|Song by Black Sabbath from the album Paranoid|
|Writer||Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward|
As explained in the liner notes of the band's live album Reunion, the original title of the song was "Walpurgis", dealing with a witches' sabbath. The title, lyrics, and theme were subsequently changed during the recording of Paranoid. An early version, with the original theme, can be found on Ozzy Osbourne's compilation The Ozzman Cometh.
The song can be found in every live and compilation album by the band except Cross Purposes Live, along with "Paranoid" itself and "Iron Man". The outro to "War Pigs" has its own name, "Luke's Wall" (named in homage to the band's two-man road crew, Geoff "Luke" Lucas and Spock Wall), and features a more melodic tone than the rest of the song. The last few seconds of the track feature the sound of the tape speeding up, changing tempo and pitch.
The song deals with powerful men's desire to kill and destroy, and speaks out against the horrors of war. Black Sabbath got the idea from war stories they heard when they did a show at an "American Air Force" base during a tour of Europe. They wrote the song when they were in a grim deserted place in Zurich where they were playing for a small sum of money to an even smaller audience.
The tape copy sent to Warner Bros. Records in the United States contained a tape drop-out (in the left stereo channel) about a minute into the song, which has been heard on every other U.S. compilation and reissue since 1971.
According to Black Sabbath's drummer, Bill Ward, his first memory of working on the song was at The Beat Club in Switzerland in 1968. Tony Iommi, the band's guitarist, has said that the song originated as a jam session. The original title of the song was "Walpurgis", which the band often played live and featured different lyrics. Bassist Geezer Butler claims that the band's record company thought this version of the song sounded "too Satanic". The group decided to change the lyrics to more of an antiwar theme. Butler has said that the song was "totally against the Vietnam War, about how these rich politicians and rich people start all the wars for their benefit and get all the poor people to die for them", while Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath's lead singer, has stated that the group "knew nothing about Vietnam. It's just an anti-war song."
The intro to the song also features an air raid siren.
Martin Popoff has called the song an "ugly, antiwar classic now considered one of Sabbath's top two or three most enduring compositions." Guitar World described the song as "the greatest HM song ever." The magazine also included the song on their list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Solos" and ranked it in 56th place. Steve Huey of Allmusic called the song a "standard".
On the 1994 Black Sabbath tribute album "Nativity in Black", Faith No More contributed a live cover version. Faith No More also covered this song on their 1989 album "The Real Thing". "War Pigs" is being used as the name of an Australian tribute band that covers songs of Black Sabbath. Ozzy Osbourne's former guitarist Zakk Wylde did a cover of this after he went solo.
This song is used for an encore in the video game Guitar Hero II for Playstation 2 and Xbox 360. When the Sacramento band Tesla recorded this in 2001, lead guitarist Frank Hannon added a piece of Jimi Hendrix flavored "The Star Spangled Banner" to start off the song.
- Future Sabbath member Ronnie James Dio's early 1970s band, Elf, covered the song regularly in concert.
- Sacred Reich on the EP Surf Nicaragua and their live EP Alive at the Dynamo.
- PIG on the Prime Evil EP.
- Faith No More on the CD release of their 1989 album The Real Thing and the 1991 Live at the Brixton Academy concert album. The Brixton performance was also released on the Nativity in Black tribute album.
- Psychedelic punk band Alice Donut have recorded a brass band version of this song on their 1991 opus, Revenge Fantasies of the Impotent.
- Gov't Mule on their 1999 album Live... With a Little Help from Our Friends.
- Hayseed Dixie on A Hot Piece of Grass.
- Tesla on Real to Reel.
- Cake on their 2007 album B-Sides and Rarities.
- Alex Skolnick Trio on their 2002 album Goodbye to Romance: Standards for a New Generation.
- The Acacia Strain covered the song for the video game Homefront.
- Cover version is featured in Guitar Hero 2 and is downloadable content for Rock Band.
- Celldweller released a mash-up of War Pigs and Metallica's "Disposable Heroes", titled "Disposable War Pigs", as a free download in 2011.
- Pearl Jam has jammed to this song in concert.
- Overkill happen to insert parts of the song live.
- Reef covered the song live in 2003 and it was recorde at the Bristol Academy and put out on the B-side to the Waster single.
- Singer Victoria Faiella covered the song on her album "Wild Butterfly."
- The Dresden Dolls covered the song live numerous times. Also it can be found on Live: In Paradise DVD.
- Alexander, Phil (1998). Reunion (Album notes). Black Sabbath. Epic.
- "100 Greatest Metal Songs". Digital Dream Door. 17 June 2011. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- The corresponding page on About.com's listing of Guitar World's 100 Greatest Guitar Solos
- Popoff, Martin (2006). Black Sabbath: Doom Let Loose: An Illustrated History. ECW press. p. 33. ISBN 1-55022-731-9.
- Orshoski, Wes (2 November 2002). "Rhino Bows Sabbath Fete with Two-Disc Anthology". Billboard.
- Popoff, Martin (2006). Black Sabbath: Doom Let Loose: An Illustrated History. ECW press. p. 32. ISBN 1-55022-731-9.
- Wiederhorn, Jon. "Black Sabbath Bassist Geezer Butler Gets 'Paranoid' - Noisecreep". Noisecreep. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
- Clerk, Carol. This comment issued by Osbourne, despite having contributed to the lyrics "First there was the bomb, Vietnam napalm" on the same album. id=gv2GtAroMlcC&pg=PT26&dq=Black+Sabbath+War+Pigs+we+knew+nothing+about+vietnam#v=onepage&q=Black%20Sabbath%20War%20Pigs%20we%20knew%20nothing%20about%20vietnam&f=false Diary of a Madman: Ozzy Osbourne: The Stories Behind the Classic Songs. Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 25. ISBN 1-56025-472-6.
- "100 Greatest Guitar Solos: 51-100 - Guitar World". Guitar World. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
- Huey, Steve. "Allmusic (((Paranoid > Overview)))". Allmusic. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
- Wiederhorn, Jon. "Remembering Metal Legend Ronnie James Dio - Noisecreep". Noisecreep. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
- "Revenge fantasies of the impotent on the Alice Donut website".