Behind the band name: Black Sabbath

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Obsessed with the occult at the time, bassist Geezer Butler painted his walls black and decorated his house with images of satan and inverted crucifixes. His teammate Ozzy Osbourne also gave Butler a book on the occult to add to his collection, which he read and placed on a shelf by his bed before falling asleep. When Butler woke up, there was a black figure standing at the foot of his bed running towards the shelf where he had the book. The book had disappeared.

“I woke up in a dream world and there was this black thing staring at me,” Butler shared. “It only lasted a second, but it freaked me out. As a kid, I always had a lot of psychic experiences. It was one of the very last ones I had. He added: “That was before I got on drugs, maybe the drugs killed that part of my brain.”

Boris Karloff

Scared of the vision at the time, he shared the story with his bandmates, and Osbourne began writing the song “Black Sabbath”, named after the three-part low-budget 1963 horror film by the same name, with Boris Karloff. (The song was later released on Black Sabbath’s 1970 self-titled debut album.)

The earth has been taken

At the time, Geezer, along with guitarist Tony Iommi, drummer Bill Ward and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne had formed a band in their working-class hometown of Aston in Birmingham, all within blocks of each other, and called themselves The Polka Tulk Blues Band.

The band’s name soon changed to Earth, but as there was already a psychedelic band in Britain using that name, the quartet returned to Karloff’s film, Butler’s harrowing experience and the song they had written and became Black Sabbath in August 1969.

Heavy “Rock”, not “Metal”

Black Sabbath matched the band’s heavier rock sound and darker personas.

Although the band were credited with creating “heavy metal” and influenced many metal bands over the decades, at the time they never considered themselves part of the genre.

“We called it heavy rock” said Iommi in 2017. “The term heavy metal came from a journalist when I came back from America [in the ’70s]. He said ‘you play heavy metal’ and I said ‘no, it’s heavy rock, what is it?’

Photo: Legacy Records

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