Black Sabbath (album)

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Black Sabbath
Studio album by Black Sabbath
Released 13 February 1970 (1970-02-13)
Recorded 16 October 1969 at Regent Sound Studios in London, England[1]
Genre Heavy metal, blues rock
Length 38:12
Label Vertigo
Producer Rodger Bain
Black Sabbath chronology
Black Sabbath
Singles from Black Sabbath
  1. "Evil Woman" / "Wicked World"
    Released: 9 January 1970

Black Sabbath is the eponymous debut album by English heavy metal band Black Sabbath. Released on 13 February 1970 in the United Kingdom, and later on 1 June 1970 in the United States, the album reached number eight on the UK Albums Chart and has been categorised as the first major album to be credited with the development of the heavy metal genre.[2]


According to guitarist Tony Iommi, the album was recorded in a single day on 16 October 1969,[1] while other sources say that 17 November 1969 was the date of recording.[3] Iommi said: "We just went in the studio and did it in a day, we played our live set and that was it. We actually thought a whole day was quite a long time, then off we went the next day to play for £20 in Switzerland."[4] Aside from the bells, thunder, and rain sound effects added to the beginning of the album's opening track, there were virtually no overdubs added to the album.[1] Iommi recalls recording live: "We thought 'We have two days to do it and one of the days is mixing.' So we played live. Ozzy was singing at the same time, we just put him in a separate booth and off we went. We never had a second run of most of the stuff."[5]

Iommi began recording the album with a white Fender Stratocaster, his guitar of choice at the time. A malfunctioning pickup forced him to finish recording with a Gibson SG, a new guitar he had recently purchased as a backup but had not played much yet. The SG was a right-handed model which he played upside down.[1] Soon after recording the album, he met another guitarist who was playing a left-handed SG upside down, and the two agreed to swap guitars.[1] Decades later, Iommi donated that original left-handed SG guitar to the Hard Rock Cafe.[1]

Music and lyrics[edit]

According to Allmusic's Steve Huey, the album is "the birth of heavy metal as we now know it". Huey noted that the album "transcends its clear roots in blues-rock and psychedelia to become something more". The songs on the album's first half feature simple blues licks by Iommi and deal with themes characteristic of heavy metal, including evil, paganism, and the occult. Most of the second half has blues-rock jamming.[6] Former Metal Maniacs magazine editor Jeff Wagner credited the album for making a distinction between rock and roll and heavy metal. He said that the album transfigured blues rock into "something uglier, found deeper gravity via mournful singing and a sinister rhythmic pulse".[7] Sputnikmusic's Mike Stagno observed that Black Sabbath combined elements of rock, jazz and blues, with heavy distortion to create one of the most influential albums in metal history.[8]

This song is one of the first examples of the use of the diabolus in musica harmonic progression in heavy metal and remains a staple in Black Sabbath's live shows.

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Musically and lyrically the album was considered quite "dark" for the time. The first song on the album is based almost entirely on a tritone interval played at slow tempo on the electric guitar.[9] The song's lyrics concern a "figure in black" which bass player Geezer Butler claims to have seen after waking up from a nightmare.[2]

Similarly, the lyrics of the song "N.I.B." are written from the point of view of Lucifer. Contrary to popular belief, the name of that song is not an abbreviation for "Nativity in Black".[1] Osbourne said in his autobiography that it is merely a reference to drummer Bill Ward's pointed goatee at the time, which was shaped as a pen-nib.[10] The lyrics of two other songs on the album were written about stories with themes from myth. "Behind the Wall of Sleep" is a reference to the H. P. Lovecraft short story Beyond the Wall of Sleep,[3] while "The Wizard" was inspired by the character of Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings.[11] The latter includes harmonica performed by vocalist Ozzy Osbourne.[3]


Mapledurham Watermill as seen in 2007

The album cover features a depiction of Mapledurham Watermill, situated on the River Thames in Oxfordshire, England. Standing in front of the watermill is a figure dressed in black.[12] The name of the woman pictured on the front cover is forgotten, though guitarist Iommi says that she once showed up backstage at a Black Sabbath show and introduced herself.[1]

On the original release, the inner gatefold sleeve featured an inverted cross with a poem written inside of it.[13] Allegedly, the band were upset when they discovered this,[3] as it fuelled allegations that they were Satanists or Occultists;[1] however, in Osbourne's recent biography I Am Ozzy he says that to the best of his knowledge nobody was upset with the inclusion.[14] The album was not packaged with a gatefold cover in the US.


The album was recorded for Fontana Records, but prior to release the record company elected to switch the band to another of their labels, Vertigo Records, which housed the company's more progressive acts.[15] Released on Friday the 13th February 1970 by Vertigo Records, Black Sabbath reached number eight on the UK Album Chart.[16] Following its US release in June 1970 by Warner Bros. Records, the album reached number 23 on the Billboard 200,[17] where it remained for over a year, selling a million copies.[18][19]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[6]
Robert Christgau E[20]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[21]
Sputnikmusic 4/5[8]

Black Sabbath received negative reviews from contemporary music critics.[22] In a review for Rolling Stone magazine, Lester Bangs said that the band was "just like Cream! But worse." He dismissed the album as "a shuck—despite the murky songtitles and some inane lyrics that sound like Vanilla Fudge paying doggerel tribute to Aleister Crowley, the album has nothing to do with spiritualism, the occult, or anything much except stiff recitations of Cream clichés".[23] Robert Christgau, writing in The Village Voice, panned the album as "bullshit necromancy" and gave it an "E" grade.[20] He later gave it a "C–" and said that the album reflected "the worst of the counterculture ... bullshit necromancy, drug-impaired reaction time, long solos, everything."[24]

With the passage of time, reviews have become more positive.[citation needed] Steve Huey of Allmusic wrote that "Sabbath's slowed-down, murky guitar rock bludgeons the listener in an almost hallucinatory fashion, reveling in its own dazed, druggy state of consciousness", commenting that the album featured "plenty of metal classics".[6] Mike Stagno of Sputnikmusic felt that "both fans of blues influenced hard rock and heavy metal of all sorts should find something they like on the album".[8] BBC Music's Pete Marsh referred to Black Sabbath as an "album that changed the face of rock music".[25]


In 1989, Kerrang! listed the album at number 31 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time".[26] In 2000, Q magazine included Black Sabbath in their list of the "Best Metal Albums of All Time" and stated, "[This] was to prove so influential it remains a template for metal bands three decades on".[27] In 2003, the album was ranked number 241 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time;[28] it was ranked number 243 in a revised edition of the list in 2012.[29] In retrospect the album has been lauded as perhaps the first true heavy metal album.[2] Furthermore it has been credited for being the first record in the stoner rock[30] and goth genres.[31]

Track listing[edit]

All songs credited to Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne, except where noted.

European edition[edit]

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Black Sabbath"   6:20
2. "The Wizard"   4:24
3. "Behind the Wall of Sleep"   3:37
4. "N.I.B."   6:08
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. "Evil Woman" (Crow cover) Larry Weigand, Dick Weigand, David Wagner 3:25
6. "Sleeping Village"     3:46
7. "Warning" (The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation cover) Aynsley Dunbar, Alex Dmochowski, Victor Hickling, John Moorshead 10:28
1996 CD reissue bonus track
No. Title Length
8. "Wicked World"   4:47
2009 Deluxe Edition of European version, disc two
No. Title Length
1. "Wicked World" (single b-side, TF1067) 4:44
2. "Black Sabbath" (studio out-take) 6:22
3. "Black Sabbath" (instrumental) 6:13
4. "The Wizard" (studio out-take) 4:46
5. "Behind the Wall of Sleep" (studio out-take) 3:41
6. "N.I.B." (instrumental) 6:08
7. "Evil Woman" (alternative version) 3:47
8. "Sleeping Village" (intro) 3:45
9. "Warning" (part 1) 6:58

North American edition[edit]

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Black Sabbath"   6:20
2. "The Wizard"   4:22
3. "Wasp/Behind the Wall of Sleep/Bassically/N.I.B."   9:44
Side two
No. Title Length
4. "Wicked World"   4:47
5. "A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning"   14:15
2004 reissue bonus track
No. Title Length
6. "Evil Woman"   3:25

Original North American Warner Bros. Records pressings of Black Sabbath quote incorrect running times for "Wicked World" and the "Warning" medley (4:30 and 14:32, respectively). These pressings also credit the album's original songs using the band members' given names: Anthony Iommi, John Osbourne, Terence Butler, and William Ward.[32]

The Castle Communications edition of 1986 also featured a live version of "Tomorrow's Dream" as bonus track.

1991 Japanese edition[edit]

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Black Sabbath"   6:20
2. "The Wizard"   4:24
3. "Behind the Wall of Sleep"   3:37
4. "N.I.B."   6:08
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. "Evil Woman" (Crow cover) Larry Weigand, Dick Weigand, David Wagner 3:25
6. "Sleeping Village"     3:46
7. "Warning" (The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation cover) Aynsley Dunbar, Alex Dmochowski, Victor Hickling, John Moorshead 10:28
8. "Wicked World"     4:47


Black Sabbath[edit]


Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United Kingdom 13 February 1970 Vertigo LP VO 6
1992 Castle CD CA196
United States 1 June 1970 Warner Bros. LP 1871
1 July 1988 CD 2-1871
Europe remastered 2 July 2009 Sanctuary double CD 2700819

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Iommi & Lammers & 2012 chapter 16 - Black Sabbath records Black Sabbath
  2. ^ a b c "Black Sabbath Biography". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Wells, David (2009). "Black Sabbath (1970)". Black Sabbath (CD Booklet). Black Sabbath. London, UK: Sanctuary Records Group. 
  4. ^ Black, Johnny (14 March 2009). "Black celebration: the holy grail of Black Sabbath". Music Week. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  5. ^ Rosen 1996, p. 38
  6. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "Black Sabbath review". Allmusic. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  7. ^ Wagner, Jeff (2010). Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal. Bazillion Points Books. p. 10. ISBN 0979616336. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c Stagno, Mike (15 August 2006). "Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  9. ^ Iommi & Lammers & 2012 chapter 14 - The early birds catch the first songs
  10. ^ Osbourne 2010, p. 99
  11. ^ Neeley, Wendell (26 April 2005). "20 Questions with Geezer Butler". Metal Sludge. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  12. ^ Cope, Andrew L. (2010). Black Sabbath and the rise of heavy metal music. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-7546-6881-7. Retrieved 26 October 2010. 
  13. ^ Black Sabbath at Black Sabbath Online
  14. ^ Osbourne 2010, p. 103
  15. ^ Iommi & Lammers & 2012 chapter 17 - Now under new management
  16. ^ "The Official Charts Company - Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath Search". The Official Charts Company. 17 September 2013. 
  17. ^ "Black Sabbath Billboard Albums". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  18. ^ Ruhlmann, William. AMG Biography. Allmusic. Retrieved 14 February 2008. 
  19. ^ "Black Sabbath Biography". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 14 February 2008. 
  20. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (19 November 1970). "Consumer Guide (14)". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  21. ^ "Black Sabbath: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  22. ^ McIver, Joel. Black Sabbath: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Music Sales Group. p. 119. ISBN 085712028X. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  23. ^ Bangs, Lester (17 September 1970). "Album reviews Black Sabbath". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved 6 September 2009. 
  24. ^ Christgau, Robert. Consumer Guide Album. Robert Christgau. Archived from Christgau's 1990 book Rock Albums of the '70s: A Critical Guide. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  25. ^ Marsh, Pete. "Black Sabbath: Black Sabbath Review". BBC Music. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  26. ^ Hotten, Jon (21 January 1989). "Black Sabbath 'Black Sabbath'". Kerrang! (London, UK: Spotlight Publications Ltd.) 222. 
  27. ^ "Best Metal Albums of All Time". Q (London): 126. August 2000. 
  28. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone (New York). 18 November 2003. Archived from the original on 21 May 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  29. ^ Rolling Stone (6 April 2009). "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: #243". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 20 May 2013. 
  30. ^ Kolsterman, Chuck; Mlner, Greg; Pappademas, Alex (April 2003). "15 Most Influential Albums". Spin 19: 84. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  31. ^ Baddeley 2002, pp. 263–4
  32. ^ As per the album labels from the original North American LP release of Black Sabbath, Warner Bros. Records, catalog no. WS 1871, released June 1970.


External links[edit]