and Led Zeppelin, Iommi helped create a noise that would be known as heavy metal.
Black Sabbath, for me, always stood out from other metal bands because they wrote the heaviest guitar dirges on the block. But not all of their music was heaviest-of-the-heavy, and I've always had a soft spot for Sleeping Village (which was more akin to English folk music).
Their initial run of classic albums revealed a band that were more than a little prolific: Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), Masters of Reality (1971), and (my favourite) Black Sabbath Volume 4 (1972). You can argue that Volume 4 was the last in the classic run of Sabbath albums. Having just got off the road and received orders to write the follow-up to Masters of Reality, the band were initially stuck. So they rented a Bel Air mansion and turned to cocaine for inspiration (the album was originally called Snowblind in tribute to their habit).
Traditional wisdom aligns coke rock with endless guitar solos and other muso dullness, but this simply does not apply to Volume 4. Instead, Sabbath committed to tape the sound of drug psychosis. The stimulants at this point still held inspiration, and were not, as they were to become, their eventual downfall. Volume 4 caught the band just as they were falling apart, but not before they delivered an album of utterly deranged menace.
Just check the classic riff on Supernaut. Super-charged and paranoid, you feel out of your head just listening to it. Elsewhere, they swapped the stoner dirge of previous efforts with the druggy daydream balladry of Changes and the more experimental FX, which finds them moving into into weird new territories. The album marked an epitaph on their classic sound. After this, Black Sabbath would never be as hard, paranoid or strange to know again
(c) Words Alan McGee