50 Years Ago, Black Sabbath Found Its Sound And Took Metal Worldwide

Recorded in a few days and released just months after the band's self-titled debut, Paranoid delivered bleak but unforgettable songs about war, corruption and trauma.

9/18/2020 11:59:00 PM

Exactly 50 years ago, a genre-defining album was released. Recorded in just a few days, Black Sabbath's 'Paranoid' delivered unforgettable songs about war, corruption and trauma — and helped turn the world on to heavy metal.

Recorded in a few days and released just months after the band's self-titled debut, Paranoid delivered bleak but unforgettable songs about war, corruption and trauma.

came out in Europe on Sept. 18, 1970,and its title track reached No. 4 on the UK charts shortly after. The band's first, self-titled release had just come out months earlier, but it wasParanoidthat helped turn the world on to heavy metal.Singer Henry Rollins is a self-proclaimed Black Sabbath advocate. He fronted the band Black Flag for a while, and he's now a writer and music presenter for NPR member station KCRW. Rollins says Sabbath's first release was more like a"sketchpad." On their second album, the musicians found their focus.

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"They're realizing their strengths," Rollins says."And there's not a lot ofmusicon theParanoidalbum. That's not a put-down: I'm saying there's a lot of space, and that's where the album gets a lot of its power."

Paranoidcame together rapidly. The band wrote songs and came up with riffs while touring their first album in Europe. When the tour ended, the band returned to the studio and madeParanoidin six days, playing and recording as if it was a live concert. In that whirlwind, they created what's become some of the most iconic heavy metal ever."Those songs really lodge in the memory: You hear them once and you get it," Rollins says. headtopics.com

YouTubeOzzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward. The four grew up in the factory city of Birmingham, England and met in the local music scene. Joel McIver, author of two books on the band, says Black Sabbath wouldn't be the same without its hometown:"You cannot separate the environment of Black Sabbath from the music that they made."

All four original members were born in the late 1940s to a bleak future, according to McIver. Birmingham had been largely destroyed by bombs in World War II, and many families were struggling."If you were a lad back then in this environment, your future was 45 years on a factory assembly line," McIver says."That's literally the truth. That's what so many people faced."

That firsthand experience with postwar tragedy drove the musicians' sound and songwriting."War Pigs" is a rebuke of politicians and war."Hand of Doom" is about the horrors of Vietnam and the many soldiers who came home addicted to opium."Electric Funeral" imagines a world destroyed by nuclear bombs.

Read more: NPR »

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