Term Paper by Shane Zentz from IU – 2007
June 20, 2007
The band called Black Sabbath started as a blues-based rock band in England in the late 1960’s. Their previous band name was Earth. Along with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, Black Sabbath is considered a pioneer of the heavy metal style of rock. Black Sabbath typically combined heavy guitar riffs with dark but socially relevant lyrics. Black Sabbath was originally composed of Ozzy Osbourne on vocals and harmonica, Tony Iommi on electric guitar, Terry “Geezer” Butler on bass guitar, and Bill Ward on percussion, “the four members all were born in 1948 and 1949 in Birmingham, England…” “If metal could be said to have gotten started in any single place, it would be Birmingham, England, the industrial city whose working class spawned Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, and Judas Priest in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.”
“Coming of age in the years following World War II, the four were surrounded by the bombed-out rubble left by massive Nazi bombing raids.” This bleak industrial background gave the members of Black Sabbath a different perspective on life than other rock bands from London or Liverpool, and the difference can be heard and felt in their music.
Like The Beatles before them, Black Sabbath polished their songs and stage show in the red-light district of Hamburg, Germany. “Sabbath broke the Liverpool band’s residency record at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany, playing seven forty-five-minute spots nightly to expatriates and go-go girls in the fabled Reeperbahn red-light district.”
Upon returning to England, the band hit the studio and “on Friday the thirteenth, February 1970, Black Sabbath was released by Phillips’s new experimental subsidiary, Vertigo Records.” Black Sabbath’s self-titled first album was a surprising success, reaching number twenty-three on the U.S. charts and number eight on the U.K. charts. The groups follow up album, Paranoid, is generally considered their break through album. Paranoid was released in late 1970 and was an even greater success than their first album, climbing to number twelve on the U.S. charts and number one in the U.K. despite not receiving much radio play. The album was originally supposed to be titled “War Pigs,” but Phillips pressured the group to change the name because they feared that the title “War Pigs” would stir too much controversy in the midst of the Vietnam War.
Ozzy Osbourne left Black Sabbath in 1978 to pursue a solo career. Black Sabbath carried on with various band members after Ozzy’s departure, but the band has always included guitarist Tony Iommi. To date Black Sabbath has released a total of twenty-nine studio and live albums and one remastered box set of their early albums. The group’s most successful album is Paranoid. This album contains the heavy metal classics “Iron Man,” “War Pigs,” and “Paranoid.” These tunes set the standard by which other heavy metal bands would be judged, and they are currently staples of FM album oriented rock radio stations around the world.
The first track on Paranoid is entitled “War Pigs.” It is no surprise that the album starts off with “War Pigs” because this song was meant to be the title of the album. This song features vocals, an electric guitar, an electric bass guitar, and drums. The song is in simple verse form and contains four verses. The song is also the longest on the album at just under eight minutes long. The song opens with long and heavy guitar and bass chords. The drums are also heavy sounding and the wailing of a siren signals dread is near. The first verse of the song is sixteen measures long and is in a chant form with the guitar, bass, and drums providing accents to the dark lyrics. Two verses in the middle of the song are both eight measures each. The song then goes into an instrumental interlude of eighteen measures which features a guitar solo. The song then repeats the introduction and then follows with the final verse of sixteen measures long and is in chant form like the opening verse of the song. The coda of the song is another instrumental interlude which again features a guitar solo and which ends by all instruments building up speed and ending on a single, accented note.
With a title like “War Pigs” there is no doubt that the songs message is blatantly anti-war. Unlike many other bands of the time, Black Sabbath did not try to hide behind words with double meanings or pleasant sounding slogans. This song is an in your face anti-war song which boldly decries the inhumanity and insanity of war. This song is a scathing indictment of anyone who supports or pursues war, especially politicians of the era who seemed determined to win the Vietnam War at any human cost.
The albums second track is entitled “Paranoid” and it is the albums title track. This song is one of the shortest on the album and it is in a format that made it a good choice as a single release to radio stations. The song went to number five on the U.K. pop charts. This song features vocals, an electric guitar, an electric bass guitar, and drums. The song is in simple verse form and contains five verses of eight measures each. The song features a driving, pulsating rhythm section with a bass guitar and drums along with a heavily distorted guitar churning out chords that match the rhythm section. The introduction of the song is trademark Black Sabbath featuring a simple but dark and heavy repeating riff. There is an instrumental interlude in the middle of the song which features a guitar solo. The guitar solo is sixteen measures and is an interesting use of layering techniques in which both tracks play the same notes but one track is heavily distorted and the other is much cleaner sounding. The song ends with a coda which is essentially a repeat of the introduction riff.
The songs lyrics portray a person who is so distrustful of the world and everyone in it that he cannot find love or happiness and enjoy life. The world itself was a somewhat paranoid place during the writing and release of this album, so the song may be a kind of general description of the paranoia that existed in the world. Americans distrusted communists and communists distrusted Americans, and the whole world was fearful of nuclear war. The song may be about the mental state of an individual or it may be a commentary of the overall mental health of the whole world at that time.
The third track on Paranoid is entitled “Planet Caravan.” This song features an electric bass guitar, an electric guitar, keyboards, vocals, and bongos. This song is the lightest song on the album. Unlike every other song on the album, the guitar is clean sounding and undistorted, but it is not an acoustic guitar. The song is four and a half minutes in length, and is in simple verse form. Each verse is eight measures long. There is a short, four measure instrumental interlude in the middle of the song which features sounds generated by a keyboard. The lyrics of the song are delivered with somewhat of a distorted sound. The coda of the song is an instrumental interlude which features a guitar solo of around thirty-eight measures. The guitar in the guitar solo is light and undistorted, which is a contrast to the rest of the album.
“Planet Caravan” is a song that brings to mind the triumph of man in exploring space. The song also paints a vivid picture of the beauty of the universe. This song is socially relevant because just months before the release of this album the United States had successfully landed a man on the moon, beating the Russians in the space race. With space exploration and travel fresh in most everyone’s mind, this song served as a reminder of the expansive beauty of our universe and our small place in it.
The fourth track on the album Paranoid is entitled “Iron Man.” The song runs six minutes long and is in contrasting verse and refrain form. The song begins with the steady thumping of the bass drum followed by Ozzy, who in an overly distorted voice declares “I am iron man.” The well known guitar riff then kicks in. The song features vocals, an electric guitar, an electric bass guitar, and drums. There are five verses in the song and each verse is four measures long. The refrains are contrasting and are all eight measures long. An instrumental interlude of twenty-two measures appears in the middle of the song which features a guitar solo. The coda of the song is a second instrumental interlude which again features a guitar solo. The coda is approximately 46 measures long.
“Iron Man” is arguably Black Sabbaths’ most famous song. It can be heard on album oriented rock FM radio stations, at college football stadiums on Saturdays, and even in a television commercial promoting tough and rugged Nissan trucks. The main guitar riff which appears throughout the song is probably one of the most famous and recognizable guitar riffs in all of rock. The lyrics of the song paint a dark picture of a supernatural man who was turned to steel in a magnetic field. The man once saved the world but now the people of the world ignore and mock him so now he seeks his revenge on it. There is little doubt that the concept behind the song was probably lifted from one of the many popular comic books of the time. The main theme of the song is the story of a hero that the world turned into a villain.
The fifth track on Paranoid is entitled “Electric Funeral.” This song includes vocals, an electric guitar, an electric bass guitar, and drums. The song is just under five minutes long and is in simple verse form. Each verse is eight measures long. The song begins with a heavy introduction which includes distorted guitar and bass notes and blistering, pulsating drums with cutting, crashing cymbals. The middle of the song includes a change in tempo in which the devastating effects of a nuclear holocaust are vividly described. The song then returns to the original tempo and reintroduces the opening riff. The coda of the song is simply a variation of the guitar riff featured in the introduction.
“Electric Funeral” clearly describes the devastating effects of a nuclear holocaust. Nuclear holocaust is a theme that is prominently featured in several Black Sabbath songs, but “Electric Funeral” is the most descriptive and overt of them all. The song is intended as a warning of what can happen in a nuclear war. The song describes melting sod, a burning globe, a moon falling apart, and ice melting into blood; all references to the effects of nuclear annihilation. Justice after a nuclear holocaust is also described in the song, with the good people ascending to Heaven and the war mongers who are responsible going to Hell. The tempo change in the middle of the song is especially fitting because it gives a sense of the urgency and fear of the situation. This song is a natural extension to “War Pigs,” with the idea that war could ultimately lead to a nuclear holocaust and the end of the world.
The sixth track of the album Paranoid is entitled “Hand of Doom.” This song uses vocals, an electric guitar, an electric bass guitar, and drums. The song is just over seven minutes long and is in verse and refrain form. The introduction of the song features a slow bass line then the drums and electric guitar kick in to form a slow, groovy tempo. Each verse is eight measures long and there are seven verses. The refrains are all eight measures long and are delivered in increased volume. There is an increase in tempo in the middle of the song that includes three verses and an instrumental interlude which features a guitar solo. The song then returns to the original tempo, and just like the introduction it reintroduces the slow bass line again followed by the guitar and drums. The coda comes in as a repeat of the introduction riff, which slowly fades out.
The lyrics of “Hand of Doom” deal with drug addiction which was becoming a major social issue at the time of the release of this album. Drug addiction was an especially important issue in the world of rock because Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Keith Moon, and Jim Morrison had all died of drug overdoses. This song is about a Vietnam War veteran who is addicted to heroin. The lyrics in the verses which occur during the tempo change in the song seem to chastise and lecture this heroin addict. The final lyrics inform the addict that he is about to die. This song is interesting because a lot of rock songs glorify drug use but this song seems to issue a warning of the dire consequences of drug addiction, which is an ironic message coming from Black Sabbath.
The seventh track on the Paranoid is entitled “Rat Salad.” This song features an electric guitar, an electric bass, and drums. This song is an instrumental. The song is about two and a half minutes long. The introduction features heavy drum fills which turns out to be the main focus of the song. Next a sixteen measure guitar solo comes in. The main body of the song is a drum solo by Bill Ward. The introduction is then repeated as the coda of the song. This instrumental is intended to show off the percussion skills of Bill Ward, just as “Moby Dick” and “Toad” were meant to show the skills of John Bonham and Ginger Baker. Most rock bands of this era wanted to have a highly skilled percussionist and most bands gave their drummers ample opportunities to display their skills. Black Sabbath is no exception in their desire to have a skilled percussionist and to allow him to show off his skills.
The eighth and final track of Paranoid is entitled “Jack the Stripper / Fairies Wear Boots.” The song is six minutes and fifteen seconds long and is in contrasting verse and refrain form. The song features vocals, an electric guitar, an electric bass guitar, drums, and maracas. A guitar line starts off the introduction of the song, and a layered and slightly delayed second guitar line then kicks in followed by the drums and bass. The introduction is twelve measures long and is immediately followed by an instrumental interlude featuring a short, four measure guitar solo. The introduction and instrumental interlude constitute the “Jack the Stripper” portion of the song, which is simply an instrumental. This style of combining two or even three songs into one long song is somewhat typical of early Black Sabbath albums. One example of combining three songs into one appears on Black Sabbath’s first album in the form of “A Bit of Finger / Sleeping Village / Warning.”
The “Fairies Wear Boots” part of the song contains a second introduction which is eight measures long and features an electric guitar, an electric bass guitar, and drums. This song is in contrasting verse and refrain form. Each verse is sixteen measures long and there are only two verses in the song. There are two refrains of sixteen measures each, but each refrain is worded slightly differently. There is a thirty-two measure instrumental interlude in the middle of the song which features a guitar solo and the clever use of maracas to add some contrast to the driving rhythm. The coda of the song is about twenty measures long and features another guitar solo, which slowly fades out.
“Jack the Stripper / Fairies Wear Boots” is a song about a drug induced hallucination. The song tells the tail of an LSD trip that goes bad. The songs lyrics describe hallucinations involving fairies and dwarfs. Like “Hand of Doom,” the message of “Jack the Stripper / Fairies Wear Boots” seems to be a warning against drug abuse although Black Sabbath recorded plenty of songs glorifying the use of all kinds of drugs.
Paranoid was produced by Rodger Bain at Regent Sound and Island Studios. All of the songs on Paranoid were written by Osbourne, Iommi, Butler, and Ward. Paranoid was Black Sabbaths most successful album and it contains their most widely known songs. The songs on Paranoid deal with some of the most prominent social issues of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, including the Vietnam War, fear of nuclear war, space exploration and travel, and drug abuse. The songs on Paranoid are all dark and very heavy except “Planet Caravan.” Although Black Sabbath’s later albums displayed more musical diversity, Paranoid is an important album because it proved that there was an audience for a heavier and darker style of rock, which later became known as heavy metal.
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