“It’s the last show ever–we have to leave the audience with the best show they’re ever gonna see from Sabbath,” says Tony Iommi, iconic legendary guitarist of the band. And,… they do!!
The concert takes place in Birmingham, England where it all began. The film opens with the song “Black Sabbath” which is first song the band ever wrote and it sets the tone for the whole concert, never mind that it set the tone for the band’s entire career and for an entire genre of music. The sound is great, the performance is killer, and it’s hard to believe that I’m watching something this good so many years later. In fact, Ozzy says after the song, “We started in 1968, it’s now 2017—I don’t fuck*ng believe this sh*t man!” Well Ozz, neither do I!
I grew up in Los Angeles in the 50’s and 60’s and I was way into music and the music scene. Got my first job in the business as a College rep for Columbia Records in 1969. I loved rock music and listened to the popular fair of the day, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Santana, Jeff Beck, The Rolling Stones, etc.. In 1970 I heard the songs “Black Sabbath” and “N.I.B” from the band’s very first album and it was a brand new kind of sound—it made me curious but I wasn’t entirely sold. Shortly after, the song “Paranoid” was released. That changed my life—holy sh*t!! What is this??? I hadn’t been moved like that by any other kind of music. Perhaps The Who to a degree, who were heavy in there own way, but not like this, not this out of control, and not this forceful. This was music that just made you want to explode inside, stirred up completely different emotions, and got right to your basic animal instincts. The band had released two albums in 1970, a third in 1971, and when they put out Vol. 4 in 1972 with the songs “Snowblind” and “Supernaut” I was hooked for life.
The antics of front man Ozzy Osbourne are legendary, my favorite being the snorting of ants off the sidewalk while on tour with Motley Crue (there’s more to that one but I don’t have the heart to go there—look it up). With all of it, a lot of us began to dismiss Ozzy and Black Sabbath as perhaps more of a fluke or showbiz and somehow less authentic. But nothing could be farther from the truth. While the band had their uses and abuses with drugs like a lot of acts (Ozzy admits in the film, “Everything I did bad was alcohol and drug fueled, so since then I haven’t done anything bad.”), they remained driven to do good work. And I think that is a point that needs to be driven home. To remain successful this long by any band requires a work ethic, a bond, and a lot of heart, and Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath are no exception.
In fact, aside from the truly amazing performances of the band in this concert film, the other best parts are the vignettes of the band members talking about their long friendships and career. You can feel the love and large heart of the members for their band and their fans. YES, Black f*cking Sabbath, the darkest supposed devil worshippers of them all, have a beautiful and wonderful heart. But why should we be surprised really. It’s just that seeing that vulnerable part of them is so warm and fuzzy it brought me a big smile.
And let’s get one thing straight—these guys are great players. There are bits of them in the studio that are just brilliant. Yes, it’s heavy metal but not all of it is a dirge and when you see the up-tempo stuff you will really appreciate the flying fingerboard work of Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi—the former being the main lyricist of the band (you should take the time to read a bit about Butler—he’s had some trying times and you will get a glimpse of where some of the lyrics come from), and the latter The King of heavy metal riffs. I know most fans know this, but it still blows my mind to this day that after an accident that severed two of his fingertips, Iommi persevered creating his own plastic tips to help his fingers reach the strings properly. Mind you, he can’t feel the strings through those fingertips, so it makes it even more amazing that he is able to blaze perfectly through those fierce fast paced licks! He is not only a joy to listen to he is an inspiration. And, oh by the way, he IS the inventor of the heavy metal guitar riff and sound.
I had the pleasure of meeting the Ozz himself when Judy and I were asked to help promote the band’s last studio album “13.” What I was expecting was the MTV The Osbournes version of Ozzy, perhaps mumbling and untogether. I had known Sharon from my LA days when she was still Sharon Arden, the daughter of the legendary artist manager and agent, Don Arden. When she decided to marry Ozzy none of us could believe it (because of how wild he was back then). Later, we all came to understand that there was a whole other side to Ozzy, which was quite sharp and very appealing. And so it was when I met him—it reminded me a bit of when I had first met and worked with Mick Jagger. The Ozz can be verrrrrrrry together and quite smart, not unlike Jagger, a student of the music business and also very charming. Again, artists of this stature don’t last this long without this kind of savvy and work ethic.
When I was introduced to him as part of the team that was promoting his new album to radio he knew exactly what my job was, how radio worked (and didn’t work) at that time, and was so gracious and grateful it really through me off for a second. He took both my hands in his and said, “I cannot thank you enough for all you’ve done and are doing. This album means so very much to me and it’s so important that it be heard as much as it can on radio today.” We subsequently had a brief discussion about how the music business and record companies had changed over the years and then he was off to meet more people.
If you missed BLACK SABBATH – The End of The End on the big screen, or if you saw it and want to relive it over and over again, I highly recommend that you buy the DVD, which will be released by the good folks at Eagle Rock Entertainment on Nov. 17th. You will witness Black Sabbath in their prime. As Ozzy says, that night everything went perfectly, and honestly I’ve never heard them play and Ozzy sound better! The film looks great, sounds great, and you will get to know the band members in a very genuine and intimate way—it’s a fan’s dream.
**PS. Watch through the credits—because after, there are some more surprise goodies in the film. 😉
Until next time,
© Paul Rappaport 2017
Updated: September 29, 2017