While talking to Metal Edge recently, Black Sabbath bassist and co-founder Geezer Butler reflected on the band’s work in the 1970s, particularly the second part of the decade when things started going downhill for the original lineup.
But before touching upon what he believes was the weakest album that he did with the band, Geezer was asked about his creative input. In particular, he was asked how most people see Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne as the main creative drivers of the band, even though he played a huge role as well. Geezer replied:
“That’s a good observation because Sabbath was definitely a democratic band. We all had a say in what we were doing each step of the way. Obviously, with Ozzy being the singer and Tony being the guitarist, that meant that they’d have the biggest role in terms of expressing the music.”
He further clarified that Ozzy simply didn’t want to write lyrics, adding:
“But the fact remains that in those days, Ozzy didn’t particularly want to write the lyrics, and Tony didn’t either. So, I took over writing them. It turned into a well-oiled machine there for a while. It was like the news… It just ran itself.“
Reminded of how the second half of the 1970s was a bit of a different story, Geezer pointed out that it all started with financial issues. He responded:
“Yes, that’s true. But there were a lot of issues beyond drugs and drinking. Once we finally had time to stop touring, we were wondering where all the money was. And when we asked our managers why our accounts were averaging down, even though we were selling records, we never got a straight answer.”
“You can’t imagine the kind of challenge that presents because we were selling records and putting on all these shows, but our accounts didn’t reflect as such. There was a lot of money that we just weren’t seeing, and then paying taxes became a whole other issue stemming from those money issues. So, that was truly when things started to go wrong for Sabbath.“
Asked about creative differences that the band experienced with Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer replied:
“Those were certainly a problem, too. The thing is, we were trying to progress too much musically. We completely lost the plot, I think. We stopped doing the things that made Sabbath what it was and began going from more melodic stuff, which was a mistake looking back.“
As Geezer further pointed out, Ozzy gravitated towards the old style while Iommi and him were all about trying out new thing. He continued:
“Ozzy always wanted to still sound like the old version of Sabbath, while Tony and I wanted to expand musically. Looking back, Ozzy was probably right because our expansion caused us to lose what Sabbath was supposed to be about.“
Asked to weigh in on his overall view about the late 1970s in Black Sabbath, Butler replied by also mentioning what he believes is the worst album he did with the band. He said:
“Definitely not in the same way I view the earlier records. And I will say that ‘Never Say Die!‘ is easily the worst album we did. The reason for that is we tried to manage ourselves and produce the record ourselves. We wanted to do it on our own, but in truth, not one of us had a single clue about what to do.“
“By that point, we were spending more time with lawyers and in court rather than being in the studio writing. It was just too much pressure on us, and the writing suffered.“
The whole decade was marked with different managers and music industry people trying to screw the band over for money. And, of course, this isn’t the first time that any of the original four band members reflected on it. What’s more, one of their songs titled “The Writ,” which comes from the 1975 album “Sabotage,” reflects on how awfully the band was treated by managers and other people of the ruthless music industry from the era.
And, of course, this also isn’t the first time that any of them mentioned 1978’s “Never Say Die!” or even 1976’s “Technical Ecstasy” as particularly weak efforts. Although “Technical Ecstasy” had what many would consider to be “classics” these days, “Never Say Die!” ends up as a particularly weak effort after all these years.
As far as Geezer Butler’s current works go, he’s promoting an autobiographical book “Into The Void: From Birth To Black Sabbath – And Beyond.” Planned for the June 6 release, the official press release reads:
“A rollicking, effusive, and candid memoir by the heavy metal musician and founding member of Black Sabbath, covering his years as the band’s bassist and main lyricist through his later-career projects, and detailing how one of rock’s most influential bands formed and prevailed.“
“With over 70 million records sold, Black Sabbath, dubbed by Rolling Stone ‘The Beatles of heavy metal,’ helped create the genre itself, with their distinctive heavy riffs, tuned down guitars, and apocalyptic lyrics.“
“Bassist and primary lyricist Geezer Butler played a gigantic part in the band’s renown, from suggesting the band name to using his fascination with horror, religion, and the occult to compose the lyrics and build the foundation of heavy metal as we know it.“
“In ‘Into The Void’, Butler tells his side of the story, from the band’s beginnings as a scrappy blues quartet in Birmingham through the struggles leading to the many well-documented lineup changes while touring around London’s gritty clubs (Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, and The Who makes notable appearances!), and the band’s important later years.“
“He writes honestly of his childhood in a working-class family of seven in Luftwaffe-battered Birmingham, his almost-life as an accountant, and how his disillusionment with organized religion and class systems would spawn the lyrics and artistic themes that would resonate so powerfully with fans around the world.“
“‘Into The Void’ reveals the softer side of the heavy metal legend and the formation of one of rock’s most exciting bands, while holding nothing back. Like Geezer’s bass lines, it is both original, dramatic, and forever surprising.”