If you’re the kind of fan who thinks Black Sabbath died after 1978, or are one of those fans that say “No Ward, No Sabbath”, then you might as well stop reading now. This article won’t be for you. I’m here to talk about the 20th anniversary of one of the more maligned albums in the band’s back catalogue, 1995’s “Forbidden”.
1995 brought us the final album in what I like to refer to as the “classic” era of Black Sabbath. Lots has been written about this album over the years. Mostly negative, to be honest. I’m not going to sit here and lie out my ass and say I think it’s the best Black Sabbath album. Far from it. It’s got some issues, sure. That’s mostly the same problem that Born Again has, which is the mix. But I also can’t just jump on the easy bandwagon and say it sucked, because it didn’t. Even the lesser Sabbath albums have gems on them, and this album has some, too.
Before we get into a lot of detail, lets examine where Black Sabbath was before this. The album previous to this, Cross Purposes was finishing up its world tour. It ended with some shows in South America that had Bill Ward on drums instead of Bobby Rondinelli, who had been there for the Cross Purposes album and tour (which I saw twice, btw). A small bit of trivia about those shows. One of them was in Sao Paulo Brazil, and Bill was so affected by what he saw there that he wrote some lyrics which turned up on his 1997 solo album, “When the Bough Breaks”. But I digress. After that tour was over, naturally attentions turned to the next album. At this point in the band’s life, you had 3/4 of the original Black Sabbath in there. Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, & Bill Ward. This was a strong pedigree. I had read at the time that Bill was going to stay there and record/play with Sabbath on the next record. Then the “NIB” tribute album happened. Story goes there was some stink between Tony Iommi and Geezer’s wife over issues relative to that tribute album, and it caused Geezer to quit Sabbath again. Bill went with him, and it left Tony Iommi as the only original again. What was left was Tony Iommi, Tony Martin, & Geoff Nicholls. While I have nothing against Murray & Powell, I have to confess I was looking forward to a rhythm section of Butler & Ward again. Didn’t happen. Oh well.
The last gig on the Cross Purposes Tour was Sep 4, 1994, and I was told by Neil Murray that writing for the Forbidden album started in October 1994, so Tony Iommi had to have decided quickly what he wanted to do lineup wise. This basically brought back the Tyr lineup of Tony Martin, Tony Iommi, Neil Murray, Cozy Powell, & Geoff Nicholls. Writing for this album took place during October & November 1994 at Bluestone Farm, Pembrokeshire, Wales. Neil Murray was MOST KIND to send me some photos from these sessions at Bluestone Farm that he was the photographer of for this article. As far as I know, they’ve never been seen before. Check them out:
When I saw these pictures, I asked Tony Martin if he still had the tapes from back then, and he said he did, but finding them and converting them to a digital format in the amount of time I’d need them in for this article wasn’t possible. But he did say he still had the stuff, so hopefully he can get that stuff converted. :)
The album was recorded at Parr Street Studios in Liverpool. I don’t know what it looked like in 1994, but this is what it looked like in 2012, when Google’s Street View car went down the street. :)
The first date of recording was Dec 4, 1994. Neil tells me that the bass and drum parts were completed by Dec 10, 1994, but further guitar and vocal recordings were done following this. I got this from Geoff Nicholls about the writing part of the process:
“Got to be honest Joe it was a bit of a heavy time trying to write the Album in 10 days the place we stayed was where Take That worked out all their Dance moves and stage shows and we had all the story’s about them at meal times from the Landlady”
Additional recording and mixing was done in both London and Los Angeles in March of 1995, so the album wasn’t complete until fairly close to its release date in July 1995. There’s a lot that was made about who produced this album, and a lot of fans call it the “Rap album”, which I find unfair. That is solely based on the fact that Ernie C was the producer of the album, and he worked with Ice-T in the group “Body Count”. To call this a rap record is wildly unfair. Most of it probably comes from the spoken word bit in the middle of the song “The Illusion of Power”. One of the other people who were involved in the production part of things was Bobby Brooks, who also worked with Michael Jackson. So you have a production team that is mostly known for rap, and also from working with Michael Jackson. It leads to, well.. a weird combination.
The IRS press release for the album lists this from Tony, “We were going to try Ernie on four tracks to see how it sounded and go on from there”, remembers Iommi, “but he came over with the idea of doing the complete album – so we went for it!”.
Most fans tend to agree that the mix in this album is kind of flat, and based on comments I’ve heard from various band members over the years, that is borne out by everyone. Here’s a few comments I’ve seen from people about the album/mix:
Geoff Nicholls: I dont think anybody liked the mixes and it was a shame as there were some good songs on there, but it was the last IRS Record and I think they just wanted it finished to move which they did
Tony Iommi: I really like the album but I was never happy with the overall sound so I’m going to re-mix it before it comes out again.
Tony Martin: Mainly people that slag the album are only hearing the production, which really does suck! There was a meeting called one day that I remember, by the Sabbath management, and it was when they told us that they had plans to use the rap guys to produce and perform on the album, …….. no wait …….. we already knew that they had plans to use these guys, they came to ask our thoughts on the subject, because some of us had complained about it. Me for one, because I had no idea at that time if I was actually going to sing on the album, all they would say was wait and see what Ice T comes up with, but that was really unnerving cause right up to recording the album, I still wasn’t sure what would be kept. This was because they wanted the backing tracks for ice T to listen to, to see which track or tracks he liked. Cozy and I both had deep reservations about using the rap guys cause they really had no experience of rock music. And Cozy was right up front about his reservations. In the end they convinced us that every effort would be made to keep the album Sabbath sounding. Well I have to say, I told you so. and so did Cozy. BUT, the songs are really valid songs. They worked well on stage, MUCH better than on the album. And the lyrics worked perfectly with the tracks when they were played. It really is the production that let it down. I will say that, Ernie C and Ice T and the other guys that worked on the album were great people, and we got on with them real well. I have nothing bad to say about them personally. I just feel that the management of the album NAILED it. If they had left the production to the band especially Tony and Cozy as they did with Headless Cross and Tyr, I honestly believe that the album would have done much better than it did.
I get the impression that the album came together in a hurry, and then it wasn’t much of a “band experience”, and from reading things over the years, I kind of get the impression that it was an album that was kind of hurried out to get out of the IRS contract. The “band experience” part of it seems to be borne out by this quote from Neil Murray.
Neil Murray: After the bass & drums were recorded, there was no time when outside commitments prevented us (Cozy & I) from any more recording, because we were never asked to be available. Perhaps Tony wanted us to be calling up every day, asking to hear how things were going, but in fact we felt shut out of the album recording once the backing tracks were done.
To quote Ian Gillan, I always wondered if Tony Martin saw the cover and threw up, and then heard the mix and threw up again. :)
I also found this tidbit from Tony Martin in an old email about the name of the song “Get a Grip”.
I got slaged by Aerosmith for using the title get a grip, well that was Ernie C’s idea. I had originally called the track Black Ice, and Ernie said I couldn’t use it because of Ice T, being black and his name and all. So he looked over the lyrics and came to the conclusion that get a grip would be better. Talk about politically correct. Well there you have it.
So we jump forward to June 1995, and the album comes out. There’s not a ton of information available about its release, because honestly, there wasn’t much from IRS to begin with – not that I can recall. This includes the release date. In prepping this article, I was going to launch it on the 20th anniv release date. Which I thought was June 8th. But on June 7th, I looked at the calendar for 1995, and realized that June 8th was a Thursday, which meant that the release date was invalid. Fortunately that same evening I read the old press release below and it said that the release date was June 20th, which was a Tuesday. Given this was for a US market, I’m confident that June 20th, 1995 was the US/North American release date for the album. The UK/European date is a bit sketchier. After talking to some fans on Facebook, I’m pretty convinced that date is either June 5 or June 12. Not entirely sure. If anyone has any honest to God concrete evidence (not “I think it was” type stuff, but real facts) proving the UK/European release date, I’d love to hear it.
Anyway, given who I am as a Sabbath fan, I was aware of the album coming out, of course – but I don’t recall seeing much in the way of promotion in magazines at the time. I do have around here an original press release from IRS for the album. You can see the press release below:Forbidden_press_release
That lack of attention from IRS was borne out to me on a few things I saw that summer. The first was the album’s presence on release day. This was 1995, and it was before physical music sales tanked. You could still go into a record store and find boatloads of CD’s and tapes to buy. Can’t do that anymore. But then you could. So it was on that morning that I walked into one of the local record shops in Dallas (Amazon.com and iTunes hadn’t taken over yet), and went to buy a copy of the new Black Sabbath album on CD. This was like 10 minutes after the store had opened this morning. I had initially gone to the Black Sabbath bin, and didn’t find it, so I went to the one store clerk that was working at the time. Told him I was there to buy the new Black Sabbath album that was out today. He looked it up in the computer, confirmed the date, and then informed me that the store had ordered just one copy of the CD. ONE. For Black Sabbath. Now I know the mid 90’s was a much different beast insofar as album sales go for Black Sabbath as it was in years gone by. I accept that. But still, ONE FREAKIN’ COPY? For the whole store? I asked if it had been sold, and he said no, it didn’t look like it (which was likely as he was the only one working on the floor). So I asked him where it would be, and he said probably still in the box of stuff from UPS. At which point I asked if he could go get it, since I wanted to buy it. He didn’t seem thrilled at the prospect of digging through all the stock to find just that one CD, but he did find it. Probably had something to do with the fact that I seemed to know what I was talking about, and was actually going to buy it vs just wasting his time. But that still bugs me to this day. Just a single copy pre-ordered for the store. I blame that on IRS not pushing the album at all. I always wondered if the store ever ordered any more, or if I permanently sold out the store on Forbidden in the first 30 minutes the store was open on Day 1. Does anyone else have any stories like this? Was I the only one who ran into this scenario buying Forbidden? Let me know in the comments below. Back then I used to listen to the radio still – and I never recall hearing anything from this album on the radio. I still have this CD 20 years later, the same one I made the guy go into the box and get.
Sometime after that, I happened on the Japanese CD. In 2015, I can’t recall how I got that. I *THINK* there was a guy who was a fan of my site who was stationed in the Army in Tokyo who sent it to me, but I’ve lost track of that over the years. The Japanese CD was where the track “Loser Gets it All” comes from, but there was also some “swag” of sorts in there. Below is a picture I just took on Jun 19, 2015 of this stuff. I long ago took my CD’s out of actual jewel cases and put them in large binders so to reduce the amount of space taken up by all of them, but I still keep my stuff nice. Anyway, here’s the “stuff” that came with the Japanese CD shown in the picture below (L-R):
- Album cover art sticker – This is a sticker that you could peel the back off of, and stick the cover art somewhere. I never took the backing off, so presumably I could still stick the Forbidden cover art somewhere. But given I’ve never done it in 20 years, I’m probably never doing it now.
- The actual CD itself, showing “Loser Gets it All” on the track list.
- A fold out paper, in all Japanese that tells the story of Black Sabbath. A decade ago I had someone translate that, but I’ve lost it. If you can read Japanese, I’ve scanned the thing and put it online. It’s huge, though. It’s a 3.4Mb png file with pixel dimensions of 2814×2700. If you are able to translate it, let me know. Also, the flip side of that has more Japanese writing, but it is just lyrics for the album.
- The Japanese Obi. What’s an Obi? Here.
- The regular CD insert for the album. Nothing special in there, it looks just like the US version, except Loser Gets it All is mentioned in there. Mine is signed by Neil Murray. Always meant to get Cozy to sign mine, and then well… :(
Somewhere along the line, I bought it on pre-recorded cassette tape, too. Here’s a few pictures of that version of the album:
There wasn’t much in the way of sales, as the album apparently only charted for one week – likely the week of its release, when the most hardcores (basically, me) would have bought it. Even that week was only #71 on the charts (see results). Word of mouth probably prevented much in the way of sales after that.
There was also a funny quote in the liner notes that I never got an explanation for until recently. It says “Hand Out publicity shots by : K-Mart One hour photo, Bumfuck, Iowa”. You can see a shot of it to the right (thanks to Matt Ouellette for reminding me of this). I inquired about this, and was told “Tony Martin humour I’d think, no meaning.”
As was the custom at the time, an album release was accompanied by a music video. Sabbath did one here too. Come to think of it, every Sabbath album since Seventh Star onwards produced just ONE music video per album. Born Again was the last album to have more than one video for it (until 13 many years later). The song that was chosen for a video was “Get a Grip”. That video was quite bizarre. I’ve asked a few of the guys in the band what that was all about, and none of them had any idea themselves. I can’t even find out who was behind the animation, although to be honest, if I had to guess, it was the guy behind the Ogri character, based on his appearances in the video. If you’d like to take a stab at telling me what’s going on, be my guest: :)
A Personal Look at the Tracks
Some time ago I wrote a piece called “Forbidden is a Good Album!”. It was my attempt to dispel the notion that it was a crappy album, and broke down the entire album track by track and gave some personal thoughts on each of them. I’m going to replicate that piece here. Long time readers of my site might remember this. But it seems like a good time to use this, as it’s a personal (in a few places VERY personal) look at what the various songs on the Forbidden album mean to me. Here goes…
I like the Forbidden album. Now before you start laughing at me, I wanted to say why I like this album. Back in 1995 I was “dating” a woman who was living with me at the time. Long story short, but a lot of the lyrics on the Forbidden album (in particular the songs Can’t Get Close Enough & Shaking off the Chains) really spoke to me a lot on a personal level. The lyrics speak of relationships, and endings and troubles, and my life was a big mess in 1995 emotionally.
I recognize that most people don’t like the album, and that’s fair enough – I’m not here to make everyone like it. I know it’s reputation, and most people consider it the weakest/worst studio album of the 18 they’ve put out over time. Nor do I think it’s the best. But I’ve always maintained that in the darkest hour of anything, you can find a gem or two. I don’t think this is Sabbath’s worst album – I don’t know if they have a truly “bad” album, just ones that are better than others.
As I write this I’m listening to Forbidden, and at the moment I’m listening to “I Won’t Cry For You”, and I have to say that I truly enjoy the album. To my ears, the album isn’t as bad as it’s reputation is. Outside of the emotional attachment of the songs, I have to say that the songs themselves are actually quite good. I think part of the perception problem people have with Forbidden is that everyone always hears “Ah, it’s their shittiest album”, and slag it off. Again, that’s fine, but I’m here to say WHY I like the Forbidden album – song by song.
There’s been plenty of stories about the production of the album – from Ernie C’s (mis)production, to IceT’s guest appearance, to the cover art, to bla, bla, bla. I’m not here to talk about that stuff. I’m here to talk about Forbidden as a positive album, and something you should check out.
Keep in mind, I’m not a musician, and I know some folks tend to analyze songs based on whether the drum fills are in the right place, or the song has 3/4 timing, or the bridge is proper between this verse and that verse. I don’t give a crap about any of that. Something Ozzy said in an interview back in the mid 80’s has stuck with me ever since. And that’s “All that should matter to you is whether a song makes you want to get up and stomp your feet.” He’s right. All that should care is whether YOU like the song – nothing else. I realize that most people don’t like Forbidden – but FUCK IT. I do, and here’s why, in a track by track breakdown:
- The Illusion of Power – This is the only song on the album that doesn’t really do a whole lot for me. It’s not exactly “bad”, but this song strikes me as the one most heavily influenced by IceT & ErnieC. It’s also the answer to a trivia question; being “What is the only song in Sabbath’s history with a guest vocalist”? IceT’s “rap” in the middle of the song is interesting from a novelty standpoint, but not much else. I honestly wish they had picked a different song as the first one on the album.
- Get a Grip – This song had commercial potential, and was the only song from the album that had a video made of it, and it was cartoon, no less. The song isn’t the most inventive musically in the band’s history, but for me, the simple riff works. Having said that I really enjoy the last minute of the song, as it goes into a kind of riff that I really like – it’s a hard driving simple one, but is really effective in conveying “power” and speaks to the mastery of Iommi’s licks, in that something so simple can be so damn effective. The song is about anti violence if I understand the lyrics properly, although I still don’t know what “Get a grip & shake the can” means lyrically.
- Can’t Get Close Enough – This is the first of the super emotional songs for me. At the time, I was trying to get close to this woman, and it didn’t seem like anything I could do worked. Tried and tried (although Lord knows why, she was all wrong for me), and eventually broke through briefly, but I spent most of my time trying to convince her that she was worthy mostly of herself (as she had no self esteem, was not totally a very “with it” person). The music in this song is mostly pedestrian as Sabbath goes, but for me, it’s the lyrics of this song. It could be Iommi farting in tune with this one, and I’d love it because of the lyrics. This song *REALLY* hits home with me.
- Shaking off the Chains – The flipside of the last song. This too speaks to me about my relationship in 1995, but on the back end of it. Without boring you with my entire life story, when the relationship ended, it ended in a way that I couldn’t find anything left of my feelings for her (turned out she was pregnant by someone else when she left me). This song speaks more towards my anger and disappointment at what didn’t happen between us. Musically, it has a nice churning riff which I think goes well with the negative emotions displayed in the lyrics.
- I Won’t Cry For You – Another moody mostly slower song. It’s not a true “slow song”, but the understated but effective use of Tony Iommi’s guitars on here coupled with Tony Martin’s vocals make for a nice tapestry of emotion for me. This didn’t directly tie in to my emotional attachment to the songs on the Forbidden album, but it’s in the neighborhood. “Can’t Get Close” & “Chains” are the closest for me, but this sorta feels that way, but I think it’s more the music in this one than the lyrics.
- Guilty as Hell – This is one of the weaker songs on the album for me. Nothing terribly special goes on lyrically for me here, and the song is just kind of “there”. Most people would probably call it a filler song; I don’t know if I’d go that far. I do like Cozy’s drumming in it for some reason. It’s not his best moment either, but it’s cool, and I do like the last thing you hear, the guitar “outro” thing at the absolute end of the song. Guilty as Hell does have one novel moment – it’s one of the two songs that I’m aware of in Sabbath’s back catalog that has the word “fuck” in the lyrics.
- Sick & Tired – This song starts off with probably the only true “Cozy Powell” moment on the album, a nice drum intro before anything else gets going. There were interviews I read where Cozy said that he didn’t feel like this album was his best work, and I’d probably agree with that, but the opening of this song had a moment that said “Hey, Cozy Powell is on this album!”. However, what makes this song really great for me is Tony Iommi’s guitar solo. For me, this is the most unique guitar solo he’s ever done in all the years I’ve been listening to him. Again, I’m no musician, so I can’t tell you technically what it is about it, but the playing – the texture just feels radically different to me, and I really liked it – I also loved the end of the song again, had a similar guitar “ending” like the last song did. At the time this song was new, I wondered if this song was lyrically about the situation Sabbath was in at the time insofar as not getting any attention. I realize that’s just me, but that’s what I thought.
- Rusty Angels – Probably the most commercial song on the album – has a great hook. I really wish THIS was released as single instead of Get a Grip. Get a Grip was more simplistic, I feel this is a bit more complex in construction, and the main guitar riff here is very catchy, and I think would have worked better. Probably wouldn’t have gotten ’em a lot more attention, but I as a fan think this would have made a better single. I also think if this would have been released on one of the more popular albums, it would be a classic tune – if this song appeared on Headless Cross, I bet it would be one of the most popular songs to this day. A very overlooked gem in Sabbath’s catalog.
- Forbidden – The title track of the album usually is a song that stands out for some reason. When this album was not yet released, the working title was “The Illusion of Power”, and then it was changed to “Forbidden”. That indicated to me that the band liked the song for some reason, or at the very least the title. In listening to the song, it’s not the best on the album. It’s by far not the worst, but I wonder what the attraction is here. It does have a nice sound, especially in the choruses, it’s pretty enjoyable. Not my favorite, but when it’s on, I like it.
- Kiss of Death – Oh my god! BY FAR AND AWAY the best song on the album. This is absolutely perfect. It’s moody, has a [censored] awesome guitars, great lyrics, and is just for me perfect in every way. There is no comparison to anything else on this album. And for me, this may be the best track in the entire Tony Martin era. I simply cannot say how strongly I love this song – I’d put it up with the all time best of Sabbath’s entire catalog. This is a song that in the slow opening and closing parts I can sit there with my eyes closed, and really be into this song. It has a wonderful power to it, that I wish more people could have seen, but it has the misfortune on being on an album that most people think is total crap. Again, I don’t know if I’m reading too much into this, but I always felt the song was big ol’ middle finger to those who counted Sabbath out and dead. I really was filled with a pride that I thought was felt by the band members about themselves. Again, that is likely myself imposing my own feelings about the song and the band upon lyrics that may fit that feeling. But dammit, that’s what the song means to me, so I’m sticking with it. I was disappointed they didn’t play it in the US legs of the Forbidden tour (which I was lucky enough to see). It was added for the European dates, but it wasn’t played. If anyone has the Philadelphia bootleg from 1995, I can be heard screaming “Kiss of Death!” a few times on it.
- Loser Gets it All – To me, this is the weakest song on the album. Nothing terribly excites me here. The only novelty I suppose is that it’s a track that most everyone hasn’t heard. It was available only on the Japanese version of Forbidden – and it did also turn up on 1996’s “Sabbath Stones” (which most people don’t even KNOW about). Again, it’s not like it’s a crappy song, but I don’t know if I’ve ever gone out of my way to say “Yeah – now that’s the song I want to listen to”. I’m sure some like it, but it doesn’t do anything for me. I also feel that as originally constructed Kiss of Death should have ended the album. Loser Gets it All doesn’t feel right as the last song on the album – I wish they had stuck it in the middle or something. In fact, as I listen to it now, it’s not actually all that bad, I think my irritation comes from the fact that I think Kiss of Death is SO perfect as an end of album song, that having this tacked onto the end annoys me – which means my irritation isn’t so much with the song, but with it’s placement. I might have to rethink my opinion on this one here.
So that ends my what turned out to be mini-novel length essay on Black Sabbath’s (at the moment anyway) final studio album from 1995, “Forbidden”. I didn’t write this to change the world’s opinion here, but hopefully what I’ve said might make at least a couple people here and there give it a spin when they wouldn’t have done so anyway – and maybe see it in a different light.
As a slight bonus, here’s the song “Loser Gets it All” for ya to listen to. I know most have never heard this track before, so I wanted to include something here. I tried to dig up a copy of “The Illusion of Power” totally sung by Tony Martin, but was unable to find it.
As is the custom, the band went out on a tour to support the Forbidden album, and from what I can gather, there wasn’t a lot of support from IRS for this, either. There actually were nine more dates than were listed in that press release from earlier on the page on the North American leg of the tour. I actually saw them on this tour. A bit of a story about that.
I moved from Philadelphia to Dallas in late 1992. Black Sabbath back in the 80’s used to play a place in Philly called the Spectrum, a 17,000 seat arena. The last time they did that was the Seventh Star Tour. In the US, they never came here for the Eternal Idol tour, and for the Headless Cross tour, they were playing in a place called the Tower Theatre, a 5,000 seater (click here to see the place). They never came on the Tyr tour, but for all the other tours (Dehumanizer, Cross Purposes), they played the Tower again. So, when the Forbidden tour came to the US, they booked the Tower yet again. However, they were having a hard time selling that. I was living in Texas at this point, and that weekend coincided with my cousin’s wedding, so a trip back home for both events was on the books. Around this time, the old email Black Sabbath newsletter was going (being run by two other chaps before I took it over some years later). On this list I got an email while I was in Pennsylvania saying that the show I had bought a ticket for (July 12) had been changed. It was changed to July 11th, and at a totally different place, called “Theater of the Living Arts“. TLA in Philly is a VERY local type venue. It was one of those tiny little places with no seats that holds at most 1,000, and even THAT wasn’t sold out! If you want to see what I’m talking about, look at the embedded map below (or click here if the map isn’t working). I discovered that Google Maps will let you look inside the place. THAT is where Black Sabbath played in 1995 in Philly. I went, of course, but I was a bit surprised there was no sort official notification that the venue had changed. If it wasn’t for that Sabbath mailing list, I never would have found out. To this day, I bet there were people who showed up on the 12th at the Tower, only to find out the band had been there the night before elsewhere. I blame that on tour management, aka IRS. I wonder where else that kind of thing happened.
UPDATE: A day after I posted this article, I got a comment on this article from Sabbath fan Brian Brookley about the Philadelphia show. Turns out Brian was at this show too, and told me something I never knew before. Here, I’ll just quote his text..
Great article! Just wanted to add that I lived in Philly at the time. There were announcements on local radio that the date and venue had changed but the show was to be at the Trocadero theater. I showed up that day at the Trocadero ( same as other fans) and there was a piece of paper on the door saying the show was going to be at the TLA. No biggie just a 20 minute walk. But, Trocadero is slightly larger than TLA so ithe show was moved twice based on poor ticket sales. There was a review of the show in the Philadelphia Inquirer the following day which had a fantastic review of both Motorhead and Sabbath but mentioned ticket sales as less than 500. I think about that strange day frequently. tretty cool you wrote about that.
I find it quite interesting that I get a new factoid about the show I saw 20 years later. I had no idea they had tried at the Trocadero, and couldn’t get it done there, either. That they went to a third venue makes me more amazed they even played the gig, and didn’t just cancel it. I wrote Brian privately, and asked if he had any pics or anything. He didn’t, but he told me the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a review of the show the next day. They were quite complimentary, he tells me. But he also told me they pegged the attendance at 500. FIVE HUNDRED. To see Black Sabbath. Ouch.
On the positive side, that was the only time I ever saw Cozy Powell live. I remember at the time being both sad that Sabbath was in a place like that, but elated that it *WAS* in a place like that, because it was such an intimate venue. I remember at the time thinking that it was really great seeing Black Sabbath in such an intimate setting, but I also thought “Jeez, if this is the only kind of place they can play these days, they’re not coming back”. I also have a very strong memory of Neil Murray’s performance there bringing back a song in my mind that I had stopped listening to, which was “When Death Calls”. That was a song I had kind of burnt out on, but Neil’s live playing made it come alive again.
In the US, the tour was supported by both Motorhead and Tiamat. That was the second US tour in a row for Motorhead, as they opened for Sabbath on the Cross Purposes tour, too. Tiamat also stuck with them for the bulk of the tour once it got out of the US, as well. Funny moment at that gig – the power blew out during Motorhead’s gig. When they were fixing it, Lemmy was dancing on stage saying “I’m up here to entertain ya!” :)
Speaking of the end of the US leg, the last date was August 3, 1995 in Universal City, CA. That gig is notable, as it was Cozy Powell’s last gig with Black Sabbath. He left the tour after this point, and was replaced by Bobby Rondinelli, who was behind the sticks for almost the entire Cross Purposes tour (and the album). There was some talk at the time that Cozy’s replacement was going to be Vinny Appice, but this stems from the fact that Vinny Appice was actually at that concert, and was pointed out by Tony Martin during in show banter. But it was Rondinelli who was behind the kit when the tour started up again on August 19th.
The tour ran through December 1995, spanning a ton of places around the world. There were a handful of canceled gigs during this time, but there was a real problem with this issue in November and December. NUMEROUS gigs were canceled, including what appears to be the entire Australian leg of the tour (eight gigs). The actual last gig of the tour was December 14th in Bangkok, Thialand.
That made the end of the tour strange, because the last gig they had played in the Asian leg was Nov 22nd, and then a bunch of canceled Australian gigs were to be from Nov 25 to Dec 9th. They played the final two gigs in Singapore & Thailand, finishing off the tour. Oddly enough, there were originally supposed to be two additional gigs on Dec 16th (in Manila) and Dec 19 (Saigon, Vietnam), but those didn’t happen – canceled. Which seemed to be a theme of the back end of the tour.
One unique thing that happened around this time was on November 19, 1995 in the Tokyo Japan gig. Black Sabbath played the song “Changes” from the Volume 4 album. Something they haven’t done live since 1973. If I was at that gig, I would have been shocked to hear it. I hope people at that gig recognized how rare that was. Fortunately you can hear that at this link on Youtube. You can’t see it unfortunately, so I asked Geoff Nicholls about it, under the assumption it was he who played the piano on that song. What he told me was a bit of a surprise. “Tony Iommi played piano and I played Mellotron.”. Now I REALLY want to see video of this, but I’ve never heard of video from that show ever surfacing.
Speaking of Youtube, I did find a complete concert there, from Aug 25 in Malta. I’ve included it below. Check it out!
There’s not much to tell about what happened with Forbidden after the tour, because honestly at that point the band effectively imploded. There was never any formal announcement that it was over, but I’m told by Tony Martin that he was “terminated”, and Neil Murray said his contract expired at the end of the tour, so it just from this fan’s perspective just faded away.
In 1996, there were rumours that Tony Iommi was thinking of bringing in Rob Halford to Black Sabbath on a permanent basis. Stories at the time talked about writing sessions Rob & Tony had back then. But as we all know, nothing came of that, and in 1996, Tony Iommi was involved in a few things.
- The Black Sabbath compilation, “The Sabbath Stones“. This covered pretty much the whole of the Tony Martin era, plus a couple of other tracks from the 80’s. This was the final release on IRS. I’ve read much about Forbidden being the album that got Tony Iommi out of the IRS contract, but I remember when this was new hearing this compilation existed to end the IRS contract. Sabbath Stones was never released in the United States, and it was a shame, as it was a great cross section of non Ozzy era material, as Ian Gillan, Ronnie James Dio, & Glenn Hughes have tracks on here in addition to all the Tony Martin stuff. The Sabbath Stones also has the track “Loser Gets it All”, which was the Japanese exclusive track from the Forbidden album. I really wish they would have used “What’s the Use?” from Cross Purposes, as that was a far better track.
- Tony Iommi also recorded what would eventually become “The 1996 DEP Sessions“, although it wasn’t released until 2004. In the interim, it was widely bootlegged under the name “8th Star”. This was an album with Glenn Hughes on vocals (similar to 7th Star, hence the bootleg name). I loved this as a bootleg, and was overjoyed when properly released.
But basically, most of 1996 was probably spent talking about how to get the Ozzy Osbourne version of the band back together, as they did (without Bill Ward – where have we heard that before) in 1997. So basically, the end of the Forbidden tour was the end of what I called the “classic” era of Black Sabbath (which meant album, tour, album tour). After Forbidden, it took 18 years to get an actual “Black Sabbath” studio album again (14 if you count “Devil You Know”). So this was “the end”. It’s a shame, as I really was into the 90’s era of Black Sabbath. Shame more people didn’t feel the same. I know Tony Martin felt that way, as he shared this with me in email about Forbidden:
Nice to know some of you guys still like the work I did, all we need now is another million or so of you and we’ll be ridin high. I do appreciate your support, and thanks for your interest in what i’m doing.
The Cover Art
One thing that’s always bugged me from the first day I bought Forbidden 20 years ago until this day is that I have no idea who the heck is on the cover art. I asked several people about it over the years, and I’ve never been able to piece together everyone on the cover. The band is obvious, as was Ice-T, but beyond that, I had no idea who anyone was. I tried to get this resolved in the weeks leading up to this article, but nobody I asked could remember who everyone is. I even contacted the original artist about it (Paul Sample), but I never heard back from him. I did get Neil Murray to have a go, and he could identify a couple of non band guys, but like others, it’s lost to time for the most part. The best I can get is the others are mostly record label types. Maybe for the 30th anniversary in 2025? :)
I did inquire as to “Why Ogri”, because it’s all over the cover art, and it makes up the video for “Get a Grip” as well. I was told it was “Cozy Powell’s idea I believe, the guy did a cartoon strip in a motorbike magazine and was a buddy of his.”
Here’s what has been positively identified (via thanks again to Neil Murray). I will continue to try and find out – if I ever get any (not holding breath), I’ll update. I also think the dogs at the bottom of the “pile” were probably Tony Iommi’s dogs at the time. He’s always been a big dog person. I mentioned that to Tony’s people, and got back a “yeah, probably” response, so I’m going with Tony’s Dogs there unless I hear otherwise.
I wrote the bulk of this article about a week before I published it. It sat here in my WordPress editor, because I couldn’t think of a really good way to finish it. So I’ll go with what I’ve gone with mostly, some personal thoughts.
I know Forbidden takes a lot of shit from fans. It’s routinely listed at the bottom of the list of “Favorite Sabbath albums”. Now I’m not trying to claim it should be up the top, but it somehow feels unfair to be “last”. To me, there are no truly awful Sabbath albums. But I’m no fool, I realize why it’s down the bottom usually. Still, having said that, I personally liked the album for reasons I stated above in the section where I broke down the tracks. I have an emotional tie to some of the songs, and it *IS* bloody Tony Iommi. It’s hard to say anything he’s done sucks, because it doesn’t. There’s a few tracks here with nice catchy hooks, and something like “Sick & Tired” has a guitar sound in the middle of the track that I can’t remember Tony using on any other track in the band’s history. And “Kiss of Death” is up there with best overall Martin era Sabbath tracks, so yeah, there’s some goodness in here.
The biggest shame is it, along with the rest of the Tony Martin catalogue (save Eternal Idol) is out of print, and has been for awhile now. I’ve written about this subject elsewhere on this site. If you’ve never read my article entitled “Tony Martin Era Deluxe Editions“, please do so. If you’re at all interested in reissues of the Martin albums, then you’ll want to read that. In that article (which I first wrote back in Aug of 2013), I mentioned that Tony Iommi was planning on remixing the Forbidden album. It was never picked up as news, but when Tony Iommi mentioned the 20th of Forbidden on Facebook a week ago, he brought this up again.
I’m really glad he’ll be revisiting this, as it’s well overdue for some fresh attention.
Finally, I need to take a moment and thank Neil Murray. Neil helped me out a ton with a million questions about dates, and facts, and “Did the recording studio look like that”… He also provided me with the behind the scenes snaps during the writing part of the album’s creation. So thanks to Neil, who is ALWAYS generous with his time. Couldn’t have been as cool without him.
Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think in the comments below…
“Get a Grip. Get a Grip. Get a Grip. Get a Hold of Life…”
P.S. I posted this article right after midnight on June 20th., 2015. I also was listening to the album as I was finishing it up. Bring on the remix, Tony! Stop messing about with that Osbourne guy, and finish off the remaster series. haha. :)