Never Say Die!

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Never Say Die!
Studio album by
Released28 September 1978
RecordedJanuary–May 1978
StudioSound Interchange, Toronto
ProducerBlack Sabbath
Black Sabbath chronology
Technical Ecstasy
Never Say Die!
Heaven and Hell

Never Say Die! is the eighth studio album by English rock band Black Sabbath, released in September 1978. It was the last studio album with the band's original lineup and also the last studio album to feature original vocalist Ozzy Osbourne until the 2013 album 13. It was certified Gold in the U.S on 7 November 1997[2] and as of November 2011 sold 133,000 copies in the United States since the SoundScan era.[3] The album received mixed reviews, with critics calling it "unbalanced" and insisting its energy was scattered in too many directions.[4]


At the time of the recording of Never Say Die! the members of Black Sabbath were all heavily involved in drug and alcohol abuse. Prior to recording, vocalist Osbourne briefly quit the band and was temporarily replaced by former Savoy Brown and Fleetwood Mac vocalist Dave Walker. In 1992, guitarist Tony Iommi explained to Guitar World, "We never wanted him to leave, and I think he wanted to come back – but no one would tell the other how they felt. So we had to bring in another singer and write all new material." The band wrote a handful of songs with Walker, with that short-lived line-up even performing an early version of what would later become "Junior's Eyes" on the BBC programme Look Hear.[5] Osbourne eventually rejoined the band, refusing to sing any of the songs written with Walker.[6] Iommi elaborated in the 1992 Guitar World piece,

... Bill Ward had to sing on one track ("Swinging The Chain") because Ozzy refused to sing it. We ended up having to write in the day so we could record in the evening, and we never had time to review the tracks and make changes. As a result, the album sounds very confused.

Ozzy had also refused to sing on the track ("Breakout") which released as an instrumental track. [7] The songs with Walker were redone, including "Junior's Eyes", which was rewritten to be about the then-recent death of Osbourne's father. "We had a few internal problems", Osbourne admitted to Sounds magazine at the time. "My father was dying, so that put us out for over three months with the funeral and everything. I left the band for three months before we got back together to record it."[8] However, the writing was on the wall, with Osbourne stating in his memoir I Am Ozzy, "No one really talked about what had happened. I just turned up in the studio one day – I think Bill had been trying to act as peacemaker on the phone – and that was the end of it. But it was obvious things had changed, especially between me and Tony. I don't think anyone's heart was in it anymore."

The album was recorded at Sounds Interchange Studios in Toronto.[9] "We went to Toronto to record it, and that's when the problems started", Iommi recalled. "Why Toronto? Because of the tax, really. The studio was booked through brochures because people thought it might be a good one. We got there and it had a dead sound – totally wrong. We couldn't get a real live sound. So what we had to do was rip the carpet up and try to make it as live as we could. They were okay about it, but it took time to get it exactly right. There were no other studios available."[8] In 2001 Iommi elaborated to Dan Epstein of Guitar World, "I booked a studio in Toronto, and we had to find some place to rehearse. So we had this cinema that we'd go into at 10 o'clock in the morning, and it was freezing cold; it was in the heart of winter there, really awful. We'd be there, trying to write songs during the day and go and record them at night." In the same article bassist Geezer Butler added, "Never Say Die was a patch-up kind of an album ... People didn't realize that it was sort of tongue-in-cheek, the Never Say Die! thing. Because we knew that was it; we just knew it was never going to happen again. We did this 10th anniversary tour with Van Halen in 1978, and everybody's going 'Here's to another 10 years!' And I'm going, (rolls eyes) 'Yeah, sure!'" Butler was also growing impatient with Osbourne's criticism of his lyrics, telling Guitar World in 1994, "I used to hate doing it towards the end of the Ozzy era. He'd say, 'I'm not singing that.' So you'd have to rethink the whole thing." In the 2004 book How Black Was Our Sabbath, Iommi is quoted as saying, "We were all into silly games ... and we were getting really drugged out ... We'd go down to the sessions and have to pack up because we were too stoned. Nobody could get anything right. We were all over the place. Everybody was playing a different thing." "With Never Say Die!, we were down on our luck", Osbourne reflected to Spin magazine's Kory Grow. "We were just a fucking bunch of guys drowning in the fucking ocean. We weren't getting along with each other and we were all fucked-up with drugs and alcohol. And I got fired. It was just a bad thing. You try to lift your head up above water, but eventually the tide sucks you under."

In the liner notes to the 1998 live album Reunion, Ward defended the album: "In the circumstances, I thought we did the best we could. We were taking care of business ourselves, we didn't have millions from the record company and, despite the booze and Ozzy's departure, we tried to experiment with jazz and stuff the way we had in the early days. Songs like 'Johnny Blade' and 'Air Dance' I still like." Osbourne vehemently disagrees in his autobiography, at least as far as the jazz experiments went, calling the instrumental "Breakout" "a jazz band going da-dah-da-dah, DAH, and I just went, Fuck this, I'm off ... The bottom line was that 'Breakout' was stretching it too far for me. With tracks like that on the album, we might as well have been called Slack Haddock, not Black Sabbath. The only impressive thing about a jazz band as far as I was concerned was how much they could drink."

While Butler received credit for "Swinging the Chain"'s lyrics, they were actually composed by Ward.[6]

The sleeve for the album was the second (following Technical Ecstasy) by Hipgnosis and the US and UK releases differed slightly in the faint images of British military pilots seen in the sky. The inner-bag featured graphics in keeping with the sleeve and credits, but no lyrics. The aeroplane on the cover appears to be a North American T-6 Texan.

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic1.5/5 stars[10]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[11]

In the UK the title track, released well ahead of the album and the band's first UK picture-sleeve single, reached No. 21 in the chart and gave the band its first Top of the Pops appearances since 1970. In the UK the album reached No. 12, one place higher than its predecessor Technical Ecstasy. In the US it peaked at number 69 on the Billboard Pop Album chart.[12] In the UK, "Hard Road" was released as the second single from the album and reached the UK Top 40, 25,000 copies being pressed in a limited-edition purple-vinyl. There was no picture-sleeve release but a video for "A Hard Road" was made during the Never Say Die! Tour to promote the single. The song marks the first and last time guitarist Tony Iommi sings backing vocals. Iommi explains in his autobiography Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell With Black Sabbath, that when he sang, bassist Geezer Butler couldn't keep a straight face. The album received mostly negative reviews and is not held in high esteem today, with AllMusic referring to the album as "unfocused", saying it "will hold little interest to the average heavy metal fan".[10] Rolling Stone says it was "not a blaze of glory for the original foursome" but added that it may be "better than people might remember".[11] In 2013 Phil Alexander of Mojo referred to the album as "disastrous".

Speaking in October 1978 of the new album, Osbourne said, "It's a combination of what we've all been through in the last ten years. It's a very varied album. Like, we started out playing in blues clubs, because British blues – like John Mayall and early Fleetwood Mac – was the thing at the time. We were into a twelve-bar trip and early Ten Years After-style stuff. So it's part of that sort of trip. Then there's the heavy thing and the rock thing. It's not just steamhammer headbanging stuff all the way through ... We got rid of all our inner frustrations: what each of us individually wanted to put down over the years but couldn't because of the pressures of work. So we put a lot of painstaking hours into developing this album."[8] However, Osbourne quickly soured on the LP, telling After Hours in a 1981 interview "The last album I did with Sabbath was Never Say Die! and it was the worst piece of work that I've ever had anything to do with. I'm ashamed of that album. I think it's disgusting".[13] He went on to claim that the band flew to Toronto in January during sub-zero temperature "purely because the Rolling Stones had recorded a live album there." In 2013, Osbourne told Mojo, "I'd go down to the studio and I heard what sounded like a jazz band playing. Is this really Black Sabbath? I'd just fuck off." Osbourne was fired by the band eight months later.

Despite the negative reception, Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil cited "Never Say Die!" as one of his favourite Black Sabbath albums.[14] Megadeth covered the title track for the 2000 tribute album Nativity In Black II, with singer Dave Mustaine telling Nick Bowcott in 2008, "The simplicity of Iommi's style makes this rhythm progression one of my all-time favorites: fast, classic English riff-stylings with a climactic arrangement." Andy LaRocque, guitarist for King Diamond, was influenced by the album in the making of the melodic guitar part of "Sleepless Nights", from the Conspiracy album.[15]

Tony Iommi in 1978.

Never Say Die! Tour with Van Halen[edit]

Black Sabbath's Never Say Die! Tour opened on 16 May 1978 in Sheffield with Van Halen as their opening act, who had just scored a hit in the US with a cover of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me". Ward's drum tech Graham Wright and Osbourne's personal assistant David Tangye, who write extensively about the tour in their 2004 book How Black Was Our Sabbath, reveal that relations between the two bands got off to a shaky start at the 22 May show at the Apollo Theatre in Manchester. After Sabbath finished their soundcheck, Van Halen "hit the stage and started to play Sabbath tunes. It was their way of paying tribute to the Sabs, but Tony Iommi was annoyed by it. He may have misinterpreted the gesture as a piss-take, which it certainly was not. Van Halen were in awe of Sabbath, and their lead guitarist, Eddie Van Halen, was a big fan of Tony. The unwitting faux pas was soon forgotten. The two bands came to get along very well together, and Alex Van Halen would often sit ... behind Bill's drum kit, watching and listening to him play onstage." On the American leg of the tour, Van Halen's presence had a major influence on ticket sales since they were a much bigger draw at home than they were in the UK. Wright and Graham also recount two riots that occurred on the Never Say Die! tour, the first happening in Neunkirchen Am Brand, Germany, in front of a hall crammed with "thousands of extremely stoned, drunk and rowdy GIs" when, three songs into a show, Iommi stalked off the stage because of a buzzing from his guitar stack. When the audience realized the band had quit the gig they wrecked the hall. Another riot ensued at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville when Osbourne didn't show up and the band had to cancel; it later came to light that Osbourne had "slept right round the clock, woken up, seen that it was six o'clock, and thinking that it was still the evening before, had got ready for the show. Even more incredibly, he'd been sleeping in the wrong room." A video from this period, professionally recorded on the UK tour at the Hammersmith Odeon in June 1978, can be seen on the Sanctuary Visual Entertainment DVD, also entitled Never Say Die.[16]

Top of the Pops appearance[edit]

With the success of the "Never Say Die!" single, Black Sabbath was invited to perform on Top of the Pops. The band twice appeared live in the studio, miming to the song. One of these appearances was included on the official The Black Sabbath Story, Vol. 1[17] video release. In his autobiography, Osbourne remembers the appearance fondly "'cos we got to meet Bob Marley. I'll always remember the moment he came out of his dressing room – it was next to ours – and you literally couldn't see his head through the cloud of dope smoke. He was smoking the biggest, fattest joint I'd ever seen – and believe me, I'd seen a few. I kept thinking, He's gonna have to lip-synch, no one can do a live show when they're that high. But no – he did it live. Flawlessly, too." In his autobiography, Iommi reveals that because Bill Ward had his hair in braids at the time, "everybody thought he was taking the mickey out of Bob. It wasn't like that at all; it was just the way he happened to have his hair in those days."

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Black Sabbath (Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, and Bill Ward).

Side one
1."Never Say Die"3:50
2."Johnny Blade"6:28
3."Junior's Eyes"6:42
4."A Hard Road"6:04
Side two
5."Shock Wave"5:15
6."Air Dance"5:17
7."Over to You"5:22
8."Breakout" (Instrumental)2:35
9."Swinging the Chain"4:06

Note: track four is titled "Hard Road" on the releases by Vertigo (UK and Europe) and "A Hard Road" on those by Warner (US and Canada).


Black Sabbath

  • Ozzy Osbourne – lead and backing vocals
  • Tony Iommi – guitar, backing vocals on "A Hard Road"
  • Geezer Butler – bass guitar, backing vocals on "A Hard Road"
  • Bill Ward – drums, lead vocals on "Swinging the Chain", backing vocals on "A Hard Road"

Additional musicians

  • Don Airey – keyboards
  • Jon Elstar – harmonica on "Swinging the Chain"
  • Wil Malone – brass arrangements


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[18] Gold 633,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "American album certifications – Black Sabbath – Never Say Die". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  3. ^ "Black Sabbath Reuniting For New Album, Tour - The Hollywood Reporter". 11 November 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  4. ^ Wagner, Jeff (2010). Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal. Bazillion Points Books. pp. 19–20. ISBN 9780979616334.
  5. ^ Saulnier, Jason (30 December 2011). "Dave Walker Interview". Music Legends. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  6. ^ a b Iommi, Tony (2011). Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-30681-9551.
  7. ^ Stolz, Nolan (2017). Experiencing Black Sabbath: A Listener's Companion. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-4422-5691-0.
  8. ^ a b c Sounds, 21 October 1978
  9. ^ Siegler, Joe. "Never Say Die". Archived from the original on 10 September 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Black Sabbath: Never Say Die! Review" at AllMusic. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  11. ^ a b "Black Sabbath: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 6 March 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  12. ^ "Never Say Die!: Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums" at AllMusic. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
  13. ^ God Bless Ozzy Osbourne documentary film, produced in 2011. Next Entertainment.
  14. ^ "Soundgarden's Kim Thayil Picks His Favourite Black Sabbath Song". Archived from the original on 25 June 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  15. ^ "Andy LaRocque interview". May 2008. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  16. ^ "Black Sabbath: Never Say Die". Sanctuary Records Group. Archived from the original on 29 September 2006.
  17. ^ "Black Sabbath: The Black Sabbath Story Volume 1". Sanctuary Records Group. Archived from the original on 29 September 2006.
  18. ^ "American album certifications – Black Sabbath – Never Say Die!". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.