You're here for crazy Black Sabbath stories, but before getting to that, take a moment to hail the almighty power of the riff, as manifested in human form by doom priest Tony Iommi, and brought to life by Iommi, Bill Ward (drums), Geezer Butler (bass), and vocalist Ozzy Osborne. Many of the stories on this list revolve around Ozzy Osbourne's insane behavior and the drug-fueled hijinx of epic '70s metal superstars; don't let that distract you too much from the potent majesty of the band's music, because the two are inextricably linked in the psychedelic nebula in which insanity meets genius.
Sabbath emerged from the thicket of blues-based British bands in the late '60s, around the same time as Led Zeppelin and, like Zep, pioneered a form of riff-heavy, psychedelic, drug-fueled thunder that forever changed the face of heavy guitar music. Also like Led Zeppelin, the members of Sabbath lived life to the hilt at a time when musicians were availed of a near-endless supply of illegal substances. For Sabbath, the drug of choice was cocaine. It inspired their music and madness, leading to bizarre, occasionally disturbing, consequences, as evidenced by these true stories about Black Sabbath.
Behind the scenes Black Sabbath stories go as far back as the formation of the band, in 1968, when it was known first as Polka Tulk Blues Band, then Earth. Re-christened Black Sabbath after a film of the same name staring Boris Karloff, the band moved away from free-loving blues to invent heavy metal. Sabbath was the anti-hippie band, with songs drawing heavily on religious themes, including "demonic subject matter" such as the supernatural, the afterlife, and the co-dependent relationship of good and evil. Among the many icons gracing the band's artwork was an upside down cross which, along with the occult name and themes, earned the band an association with Satan.
According to Sabbath, the band was a reaction to the drastic social and political change that happened as the hippie movement fell apart in the face of the Vietnam War, a strong conservative backlash to liberal ideals, heavy drug use, and formerly groovy violent cults such as the Manson family. According to Butler, who wrote most of the band's lyrics:
"War was the main theme [of our songs]. My brothers were all in the army and I thought I'd have to go and fight in Vietnam. Then there was the atomic bomb and the feeling that we were all going to get blown up."
When Ozzy left in 1979, dynamics changed drastically, as did the culture surrounding Sabbath; the hedonistic chaos of the 1970s gave way to the business-oriented and coke-fueled madness of the 1980s. Don't forget: cocaine. Lots and lots and lots of cocaine.