a story told to Joe Siegler by Phil Oswald
I got an email back in April from Phil Oswald telling me he had a rather unique story to tell about Black Sabbath in the early days. I asked him to tell me what the story was, so here is his reply below.
Hi, thanks for the reply – as you can see, I’m not that prompt at answering emails myself. OK, here’s the story –
This happened back in 69 – 70 and although it was a long time ago, I’ll make this as accurate as I can. In those days I lived in Carlisle in the north of England and as teenagers me and my mates used to go to ‘dances’ with local bands. The best of them were called Mythology, with Bill Ward, Tony Iommi, Neil Marshall (bass) and a singer whose name I never found out. We saw them a lot; they were obviously in a different class to the other local bands, and got even better when they split and reformed with Ozzy and Geezer. They were now called Earth and were heavier, but still bluesy – Tony played flute occasionally. As we got to the end of our schooldays we (me and some buddies) hired Earth for £40 to play at an bend of term dance in the school hall – it was cool, and we asked them if they’d do our final year dance, next year. They said yes, but asked for £70 and we said OK. Off they went. We figured we’d like to have the gig off the school site, so we booked a dance hall called The Cosmopolitain (the Cosmo) – it’s now a carpet salesroom, I think, and we agreed we’d give any profits to Oxfam. We printed tickets and started selling them. Meanwhile Earth had gone back to Birmingham and rumours trickled up that they’d changed their name to Black Sabbath. We kind of thought, what’s that all about? You see, heavy metal didn’t exist then; the big names were Cream and Hendrix, so we didn’t know what was going on. Anyway, we weren’t too worried about the gig. The next bit of news was that they’d got a record deal with Vertigo – we weren’t surprised, as we all thought they’d make it somehow or other – so that was cool. It was getting closer to the day of the gig, which was March 18th, 1970. The next thing that happened was their first album going into the charts – wow – everyone was into it and it was great that they’d made it. (There’d been a single before that, but it was the album that really made any impact ). But, we were thinking, what about our £70 schoolboy gig – surely a band wouldn’t do that when they were in the charts? We weren’t quite sure what to do and (I’m trying hard to remember details here, the other people involved will have variations) I guess we went into a state of denial and just let time slip by until the day of the gig.
That afternoon, we were in the Cosmo chewing our nails. Apparently, the word had gone round that Sabbath were at the Cosmo, and there were coach parties booked to bring people in from all round the North. We, at that point, were really worried that Sabbath wouldn’t show, and we’d get our heads kicked in by angry fans. Oops. Anyway, mid-afternoon a truck pulled into the carpark. It was Sabbath. We hadn’t seen them for a while and they had changed. The hair was longer, they were wearing black grandad T shirts and the crucifixes and they had Laney amps (new, at the time), four 4×4 each. Bill had a Slingerland kit. They set up. Well, that night was amazing. The hall was packed solid and everyone had a great time. Sabbath were totally heavy (I can’t give you a set list, but they opened with NIB) and the atmosphere was really cool (we were hippies, remember). It was excellent and& nbsp;it felt a bit like seeing the birth of Heavy Metal.
After the gig, me and my mates were in the changing room, and somebody stuck £70 in Tony’s hand. I can’t remember who it was, but one of us said to him that it was really good that they did the gig, even though they could have made far more money somewhere else, so why did they do a schoolboy dance for £70? His reply was something like this:
‘It’s these people who put us where we we are, so we thought we’d honour that Sabbath got a reputation later on as total wild guys who were into evil stuff. I can’t comment, I’ve seen loads of concerts since then (last one Astoria reunion – classic Sabbath, to me), but I haven’t got anywhere near to speaking to one of the band.
All I can tell you is this, for us they acted honorably and decently when they didn’t have to and I have never forgotten that.
Well, Joe, that’s the tale of the mighty Black Sabbath doing a schoolkid’s dance for £70 when they were in the top twenty album charts, and I guess it might give another slant on the band’s image. I’d love to know if any of them remember that night, or if anyone else who was there has any messages to pass on – feel free to forward emails.
For the record, that was the first time I’d seen Iommi with an SG and Laneys; before that he used a left-handed Strat with, I think – Marshall amps. He also used some kind of mysterious treble booster.