Black Sabbath is gradually reissuing its old albums, and not necessarily in chronological order. Thus, after “Vol 4”, which dated from 1972, here comes “Sabotage”, an underestimated record released in 1975, the “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” of 1973 thus (temporarily?) By the wayside. Comprising songs none of which, with the exception of “Symptom Of The Universe” and its monstrous riff, will long remain in the band’s live repertoire, with one of the most hideous covers in rock history, inventor “metal opera” with the incredible “Supertzar”, which mixes hard rock and choir, “Sabotage” does not however deserve this disgrace.
And when the founder of Black Sabbath, guitarist Tony Iommi, the man without whom metal music wouldn’t be what it is today, agrees to talk about it, we jump on his phone!
“Sabotage” is a very varied album, with progressive songs, and others downright strange …
TONY IOMMI. The constant with Black Sabbath is that we never wanted to limit ourselves. It happened several times, during our recordings, that someone came into our studio and told us you can’t put that on the album ! We always played what we felt at the time. Supertzar, for example is an experiment. We liked it, why wouldn’t we have it included on the record? The idea came to me at home. I had a Mellotron at home (Editor’s note: a keyboard instrument with a sound bank) and a harp. I used the Mellotron to do choirs. I presented my idea to Geezer (Butler, the bass player), who liked and urged me to record it. So, we hired a real choir, without really telling the other two in the group. In the middle of the session, Ozzy (Osbourne, the singer) showed up at the studio, he saw the backing vocals, he thought he had the wrong venue and he left! He returned a quarter of an hour later, asking What is this mess (laughs)?
Tell us about the three pieces with drawers and extensions included on the record, “Megalomania”, “The Thrill Of It All” and “The Writ” …
Usually we have the basic ideas long before we get into the studio. But once there, new ideas flow. And I say to myself, well, if I added this to this place ? We discuss it among ourselves, we try, we see if it works… This process can start during rehearsals before entering the studio, other times while we are there. This is the case for “Symptom Of The Universe”, its beginning and its end. Its debut became the track “Don’t Start (Too Late)”, which came to me spontaneously before I attacked the riff of “Symptom”. The sound engineer was already recording, we kept it. The same goes for the end of the song. It’s just a jam I started, and the others followed me. There again, it was not planned that it will stay, but we finally kept it …
Even more than on the other albums, the lyrics on “Sabotage” are weird…
It was Geezer who wrote our lyrics 90% of the time. He has a lot of imagination. But it could also happen that in rehearsals during the composition phases, Ozzy would start singing whatever came to his mind, just words here and there. And that inspired Geezer, who put it in order.
Ozzy Osbourne confessed that even today he still couldn’t understand what he was singing?
(Laughs) Yes, it could have happened! Sometimes in the studio, Geezer would give the lyrics to Ozzy, and look at him and say uh, what is it about?
The riff of “Symptom Of The Universe” is an absolute classic. How did you get the idea?
Just like that. I was lucky sometimes, it came out of nowhere, I started playing it, and the others followed me.
The “Sabotage” cover is considered one of the ugliest of all time …
I agree ! She is abominable! We didn’t know it was a cover photo shoot. We were just told, you have pictures to take today. No one was well dressed, especially not Bill, who wore terrible pants. He asked his wife if he could borrow pantyhose from her! And it ended up on a record cover. A real disaster!
This reissue features an entire disc of live recordings. Why did Black Sabbath never release a live record during its heyday?
I don’t know… We were on the go all the time, really all the time. I do have concert recordings, but nothing that was not designed to make a live record.
And these recordings of the “Sabotage” tour, where do they come from?
From different American concerts. I have tons of tapes at home, because I often asked someone to record our concerts so that I re-listen to what we had done, what we could change. What is certain is that I have a lot of things. What is less is their quality! I also have recordings of rehearsals, of all the formations of the group.
If you publish things, then it would be from all eras?
Yes. There should be a box set from the Tony Martin era (1987-1991, then 1994-1996). I’m also thinking of remixing the album “Born Again”, the one with Ian Gillan, now that we have found the original tapes.
What about new songs from Black Sabbath?
Who knows ? I have things in store …
EDITOR’S RATING: 5/5
Black Sabbath, “Sabotage Super Deluxe”, 4 CD or 4 LP (BMG)