Black Sabbath became an early standard bearer for heavy metal with their self-titled 1970 debut, but only after years of curious looks from people who didn’t understand their new sounds.
“We used to do these auditions for record companies, and they’d just leave after the third song or something,” co-founding bassist Geezer Butler told Rolling Stone. “I’ll always remember one producer told us to go away, learn how to play and learn how to write some decent songs.”
Inevitably, the idea was floated that Black Sabbath give up their doomy ways, and instead try their collective hand at something more pop-oriented. That led to an early run through a piano-driven song called “The Rebel,” written by a bandmate of Black Sabbath’s manager Jim Simpson.
“We were rejected again and again by company after company, and then the management at the time had this great idea to write some pop songs,” recalled Butler, still playing bass with Black Sabbath, as they continue their farewell tour. “And it wasn’t even us that wrote them/ It was another band that he was managing who wrote them, and we hated doing them. You can tell that when you listen to them.”
History tells us this wasn’t a great idea. Neither was “A Song for Jim,” a jazzy, early-era original. The same can’t be said, however, for their Boris Karloff-inspired band name – this dark and foreboding title that also served as a song and album title for the young Black Sabbath.
“Calling it Black Sabbath instead of Earth was one of Geezer’s best ideas ever,” frontman Ozzy Osbourne added. “It’s a great name for a band.”