“Black Sabbath”: Unleashed on Friday the 13th February, 1970

We look back and revisit the historical Black Sabbath debut “Black Sabbath” released on this day in 1970

“Black Sabbath”: Unleashed on Friday the 13th, 1970

What could be more appropriate for Black Sabbath to release their self-titled debut in 1970 than a Friday the 13th? The band’s legendary debut is the record that established Heavy Metal as a music genre if Blue Cheer’s 1968 “Vincebus Eruptum” can be seen as the birth of Metal, the 1970 “Black Sabbath” is the growing and coming of age. Every detail that is associated with Heavy Metal is present on the album, including the art displayed on the cover; from a sinister figure in black (the cue to the opening line of the album “What Is This That Stands Before Me/Figure In Black”) to the inverted Christian cross. When in 1970 many bands were still trying to hold on to the Psychedelic 60’s style, Black Sabbath was moving on to a new era, however, there are still moments on the album where the heart of the Psychedelic 1960’s can be felt, through a heavier beat.The album opens with the storm effect that could be the beginning of a horror movie, and mashes into the slow and heavy guitar riff of Tony Iommi, the pounding drums, and bass of Bill Ward and Geezer Butler, giving place to Ozzy Osbourne’s distinctive and creepy vocals, the song “Black Sabbath” is one of the greatest Metal songs ever done, it’s timeless and remains fresh to the ears and times, it has a life and force of its own in the music universe. “The Wizard”, another phenomenal song, it’s the first on the album where we can hear some slight influences or reminiscence to late 1960’s Rock, with the harmonica sound blending in the heavy riffs and drums. “Behind The Wall Of Sleep”, a sample of what would be Black Sabbath’s signature sound and style, “N.I.B”, the ecstatic track that starts with Geezer Butler Bass solo, and evolves into one of Rock’s most famous guitar riffs, a very suggestive reference to Lucifer, the occult game that always played a big role on Black Sabbath’s compositions. The chorus of “N.I.B” marks a difference by changing key, almost sounding like a classic Psychedelic Folk song, like a Lucifer’s lament (the song tells the story of Lucifer’s passion for a human). “Evil Woman”, the Crow cover that was omitted from the U.S release, it’s one of the most commercial tracks on the album (and released as a single), a cover did so perfectly that makes you feel like Black Sabbath composed it themselves. “Sleeping Village”, a highly influential track on Stoner Rock and Grunge, it starts mildly, like a ballad sung by Ozzy quietly, and then goes into a slow heavy thunder of guitar, bass and drums jam. The album closes with “Warning”, a cover of the 1967 song by Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation (another Psychedelic 60’s Rock reference), that includes the beautiful and poetic line “I was born without you baby/But my feelings were a little bit too strong”.The Black Sabbath version, which features a large instrumental section including a Tony Iommi guitar solo, it’s a perfect sample for Black Sabbath’s talent as musicians. The American release of “Black Sabbath” featured a different tracklist, with one song omitted and another added others with the title changed, most notoriously, the “Medleys”, “Wasp/Behind The Wall Of Sleep/Bassically/N.I.B” which is only the two tracks “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” and “N.I.B”. “Evil Woman” was omitted from the American release and replaced by “Wicked World”, and, though denied by the band several times, does not emulate The Doors guitar riff of “Wild Child” (it does sound like it though).

Another “Medley”, “A Bit of Finger / Sleeping Village / Warning”, it’s also only the tracks “Sleeping Village” and “Warning”. “Black Sabbath” it’s an outstanding album, with an enormous historical importance in music history, a reference not just for Heavy Metal but also for Rock music in general. The way Black Sabbath mixed their influences and created a unique signature sound, it’s something few bands were able to achieve at first. The band released another outstanding album in 1970, “Paranoid”, and then another one in 1971, “Master Of Reality”, and it was on that year, that they were supposed to go on a European tour opening for The Doors if Jim Morrison hadn’t died. We can only imagine what could have been those concerts and the musical trade on each band.

Side A
1 “Black Sabbath”
2 “The Wizard”
3 “Behind the Wall of Sleep”
4 “N.I.B.”

Side B
5 “Evil Woman” (Crow cover) Larry Weigand Dick Weigand David Wagner
6 “Sleeping Village”
7 “Warning” (The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation cover) Aynsley Dunbar Alex Dmochowski Victor Hickling John Moorshead

North American Release:
Side A
1 “Black Sabbath”
2 “The Wizard”
3 “Wasp / Behind the Wall of Sleep / Bassically / N.I.B.”

Side B
4 “Wicked World”
5 “A Bit of Finger / Sleeping Village / Warning” Iommi Butler Ward Osbourne / Dunbar Dmochowski Hickling Moorshead

All songs credited to Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne, except where noted.

Ozzy Osbourne: vocals, harmonica on “The Wizard”
Tony Iommi: guitar
Geezer Butler: bass
Bill Ward: drums
Rodger Bain: Jew’s harp on “Sleeping Village”

Produced by:Rodger Bain
Recorded during: 16 October 1969 at Studio Regent Sound Studios, London, England
Released: February 13, 1970
Label: Vertigo / Warner

“Evil Woman / Wicked World” Released: 9 January 1970

Strongest tracks:

Watch the 1970 music video for “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath

Listen to the album “Black Sabbath” on Spotify

Watch more Black Sabbath related videos


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David Warren

David Warren is editor and author for Pop Expresso reach out at david@popexpresso.com

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