What is so fascinating with these older articles? Well, one of the things that I like is in the way that the articles are absolutely candid with their subjects. I feel that we lost something important when the music business “professionalised” and bands started to use press officers that controlled what were allowed to be written.
Probably sometimes under the threat of being sued by their lawyers and at other times with the threat of losing access to their stable of artists. A music paper without access to musicians wouldn`t be much of a music paper, you kow?
This is written before the days of contracts regulating what the papers could write, and it`s quite refreshing to read something like this even if it is over 40 years later…
Have you heard about Ozzie and the Good Book?
BLACK SABBATH, in a new incarnation as a series of contrapuntal anecdotes.
By Kate Phillips
“The cat died, Ozzie.”
“That horrible-coloured thing you shot in the garage.”
“It`s like bleeding Daktari in our garage,” mumbles the star. “You could go on an expedition in there and never come back.”
This makes The Horse That Fed Steve Marriott assume a minor perspective. A little later a friend who lives near Ozzie`s stately home reports that a Gentleman`s Shoot the star was asking about who will be charging £1,000 per gun per week. Too much.
“A thousand pounds?” repeats Ozzie, mildly disgusted. “I`d do better to pick off some more of the chickens.”
We`re into our sixth Pernod and water by now, but Wednesday night in Bradford still ain`t looking too wonderful. Geezer had some sense: he shot off home to Worcester right after the gig.
OZZIE AND THE GOOD BOOK
A young man reclines on a hotel divan. His long, fair hair criss-crosses the pillow and his triple-decker platforms are hurting his feet.
He lifts the telephone.
“Reception? Listen, how about coming up here to keep a lonely man company? No? Well listen, how does a sparrow make an emergency landing?
“With a Sparrowchute!”
Tony Iommi, I hear later, once punched Ozzie on the nose for repeatedly ripping up hotel-supplied Gideon Bibles. I don`t know if you remember Tony with long hair. He`s worn it short for a long time now, with a neat moustache and knife-edge cream trousers. Oh yes, and the same old steel cross, resting atop the immaculate pullovers. In Bradford, when it`s time to change, he disappears from the bare, echoing school cloakroom that serves St. George`s Hall as communal dressing-room and secretes himself in the upstairs chamber (with the star on the door) for more than half an hour.
Ozzie`s still here: he didn`t bother to hide while assuming his yellow fringed shirt, tight yellow trousers and painful white boots. Now he leaps playfully round from one member of the band to another and pulls down their panties at crucial stages of undress.
Bill Ward endures these onslaughts without excitement. Gnarled and taciturn, looking very old, much older than the others, he`s climbing into bright red tights and the red tent-shaped maternity coat he “found in the wardrobe” this morning. He rounds off the tights with a pair of old blue plimsolls.
He looks like the Frog Prince.
There`s only one thing on Bill`s mind right now: the sins of a music journalist who`s been less than complimentary in print about Bill`s wife.
Bill reckons he`ll sue.
Are you very angry about it, Bill?
“Me and Melinda are used to being slagged off in the press” – he stares hard into my face – “but… well… No Comment. I don`t want to say any more.
“My wife will though,” he adds, glumly.
OZZIE AND THE CONCEPT ALBUMS
Gerald is sitting alone on a hard chair in the middle of the room. Gerald is rather a well-kept secret. He plays keyboards for Black Sabbath, and every night he dresses up in his own version of the fringed costume – but he and all his equipment are always completely hidden away from the sight of the audience.
Still, he`s honoured to be playing with his local heroes, and soon he`ll have his own album to do: musical variations on “The Ascent Of Man”.
“Ozzie`s going to help out with the singing,” he confides.
The last time Gerald tried to make a record, the studio burnt down.
“Our next album`s going to be a concept album,” Ozzie remarks, some time during the next two days.
“What`s the concept, Oz?”
“We dunno yet.”
OZZIE AND THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF TODAY
Bradford isn`t a riot, not like Sheffield turns out to be, but the kids still pile up over the front of the stage and no one sits down all night. The imaginary axemen, who are present in large numbers and “Sabotage” teeshirts, turn their backs on the band and get heavily into miming Iommi`s riffs.
Iommi`s manner is stately. No fringes for him: in white satin, with gold braid and knee-length trumpet sleeves, and slightly embarrassed smiles at the other lads, he squirrels about on the guitar like someone demonstrating a knitting machine; and these breaks are generally the signal for relative hush. But it`s more fun when Oz doesn`t leave the stage, but totes his invisible axe as well; Ozzie`s performance is one unbroken act of communication across the barriers.
So Iommi`s effective but a bit of a smoothie, pretty Geezer camps it up like a King Charles spaniel, Bill flails his drums like a demented Thorin Oakenshield – but Ozzie is the natural-born star, and the Sabs could never have lived this long without him. Ozzie can howl out lines like “No more war pigs out for power! Hand of God has struck the hour!” and get straight back into bouncing up and down, peacesigning (“I just did it to them one day and they all did it back”) and inciting the crowd to boogie with the minimum of incongruity.
He actually notices individual faces in the crowd below him. He bridges the tuning-up gaps that straggle out numbers with “Are ya having a good time anyway? So are we!” so that the audience won`t feel ignored; and as the pain threshold mounts, and the din in your head becomes a blessed haze, the leaping yellow figure and square, hurt-looking Ray Davies features dominate the Town Hall`s trance.
OZZIE AND THE FANS THAT GOT AWAY
We were playing this baseball stadium in the States. We`re in the middle of a huge field and there`s a high wire fence all round it, with the kids outside. So I say to them, you know, come on, come inside, and suddenly they`re all climbing over the fence and running towards us like a human stampede, and we`re playing away, waiting for them to get up to us.
“But when they do, they don`t stop! They just trample right over the stage, bust up all our equipment, and rush away across the rest of the field and out of the stadium doors! `Cos the police are after them…”
In Sheffield City Hall, Lady Tony Iommi seats herself onstage. She crosses Aristockinged legs and smooths her blonde hair. She must be all of 24. “Aren`t you awfully young to be a reporter?” she enquires.
Tomorrow, the Daily Mirror is to interview the Iommis about their lifestyle. Like Ozzie and his Thelma, they too have a country house. It`s not quite so easy, though, to make the connection between Ozzie and Gracious Living.
Tony Iommi has patented a system of cartridge-type pick-ups which can all be slotted into one guitar. He says he may be appearing on “Tomorrow`s World” to demonstrate them. He doesn`t know a similar device has already been marketed in America.
Scene in the pub across the street from the hall: a becrossed and beteeshirted fan has been eyeing Geezer Butler longingly from the next table. Finally, he approaches.
“Geezer, will you dedicate `Megalomania` tonight to Sandra, Glennis and Bongo?”
“We`re not playing it,” counters a laconic Geezer.
“Oh!” says the fan. “Oh, that`s nice, innit?”
Geezer smiles seraphically.
The fan, nonplussed, backs away.
Why do you think it is, Bill, that all these really young kids like the band so much?
“I`m not sure I could tell you.”
Do they just like to get into a heavy daze and forget all their teenage troubles for a while?
“Oh yes, I thought we were assuming that. I was trying to think of some more profound reason why they get off on us.”
OZZIE REHABILITATES HIMSELF
“Grand larceny. I was in Winson Green for two months. Once I stole a telly and I was balanced on top of this wall, one of them with glass along the top, and I fell off; this 24 in. telly was sitting on top of my chest and I was screaming, Get me out, get me out!
“I had nothing to do inside; you did about two hours work a day and the rest of the time you were locked in your cell. That`s when I did these tattoos, with a sewing needle and a tin of grate polish.”
Were you into music in those days?
“Not really – maybe just the Kinks and the Beatles.”
So how come you`re a singer?
“When I came out of the nick… had to do something, didn`t I?”
Geezer`s back just in time for the gig. He clambers into dirty silver sateen jeans and a white fringed shirt lately liberated from Ozzie. But he retains the filthy blue braces that have been holding up his offstage trouserings.
“Those are disgusting,” pronounces Ozzie. “Here, let me put them straight for you.”
At this point, the latest issue of NME arrives in the dressing room. It`s a tense moment: the paper carries a lambastic review of the Sabs last week in Birmingham. Lucas, road manager, is incensed. “To think we`ve been looking after two of their girls for the last 48 hours,” he mutters accusingly.
Ozzie, who has naturally good manners, turns his back and studies his reflection in a glass at the other end of the room. He`s not about to get involved. When asked for an official reply to the review, he responds, simply (and justifiably), “Bollocks”. And that`s all anyone`s going to get.
OZZIE AND THE CHRISTMAS STOAT
`Twas Christmas Eve in the stately home, and Ozzie Osbourne, opening his bay window, leaned out to survey the snowy countryside. He sniffed at the icy air. Suddenly, right in front of him, he espied a tiny stoat, sitting up on its hind legs, gazing into his face (rather like a Sabfan, in fact).
And what happened, Ozzie?
“Nothing happened. We just looked at each other for a while.
“Then the stoat went away.”
And on to Sheffield.
Sheffield audiences are well known, nay notorious, for enjoying themselves without restraint, and one can excuse the elderly security men at the City Hall for panicking a bit last Thursday. They caused some unnecessary trouble, it seemed to me, at the sides of the crowd they could reach, but no one could have penetrated the middle of it once the Sabs were onstage, and the tiers of bodies in there were left to sway and fall about at will.
Iommi scuttled up and down his instrument with his usual static elegance, and Bill Ward`s drum solo – that`s the Drum Solo I`m talking about – sounded more like the Approach of World War One than ever – but me, I got bored whenever Ozzie wasn`t onstage to vibe things up. Ozzie gives the whole thing heart; Ozzie is power; Ozzie is the reason I`d go to a Sabs` gig any day rather than, say, the Hairdresser`s Ball (Roxy Music) I attended at Wembley the night after that.
Make no mistake – there`s no two ways about it. And you can`t say fairer than that.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: David Bowie, Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Roxy Music, I Roy, Steve Hackett, Milt Jackson, Mason, Larry Coryell.
This edition is sold!