Black Sabbath

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Black Sabbath is a British Rock’n Roll band, but he is considered the fathers of Heavy Metal, due to influence many bands of the gender.

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Thanks Joe ;)

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Through the years

Unknown 1968 to January 1969

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums

(Official) albums from this lineup:

  • None
Tony Iommi & Bill Ward were in a band called Mythology (which played it’s last gig on Sat Jul 13, 1968), and Geezer Butler with Ozzy were in a band called Rare Breed.  Long story short, these groups broke up and the lads hooked up in 1968 to form a new band called The Polka Tulk Blues Band.  (Might have also been called The Polka Tulk Electric Blues Band, but I’m not sure on that.)

During this time of the band’s history, they had a few names.  They were known as the Polka Tulk Blues Band (at some point then, they were a six piece band, too), then just Polka Tulk, and the name that most people tend to associate them with in the 60’s, Earth.  Sabbath played a lot of blues back then, and did the club circuit thing while touring as Earth.  That led to one of the most well known stories from this era..  Apparently, there was another band touring England with the name of Earth as well, and that led to a club booking “Black Sabbath Earth” when they meant to book the other band, which played music that was NOTHING like our lads play.  Led to a very confused band and audience.  It was from that gig that led the band to change their name to something that would definitely NOT be confused with something else, hence the name Black Sabbath was born.

Legend has it that Geezer Butler picked the name of the band after seeing it on a movie theatre marquee, thinking it sounded doomy & gloomy – that kind of thing.  (I’m paraphrasing there).  Seems to have worked, given the following they’ve had over the years.

This is a picture of the lads as Earth back in 1968. 

January 1969 to September 1977

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar, Keyboards
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Rick Wakeman – Keyboards (not a full member of band)
  • Jezz Woodruffe – Keyboards (not a full member of band)

(Official) albums from this lineup:

  • Black Sabbath
  • Paranoid
  • Master of Reality
  • Volume 4
  • Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
  • Sabotage
  • We Sold Our Soul for Rock & Roll
  • Technical Ecstasy
  • Past Lives
  • Symptom of the Universe: The Original Black Sabbath 1970-1978
  • Black Box: The Complete Original Black Sabbath 1970-1978

Keyboard duties were uncredited during this era. Before Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath it’s generally unknown who played keyboards, although there is some stories that Tony Iommi played keyboards on Volume 4’s Changes. Rick Wakeman played on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and Jezz Woodruffe played after that (from May 1975) until the end of the Technical Ecstasy Tour. The trials and tribulations of the original lineup are well documented (so well that a lot of people mistakenly believe that Sabbath ended in 1979).

Before the band recorded their first album, and after they had taken the moniker of Black Sabbath, Tony Iommi quit the band briefly to play with Jethro Tull.  He only lasted 2 weeks, and came back to Sabbath. During his time in Tull, he did “play live” once, and a recording of this exists on the Archangel bootleg, and on the Rolling Stones “Rock & Roll Circus” video (however, it really wasn’t Tony “playing”, he was just miming). The musical contributions of the original lineup of Black Sabbath to the music world are legendary. The albums they produced during this time still hold up with today’s music.

Additionally, There were a few demos recorded in 1969 that have yet to surface (completely) in the collector’s circles. They are “A Song for Jim”, “The Rebel”, and “When I Came Down”.   Short samples of the first two of these are on the Sabbath Story Volume 1 & 2 videos. Also in 2005, an alternate version of the first Black Sabbath album turned up in collector’s circles.  It doesn’t have any new songs, but does have some alternate takes of various songs, and is an interesting footnote in Sabbath history.

October 1977 to January 1978

  • Dave Walker – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Don Airey – Keyboards (not listed as full member)

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

Ozzy left Black Sabbath in October of 1977 to try and form the first incarnation of “Blizzard of Ozz”.  Needing a new vocalist, Tony Iommi remembered Dave Walker from their old Birmingham days and contacted him in San Francisco to ask him to come out to join Black Sabbath.  On the flight from San Francisco to London in November 1977 and for the next three weeks, Walker had written lyrics to music the rest of Black Sabbath (Iommi on guitar, Terry “Geezer” Butler on bass and drummer Bill Ward) had put together for their next album (though no Walker vocals had been recorded) and they, along with Walker, appeared on the BBC Midlands TV program called “Look Hear” performing what turned out to be an early draft of “Junior’s Eyes” on January 6, 1978.  I’m not entirely sure what he did immediately after his exit from Black Sabbath, but I recently got reports that he rejoined Savoy Brown and recorded three albums with them from 1988-1990.

One time I was talking to Bill Ward about this time of the band’s history, and Bill Ward had this to say about the Dave Walker era Black Sabbath…    “No, these were not the very best of times. I was pretty much numb at that time period.  Ozzy’s father Jack had died, and we were making I guess slow progress on the album. Juniors’ Eyes was a song very much for Oz and his dad. I mention that only because it was a song we did live at a lunchtime BBC show in Birmingham with Dave Walker.  I have forgotten what else we did with Dave on that show, I’m pretty sure we did Juniors’ Eyes though, and of course it didn’t work.  Not because of Dave, because the song was Ozzy’s as far as I was concerned.  I felt crap at that time while Oz was away.  If I sound vague, I am vague and very foggy about back then. We all liked Dave Walker as a mate so to speak.  We got to know him when he fronted with Savoy Brown, and earlier when Dave played in the Redcaps, an early Birmingham band, from 60s.  I liked Dave a lot, and I thought he had a great voice.  When it came time to choose another singer all kinds of names came up, but Dave’s stayed. So, Dave flew in from Frisco to Field Farm, where we got on with rehearsals.  Oddly enough, it was me who let Dave know that things were not working out, “I volunteered again.” I felt awkward and uncomfortable telling Dave this, as I liked him as a person very much. 

When Oz started back at rehearsals everything felt normal again, even though I was buried in a bottle, with Oz there it was right. We went on to complete Never Say Die and the Never Say Die tour. It’s all quite sad to recall actually.

January 1978 to Early 1979

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Don Airey – Keyboards (not listed as full member)

Albums from this lineup:

  • Never Say Die
  • Black Box: The Complete Original Black Sabbath 1970-1978

Shortly after the appearance with Dave Walker on television, Ozzy rejoined the band so Dave Walker was dismissed.  None of the lyrics Walker had written for the Never Say Die album were used as Osbourne preferred to use other lyrics.  One track on the resulting album called “Swinging the Chain” was sung by Bill Ward instead of Osbourne and another tune called “Breakout” ended up being an instrumental when it wasn’t originally planned to be such.

This album gets a lot of negative press, and I’ve never personally understood that.  Even Ozzy once said Never Say Die was the “biggest piece of shit I was ever on”.  I think NSD has some killer riffs (Never Say Die, Johnny Blade), and some great musical experimentation (Air Dance).  I was too young to see them on tour (was 13), although I would have liked to – even given the long standing story about how Van Halen blew ‘em off the stage every night.

The last date on the Never Say Die tour was December 11, 1978, and Ronnie Dio didn’t come on board until around March 1979, so sometime in early 1979 is most likely when Ozzy was “fired”.

The picture below has always been a source of discussion about where Ozzy’s loyalties lie, as it said “Blizzard of Ozz”.  Course that’s retroactive thinking, it could just not mean anything.  But still…  :)


Mid 1979 to August 17, 1980

  • Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • Heaven & Hell
  • The Dio Years

Depending on who you talk to, Ozzy was either fired, asked to leave, or just quit. There’s too many conflicting stories about his departure.  However it’s spun, it obviously wasn’t working anymore, and Ozzy’s heart didn’t seem in it (having already quit and returned in 77/78).  Bill Ward has said over the years that it was he who “informed” Ozzy that he wasn’t in the band anymore.

Also, for a brief time before Dio joined the band, Geezer left, too. During that time, Geoff Nicholls (ex-Quartz) was brought in to play bass.  Via email, Geoff told me he actually started on July 17, 1979.  Now when Ronnie came onboard, Geezer left, I don’t have dates for.  It’s kind of a hazy grey area in the Summer/Fall of 1979.  Hopefully I’ll get some real dates on all this eventually.

Seometime towards the back end of the album’s production, Geezer returned.  When that happened, Geoff moved over to keyboards, and stayed there for a very long time (till sometime in 2004). Also, at some point during Geezer’s departure, Craig Gruber (ex-Rainbow) was “used” (source was an interview with Tony Iommi that is on this web site). How much input or what Craig did is generally unknown. There was also an unfounded rumour that Craig Gruber actually plays bass on the Heaven & Hell album, and it’s not Geezer Butler, but I’ve never turned up anything substantial regarding this, so it will stay a “legend”, I think.  :)  Geezer didn’t return until late in the sessions – as the story goes the only song he actually had a hand in writing was “Neon Knights, the final song recorded/written for the album.  The main bass line for the title track was written by Geoff Nicholls, apparently.  Hell of a start with the band, eh?  :)

The band actually got on well (at least at this point, anyway), and the inclusion of Ronnie James Dio seemed to respark what had become a lazy, tired band.  However, it wasn’t to last all that long, unfortunately – although we did get a totally spectacular album out of this version of the band.

One other thing.  Geoff Nicholls is credited with keyboards on everything Black Sabbath releases from this point through 1998’s Reunion album.  However, he’s rarely ever actually listed as an “official” member of the band, even though he played rhythm guitar, and handled background vocals too over the years.

Astute readers of my page have pointed out that I have some odd combination choices in 1987, so why don’t do it the same thing here with the early days of the Heaven & Hell period?  Problem is that the timeframes for most of that stuff is unknown (Geezer’s departure/return, Craig Gruber, Nicholls on bass, etc…)  If I ever find out details on that level, I’ll revise, but for now I’ll go with what I have.

August 31, 1980 to October 1982

  • Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Vinny Appice – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • Mob Rules
  • Live Evil
  • Dehumanizer
  • The Dio Years
  • Live at Hammersmith

Bill Ward left the tour in August, right before a Hawaii gig, for a couple of reasons. His drinking and depression are his publicly stated claims (source was the Sabbath Story Volume 2 video). Bill had also lost both his parents in a short period of time not long before this. The tour was postponed until a replacement could be brought in.  Bill’s replacement was ex-Axis drummer Vinny Appice. Vinny finishes the Heaven & Hell tour, and records the following album Mob Rules, as well as plays the entire tour for that, which was recorded for the Dec 82 release, Live Evil. 

Ronnie & Vinny leave to form Dio at the end of 1982. Again, depending on who you talk to, it’s a different story as to why they left. Seems it boils down to personalities. There is also the publicly stated claim of Ronnie “sneaking into the studio to mix up the vocals, and the bass and drums down”. Around the time of the Dehumanizer album, the guys say that this claim was “never exactly true”.   Why the band split apart has always been a mystery to me.  Granted, that could be the naive opinion of a young Sabbath fan at the time wondering why his band split up.  :)

On a personal note, it was around this time that I discovered Black Sabbath.  It was during 1982 when I saw the cover art for Mob Rules in a magazine, thought it was kick ass, and went to the record store to buy it.  I was curious as to what kind of music would go with album cover art like that.  Heard the opening riff for Turn up the Night, and I was hooked forever!   The second album I bought was Paranoid (totally at random).  I didn’t even know Sabbath had another singer then, so it was quite a surprise not to hear Dio when I put on Paranoid.  By the end of that week, I had all the Sabbath albums. :)  I’m sure I would have discovered Sabbath anyway, but I thank Greg Hildebrant for his artwork which got my attention.

December 1982 to Spring 1983

  • Ian Gillan – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

After Dio splits, another singer is needed.  After a short search, Ian Gillan of Deep Purple is brought in for vocals, and Bill Ward is also brought back to play drums.  Some years later, Ian Gillan states the only reason he did Sabbath was money.  There were interviews given over the years that seem to indicate that this lineup of the band was put together over some drinks in a pub, and then when they sobered up, it was like “Oh shit – we have to do this”.  

Also, there was a story about the rather hideous album cover for Born Again – Sabbath were being managed by Don Arden (Sharon’s Osbourne’s dad, ironically) at the time, and word has it that he had the cover drawn up, knowing it was bad, and sent it to the band (because he didn’t give a shit about Sabbath).  However, Tony liked it, and picked it.  Don’t know how true that story is, though.  I also have a story online here from Steve Joule on the Born Again page, the man who actually drew the Born Again cover art.  It’s definitely worth reading.

Unfortunately, Sabbath seems to have forgotten this era, which is a shame, as Born Again was an excellent album. The only post Born Again tour to have any material from Born Again was the Seventh Star tour, when they played a few bars from Zero the Hero.  Ian Gillan released a solo album in 2006 called “Gillan’s Inn” which was to celebrate his 40th anniversary in the industry.  On the album is a new recording of Trashed which Tony Iommi plays on.  Also in late 2004, a demo tape from the Born Again sessions turned up online.  This version does seem to sound cleaner (referencing the fact that Ian Gillan talking about the horrible mix on the released version).  But it is novel for the reason that there’s a completely new track there which isn’t on the released version called “The Fallen”.  For a more comprehensive review of this demo recording check out this page over at sabbathlive.com.  Around the time of Born Again’s release, there was an interview with Geezer Butler where he references a track called “Death Warmed Up”, but whether this is a real track, or a work in progress name for something else is unknown.


Spring 1983 to February 1984


  • Ian Gillan – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bev Bevan – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

Bev Bevan is brought in to replace Bill Ward for the Born Again Tour.  Bill’s general health and well being was still not up to par, and he was not able to tour with the band, mostly due to alcohol addiction.   Bill has stated in interviews over the years that Born Again was the first sober album he ever recorded, and he was trying to stay that way.  He apparently had a weakness for drinking on airplanes, and the thought about going out on the road and touring sober was too frightening for him, and he went back on the sauce, and had to go home because he got too sick to tour.

Bev is also from Birmingham, and grew up around Sabbath, so they were “friends from back home”. This is the tour that featured the Spinal-Tap spoofed Stonehenge stage. This lineup lasted the entire tour, but not long after it.  Ian does some great renditions of Sabbath classics on stage – he has a wonderful scream for the song Black Sabbath, as well as Iron Man.

On tour, Black Sabbath was playing the Purple staple Smoke on the Water as the first encore song. There was a rumour that Sabbath was going to play ELO’s Evil Woman on tour, but to my knowledge, it never happened.  Also at a few gigs, Sabbath played the old song “Apache” by the Shadows.

Spring 1984

Spring 1984

  • Ron Keel – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

At the end of the Born Again tour, Ian Gillan leaves to go reform Deep Purple. Ian’s stated reason at the end of the Born Again tour was “vocal chord problems”, but the fact that he immediately did the Purple gig tends to discount that. Bev also splits, to go work on the ELO II project. During this time, Bill Ward is coaxed back yet again after getting healthy while Sabbath was on tour for Born Again and the search is on again for a new singer.

Black Sabbath was to work with producer Spencer Proffer at this time, having come off the wildly sucessful album “Metal Health” by Quiet Riot.  Proffer’s choice of vocalist for the album was American singer Ron Keel.  Apparently Proffer had worked up a demo tape of songs with Ron Keel on it and presented this to Tony.  Apparently this material wasn’t up to snuff to the Sabs, so the relationship soured between Sabbath and Proffer, and both he and Keen went shortly after this.  Since this didn’t progress past the demo stage, I don’t count this as an “official lineup”.

Here’s some text from Ron Keel about his involvement with Sabbath…

“I had been doing the KEEL demos at Pasha in Hollywood, which was owned by Quiet Riot producer Spencer Proffer. Quiet Riot had just sold ten million records and Spencer was the hot producer, and he was set to do the next Sabbath album. Ian Gillian had just quit and Spencer heard the KEEL demos, hooked me up with Tony and Geezer, and I demoed some of the material that Spencer wanted them to record and we hung out for a few days plotting the future (basically Tony and Geezer wishing they could get Ozzy back). MTV, radio, everybody announced that Ron Keel was the new singer in Sabbath, but something went sour in their deal with Spencer Proffer and I went with it. They went through a bunch of other singers, but all they really wanted was Ozzy. I know for a fact that no singer, including me, was ever “in” Black Sabbath except Ozzy Osbourne.”

Summer 1984 to January 1985


  • Dave “Donut” Donato – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

For the longest time, I was always under the impression that Dave Donato was a minor blip in the band’s history.  There was a long standing statement that I helped push for a long time about “Dave apparently gives a very horrible interview in Kerrang, and is fired because of it.” – In late 2005 I found new information which shows that my knowledge of the era had the emphasis in the wrong places.  The angle of my understanding was that Donato was there for a relatively short period of time (which in the overall scheme of things is accurate, I suppose), but it turns out here was there for longer than I thought (which was just a few weeks).  

In all Donato was involved in the band from a writing and rehearsing standpoint for about six months apparently.  When that six months started and when it ended I’m unclear on.   There is some extreme detail as to what happened in terms of demoing, the pictures I used here on this page, how it fell apart, etc, etc, etc on the Rockdetector site here.  You’ll definitely want to read that.

Also, the reason he’s referred to as “Donut” here is an interview Bill Ward gave where he talked about Donato turning up to rehearsals and that he loved to eat donuts during rehearsals.

GEEZER GOES:


After the band with Donato fell apart, feeling disgusted and quoted as being “sick of it all”, Geezer Butler quits to work on a solo project.  Geezer did play some gigs around the UK for awhile under the moniker of “The Geezer Butler Band”.  This incarnation of Geezer’s solo project never recorded, but some live tapes do exist. This is not to be confused with the G//Z/R project of Geezer’s from 1995.  

Thing is there were several attempts by Geezer to do a solo band in the mid 80’s.  Some of them recorded, some didn’t – I’m very unclear as to how many there were, but there was definitely more than one of them.   One involved Carl Sentance.  This version band did record, although nothing was formally released save for a track on Geezer’s site in 2005, and some on Carl’s site.  An interesting side note to Geezer’s mid 80’s solo work – he also got involved with David Donato there, too.  David apparently did some writing with Geezer outside of Sabbath.

You can tell this is from the mid 80’s – look at this picture, which is from the Carl Sentance variant of the 80’s GBB.  Oh, the hair!  :)

BILL WARD GOES


Also at this time Bill Ward left again.  However, in an interview, Bill claims that when he left after recording Born Again, he was drunk.  Leaving after this brief time, he left sober, which was important to him.  He also had left after coming back, and then telling Geezer & Tony, “This isn’t Black Sabbath, I’ve got to go”. 

Not much is known about what he did during this time, and there were rumours that Bill was homeless and on the streets of Los Angeles, too.

BAND INACTIVE FROM MID 1984     to JAN 1985


Sabbath is more or less put on ice at this time until Iommi is forced by record company pressure to make his 1986 solo album a Sabbath album (see Lineup #8 for more info on this.)  After the mid 84 attempt to bring another singer into the band (Dave Donato, Ron Keel, etc..) the band more or less “breaks up”.  I say that because there was never an official announcement of a disbanding or a breakup, but this is the opinion that some fans have – at least the ones that still knew Sabbath existed, anyway.

It was at some point in this time that Tony Iommi bought up the legal rights to the name Black Sabbath.  Now I’m no legal expert, and I’m not privy to the contracts of the various members up until this point, but I would imagine that the original Sabs owned the name, and with the band seemingly dead and gone at this point around 1985, there probably wasn’t any consideration to Tony owning it, figuring it was dead.

An article in a 1986 Kerrang said something like (I’m paraphrasing from memory) “Iommi didn’t want the Black Sabbath name to die, and bought up the rights to it from the other original Sabbath members” (which is ironic, considering the record label forced the Iommi solo album Seventh Star to be a Sabbath album).  The upshot of this is that now that Tony owns all legal rights to the name Black Sabbath, no one can put together a version of Black Sabbath without his permission. 

There’s been a lot of fan speculation that the 1997 and forward time when Oz returned came with a caveat that Oz partly owned the name Black Sabbath again.  I decided to check into this myself, and in the Summer of 2006, I emailed Tony Iommi’s representatives and asked them about this situation.  I was told my knowledge of the situation is correct.  Tony Iommi is still the sole “owner” of Black Sabbath in 2006, and there were no “deals” made regarding ownership with anyone else for any other reason.


January 1985 to May 1985 – Disputed Lineup


  • Jeff Fenholt – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Gordon Copley – Bass
  • Eric Singer – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

As if all the 1984 stuff wasn’t confusing enough, we now come to Jeff Fenholt.  Before you read this part, understand that I do not consider Jeff Fenholt to be a member of Black Sabbath.  Read all of this, and you’ll understand why it’s listed here at all.

Jeff’s part in the history of Black Sabbath is in dispute. The Black Sabbath camp has said that Fenholt merely “tried out” for the part.  Jeff says that he was in the band for about 7 months, worked on the Seventh Star album, and is uncredited for co-writing some of the stuff on the album, including No Stranger to Love. If you’d like to read Jeff’s side of things, click here. I have requested that the Fenholt camp release a picture of him with the band so that we can have some proof, but as of yet, I have not received a response to this specific request. The general consensus is that Fenholt wasn’t really part of the band, but is making this up to “push his cause”. If I get an answer or a resolution from either side on this, I will update this section with that info. However, I’m not holding my breath, I don’t suggest you do, either. :)

However, other info about this time is more secure. Tony Iommi was briefly engaged to be married to Lita Ford during this time, and because of this (I would assume) when Iommi started working on a solo project (what became The Seventh Star) he used Eric Singer and Gordon Copley from Lita’s band. When Lita went to go back out on the road in the fall of 1985, Gordon left the band to go with her, while Eric stayed. Gordon does appear on the final version of Seventh Star on the track No Stranger To Love, though.

There is a bootleg floating around with Seventh Star music on it (called “Star of India”), but with different lyrics sung by Jeff Fenholt.  I’ve heard it, and it is definitely Seventh Star music in an early form, but with different lyrics. I’ve never been able to formally get any kind of official confirmation from anyone as to the sources of this recording (I don’t think I ever will).  However, I believe it’s a recording of Fenholt’s audition to work with Tony when Tony was working on his solo album back in 1985 (the album eventually became Seventh Star).  I’ve also been told that the Fenholt audition tape shows the reason Jeff wasn’t hired, which was his inability to come up with lyrics on the fly.  If you’d heard it, you’d know what I mean by that.

This part of the band’s history is also kind of weird insofar as Sabbath didn’t officially exist as “Black Sabbath” and is the main driving force behind my belief that Fenholt was never in Sabbath proper.  During this time, the album being worked on was officially going to be a Tony Iommi solo album.  From this point of view, it could be construed that even if Fenholt had gotten the gig (which he didn’t), was not officially part of Black Sabbath, since this time is generally regarded as Iommi solo project time, and that Sabbath proper wasn’t reborn until SIGNIFICANTLY later on in the project when record company pressure forced Iommi to call this a Black Sabbath album, and not a Tony Iommi solo album.

Just for a second, assume that Fenholt was working with Iommi (which everyone I have spoken to or emailed about this issue says he wasn’t), but assume he was for a second.  Black Sabbath didn’t exist during this time period, and even if Fenholt was involved, it wasn’t Black Sabbath, so his claim of being a former Black Sabbath vocalist is doubly inaccurate. 

Please note that I do not consider Jeff Fenholt a member of Black Sabbath!!  I’ve gotten several messages asking why I even bother to put him here. The main reason is that when I didn’t have him here, and I got a lot more messages asking about him. I figure I’ll put the sum of my Fenholt knowledge here so people don’t have to ask me all the time.

July 13, 1985 (Live Aid)

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums

The original Black Sabbath reunites for one day in July 1985 for the Live Aid Festival to fight hunger in Africa. Black Sabbath played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the JFK Memorial Stadium. They came on around 10AM or so, and played three tracks. There was some talk of an original Black Sabbath Reunion immediately after this, but it fell apart very quickly.

I was living in Philadelphia at the time, I wish I had the honor of saying I was there. I was not, I had to work.

Also, if you didn’t know when this picture was taken, you could certainly tell by Oz’ hair.  Check it out!  From his “way poofy hair” era.  It was taken backstage at Live Aid.

Summer 1985 to March 23, 1986

  • Glenn Hughes – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Dave Spitz – Bass
  • Eric Singer – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

At some point during the summer of 1985, Tony Iommi began work on a solo album.  When he was working on this material at the demo level, he used the rhythm section from Lita Ford’s Band (Eric Singer & Gordon Copley), due to Tony’s then engagement to Lita.

Eventually, as the project progressed, a vocalist was needed.  Glenn Hughes was brought in, and Dave Spitz replaced Gordon Copley (assuming he was ever really a “member” in the first place), who went back out on the road with Lita Ford.   This album was originally intended to be an Iommi solo album, but record company pressure forced it to come out under the Black Sabbath banner, but the band was officially called Black Sabbath Featuring Tony Iommi.  This is another album that was excellent, but very much underrated. The only time other than the Seventh Star tour (and a one shot charity benefit appearance in 1988) that any material from this album was played was on the Tyr tour in 1990, when they played one verse of Heart Like a Wheel.

The tour started, but was ill fated.  Evidence these comments I got in email from Steven Keller, a fan who attended one of the dates with Glenn Hughes..   “I saw the show at the Brenden Byrne Area in East Rutherford, New Jersey with Glenn Hughes. He was really out of shape and sounded horrible. I felt really bad for him. Sabbath did a lot of jams with extended guitar solos that night. Glenn stated during the show that “It’s a fine time to come down with a cold!”. I think that both his weight and his vocal problem (cold / partying … whatever) led to his demise. Glenn is great. But that incarnation was not meant to be.”

After about 5 or 6 dates into the Seventh Star tour, Glenn Hughes was fired from Black Sabbath. Again, depending on whom you talk to, there are conflicting reports as to why this happened.  Stories range from drug and alcohol abuse, to a rumour about his vocal cords being damaged in a fist fight right before the first gig of the tour, or to the publicly stated claim of “inability to properly sing Sabbath classics live”  This last bit is backed up by the bootleg I have of Glenn in Detroit where he completely butchers War Pigs (so much so that some guy standing next to the person recording this concert says “Come on Glenn!“).   It’s a shame, as Glenn Hughes is a masterful vocalist, but it’s obvious that this was a low point in his career.

March 25, 1986 to October 1986

  • Ray Gillen – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Dave Spitz – Bass
  • Eric Singer – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

Being out on tour and needing to replace your vocalist is not something that’s terribly easy to do.  This job fell to Ray Gillen.  Ray got the gig because he was a friend of Dave Spitz’s, and literally went from a New Jersey bar band to Black Sabbath.  Ray actually was hanging around the band for a few days before his actual debut, legend has it that Ray and the rest of Sabbath (sans Glenn) were rehearsing in secret.  I saw this version of the band on this tour in Philadelphia, and it was quite cool – had the last of the really elaborate stage sets Sabbath ever had (except for possibly Reunion’s large stage set) – and Iommi didn’t play his usual pre-programmed solo – there seemed to be a lot of variety here.

Ray finishes the tour, and then the fun begins…

October 1986 – November 1986Ray Gillen – Vocals

  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Bob Daisley – Bass
  • Eric Singer – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • The Eternal Idol (This version unreleased)

Before I get started on the mass confusion that is the recording of the Eternal Idol album, I’d like to thank Bob Daisley & Eric Singer for their help in this section.  As you read it, you’ll definitely see why I needed help putting this together, as it’s terribly confusing, even having spoken to these guys who were there for parts of it.  This section wouldn’t be what it it was without their assistance, so thanks guys.

In July/August of 1986, the band is doing demos for a new album – which would eventually become The Eternal Idol.  From what I can gather, the producer of the album had some problems with Dave Spitz where he would either not turn up, or would always be on the phone with his girlfriend, basically it wasn’t working out, so he was asked to “rest” (or took the time off himself – I really cannot get a solid answer on this).  Either way, from what I can gather, he wasn’t officially fired as such (which I believe is part of the reason he still retains a credit on the final Eternal Idol album even though he doesn’t play on it). 

A short while after that,  Bob Daisley was asked by the album’s producer, Jeff Glixman if he’d be interested in working on the project, and he accepted.  Work began in earnest on the recording of the album; all the basic tracks were laid down by this band during the month of September.  Bob was actually only around for two weeks or so in the recording studio.   He told me that he left for Air Studios in Monserrat (where the recording was done) on September 30th, and took off to go back home on October 11th.   His total time with the band was about two months, as they worked on lyrics with Ray and whatnot, but he wasn’t in the band all that long, really according to him.

Bob tells me that he was asked to join Black Sabbath formally during this period (as well as afterwards) after laying down the tracks for the album, but was committed to the Gary Moore band, and couldn’t join Sabbath.

There’s two known versions of the album floating around in collector’s circles with this lineup.  One was more advanced than the other (the earlier one doesn’t have all guitar solos on it).   After speaking to Bob Daisley about the album, and having him give it a listen, he confirms that the version of Eternal Idol that is floating around with Ray Gillen on vocals is from this version of the band.


November 1986 to January 1987

  • Ray Gillen – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Nobody – Bass
  • Eric Singer – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

After Bob left for good around November, there was no formal bassist in the band (even though Dave Spitz was formally not out).  In fact, most of the next several months would have no bassist, as Bob had laid down the tracks already, and then left.  From what I can gather, this period was most likely studio time as the band that existed at this point continued to work on the album.


January 1987 to March 1987

  • Ray Gillen – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Nobody – Bass
  • Nobody – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

Eric has told me that he was no longer part of the band as of January 1987.  He said that the Sabbath situation was just kind of falling apart, so he left.  He took the time and auditioned for Gary Moore’s band, and then when that didn’t work out, he formed Badlands with Ray Gillen (after Gillen left Sabbath a short while later) after having met Jake E. Lee, now ex of Ozzy’s band.

In January, Sabbath goes to a different set of studios and does further work on the album, but without a formal drummer or bassist.  As Eric had laid down his tracks already, the band really didn’t need a drummer as such, and my research says that during this time Sabbath didn’t actually have a drummer, either.


March 1987 – July 1987

  • Tony Martin – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • No one – Bass
  • Bev Bevan – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

Around March of 1987, Ray Gillen leaves the band (according to an interview), because he felt Sabbath wasn’t going anywhere, as well as his feeling that the band didn’t really have any future.  It was a foolish opinion, if you ask me – but given the band had no formal bassist or drummer would explain that feeling, I guess.  Of course, with an album not completed, and the lead vocalist gone, the vocals had to be redone, hence the appearance of Tony Martin. Actually, Tony Martin was considered for the position in 1986, but he was already in a band at the time (The Misha Calvin Band). Tony Martin has said that one small bit of Ray’s vocals was left on the released version of Eternal Idol, that being some laughter on the track “Nightmare”. 

As production stretched on into mid 1987, Sabbath was warming up to play some gigs in July, most of which were the Sun City gigs below.  As such, they needed someone to play drums, so Tony’s friend Bev Bevan (who previously was in Sabbath during 83/84 on the Born Again tour) was brought in to play drums for Sabbath again, although when precisely he joined up again, I don’t know.

While Bev does have a credit on the final Eternal Idol album as “percussion”, what (if anything) he played on the final album isn’t known.  Eric Singer was asked at a KISS convention about the Eternal Idol album, and he said that Bev doesn’t actually play anything on the album, and that he’s the only drummer.  I had also read something around the time of the release of this album that Bev was brought in only to “clean up” a few things on the final recording after Eric had already left, although that contradicts what Eric said about Bev not being on the album.  Furthermore, the instrumental track “Scarlet Pimpernel” does not exist on any of the Ray Gillen bootleg versions of the album, so if there was any drum/percussion bits to be done, it’s possible that Bev was brought in to work on Scarlet Pimpernel, but there aren’t any drum bits on there that I can hear, so what he really did is unknown.

As a side note, during this time, Ray Gillen had tried out for Blue Murder, but wasn’t actually hired, with the excuse of “He couldn’t sing!”.


July 1987

  • Tony Martin – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Dave Spitz – Bass
  • Bev Bevan – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

In addition to Bev Bevan stepping in to play drums, the band needed a bassist if they were to play live again, so Dave Spitz returned to the stage to handle those duties.  On July 20th, 1987, Sabbath played a music festival in Greece, which as it turns out has been their only appearance in Greece in their entire history.  A fan who attended the show back then sent in a report on the show, you can check that out here.  It is unknown if any other dates were played live here other than the next entry.

The picture below was sent to me by Australian Sab fan Ron Schroer, who received a set of press-clippings from a South African collector back in 1987 (see next entry).  He sent me this picture, which was a scan from the Sunday Times (a South African Entertainment magazine) dated November 29, 1987.  The folks in this picture are (L-R): Tony Iommi, Richard Cole, Tony Martin, Bev Bevan, & Geoff Nicholls.  Richard Cole was at the time the road manager, who stepped in for some promotional pictures, because at the time they were taken, Sabbath had no actual bass player.  This isn’t an actual lineup, as the person standing in for the bassist never actually played an instrument – was just there for this picture. Thanks to Tony Iommi & Ralph Baker for getting me the info on who that guy was.


Jul/August 1987 (Sun City)

  • Tony Martin – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Dave Spitz – Bass
  • Terry Chimes – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

Almost immediately after the festival in Greece, Sabbath played Sun City in South Africa (the picture here is from one of the Sun City gigs).  This was before Apartheid fell there, so Sabbath took a lot of crap about it in the press.  Tony Iommi himself said this in a January 1988 interview about playing Sun City..  “Hopefully, it hasn’t done us any lasting damage. But in our defense I’ve got to say that this was discussed with Patrick Meehan’s lawyers who convinced us that Sun City wasn’t actually in South Africa…and we were foolish to believe them!”

Bev Bevan objected to playing Sun City for political reasons, so another member change was needed.  Terry Chimes (formerly of the Clash) stepped in to play drums here, and shortly afterwards.  That might explain why Sabbath was without a bassist in the picture from the last entry – if Bev bailed at short notice, they probably didn’t have time to properly set up for promo pictures and whatnot.

There were a total of 6 gigs played in Sun City.  They played Saturday & Sunday over the course of three weekends.  The dates of these gigs were Jul 25/26, August 1/2, & Aug 8/9.  These six dates plus the one in Greece were the only live dates outside of the (short) formal Eternal Idol tour in Nov/Dec 1987.

In October 2006, I received an email from Sabbath fan Darryl Butt who had attended the Sun City Sabbath gigs. When I asked if he had a ticket stub or anything like that, he replied with this:

Alas no, just memories. I knew the bass player from the house band at Sun City. After the final Sunday gig Sabbath went and jammed with the band in one of the pubs at Sun City and I couldn’t go as I had to get back to Durban to work the next day. Lost the opportunity to meet the band, have a few drinks with them and get autographs. I still regret it to this day. It was a shit job I had anyway.

The additional gig with in a pub was an unknown thing to me, so I wrote him back to see if he had any information on THAT, and he said:

My memory is a bit sketchy, but the guy I knew was an accountant (!) up at Sun City and used to play bass in a local Durban band called The Gents (a sort of The Jam influenced band). Anyway he was working up there and playing bass in the house band. We were a bit poor at the time (a mate and myself who were sharing an apartment at the time) so had been sleeping in the car park to save money when we met Keith. He offered to let us stay at his company apartment, an offer that was quickly accepted, as you casn imagine and it was the next morning (Sunday) that he told us about the after party. We had watched Sabbath on the Saturday night and if memory serves me correctly the band were playing early on the Sunday, about 5pm and were going to meet up in the staff pub after that. Unfortunately we left then so never had the opportunity to stay and I have never seen the guy I knew since.

If anyone has any further details on this jam, please send them in.

After the Sun City gigs, final production on the Eternal Idol album was completed, and the album was (finally) released in November of 1987.  Dave Spitz left for good during this period.  When Dave actually departed is a bit of a mystery, but a good guess is that he was gone before the end of October (possibly earlier, as the Eternal Idol Tour rehearsals likely started sometime in October).

November & December 1987

  • Tony Martin – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Jo Burt – Bass
  • Terry Chimes – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

This version of Black Sabbath was only together for the (short) Eternal Idol tour, playing mostly in places around Germany & Italy. The final date of the tour was to be December 28, 1987 at the Hammersmith, but it was cancelled; Sabbath never played the UK or the US for this album (although they were supposed to play one date in the UK, but it was cancelled). Burt stepped in only for the Eternal Idol tour that ended in late December. Terry Chimes stuck around for a bit longer, (see May 29, 1988 entry) but this version of the band was never intended to continue beyond the Eternal Idol tour.  An interview with Tony Iommi talks about the tour extending into 1988 in the US, but it never happened.  Whether Burt & Chimes would have been around for that is unknown, as it never actually happened.

BACK ROW: Geoff Nicholls, Tony Iommi 

FRONT ROW: Terry Chimes, Tony Martin, Jo Burt.

January to Summer 1988 – Band Inactive


Not a whole lot is known about what was happening during Early 1988. This is generally considered downtime for the band.  Given the upheaval during this time, it probably was Tony deciding if he wanted to carry on at all, I’d wager – but that’s personal speculation.

Again, Sabbath never disbanded, it was just “on ice”. At some point during this time, Tony Iommi signs a new record deal with IRS Records, and Sabbath is not on Warner Bros for the first time since 1970.

May 29, 1988

  • Tony Martin – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geoff Nicholls – Bass
  • Terry Chimes – Drums

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

This is the only exception to the last entry. This variant of Black Sabbath played one time. They did a 20 minute charity show appearance in the UK in May of ’88. This was Tony Martin’s first appearance in the UK while singing for Black Sabbath. This show is notable for two reasons, one being the appearance of Geoff Nicholls on bass, and the other being the only time a track from Seventh Star (Heart Like a Wheel) is played in full other than on the Seventh Star tour itself.  Sabbath only played three songs, those being Heart like a Wheel, Neon Knights, & Paranoid.

Also around this time, Tony Martin goes off and works with John Sykes in Blue Murder, but does not join (Martin is credited as co-author of the Blue Murder song Valley of the Kings).  Blue Murder has an interesting Sabbath connection, as Cozy Powell was the original drummer there, as well as Ray Gillen trying out for vocalist, too!

Summer 1988 to April 1989

  • Tony Martin – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Laurence Cottle – Bass
  • Cozy Powell – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

During the summer of 1988, the two Tonys hook up with Cozy Powell and start writing for what will become Headless Cross. The album was actually recorded from August to November of 1988.  During this time, Sabbath is told by Gloria Butler that Geezer was going to join the band again*.  Laurence Cottle was really only around for the recording of the album, he wasn’t here all this time. Sabbath waits until April 89 for Geezer, but since Geezer went and joined Ozzy’s band, Neil Murray is brought in on the eve of the album’s release. The release of Headless Cross also marked the first time since 1970 that Black Sabbath changed record labels.

The two pictures here are promo shots taken during the recording of the album Headless Cross, both after Laurence Cottle had done his part, and before Neil Murray came onboard.  At least that’s the guess, although you could make a point that since Cottle was never intended to tour, and was just a session man for this album, that’s why he’s not on any of the pictures.  The picture above appears to have been taken in the same place that the video for the song Headless Cross was shot.

* – In May of 2006, I asked Gloria Butler about that quote, and she doesn’t remember saying that, but also admits “I don’t remember yesterday much, either”.  :)  

May 1989 to November 1990

  • Tony Martin – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Neil Murray – Bass
  • Cozy Powell – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

This version of Black Sabbath toured for the entire Headless Cross album, and then recorded Tyr. The band toured for Tyr, but the tour was never completed. The tour had a few surprises, that being that Ian Gillan, Geezer Butler, & Brian May made appearances during a few gigs. There was a planned US Tour, but it was cancelled. I was annoyed about that, I wanted to see them. Towards the end of the tour, there are rumors that Geezer Butler and Ronnie James Dio might be rejoining the band.

Both the Headless Cross & Tyr tours did awesome in Europe – but failed miserably in the United States, with the Tyr shows never making it across the pond.  Damn shame, as this version of the band was probably the tightest the band had been since their early 70’s heyday.

December 1990 to January 1991

  • Tony Martin – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Cozy Powell – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

Geezer Butler rejoins the band after the end of the Tyr tour. This version of Black Sabbath never toured or recorded.  Before the reunion for Dehumanizer, Geezer Butler was going to put something back together with Tony Iommi and since Cozy was the last drummer of record, he was still hanging around. Source for this was an interview with Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi in Kerrang in mid 1991 when they talked about having to “get rid of” Tony Martin.

January 1991 to March 1991

  • Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Cozy Powell – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

Ronnie James Dio decides to rejoin Black Sabbath after the infamous “Geezer visit to a Dio gig in Minneapolis” on August 28, 1990. This version of Sabbath never recorded or toured either, although they did demo together. The band was going to progress in this form, Dio didn’t just join for “The Dehumanizer Reunion”.  Makes me wonder if Dio & Powell had ever toured with Sabbath if they’d try playing something like Rainbow’s Stargazer, as the Sabs did Purple’s Smoke on the Water when Ian Gillan was in the band.

The band spent most of this time working on new material. Rumors abounded that Dio & Cozy couldn’t get along, even going so far as to having Geoff Nicholls calling the pair “fire and water”. Around September, Cozy has his infamous “horse riding accident” that prevented him from working. There was another rumour that Cozy Powell wanted too much money from what became Dehumanizer, and as such the “horse riding” story was quickly invented for his departure from the band (although this is likely untrue). 

I spoke with Cozy shortly before his death, and he told me that he had some pictures lying around of this version of the band, but unfortunately he left us before he could look for them. If he has them, someone else might. According to the same interview mentioned in the last entry, Sabbath was going to wait for Cozy, but record company pressure forced them into doing something.


March 1991 to ??? 1991

  • Tony Martin – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Cozy Powell ?? – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

As work progressed on Dehumanizer, apparently a split occurred with Tony/Geezer & Ronnie as well.  According to interviews, it wasn’t going well for whatever reason, and Tony & Geezer phoned up Tony Martin and asked him to rejoin Black Sabbath.  Tony Martin was at that time working on his “Back Where I Belong” solo project, and could not extract himself to that, and had to turn down the offer.

However a couple of months later (about three months after Ronnie first rejoined, from what I’ve found out) the offer was made again to Tony Martin to come in and re-record the Dehumanizer material that existed.   Apparently due to the change in vocalists, some lyrics and vocal melodies were re-worked.  Tony Iommi was happy with Tony Martin, as all Iommi wanted to do was play, and not go through what came with working with a name like Dio.

As pressures mounted on the band, apparently Tony Martin started to get an idea as to what was going on.  Despite this, the band started working on new material beyond “Dehumanizer” – this material apparently was the genesis of the material that ended up on Cross Purposes a couple of years later. 

Anyway, Warner Bros apparently paid a huge amount of advance money for “Dehumanizer”, and again, record company pressure forced another change, they wanted either Ozzy or Dio.  So Tony Martin is booted again from the band in favor of Dio.

A side note: I’m a bit unclear as to the drummer situation here.  I’m not sure when Cozy went, and when Vinny Appice came in, but I believe Vinny did not come in until after this dalliance with Tony Martin happened.   There is also an existing quote that Ronnie Dio tried to get Simon Wright in to play drums, but that was discounted by Tony/Geezer as being “too AC/DC’ish” for Black Sabbath (Simon was in AC/DC for a time, and Simon was also Dio’s drummer in 1990, as well as from 1999 onwards).
 

October 1991 to November 13, 1992

  • Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Vinny Appice – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

Somewhere in the summer of 1991 Dio “is back”, although some of what I read stated he was never formally “gone” from the Dehumanizer sessions.  It’s damn confusing, that’s for sure. 

The Great Reunion of 1992 responsible for Dehumanizer. Probably the most important Black Sabbath record in years. This album proves they can still kick ass with the best of today’s rock. Most underrated song on here is Computer God. The lyrics just rule beyond belief. Anyway, the band says (before they tour, during recording), that they were childish in the way they behaved in the early 80’s, and that they promise to keep the egos out of the band – <snicker>.

This version of the band also contributed it’s second song to a movie soundtrack.  Back in 1981, they had an early mix of “The Mob Rules” which appeared on the soundtrack for the movie “Heavy Metal“.  The same thing happened again here.  A different mix of the song “Time Machine” appeared (very briefly, only about 10 seconds) in the movie “Wayne’s World“.

November 14 & 15, 1992

  • Rob Halford – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Vinny Appice – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

These two dates were at the end of the Dehumanizer tour.  Ozzy was saying that his 1992 tour was to be his last, and he wanted to play with Black Sabbath to “end his career”.  Ronnie James Dio stated that he didn’t think Black Sabbath should have to open for anyone, not the least of which was their own former lead singer, Ozzy. Dio refuses to do these shows, so Rob Halford (Judas Priest, Fight), a friend of the band steps in for these two dates.  Tony Martin was to perform at these two shows, but he was in Europe at the time, and could not get a work visa to come to the states and sing for Sabbath. The band (with Halford) does a Rockline interview on November 16, 1992, so Halford hung around for a bit more than just the two dates, but it was never intended to continue on with Halford as lead vocalist beyond these dates.


November 15, 1992

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums

On the second night of Ozzy’s two night stand in Costa Mesa, CA, the original Black Sabbath reunited and played four tracks.  One of these tracks (Black Sabbath) is commercially available on Ozzy’s “Live & Loud” videotape. The other three are not (ahem) commercially available.

In the post Costa Mesa reunion glow, talks of a Mk I reunion abound.  According to all involved, it was really going to happen. Some time went by, and the Sabbath camp (Tony/Geezer) decided that they’d start working on a new album at this time because (in their words in an interview at the time) they knew what Ozzy was like, and they figured they might as well start working on a new album without him, since the reunion would fall through. Iommi has said in interviews that it was all a done deal, and the contracts were sent to Ozzy, and Ozzy just didn’t sign them and send ‘em back. Simple as that, as far as Sabbath’s concerned. Ozzy paints a more distorted picture, but it seems to be the same story.  Why?  Who knows at this point.

If you want to see some more pictures from both the Rob Halford & Mk I portions of this show, click here.


February 1993 to Summer 1994

  • Tony Martin – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bobby Rondinelli – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

Immediately after the Costa Mesa gigs, Vinny leaves Sabbath again to go re-form Dio, bringing an end to the Dehumanizer reunion (damn).

After Iommi & Butler realize that the Ozzy Reunion talks were breaking down, Tony Martin rejoins the band, and Bobby Rondinelli joins to record Cross Purposes.  The album was actually released in January of 1994, and would have been out sooner, but the album release was held up because of the delays in resolving the (almost) Ozzy reunion of 1993. This version of Black Sabbath lasts the entire tour, until the absolute end when Bobby Rondinelli leaves the band. Finally, after 14 years in the band, Geoff Nicholls is recognized as an official member of the band, but he’s still pushed offstage on tours.

Come on guys, Geoff was onstage for the Seventh Star tour, put him back! :)

August 1994 / Fall 1994

  • Tony Martin – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

At the end of the Cross Purposes tour, Bobby Rondinelli leaves the band.  To this day I’ve never actually found out why, or even heard any rumours about that.   There were a few more gigs to go in South America (Sao Paulo, Brazil, Santiago, Chile, & Burenos Aires, Argentina) in late August/early September.  Because of Bobby’s departure, a drummer is needed.  Bill Ward is brought out of semi retirement from music to play. 

After these shows, Bill apparently was going to continue on in the band, but decided not to do it before the band actually got to recording a new album, mostly due to a schism that developed between Tony & Geezer (and Gloria Butler from what I’ve heard) over issues relating to the 1994 tribute album “Nativity in Black”.   Bill had apparently finally gotten over his issue of Ozzy not being there.  Over the years in many comings and goings of Bill Ward in Sabbath, he has maintained that one of the reasons he keeps leaving is that it never quite felt like Black Sabbath to him without Ozzy.  Bill had stated around this time that since Ozzy had finally made it clear he was no longer interested in working with Black Sabbath (after the post Costa Mesa attempts at reunion), he was OK with being in Sabbath without Ozzy.  But when Geezer left, Bill did too.

Geezer leaves to go work with Ozzy on his 95 release, Ozzmosis, as well as his own G//Z/R project.  Geezer quite publicly slams Sabbath & Iommi after leaving, stating that he had no intention on ever playing with Black Sabbath again.

Bill was asked later what he thought of his playing these gigs, as they included several songs Sabbath did while Bill was not in the band.  Bill apparently said that he had no problems at all playing other songs (like Cozy Powell’s drum bits in ‘Headless Cross’), but the only mistake that he made live was his own lines in songs like Iron Man & War Pigs.  Pretty funny story.

If you want to see a few more pictures from the Sao Paulo gig, click here.

Fall 1994 to July 1995

  • Tony Martin – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Neil Murray – Bass
  • Cozy Powell – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

Sabbath’s other reunion of the 90’s, but it received much less attention. After the end of the Cross Purposes tour, the lineup responsible for Tyr and the tour for Headless Cross reunites to make 1995’s Forbidden, although the goodwill and headway they made with the public back from 1989-1991 with Headless Cross & Tyr was lost when Sabbath changed gears for Dehumanizer.  At this point, the public didn’t seem to care anymore.

This album featured for the first time ever a guest vocalist. This was Ice-T of the band Body Count on the track The Illusion of Power.  Body Count’s guitarist, Ernie C, produced Forbidden.  It’s widely regarded as Sabbath’s weakest studio effort.  I don’t know if I agree with that, but it is definitely different.

The band went out on tour to support Forbidden, but crappy (read non-existent) support from IRS caused the Forbidden tour to be hardly promoted (if at all), and it was not very well received ticket sales wise. This is too bad, as I was lucky to see this tour live in the US, and the band was very tight, if you want to read what I thought of the time I saw ‘em on this tour, check this out.

A comment about Black Sabbath on the new defunct CD-Now! music store around this time said something like “Black Sabbath marches on into the 90’s oblivious of the declining attention and record sales”. My comment is so what? They still make great music, and still play it for the people that care. Even if they don’t sell, the fact that Iommi and Co. chugg on undaunted by all the personnel changes shows me that the music is cared for, and for that I’m grateful.

Fall 1994 to December 1995

  • Tony Martin – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Neil Murray – Bass
  • Bobby Rondinelli – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

At the end of the US tour for Forbidden, Cozy Powell leaves, claiming exhaustion from a few non stop years of recording and touring (Brian May Band and Black Sabbath). The split is on friendly terms. Bobby Rondinelli is brought back for the rest of the Forbidden tour. Vinny Appice did NOT play for Black Sabbath during this time. There was a rumour that started at Cozy’s last US gig about this, because Tony Martin announced that Vinny was in the audience. The rumour started when some people translated this into Vinny was replacing Cozy.

The rest of the tour came off smoothly, with the exception of some cancelled dates in Australia. Sabbath also brought back Changes to the set list for at least one show in Japan.


January 1996 to March 1997 – Band Inactive

The tour for Forbidden ended in December 1995, and the band was more or less put on ice.  In April of 1996, IRS Records released a compilation CD called “The Sabbath Stones”, which is a Greatest Hits of the bands records on IRS (plus a track from Born Again, Seventh Star, & Eternal Idol). This is the swan song of Sabbath on IRS (apparently Tony Iommi had this done to fulfill his contract with IRS), and during 1996 all that really happened with Sabbath was behind the scenes. They lost their record contract, and were in search of a new one, and there were rampant rumors of ex Judas Priest singer Rob Halford joining the band.

The story goes like this: Iommi had stated that there were to be several vocalists on his solo album, and that he and Halford were to get together for a month or two in the Summer of 1996 to collaborate on material for a project. That happened, but nothing became of the material, so that all was scrapped, and has yet to surface anywhere.

Iommi spent the rest of 1996 working on a solo album that was originally supposed to be released in 1997. According to Glenn Hughes (who was (at the time) working with Iommi on material and is playing bass on it), it’s very “different”.  This material later surfaced as the bootleg “Eighth Star” after Tony had decided not to release it.  It’s a shame, as there is some very good music on that disc.  There’s one riff from the Eighth Star album that turned up on Iommi’s 2000 solo album “Iommi”.  The main riff from 8th Star song “Don’t You Tell Me” turned up in the Iommi song “Black Oblivion”.  This album was later released officially as “The 1996 Dep Sessions”.

In October of 1996, an announcement was made that Tony Martin had left Black Sabbath. Turns out that was a rumour. In December of 1996, both Tony Martin (via a letter to Sam Naugler) and Iommi (via an interview with Pete Scott) both confirm that Martin is not “out” of Sabbath, so as late as December of 1996, it would appear that Iommi intended on going forward with the band as it last existed at the end of 1995.

As for the rest of the band, Neil Murray was working with Cozy Powell in Peter Green’s “Splinter Group” (founder of Fleetwood Mac).  Bobby Rondinelli was heard of working in some capacity with the Sun Red Sun group he was in with Ray Gillen when Ray died, but later turned up in Blue Oyster Cult.

March 1997 to June 29, 1997

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Mike Bordin – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

In March 1997, several rumors surfaced saying that Black Sabbath was to “reunite” and play some gigs at Ozzy’s Ozzfest 1997 Festival tours. The rumors first said it was an original Mk. I reunion, and then it changed to Sabbath with Iommi / Butler / Osbourne / Mike Bordin (from Ozzy’s band). Bill Ward was not asked to play. It goes so far as having Ozzy’s wife Sharon (Ozzy’s manager) say to Bill at the time, “Your Services are not required”.   In fact, Bill found out about this on MTV, of all places!

This “reunion” of three of the original Mk I members started in late May 1997, and ran until July 1st, 1997. They played only the United States on this tour. Black Sabbath played a short (about one hour) set at the end of the day at Ozzfest, after Ozzy himself did a solo set.

July 1, 1997

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Shannon Larkin – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

July 1, 1997 was the final gig on Ozzfest ’97.  This date was actually a makeup for a previously scheduled date of June 17th in Columbus, Ohio.  As the tour was originally scheduled to end on June 29th, this makeup date was a few days after that, and as such, Mike Bordin was unavailable to play the makeup date of July 1st.   Enter Shannon Larkin (Ugly Kid Joe, Godsmack, Wrathchild America).  He was here for only this one gig, and there never was any real intention (that I’m aware of, anyway) for him to continue beyond this lone makeup gig.

July to November 1997 – Band Inactive

After the Ozzfest shows ended in July of 1997, everyone “went back home”. Ozzy went to work finishing and preparing his “Ozzman Cometh” Greatest Hits package for release in November, and Geezer Butler went out and toured the clubs in support of his new Black Science CD. Tony Iommi went back to work on his long-delayed solo album, “Iommi”.

The rumors continued for awhile that a reunited Black Sabbath will get back together and play the UK in December. After speaking with Bill Ward’s production manager in early October, I can say that Bill was called by Sharon Osbourne to come to England and rehearse for the now announced Black Sabbath gigs on December 4th & 5th, 1997.  Bill was careful to tell me that he was not actually contracted to play the two gigs in December, initially, he was only invited over to “rehearse” with them in November. This is curious, as the tickets for these gigs said “Original Black Sabbath” on them, and when they were put on sale, Bill had not been signed on yet to do them. I find it kind of odd that Bill was being billed on the tickets when he hadn’t officially been “hired” to play the gigs.


November 11, 1997 to May 20, 1998

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

On November 11th, Bill Ward went to England to rehearse with Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Ozzy Osbourne for the December gigs in the UK. During this time, MTV Europe announced that Bill had hurt his hand, but was going to play the gigs anyway. This was totally false. On November 24th, it was officially announced that Bill Ward will play with Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, and Tony Iommi as Black Sabbath for two shows on December 4th & 5th. They were recorded (both video & audio) for release later in 1998. The video was later released as the Reunion video.  You can buy it here if you’d like.

This is being billed as the “Original Black Sabbath”, and it is really. The only reason I even bring this point up, is that this, by the letter of the law, is not technically an original lineup. The reason I say that is the Geoff Nicholls played keyboards.  Geoff wasn’t an original member, but has been in the band since very early in 1980 (possibly even late 1979). Anyway, I’m not trying to pretend this is not an original Black Sabbath reunion, it is, but this lineup can be interpreted as either Lineup Number 26, or 1d (the third time that Lineup #1 got back together). That’s all. :)

After the two December gigs, everyone went home. In March of 1998, it was announced that the double live album will be released around Halloween of 1998, and the band will play a series of European dates in June of 1998. The European Black Sabbath Tour of 1998 started rehearsals about May 14th or so. The band was together, and was getting ready for an early June start to the tour, when something very unfortunate happened…..

May 21, 1998 to Fall 1998

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Vinny Appice – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

Bill Ward suffered a heart attack (while in Europe for tour rehearsals) and was taken to the hospital. His doctors told him he was not allowed to fly for 6 weeks, and this forced him off the Black Sabbath European tour 1998. Vinny Appice was flown in from the States to take his place. The tour was fairly uneventful (except for Bill’s health problems).


Fall 1998 to June 2004

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

During the short tour in Europe with Vinny Appice, Bill Ward recovers from his heart attack.  His doctors pronounced him fit again, so he started working out at home in California for the tour starting in December with his own drummer from the Bill Ward Band.

On October 20th, Reunion was released.  To ego trip for a second, I’m thankful to Bill Ward for realizing a personal dream of mine by getting my name in a Black Sabbath record.  If you get out your copy of Reunion, and look in the liner notes, I’m in the thanks section from Bill Ward.

To commemorate the release of Reunion, a short in-store record signing took place in 8 cities in the USA. Black Sabbath (Tony/Ozzy/Geezer/Bill) turned up for a few hours in each store to sign copies of Reunion (and a few other things). These things were total fiasco mob scenes, with many thousands of people turning up in each city to try and get an autograph. Of course, not everyone could, and those who couldn’t were disappointed. Most record stores had set a policy where you had to buy the album from them to get a pass which (officially, anyway) “guaranteed” that you’d get in to get an autograph. I heard stories where people with passes still didn’t. Oh well. There were several rumours at the time that Sabbath were going to play secret club gigs; these turned out to be false. The only live appearance made by Sabbath during this time was an appearance on the David Letterman show (where they played Paranoid). There’s some pictures of this appearance elsewhere on this site.

Following this, a few radio station appearances followed, which were really promo things for Reunion. After that, everyone went back home, and in early December of 1998, rehearsals started for the 1999 Reunion Tour to kick off New Year’s Eve in Phoenix, Arizona USA. During the tour, there were two dates postponed (Salt Lake City & Denver) due to some illness problems (mainly flu) in the band at the time. Vinny Appice was brought along on the tour as a backup, just in case Bill “can’t handle it”.  Vinny’s drum kit was set up every night on stage behind Bill’s. However the tour went well, Vinny wasn’t needed, as Bill is played quite fine. The only “disappointments” heard about the tour were the fact that the set list wasn’t varied, it concentrated too much on one album (Master of Reality), and that they didn’t play their new song, Psycho Man.  Still, the tour received great reviews and accolades wherever it went.

There were some health problems for Oz, though. In the middle of the tour, he developed a throat nodule, and several shows had to be postponed. The tour started up again, but had to stop again, due to continuing throat problems by Oz. Towards the end, some cities ended up being postponed more than once, and a about half a dozen were cancelled with no replacements. Still, for those that did see the tour, it was something to behold.

In April, it was announced that Black Sabbath would be headlining Ozzfest ’99, and it was billed by Sharon’s people as “The Last Supper” – the final appearance of Black Sabbath.

This tour had it’s own problems – most of which were related to Oz’ throat again. The Ozzfest came off OK, but some other “Black Sabbath only” (non Ozzfest) gigs happened in the fall, and then the band had a few months off until December, when it came time to play “The final gigs”. Two shows were played again at the NEC in Birmingham, England, and these are supposed to be the final ever ever ever gigs for Black Sabbath. Of course, no one believes that for a second. Did anyone believe Oz when he said he’d retire in 1992? Did anyone believe David Bowie the four times he said he was retiring?  For a complete itinerary of 1999 shows, check out the 1999 tour date page.

The Inactive Era

BLACK SABBATH IN 2000

Not much happened in 2000 at all.  In December 1999, Sabbath played two live gigs in Birmingham, which were billed as their “final ever gigs” (ha!).  In 2000, the band was more or less inactive.  Everyone worked on solo projects, with Tony Iommi actually releasing his after many attempts over the last few years to do that.

There was one appearance of the band in 2000.   In late June, there was a “weenie roast” held at KROQ radio in Los Angeles.  Several bands were there – Ozzy was scheduled to play, but he brought along Tony, Geezer, & Bill.  Sabbath was supposed to play three songs, but Tony’s amp blew out in one of them, and Sabbath only actually played two. There was supposed to be a second “secret gig” also in late June, but it didn’t happen.

BLACK SABBATH IN 2001

If you had asked me what was planned for the band this year in January, I would have said nothing.  However, in early February it was announced that Black Sabbath would be headlining the Ozzfest 2001 festival, starting in June. 

Right before the tour started during rehearsals, some songs were written for a proposed new Iommi/Butler/Osbourne/Ward Black Sabbath studio album.  It was even announced on March 14th that Sabbath would be recording a new studio album.  They worked on material, then went out on tour for Ozzfest.

The tour went off without event, and at the end, the guys went back home.  One highlight of the tour was the inclusion of one of the tracks from the aforementioned writing sessions entitled “Scary Dreams”.  There also was a one off charity gig on May 22nd in Birmingham. There was a lot of talk of the guys recording a new album, and it was supposed to happen starting in January of 2002, but..

BLACK SABBATH IN 2002


…Ozzy’s record label put some supreme pressure on Ozzy to finish his almost 7 year delayed studio album.  That came out in the fall of 2001, and he went on tour himself in early 2002.  That was when Sabbath was supposed to record a new album.  That obviously kept Sabbath from working.

During the summer, Ozzy’s wife Sharon was diagnosed with cancer, and Ozzy was out headlining Ozzfest as well, so that more or less took up the rest of the year, and filming a new season of the MTV “The Osbournes” show.  What Geezer Butler was up to, no one seems to know, except plodding along on a new solo album.  Bill Ward was taking it easy, as he got married again, and was slowly working on his new solo album (although he did release a single to the Internet late in 2002 called “Straws“).  Tony Iommi made some minor news later in the year with an Internet story that his second solo album was to feature Phil “Pantera” Anselmo on vocals for the entire album (an idea that was later abandoned).

There was one “pseudo-Sabbath” event in July of 2002.  Ozzy Osbourne was asked to play the Queen of England’s Jubilee festival in England to mark Queen Elizabeth’s 50th year as monarch.  Ozzy sang one song, Paranoid, and was backed by a band of Tony Iommi, Phil Collins, & Pino Palladino on bass (Phil & Pino were seen with other people, so they were essentially “the house rhythm section” and just played here, too).  

BLACK SABBATH IN 2003


Nothing happened publicly.  Probably the most “inactive” of all the years in the band’s history.

June 2004 to August 25, 2004

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Adam Wakeman – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

In early 2004, speculation started about whether Black Sabbath would headline the 2004 edition of the annual Ozzfest tour.   There were several rumours about it, and they were fueled by various interviews with Ozzy & Tony Iommi relative to the promotion for the Black Box set that was released in April.  Black Box itself is a wonderful release, and well worthy of your purchase – even if you own the Ozzy era albums anyway. 

Anyway, on May 26th, it was announced that Black Sabbath would headline Ozzfest 2004, but without Bill Ward.   Mike Bordin was to handle the drumkit for the tour.  This of course, irritated a lot of fans, and there was an uproar online, even resulting in a few online petitions to get Bill Ward in there.  From what I can gather, it would appear that Bill was offered a contract to play Ozzfest, and it had terms that were either insufficient or insulting to Bill, or both.  I don’t know the terms of the contract – that’s really none of my business as a fan, but based on the comments Bill released on his website, that’s what I assumed happened.  Anyway, a short while later, it was announced (on June 2nd) that Bill was on board, so the Ozzy / Tony / Geezer / Bill lineup was to play Ozzfest 2004.

Then on June 11th, I decided to look into the keyboardist situation, as none of the announcements for Ozzfest mentioned who was playing keyboards in Black Sabbath.  Sabbath’s keyboardist since 1980 has been Geoff Nicholls, so I just assumed that it would be him.  That night while I was poking around the Internet, I ran across a list of Ozzfest tour dates for Adam Wakeman, son of Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman.  Adam’s site said he was playing Ozzfest with Ozzy.  Well, as Ozzy’s solo headlining gig for Ozzfest was dropped in favor of Black Sabbath, I made the assumption that Adam was handling keyboards instead of Geoff.   Over that weekend, Adam’s site was changed to say that he was playing with Black Sabbath, and not Ozzy.

Geoff is out.  Why? My personal speculation on the matter tells me that since Adam was already hired for Ozzy’s band, they just “brought him over” from Ozzy’s band to Sabbath for the Ozzfest gigs, and contacting Geoff to arrange for the gigs wouldn’t be convenient (a weak excuse I admit, but it’s all I can think of).  This was similar to what happened with Geezer Butler, since Geezer was officially in Ozzy’s band again before the Ozzfest/Sabbath thing happened.   Will Geoff return after Ozzfest, and create even more change to this lineup page  Don’t know, but it is kind of distressing to me to see him booted.  He’s got the longest tenure of anyone in Sabbath ever, other than Tony Iommi – Geoff is on more Sabbath albums than Ozzy was.  I really hope he comes back – no disrespect to Adam, I’m sure he’s a great bloke, but..  ah I’ll just be repeating myself on this.

August 26, 2004

  • Rob Halford – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Adam Wakeman – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

Ozzfest 2004 was going well, according to the concert reviews I’d been receiving..  Until the 27th when I found out that I needed to make another lineup change.  Ozzy did not sing vocals for Black Sabbath on this gig.  Rob Halford did.  Apparently Ozzy got sick, and was unable to sing for Sabbath.  Rob Halford, who had sung for Black Sabbath twice before back in November 1992 stepped in to handle the vocals.

I got a lot of conflicting reviews from this gig.  Some folks really HATED it, and some thought it was cool.  I personally would have given up several gigs I’ve seen with Ozzy to have seen this combination.  A few days after this, a statement was issued by Sharon Osbourne regarding the situation.  It’s relevant, so I’m copying it here.

August  2004                                                                                                                                        A NOTE FROM SHARON

To those who attended the Ozzfest show in Camden on August 26, I would like to address the few complaints that have arisen from Black Sabbath’s performance with Rob Halford in Camden last Thursday, August 26th. The situation quite clearly was that Ozzy was suffering from bronchitis. He was hoping from the morning of the show until the afternoon that he would have some sort of voice so that he could perform that evening. Unfortunately by late afternoon he was advised by doctors that that just wouldn’t be possible. So, our options were:

1. Have Black Sabbath not to perform at all and inform the crowd at 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon, which might have lead to a riot. or 2. Ask one of the legends of the genre, Rob Halford, if he would step in for Ozzy that evening so that people wouldn’t leave feeling disappointed not seeing Black Sabbath perform at all.

Of course Ozzy’s more disappointed than the fans and he feels incredibly guilty that he let everyone down.

Sincerely,

Sharon Osbourne

P.S. Ozzy and I would like to personally thank Gil Edwards and WYSP-FM for their enormous and continued support of OZZfest and hard rock music in Philadelphia.

August 28, 2004 to March 2006

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Adam Wakeman – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

Ozzy returned to the microphone stand for the August 28th gig and finished out the last few gigs on the tour, and from the reviews didn’t seem to have any problems handling the duties.  The final gig was canceled in West Palm Beach Florida due to a hurricane, but other than the Halford gig, the tour was pretty uneventful.  Ozzy was in his best form in a few tours, it was a great gig (if it had yet another boring, stale set list).

What happens after Ozzfest 2004?  Will they finally get around to recording a new album?  I would hope so, but I haven’t heard anything.  It’s back to working on various solo albums now.

TOUR 2005

Well, that didn’t happen.  In the spring of 2005, it was announced that Black Sabbath would be playing some European dates, then coming to the US for Ozzfest 2005, and according to rumours some non Ozzfest Black Sabbath dates in the fall.  Geezer Butler’s third solo album (Ohmwork) was released in May of 2005,  Tony Iommi’s new album with Glenn Hughes (Fused) came out in July, and Bill Ward’s long delayed third album is also still in production. 

After Ozzfest 2005, there was supposed to be a tour with the “Iommi” band as well as GZR, but that did not happen, unfortunately.  Geezer & Tony made several promotional appearances on places like VH1 Classic to promote their respective solo albums, but unfortunately they didn’t get much attention sales wise, with Ohmwork selling particularly poorly.  That’s not an issue to Geezer, as he once said “I got all the money I need from Sabbath”, so the solo projects are not done for money.  Still, you’d like to see them get some attention, and the lack of a tour was very disappointing to fans – this one in particular who was hoping to see some non Ozzy era material resurface again outside of a Tony Martin or Dio gig.

Black Sabbath did play the European dates, and did headline Ozzfest 2005, but as usual, Ozzy’s health caused the cancellation and postponment of several gigs on Ozzfest, much to the consternation of some fans.   There was also an incident with Iron Maiden, Sharon Osbourne, and eggs which didn’t go over well with fans, either.    However, Black Sabbath themselves didn’t appear to have anything to do with it.  This author finally got to meet Black Sabbath after all these years on the Ozzfest stop in Dallas.  To read more about that, check out my story elsewhere on this site.   Musically, Ozzy (when not sick) sounded pretty good, and as usual the band was great.  The set list was varied a little, but was still mostly Iron Man / War Pigs / Paranoid, which didn’t sit well with longtime fans.

During Ozzfest, Tony Iommi & Geezer Butler held autograph sessions for their respective solo albums which had been released right before the start of Ozzfest (Tony’s Fused was released on July 11th and Geezer’s Ohmwork was released on May 10th).  There was a tent set up on the Ozzfest grounds, and Tony & Geezer would sign for about an hour at most of the stops.   Geezer was also accompanied by Pedro Howse (GZR guitarist) during these signings.


UK HALL OF FAME 2005

On November 3rd, it was announced that Black Sabbath would be inducted into the UK Hall of Fame (not the same as the “main” US one) after having been nominated in September.  Sabbath would be going in with other such names like Queen, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and The Kinks.   Bill Ward had this to say about the induction:

‘Wow, I¹m shocked,’ was my first reaction. Then, ‘This feels pretty good. What a nice surprise, Black Sabbath being honoured in the U.K.’  Yes, I think that¹s a really cool thing to happen for us. Thanks U.K. Hall of Fame.

The formal ceremony was on November 16th, and Black Sabbath performed one song on the show (Paranoid – what a surprise).  There is speculation at this point that this might be the last time Black Sabbath does anything together for awhile after this, due to the desire for the various parties to work on solo projects.

US HALL OF FAME 2006

On March 13, 2006 – Black Sabbath was inducted into the US Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Long time visitors to my site know my feelings on the Hall of Fame, but it is still nice to see them get some recognition even if I had a bit of a “who cares” feeling about it all.  My gut feeling is that this is the last time we’ll see the four of them together for a long time – if ever again. My gut tells me it’s the swan song for the original Black Sabbath. That’s a personal opinion, I have no facts or information to back that up.

The day after the Hall of Fame induction, Black Sabbath released “Greatest Hits 1970-1978″.   Oh look, another Greatest Hits.  This album has “cash crab” written all over it.  It’s not like the music is bad or anything, but GOOD GOD – do we really need yet another re-release of this material?   It’s coming on 11 full years since the last studio Sabbath album (1995’s Forbidden).  At this point, it feels that Sabbath should either retire for good, or go back out as they were in the 90’s, playing small clubs, and things of that nature with some new blood.

I think part of the irritation is the unknown of it all.  It feels like they don’t exist as a “band” anymore, it would be so much easier if Tony just said “That’s it – we’re done”.  I’d be good with that.  I really would.  It’s the recycling of old material like this package plus the lack of closure I’m sure that bugs a lot of people.

March to November 26, 2006

  • Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Nobody – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

After the release of Black Box in 2004, many fans wanted to know “Well, what about the other albums”?  (There are more studio Black Sabbath albums without Ozzy (10) then there are with him (8)).  I was told at the time there was plans to give the rest of the catalogue the same kind of cleaning up and releasing. What I was told at the time was that there would be a “Black Box II” (Dio Stuff), and “Black Box III” (everything else), but not with those names.  In 2005, I had been told the second package would be called “Black Sabbath: The Dio Years”, and would consist of the three studio albums with Ronnie Dio as well as Live Evil (along with possibly the long missing Live Evil video footage).

Tony Iommi went to see a Dio show, and hung out backstage with Dio.  Ronnie & Tony got to talking, and they came up with the idea of putting a couple of new tracks on the Dio Years compilation that was being worked on.   So they got together in early 2006 to write some new tracks.

Ronnie James Dio had this to say about the Early 2006 recording sessions with Tony Iommi in an interview:

“It was great! It was fun… I’ve always liked Tony. He’s a good person, fun to be around, obviously a brilliant player which is always the first attraction because if you don’t like the player you’re, kind of, doomed. But it’d been ten, eleven or twelve years since I’ve seen Tony except he did come to one of our shows a couple of months ago that we had done in Birmingham. So I did get to see him for the first time then and it was just as it always was. Then, when we worked together, it was the same productive thing that we’ve always got up to. Just the two of us… me playing bass, Tony playing guitar, a drum machine in Tony’s studio… it was great! I think we both said inside to ourselves, ‘Damn… I forgot how good he was!'”

These writing sessions produced three songs, whose names we later found out to be “Shadow of the Wind”, The Devil Cries”, & “Ear in the Wall”.   Some time passed, and as news of this leaked out, the obvious speculation turned to who the rhythm section for these tracks would be.  The obvious first choice would be Geezer Butler & Bill Ward.

On October 25/26, 2006, the following press release was posted on the sites for Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler, & Tony Iommi:

The highly anticipated reunion of Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward appears to be shaping up and taking a new form. After various promoters have approached their respective management; the guys have started taking all of this very seriously, as they have wanted to reunite for some time now. It looks as if the new shape may be that of Heaven and Hell – that’s the moniker that the band is likely to use on their new venture.

If all goes well, Heaven and Hell should be hitting the road in early 2007.

What was obvious about this press release as a few days passed was that it was never placed on Bill Ward’s site.  Bill remained fairly quiet about the possibility of reuniting with Sabbath again (now under the name Heaven & Hell – more on that later).   Until November 26, 2006 when Bill Ward issued the following statement on his website:

Bill Ward today announced that he will not be recording new tracks for the “Black Sabbath: The Dio Years” CD or playing drums on the “Heaven & Hell” tour.

“I realize there has been some speculation as to whether or not I am participating in the Heaven & Hell project,” said Ward. “I want to confirm that I will not be involved in either the recordings for the upcoming CD or the subsequent tour. I want to wish the guys ­ Tony, Geezer, Ronnie, and Vinny – much success for the coming year.”

This was considered a major disappointment for a lot of fans, as Bill never got to properly tour behind the original Heaven & Hell album.  He did go out on the road with the Sabs back then, but his departure back in 1980 was very troubled, and has been chronicled elsewhere (as well as further up on this page).   An absent drum slot obviously leaves much speculation as to who will handle the sticks.


During this time, radio DJ Eddie Trunk was in England and did an interview with the Sabs (but before Vinny had shown up).  That is the source of the picture in this item – no it’s not Eddie Trunk “in the band”.  :)
 

November 2006 to Current – the  “Heaven & Hell Era”


  • Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Vinny Appice – Drums
  • Scott Warren – Keyboards (February 2007 onwards)

Albums from this lineup:

YouTube Video

Black Sabbath Heaven and Hell (Vol -I)

July 18 2007

After Bill Ward announced that he was not going to record or tour with the Heaven & Hell project, it was quickly announced that Vinny Appice would be returning to handle the drums for the Sabs.  He was flown over to England where the material was being worked on at Tony Iommi’s studio.  In fact, Vinny was flown over in such a hurry, they didn’t have a chance to arrange for his gear to be taken over.  One interesting side note to this move was that Vinny ended up playing the kit that is in Tony’s studio on the tracks.  This kit belonged to Cozy Powell, former Sabbath drummer.  Cozy has been dead now since 1998, so it’s nice that in a small way, his legacy will live on with Sabbath.  The irony of Cozy’s kit being used by another Sabbath drummer on new tracks sung on by former Rainbow band mate Ronnie James Dio is not lost on me.  :)

In early January 2007, some other news started coming out about the tour and the album.   A formal release date was issued, which was April 3, 2007.  The Dio Years release was announced to be a single disc release (as opposed to the box set it was originally planned as).  All three newly recorded tracks are to be on the greatest hits CD.   Also, Sabbath has embraced the technology of the Internet and set up two sites for the Heaven & Hell 2007 project.  One is an official website at http://www.heavenandhelllive.com and the other is a Myspace page for the band, which is at http://www.myspace.com/heavenandhelllive.  What’s interesting about that is it’s Black Sabbath’s first formal website for anything like this.  Back when Sabbath released the Reunion album in 1998, there was a record label sponsored website for that album, which was controlled by Sharon Osbourne, which I never considered “by the band”, it was a record label website (although I admit it was close).   These new sites are the first ever official Sabbath sites that came from the band management themselves.  In fact, heavenandhelllive.com is registered to someone at Tony Iommi’s management team. 

In mid January, Geezer Butler & Ronnie Dio appeared on a call-in show (again with Eddie Trunk) to talk about the Heaven & Hell project.  Several items about the forthcoming tour and album were detailed in this interview:

  • There were no keyboards on the new studio tracks.
  • Scott Warren from the Dio band will handle keyboards on the tour.
  • Tour rehearsals are set to start around February 1
  • Down & Megadeth will be the initial openers on the March Canadian leg of the tour.
  • They do not plan on playing any Ozzy era tracks during the live shows, that they planned on playing just tracks from the Dio Sabbath albums, plus the three new tracks.
  • The new tracks were written by Ronnie & Tony.  Geezer did not do any writing (which mirrors in a way the way the original Heaven & Hell album was written).

An interview with Rudy Sarzo in January of 2007 stated that two of the new Sabbath tracks were ideas that Ronnie had originally put forth for the new Dio album, but instead used for the new Sabbath tracks.  The source for this interview is here.

One other issue that Ronnie James Dio touched on in the Jan 19 Trunk interview was the naming of the band.  To paraphrase…  part of the reason they called this Heaven & Hell and not Black Sabbath was that they all felt that Sabbath was “back together” for awhile now with Oz, and that since they went into the hall of fame with that lineup, that that’s the way “Black Sabbath” will remain. I’ve said that for a few years now that we’d likely never see another lineup change in Sabbath, and it looks like that’s coming to pass.  While officially this project and band are called “Heaven & Hell”, that doesn’t stop the rest of us from calling it what it is.  BLACK SABBATH.   In fact, the video link here touches on some of Ronnie’s feelings on the naming of the project, even going so far to say that “it doesn’t much matter what we call it, people will call it what it is – Black Sabbath with Dio”.  He’s right.  This is a fan website, and I’m calling it “Black Sabbath”, even though I know it formally (and presumably legally) it is not really called that. 

I’ve given some thought as to why it’s not called “Black Sabbath”, and I have come up with a couple of thoughts (these are my own personal speculation, I have no facts to back any of this up)…

  • When Ronnie & Tony first hooked up in 1979, it initially wasn’t going to be called Black Sabbath – they were going to go forward as another name – this could be an attempt to recapture that “early feel” they had when they first started working out.
  • This was an attempt to keep Bill Ward in the band.  Bill’s been on record for a long time saying that he doesn’t want to do Sabbath without Ozzy.  Now in 1994 when he came back, he had said that he was finally OK with it, since at that time it appeared to him that Ozzy would never be involved again.  This could explain why Bill bailed out now.  He was back in Sabbath again from 1998 through 2005, a nice consecutive streak, and going with Dio again in place of Ozzy might have brought back too many bad feelings for him, so he decided against it.   In the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to point out that I do work for Bill Ward doing his website, but this is my own personal speculation – I have not asked him about this matter.
  • An attempt to deflect interference from Sharon Osbourne.  Things didn’t go well from what I read on Ozzfest 2005, mostly stemming from the Iron Maiden egg incident.  I’d been hearing rumours that the rest of the Sabs were fed up with her and Ozzy’s “antics”, and by not calling themselves Black Sabbath, they immediately remove all interference that could come from the Osbourne camp over the name.  Now legally, Tony Iommi owns 100% of Black Sabbath.  He can do whatever the heck he wants.  But it could be a “I don’t want to deal with the headaches”.
  • They may finally have decided that “Black Sabbath” is put to rest given the two Hall of Fame inductions.

Ultimately, they could revive their original name of “The Polka Tulk Electric Blues Band”, and it wouldn’t matter.  If it walks like a duck and looks like a duck, it’s a duck.  This is Black Sabbath, no matter what the heck they want to call it.

That aside, it’s shaping up to be a stable and exciting tour.  I heard from a friend of mine in Europe about the excitement for the tour with this quote in an email:

This is getting like TONS of attention here in Europe too. From what I’ve been able to gather from a couple of friends of mine who work as promoters getting bands to this area, this H&H tour is the most wanted tour in Europe this coming summer. It looks like they’re selling better than Ozzy and Metallica who are touring here in the summer as well.

So a tour is coming together, we have new studio tracks under the name Black Sabbath.  Let’s hope the guys don’t kill themselves out on tour, so it all goes well, finishes, and who knows?

Nov 2007: As I write this on Nov 1st, the tour is about to finish. The last date on the tour is November 18th in Bournemouth UK. It’s been a great tour, and unlike several of the last Ozzfests, we had not a single date postponed or cancelled due to the health of the singer. I had the pleasure of meeting the guys in Dallas, and it was a blast. Everyone I spoke to loved the shows, and marveled at how the guys can bring it still. I got a lot of emails from folks asking if November really was the end, and what would happen with Sabbath in 2008 with Ozzy as was rumored (and hinted to in press releases by Sharon).

Here is what Ronnie James Dio had to say about that subject back before the tour started (combined with my own words):

Ronnie specifically addressed the future past the 2007 H&H project by saying there is no intention on carrying on past this with more touring, or a full album, but also left the door open a crack by saying “I’ve learned never to predict the future with these guys, so who really knows?”  He did go on to say that when this is done, he’s going back into the studio with Dio to record Magica 2 & 3, so he’ll be busy with that for awhile – I honestly think this will be a one time shot, there won’t be anything more after the tour is over, but again – who really knows?

That is what we’ve been told was going to happen when the tour is over.  Until October 26th when a press release was sent to me to publish which had this text in it:

There’s been much speculation of a forthcoming Black Sabbath reunion with the original line-up with Ozzy Osbourne at the helm, but founding member Geezer Butler has adamantly denied such rumors.

“Heaven and Hell are currently in discussions with various record labels about recording a brand new studio album in 2008,” says Butler.


So now what?   A new album with Dio?  That’s fantastic news.  Dio the band is still going to tour in the summer, so Black Sabbath with Ozzy on Ozzfest 2008 probably is not out of the question either.   But I have to say the prospect of a new Black Sabbath studio album after all this time – and with DIO is amazing news.   I always hoped Forbidden wouldn’t be the last studio mark by Black Sabbath (or whatever the frig you’re gonna call ‘em).  As much as I personally like Forbidden, it isn’t the strongest Sabbath album, and we need a better final album than THAT.  Bring it on, guys!


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