Written by: Chris Morley
I have long been of the opinion that Black Sabbath have been fundamentally misunderstood.
Hopefully, anyone intrepid enough to check out this and last year’s remasters of Volume 4 & Paranoid who has yet to be swayed will at least consider looking beyond the tired stereotype and instead find amplified hope amidst the darkness of the current ongoing situation.
Perhaps most thrilling of all given that the original albums have been analysed to death already (hardly a surprise when the Sab Four find themselves cast as a sort of heavy metal Beatles), is the live material, from before the hammering into shape of the finished product. Often completely changed lyrically, it nevertheless loses none of its power, and indeed the dingy sound quality somehow adds to the experience, shared in new light, of the move from Earth towards the Sabbath, the blues giving way to something lower- strung…….
But no less potent even this early in its development, the early draft of the token Sabbath song practically everyone knows near-unrecognisable:
People say my mind’s all filled with things that you can’t see me now
Why are you on my mind all day long? I can’t think straight no more
Everyone is sayin’ I’m mad because you’re the only girl that I’ve ever had
I love you but you don’t wanna know me but I think you’re great and I wanna see
I wanna see you
Smiling to my face
A sign perhaps that early idealism hadn’t exactly faded, bent out of shape by a world they felt no longer merited it? In light of which it seems apt that now was deemed the time to show their equivalent of a softer side. But there was still a fire in the belly, at least kindling if not fully stoked.
See what would become War Pigs:
Witches gathered at black masses
Bodies burning in red ashes
On the hill the church of ruins
Is the scene of evil doings
It’s the place for all bad sinners
Watch them eating dead rat dinners
I guess that it’s the same
Wherever you may go
Oh Lord yeah!
While that may be enough, still, to have some level trumped-up charges of all manner of devilry, the more visceral imagery associated with the final draft is still not quite there. And remember, these words come from a man (Geezer Butler), who dared to hope that even the devil could change if he found love, going by early stirrings of the theological pot!
Even Iron Man, at least in early form, appears to veer towards peace and love in comparison to its later thunderous counterpart:
“Now he’s standing there/Iron Man don’t you dare/For he wants you, too/Iron Man, I love you.”
So much more to them, then, than just blood and thunder. As Volume 4 also goes some way to proving, chasing tomorrow’s dream and brave enough to take its foot off the gas; not for nothing did the late Charles Bradley cover Changes so emotively as one of his final releases, in tribute to his own deceased mother. His take possibly even more of a punch to the gut than the original thanks to its complete change of dynamic.
And if even he, a man of great soul, could find something in the works of men popularly supposed to have none, what better argument is there for a radical reappraisal?