On 21st May 2015 Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward collected the Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement.
This Ivor Novello Award acknowledges a lifetime of creative output and the indelible mark that output has left on successive generations of songwriters, composers and music fans.
Originally commissioned to appear in the award ceremony programme, music journalist Mark Sutherland, profiles Black Sabbath’s original line up:
Very few bands can genuinely claim to have changed the course of music history. Yet the recipients of the 2015 Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement – only the 15th to have been awarded during the awards’ 60-year history – are definitely one such band.
Because, without Black Sabbath, there would be no Heavy Metal. Before their debut, selftitled 1970 album, other bands had rocked, but none of them had rocked as hard as songs such as N.I.B and the title track. The core elements of the metal genre were all there on that debut: doomy, hard-hitting riffs; dark, horror-fuelled lyrics and a sense of wild abandon a million miles away from the mainstream. Together, it was like nothing anyone had ever heard before.
Over 40 years later, the influence of that album and its successors still looms large over the worlds of rock and metal. Bands as successful and varied as Metallica, Iron Maiden, Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine have acknowledged their influence, and the enthusiasm for 2013’s Sabbath comeback album, 13, and its accompanying world tour, showed that their music continues to reach new generation after new generation of rock fans.
Back in the beginning, however, the original line-up of Ozzy Osbourne (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass) and Bill Ward (drums) were a band in a hurry. Compared to modern release cycles, it seems mind-boggling that the follow-up to Black Sabbath came out later in the same year as that ground-breaking debut. Furthermore, Paranoid contained such timeless classics such as War Pigs, Iron Man and the title track, songs that still rate as amongst the most important and popular metal anthems of all time.
Thereafter, the classic albums continued to come thick and fast: Master Of Reality in 1971, Vol.4 in 1972, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath in 1973, each one built on Iommi, Butler and Ward’s earth-shaking musicianship and topped off by Osbourne’s unhinged vocals. By the time the frontman left in 1979, the band had produced eight hit albums and sold tens of millions of records but, more importantly, had completely restructured the global rock landscape.
Sabbath’s legacy has endured over the years since, sometimes with the original band members together, sometimes with them apart. But what the success of the current reunion proves – even without Ward being part of it – is just how important those pioneering early years were. Even 45 years on, there’s still nothing on earth quite like Black Sabbath.
Mark Sutherland (c) 2015