Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

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Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Studio album by Black Sabbath
Released 1 December 1973 (Vertigo)
28 December 1973 (WWA)
1 Jan 1974 (US, Warner Bros.)
Recorded September 1973 at Morgan Studios (Studio 4), London
Genre Heavy metal
Length 42:35
Language English
Label World Wide Artists
Warner Bros. (US/Canada)
Producer Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath chronology
Vol. 4
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is the fifth studio album by the British heavy metal band Black Sabbath, released in December 1973.


Following the 1972–1973 world tour in support of their Volume 4 album, Black Sabbath again returned to Los Angeles to begin work on its successor. Pleased with Volume 4, the band sought to recreate the recording atmosphere, and returned to the Record Plant Studios with new producer and engineer Tom Allom. Although the band's then-manager Patrick Meehan received credit as co-producer, guitarist Tony Iommi said years later that Meehan had virtually no actual involvement in the album's production, saying "Meehan's ego got involved, and he stuck his name down as producer".[1]

The band were disappointed to discover that the room they had used previously at the Record Plant had been replaced by a "giant synthesizer" by Stevie Wonder, who had recently recorded there. The band rented a house in Bel Air and began writing in the summer of 1973, but due in part to substance abuse and fatigue, were unable to complete any songs. "Ideas weren't coming out the way they were on Volume 4 and we really got discontent" Iommi said. "Everybody was sitting there waiting for me to come up with something. I just couldn't think of anything. And if I didn't come up with anything, nobody would do anything."[1]

After a month in Los Angeles with no results, the band opted to return to the UK, where they rented Clearwell Castle in The Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England. "We rehearsed in the dungeons and it was really creepy but it had some atmosphere, it conjured up things, and stuff started coming out again".[2] While working in the dungeon, Iommi stumbled onto the main riff of "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", which set the tone for the new material.[3]

Close friends of the band, Led Zeppelin showed up in the studio during Sabbath Bloody Sabbath's recording.[4] Drummer John Bonham wanted to play on "Sabbra Cadabra" but Sabbath wanted to play material other than their own for the occasion.[4] In the end, the two bands had an improvised jam session which was recorded but never released.[4]

Recording was completed at Morgan Studios in Willesden, North London in 1973. Keyboardist Rick Wakeman of the band Yes (who was recording Tales from Topographic Oceans with Yes in the next studio) was brought in as a session player, appearing on "Sabbra Cadabra".[5] Wakeman refused payment from the band and was ultimately compensated with beer for his contribution.[4] Allom used phasing effects at the end of "Sabbra Cadabra" to conceal Ozzy Osbourne's foul language.[4]

Osbourne has said that Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was "the beginning of the end" for Black Sabbath's original line-up.[6] Fueled by rampant drug and alcohol use within the band, tensions began to mount. Iommi began to resent doing the lion's share of songwriting and studio work, thus having no social life.[6] Bassist Geezer Butler also began complaining that vocalist Osbourne had become too reliant on him for lyrics.[6]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Building off the stylistic changes introduced on Volume 4, new songs incorporated synthesizers, strings, keyboards and more complex arrangements. Vocalist Osbourne purchased a Moog synthesizer; though he "didn't know how to use it" according to Iommi, he was still able to compose the song "Who Are You?" with it.[4] Iommi experimented with sitar and bagpipes in the studio but wasn't able to master the instruments to his satisfaction.[4]

"A National Acrobat" and "Killing Yourself to Live" were Butler compositions.[4] "Killing Yourself to Live" was written while he was in hospital for kidney problems caused by heavy drinking. Drummer Bill Ward was also drinking heavily, and the song reflects the problems caused by their "extreme" lifestyles. An early incarnation of the song can be heard on the live albums Live at Last and Past Lives. The instrumental piece "Fluff" was composed by Iommi and named after BBC radio disc jockey Alan "Fluff" Freeman.[4] Freeman was one of the few radio personalities in Britain to play Black Sabbath's music on-air.[4]


Drew Struzan (who would later create the iconic cover to Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare LP) was the artist requested to do the cover painting, under the direction of Ernie Cefalu. The idea behind the artwork was to depict a man dying a horrible death on the front cover, and on the back cover the same man dying a"good" death. It depicts a man on a bed, seemingly having a nightmare or a vision of being attacked by demons in human form. At the top of the bed is a large skull with long, outstretched arms and 666 (the Number of the Beast) written below it. The other side of the album features the opposite of the front cover, as shown here. Inside the gatefold sleeve there is a photo of the band members shown over a photo of a bedroom.

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[7]
Rolling Stone favourable[8]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[9]

Black Sabbath released Sabbath Bloody Sabbath on 1 December 1973. For the first time in their career, the band began to receive favourable reviews in the mainstream press, with Rolling Stone calling the album "an extraordinarily gripping affair", and "nothing less than a complete success".[8] Later reviewers such as All Music's Eduardo Rivadavia cite the album as "a masterpiece, essential to any heavy metal collection", while also displaying "a newfound sense of finesse and maturity".[7] The album marked the band's fifth consecutive platinum selling album in the United States. It reached number four on the UK charts,[10] and number eleven in the US.[11]

In the UK, it was the first Black Sabbath album to attain Silver certification (60,000 units sold) by the British Phonographic Industry, achieving this in February 1975.

The band began a world tour in January 1974, which culminated at the California Jam festival in Ontario, California on 6 April 1974. Attracting over 200,000 fans, Black Sabbath appeared alongside other '70s rock giants, such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Deep Purple, Earth, Wind & Fire and The Eagles. Portions of the show were telecast on ABC Television in the US, exposing the band to a wider American audience.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath"   5:45
2. "A National Acrobat"   6:16
3. "Fluff" (instrumental) 4:11
4. "Sabbra Cadabra"   5:59
Side two
No. Title Length
5. "Killing Yourself to Live *"   5:41
6. "Who Are You"   4:11
7. "Looking for Today"   5:06
8. "Spiral Architect"   5:29
  • *"Killing Yourself to Live" comprises a suite of three songs: "Killing Yourself to Live," "You Think That I'm Crazy" and "I Don't Know If I'm Up or Down." While the second and third titles are not referenced on the album, the songs were separately copyrighted by Black Sabbath, and sheet music for them distributed as individual titles.

The intitial Castle Communications CD release from 1986 (NELCD 6017) also featured a live version of "Cornucopia" from Live At Last as a bonus track. The subsequent Castle CD release (CLACD 201) returned to the original tracklist.


Killing Yourself to Live
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Sabbra Cadabra
Spiral Architect
Who Are You?
  • Covered by Goatsnake on the compilation album, 1 + Dog Days.
  • Covered by OLD on the tribute album, Tribute To Black Sabbath: Eternal Masters.


Black Sabbath



  • Produced by Black Sabbath for Excellency Productions
  • Engineered by Mike Butcher
  • Coordination: Mark Forster Biatch
  • Direction: Patrick Meehan
  • Tape Operator: George Nicholson

Sales accomplishments[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rosen 1996, p. 76
  2. ^ Rosen 1996, p. 77
  3. ^ Rosen 1996, p. 79
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Iommi, Tony (2011). Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-30681-9551. 
  5. ^ Chris Welch, Close to the Edge: The Story of Yes, pg. 141, Omnibus Press (2003), ISBN 0-7119-9509-5
  6. ^ a b c Osbourne, Ozzy (2011). I Am Ozzy. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0446569903. 
  7. ^ a b Rivadavia, Eduardo. Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath > Review" at AllMusic. Retrieved 25 February 2008.
  8. ^ a b Fletcher, Gordon (14 February 1974). "Black Sabbath: Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath". Rolling Stone (#154). Retrieved 25 February 2008. 
  9. ^ "Black Sabbath: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 
  10. ^ "UK chart history – Black Sabbath Sabbath Bloody Sabbath". Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  11. ^ "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath > Billboard albums" at AllMusic. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
  12. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum database". Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  13. ^ "BPI certified awards". Retrieved 7 February 2009. [dead link]
  14. ^ "CRIA certified awards". Retrieved 8 February 2009.