Technical Ecstasy

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Technical Ecstasy
Studio album by Black Sabbath
Released 25 September 1976 (1976-09-25)
Recorded June 1976, Criteria Studios, Miami, Florida, US
Genre Heavy metal
Length 40:35
Label Vertigo
Producer Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath chronology
Sabotage
(1975)
Technical Ecstasy
(1976)
Never Say Die!
(1978)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2/5 stars[1]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 2/5 stars[2]

Technical Ecstasy is the seventh studio album by English rock band Black Sabbath, produced by guitarist Tony Iommi and released in September 1976. The album was certified Gold on 19 June 1997[3] and peaked at number 51 on the Billboard 200 Album chart.[4]

Recording[edit]

After the frustrating legal battles that accompanied the recording of their 1975 album Sabotage, Black Sabbath chose Miami's Criteria Studios for the making of Technical Ecstasy, which continued the band's separation from its signature doom and darkness that had been a trademark of the sound of their earlier albums. Writing in the July 2001 issue of Guitar World Dan Epstein noted, "The sessions proved extremely relaxing for everyone except Iommi, who was left to oversee the production while the others sunned themselves on the beach." Iommi explained to Guitar World in 1992, "We recorded the album in Miami, and nobody would take responsibility for the production. No one wanted to bring in an outside person for help, and no one wanted the whole band to produce it. So they left it all to me!" In the liner notes to the band's 1998 live album Reunion, Phil Alexander writes that while the band were struggling to finish the album "rock had spawned a new set of iconoclasts as the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Damned led the UK rock explosion. Suddenly Sabbath found themselves both unsure of their musical direction and labeled as has-beens." "It's not like now: If you're a heavy metal band, you put out a heavy metal album," Butler explained to Uncut in 2014. "Back then, you had to at least try to be modern and keep up. Punk was massive then and we felt that our time had come and gone." To make matters worse for the band, manager Don Arden began spending more of his time focusing on another one of his acts, ELO, whose 1975 album Face The Music, was their first to make the US top ten. Iommi's determination to move Sabbath into a new direction was misguided according to some, with Mick Wall noting in the 2013 book Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe that while future "soft rock" million-sellers Hotel California and Rumours were just around the corner, "to try and force that sound on Black Sabbath was like trying to put lamb's wool on a suit of armour. It just didn't work, pleasing nobody."

In his autobiography I Am Ozzy, singer Ozzy Osbourne expresses his dissatisfaction at the time, particularly with Iommi, and admits "I'd even had a T-shirt made with 'Blizzard of Ozz' written on the front. Meanwhile, in the studio, Tony was always saying, 'We've gotta sound like Foreigner', or 'We've gotta sound like Queen'. But I thought it was strange that the bands we'd once influenced were now influencing us." Osbourne also writes that the cost of recording in Florida "was astronomical" and that he'd "lost the plot with the booze and the drugs" during the recording of Technical Ecstasy, eventually checking himself into the Stafford County Asylum when he returned to England. "That was the beginning of the end, that one," bassist Geezer Butler confessed to Guitar World in 2001. "We were managing ourselves because we couldn't trust anybody. Everybody was trying to rip us off, including the lawyers we'd hired to get us out of our legal mess. It was really just getting to us around then, and we didn't know what we were doing. And obviously, the music was suffering; you could just feel the whole thing falling apart." Osbourne briefly left the band following the tour in support of the album and, although he would eventually return for the follow-up album Never Say Die!, the band temporarily replaced him with former Savoy Brown vocalist Dave Walker. The band wrote a handful of songs with Walker, and even performed an early version of what would later become "Junior's Eyes" on the BBC programme Look Hear. Osbourne was fired from Black Sabbath in 1979, although he rejoined the band for their 2013 album "13" and their supporting tour.

While the band were recording the album, The Eagles were also recording their Grammy Award-winning[5] album Hotel California in an adjacent studio at Criteria Studios in Miami. "Before we could start recording we had to scrape all the cocaine out of the mixing board," Geezer divulged to Uncut in 2014. "I think they'd left about a pound of cocaine in the board." The Eagles were forced to stop recording on numerous occasions because Black Sabbath were too loud and the sound was coming through the wall.[6]

Artwork[edit]

The cover art was designed by Hipgnosis. Osbourne once described it as "two robots screwing on an escalator."[7] Hipgnosis' Storm Thorgerson, who had been assisted by graphic designer George Hardie, discussed the cover with Zoom magazine in 1979:[8] "We're very fond of that cover. From the title of the piece, Technical Ecstasy, I thought of something ecstatic rather than something technical, and I immediately thought of ecstasy in sexual terms: some sort of mechanical copulation, which would be tricky to do. I then thought of ecstasy as falling in love, perhaps during a brief encounter on an escalator – and, since it was 'technical', I thought of two robots...It's really quite simple – he's just done curves for the female and hard, angular, macho lines for the male. It's really quite sexist, actually – stereotyped. Anyway, it's love at first sight, but I felt robots wouldn't do it like humans would do it, so instead they're squirting lubricating fluid at one another." The UK release had a two-sided lyric/credit-insert.

Composition and reception[edit]

While Technical Ecstasy's lyrics dealt with a variety of topics, such as gang violence, identity, and prostitution (in his autobiography Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath, Iommi reveals that "Dirty Women" was about "all these hookers" Butler had seen around Florida), the music itself was seldom dark, although the band continued experimenting with keyboards and synthesizers, especially on the orchestrated ballad "She's Gone". The Alice Cooper sounding "All Moving Parts (Stand Still)" is about "a transvestite who becomes President of the United States," Butler told biographer Mick Wall in 2013, "because America was such a misogynistic society at the time." The album received mixed reviews upon its release, with Phil Alexander writing in 1998, "While today hardcore Sabs fans defend some of the bold steps taken on Technical Ecstasy, it was a confused offering which still hit Number 13 in the UK but limped into the US charts at 52." In 2001, Guitar World was less kind in its appraisal, calling it perhaps the "least-loved effort of the original lineup" with the band "trying to stretch its sound in several different directions, none of them exceptionally successful." It deemed "Rock 'N' Roll Doctor" "a bad Kiss imitation" while eschewing "It's Alright" "a sub-par Paul McCartney-style pop ballad." In 2013 Mojo opined, "Technical Ecstasy is the sound of Sabbath trying to make a grown-up, radio-friendly rock record and, in some parts, it works...Mostly, however, it doesn't with tracks like 'Back Street Kids', 'Rock 'N' Roll Doctor' and 'Dirty Women' resorting to clichéd and ill-fitting rock moves." Greg Prato from AllMusic agrees that "it was not on par with Sabbath's exceptional first five releases," but praises "Dirty Women", the "funky" "All Moving Parts (Stand Still)" and the "raging opener" "Back Street Kids".

"It's Alright", was written and sung by drummer Bill Ward, who was initially reluctant to sing the song for fear of offending Osbourne, but he was encouraged by the band to do it.[6] In his autobiography, Osbourne praises the performance enthusing, "He's got a great voice, Bill, and I was more than happy for him to do the honours." The song was often covered live by Guns N' Roses, and included in their Live Era: '87–'93 album. The song was also featured in the 2010 film It's Kind of a Funny Story.

In 1992, Iommi admitted to Guitar World: "Black Sabbath fans generally don’t like much of Technical Ecstasy. It was really a no-win situation for us. If we had stayed the same, people would have said we were still doing the same old stuff. So we tried to get a little more technical, and it just didn’t work out very well."

During the subsequent 1977 Australian tour in support of Technical Ecstasy, the band was supported by AC/DC.[6] The relationship between bassist Geezer Butler and AC/DC guitarist Malcolm Young was quite tense.[6] Guitarist Tony Iommi recalls the atmosphere between the two being "heavy" and that the pair did not get along at all.[6] Ward's drum tech Graham Wright and Osbourne's personal assistant David Tangye stated in their 2004 book How Black Was Our Sabbath that the problems between the two originated after a show the two bands performed earlier in Switzerland.[9] An altercation occurred in an hotel bar in which Butler removed a switch-blade comb from his pocket and opened it. Young thought it was a switchblade knife and believed Butler was pointing it at him.[9] In the Bon Scott biography Highway To Hell: The Life and Times of AC/DC Legend Bon Scott, Clinton Walker writes of the tour, "Sabbath, by 1976, were well past their prime, and AC/DC were all but blowing them right off the stage...Substance abuse in the band was rampant." Graham and Tangye also disclose that during the Technical Ecstasy tour drummer Bill Ward began driving from gig to gig in a hired Winnebago, so bad had his fear of flying become, and that when the tour arrived in the UK, one fan threw a bag of chips at hired keyboardist Gerald Woodroffe, believing him to be responsible for Sabbath's latest attempts at musical diversity.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne, except "It's Alright", written by Bill Ward. 

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Back Street Kids"   3:47
2. "You Won't Change Me"   6:42
3. "It's Alright"   4:04
4. "Gypsy"   5:14
Side two
No. Title Length
5. "All Moving Parts (Stand Still)"   5:07
6. "Rock 'n' Roll Doctor"   3:30
7. "She's Gone"   4:58
8. "Dirty Women"   7:13

Personnel[edit]

Black Sabbath

Additional

  • Gerald Woodruffe – keyboards

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label
United States 25 September 1976 Warner Bros. Records
United Kingdom 8 October 1976 Vertigo Records
Canada 25 September 1976 Warner Bros. Records
United Kingdom 1996 Castle Communications
United Kingdom 2004 Sanctuary Records

References[edit]

  1. ^ Prato, Greg. "Black Sabbath: Technical Ecstasy" at AllMusic. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  2. ^ "Black Sabbath: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 
  3. ^ "American album certifications – Black Sabbath – Technical Ecstasy". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  4. ^ "Technical Ecstasy: Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums" at AllMusic. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
  5. ^ allmusic.com. "Eagles Hotel California – Awards". allmusic.com. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Iommi, Tony (2011). Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-30681-9551. 
  7. ^ "The Artwork". Black Sabbath FAQ. black-sabbath.com. Retrieved 2 April 2007. 
  8. ^ "All About Hipgnosis", Zoom, the International Magazine, no. 6, New York, 1979
  9. ^ a b Tangye, Dave; Wright, Graham (2004). How Black Was Our Sabbath. PAN Macmillan Adult. p. 193. ISBN 978-0-33041-1943. 

External links[edit]