The text on this page is (c)2014 Joe Siegler
all text was written by me unless otherwise specified.

This page will detail all the various lineup changes that Black Sabbath has had since their inception. I’ve tried to include all variants of the band’s history, and as far as I know, it’s correct through conversations with various members and former members about happenings in the band. I’ve also included as many pictures of the lineups as I have. If you have a lineup picture that I do not, please contact me, as I’d like to use it.

  • 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 whose picture is above to the left), 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. There was also a short period where the band was a six piece in August 1968, with two other guys in the group playing a slide guitar (Jimmy Phillips), and another playing a saxophone (Alan “Aker” Clarke). This variant didn’t last long, something like 2-3 gigs only. Shortly after that, Tony Iommi went and had a stint in Jethro Tull (pictured above). 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). Also for shits and giggles above is a picture of Tony Iommi from a mid 60’s band he was in called “The Rockin’ Chevrolets”.

Anyway, during this time of the band’s history, they had a few names before Black Sabbath. They were known as the Polka Tulk Blues Band, 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 Earth (the Black Sabbath one) 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.

Speaking of band names, it’s pretty well known that Geezer came up with the name Black Sabbath.  That is a  well known story – the band saw the movie name “Black Sabbath” on a marquee, and Geezer said “What about Black Sabbath” when they were talking about what to change the band’s name to from Earth.  So I asked Geezer once where the names Polka Tulk & Earth came from.   He responded back by saying that Earth was Bill Ward’s idea, and that Polka Tulk was Ozzy’s idea.  It was apparently the name of a Pakistani/Indian shop that they had passed on the way to their first EVER gig.   I also had been under the impression that the formal name of the band was “The Polka Tulk Electric Blues Band”.  Geezer said the word electric was never part of the name, it was originally “The Polka Tulk Blues Band”.   Geezer also said that the variant “The Earth Blues Band” was never their name, just “Earth”.

The picture below is of the lads as Earth back in 1968. Thanks to Joe D’Agostino for permission to use the picture.


  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar, Keyboards
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Rick Wakeman – Keyboards (not a full member of band)
  • Jezz Woodroffe – 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 I’ve heard some stories that Tony Iommi played keyboards on Volume 4’s Changes. Rick Wakeman played on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and Jezz Woodroffe 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), so I won’t repeat them here. However, I’ll list some of the more notable things here.

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, and should be required listening for everyone who has a CD player.

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. Do you have the full versions? I want to hear from you. Now. I’ve also heard through the grapevine that the album that we all know as Sabbath’s “first album” (aka Black Sabbath) isn’t really their first album, that they recorded an album before that (which is where Rebel & Song for Jim come from), but it was jettisoned. However, until I can actually get some concrete proof, I’m not ready to revise the discography.  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 (some of that turned up in the 2009 re-release of the first album as alternate takes).

Yes, I know there’s not a lot written about the original Black Sabbath on this page, but hey – that story has been told over and over again – I don’t really need to recant my version of it here, I think. You’re better off checking out the book “How Black Was Our Sabbath” by David Tangye & Gram Wright. It’s by far one of the best accountings of the 60’s/70’s era Black Sabbath that I’ve ever read. (US/UK order links). I’d also check out Martin Popoff’s book, “Doom Let Loose” (US/UK order links). Both awesome tomes on this part of the band’s history.

Recently, I was forwarded an email message from Jezz Woodroffe, keyboardist for the Technical Ecstasy album and tour. Here’s what Jezz had to say about his time in the band…

“I joined Sabbath as keyboard player in May 1975, and my place was to recreate the overdubs from all the previous albums. I did not record anything with the band until the Technical Ecstasy album, which I actually wrote about half of the music for! You will notice that in the reissues my name has been erased from all the credits I do not know why. I think it is a legal issue, but I do not mind as it was such a long time ago. I always got on well with all the band I especially was fond of Bill as he was such a kind and caring person.”


  • Dave Walker – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums

Albums from this lineup

  • None, although music written during this time turned up on the Never Say Die album

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.”

Something else unique about this period in time.  I found out that when Sabbath was demoing material with Dave Walker, it turns out this was the first time that Geoff Nicholls was around the band.  I actually never knew this until August of 2013, but I asked Geoff, and it turns out it was true, that Geoff was helping out a bit – not with keyboards, but with guitar, as it’s Geoff’s natural instrument (at least then).  He was never intended to be a member in the band at this point.  In fact, I’m unclear when EXACTLY this happened.  Probably wasn’t much more than a few days from the sound of it.  Still, here’s what Geoff had to say about his time in the Dave Walker incarnation of Black Sabbath:

I did go down to their rehearsals with Tony when they were writing, but it was mainly to help Tony.  I was only messing with guitar while Tony tried some solo ideas and Riffs to see if they were good to sing over and play solos over. But it was mainly as a friend helping out as Tony had done so much for me with Quartz and he was a big influence.  I learnt a lot from him about guitars etc.

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

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/quit/whatever”. However, work had begun on what turned out eventually to be the “Heaven & Hell” album when Ozzy was still in the band. Many interviews talk about Ozzy not turning up for rehearsals, not “pulling his weight”, so work had begun. What a lot of fans I think are looking for is some “smoking gun” of sorts – the album with Ozzy singing songs. An interview with Geezer Butler Martin Popoff’s book says this, “He (Dio) wrote all the lyrics, but I actually was listening to some old tapes the other day and we have Ozzy singing “Die Young”.” The piece then goes on to say that Ozzy walso also known to be around for skeletal versions of “Children of the Sea”, “Lady Evil, and “Heaven and Hell”. Later on, this stuff was confirmed by Ronnie, too, saying “They had a couple of riffs and things they had done because they had been rehearsing with Ozzy. It was going to be their 10th anniversary, they had a studio in the home that they were living and had knocked some things out.”

My opinion on this stuff is that most of these songs didn’t have these names back then – if they had names at all. Plus it was mostly just instrumental noodling.

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, one never really knows, eh?

  • Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Gutiar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums

Albums from this lineup:

  • None, not directly, anyway.

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 was spun, it was obvious that the working situation was not working any longer, and Ozzy’s heart didn’t seem into it (having already quit and returned in 77/78).   Bill Ward has said over the years that it was him who “informed” Ozzy that he was out of Black Sabbath, which is weird, as he too informed Dave Walker he was out.  Work definitely did start on a new album with Ozzy, as various interviews with Geezer & Tony say that they have old tapes of songs that would eventually become something on the Heaven & Hell album with Oz on vocals.   However, in retrospect, this probably worked out for everyone for the best.  Had they continued on with Ozzy, and actually produced another album with Oz, I think most Sabbath fans would probably agree the band would have imploded and probably ended right there.

With Ozzy gone, the issue became do they go forward with someone else, disband, or what?  In the end, we all know what happened, but interviews I’ve read suggested they went so far as to contact some big “names”, as Tony was convinced the only person who could succeed Ozzy would be some other “big name” vocalist.   Which, according to what I’ve read is Robert Plant & David Coverdale.   Apparently Coverdale himself confirms the interest, but said it couldn’t work, as he had other commitments at the time.   Could you imagine Coverdale’s slant on things like Sabbra Cadabra?   Ah, dreams…   Anyway…

After some dancing back and forth, Ronnie James Dio came and did what was probably one of the most well known stories from that era.   It’s mentioned in just about every interview that talks about Ronnie’s joining the band.   This is the one where he came up to where Tony, Geezer, & Bill were working on material in Bel Air, California, and they played Ronnie the music for what became “Children of the Sea”.   Ronnie in his own words said “I went away, came up with something and BANG – we wrote a song that first night”.    If you know anything about this time of the band’s history, then you have to have heard this story before.  It is NOT new.   Not in the least.  :)

One amusing factoid of this time is that the person who originally suggested that Ronnie replace Ozzy in Black Sabbath was none other than Sharon Arden (later Sharon Osbourne).  At the time she hadn’t yet hooked up with Ozzy, and was just working for her dad, Don Arden, who was at the time managing Black Sabbath.  Ironic twist of fate there.

  • Ronnie James Dio – Vocals, some Bass
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geoff Nicholls – Bass & Rhythm Guitar
  • Bill Ward – Drums

Albums from this lineup:

  • None, at least not technically.

ADMIN NOTE:  And now it gets complicated.  During this time, there’s much shifting of personnel, and there’s some debate as to whether or not all of it constitutes a single, cohesive “lineup”, but I’ve found several interviews with the various parties involved that seem to allow me to piece together enough that I’m going to say this is accurate.    I’ve gotten some direct input from a few people for this part, those are Craig Gruber & Geoff Nicholls.   Even with all this input, it’s a bit grey as to what exactly happened in what order and with proper dates.  The only proper date I’m 100% positive of is the July 16th one.   But I’m fairly confident this is right.   As I’ve said to anyone involved in the band.  Give me some facts, some dates, and I’m always glad to revise with some new updates.  I never claim I’m 100% factually correct in all matters.  If I’m wrong, let me know, and we’ll work to get it right.   Cuz ultimately, that’s all I care about.  The quotes that are used come from three Sabbath books by Martin Popoff, the late Garry Sharpe-Young, & interviews by Adam Tepedelen.  Anyway, back to the story..

Somewhere after the point of the “Children of the Sea” story above, Geezer Butler decides he needs to leave the band (I’ve read it’s as soon as two days after that, I’ve read it was several weeks after that – I’m not sure what to believe, honestly).   It’s amusing to me that Geezer’s departure in 1980 doesn’t get a ton of play.  Even during the first several years of running this site, I never knew that part of it – it wasn’t until later when I started digging into the past that I discovered all these bits.  I always assumed Geezer was there all the way through from 1970 till the mid 80’s or so, but no.   Anyway, new research I did in 2013 turns up a quote from Geezer saying that he needed to clear his head, the old “personal matters”, so he left the band.   That left Tony & Bill working with Ronnie with no formal bass player.   Tony Iommi had been friends with Geoff Nicholls, who Tony had worked with previously mostly in the band “Bandy Legs” (later renamed Quartz).   Geoff was brought in initially to play rhythm guitar, an arrangement that Black Sabbath tried in their earliest days as “The Polka Tulk Electric Blues Band”, and they were a six piece.   Anyway, during this time, with no formal bass player on board, Geoff Nicholls (as well as Ronnie James Dio himself) played around with demoing material on the bass.  Found an interesting quote by Tony Iommi from around this time:

“After Geezer left, we needed someone to come and play bass, but we didn’t want anybody coming in that we didn’t know, because it wasn’t a permanent situation bass wise.  We just wanted someone that would understand that and come jam with us”.

It was during this time that the initial bass riff for the track “Heaven & Hell” was come up with by Geoff Nicholls.   Geoff says the line was similar to a song he did in Quartz called “Mainline Riders”, and a metal classic was born.  In the same interview I read, Geezer Butler said if he was around when the song was being created, that riff would have never been on there, because he viewed is as “simple”.

The July 17th date was given to me by Geoff Nicholls, as he kept diaries of his life at that point in his life.   He also said that he initially expected his time helping out Tony on the project to be nothing more than a couple of weeks, and he ended up staying for 20 years!   Here’s what Geoff told me in email when I asked him at exactly what point he came onboard.

Well  I originally  went out for two weeks to help out.  I went over to America on the 17th July 1979 on the first night I was there myself and Tony were messing about with our guitars and Tony played a riff and I started pumping a chug behind him when we played it to Ronnie the next day he love it.  I played bass when we rehearsed it playing the same line as I did on the guitar adding bass parts as we went developing the song suggesting a few ideas and chords here and there some used and some not the the first time I think the song lasted about fifteen minutes with jamming parts – brilliant!

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • None, at least not technically.

After some demo work had been done, it was decided that they needed a more stable bass player than a couple of guys demoing tracks.   So Ronnie suggested that he get Craig Gruber in.  Ronnie had worked with Craig back in the Elf/Rainbow days, so he knew him well.  Plus Craig was in Los Angeles at the time, so he came up, they played together a little, and it was decided that Craig would stay onboard and work on the album.    There was a good interview with Ronnie where he talks about his own involvement and also talks about Craig Gruber.  Check that video out here:

How much time passed between Geoff’s arrival on July 17th and Craig’s subsequent arrival I do not know.  I’ve read stories where Craig was there before Geoff, and I’ve read stories where it’s the other way.  Given I wasn’t there, I have to rely on what I can research on my own, or what people tell me.   I’ve asked several of the principals about specific dates, and I get told they either can’t remember, or just never kept track of that level of detail.   Only the July 17th date is concrete due to Geoff’s diaries.  If I ever get more concrete facts surrounding dates, then I’d be happy to update again.

Work progressed for several months with this combination of the band, and given the overall upheaval with the project, it was probably one of the more stable times in the band’s history.  They worked as a more cohesive band now that Craig was on board and solely playing bass, which allowed Geoff to solely play keyboards, and Ronnie to solely sing.  Not that these pros can’t do these other things, but if you’re allowed to focus on your main strength, it has to benefit all, so Craig’s presence certainly seemed stabilizing from this outsider’s perspective.  Craig also said to me that the track Die Young was something he brought with him from the Rainbow days, as one of his contributions to the proceedings, and that he felt he should have been listed as a co-author on the track.

The band ended up moving from their California location (one book I read suggests it was due to a Don/Sharon Arden split, and the band’s living materials in CA were repossessed, and they had to move to Miami).   An interesting story about Miami is that Geoff says there was a big hurricane immediately upon their arrival!

Anyway, at this point, everything is written and the band was recording, with the exception of the song “Neon Knights”.    Ronnie has said that everything on the album was recorded in Miami with the Dio/Iommi/Ward/Gruber/Nicholls lineup, again minus Neon Knights.

It was during this period (again, unclear on exact date) that Tony had been talking to Geezer, who had went home to “clear his head”.    Given the past, and the hope that Geezer could be reconciled with, you can probably guess what happened next.

SIDE NOTE: I found out in May 2013 for the first time that somewhere along the line, Black Sabbath had made an offer to David Stone, then also late of Rainbow, to come along and play keyboards for Black Sabbath.  He never formally accepted it, ending up with another project instead.   So I’m not counting him in a lineup, given it didn’t happen.  Where in 1980 this happened I have no clue, so I’m just putting it as a note down here.  If you want to read about this, there’s an interview available with David about this.

  • 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

Most people refer to this combination of the band as “Mk II” (or Mk III if they knew about Walker), when in reality it’s already the sixth combination of members in Black Sabbath.   Also, I’m pretty sure the date of Geezer’s return was in November 1979.  I asked him, and he said he couldn’t remember – not that precisely anyway.

Anyway, with Geezer returning, it meant the departure of Craig Gruber.  Apparently from what I read there was some sort of meeting where they discussed the matter, and Craig was gone, and Geezer was back.  It would appear that Craig kind of expected this, but again, I’m reading conflicting interviews.  I’ve seen interviews where it was expected that whoever worked bass during this time knew it was temporary thing, and then I saw another where Craig was expecting to stay long term.  It is honestly hard to tell this part of the story with some direct information from the respective parties.   Just have to chalk it up to “lost to time”.  Either way, we know what DID happen.  Geezer returned.

Tony Iommi had this to say about Geezer’s return:

“You have to let people sort out their personal problems.  He had to sort them out himself and he needed time to do that.  When he was ready to come back, we had a phone call – I called him – and we got him back, which I was very glad about.  We didn’t see carrying on too much without him.  We knew he’d be back at some point.”

Anyway, at this point, with Geezer Butler back, they had to redo the bass lines that were laid down with Craig, and at this point they came up with the Neon Knights track, which was the only one that was created after the return of Geezer.   Apparently when they were looking over the material to have Geezer redo the bass lines, they realized that most of the album was slow tempo-ed, and needed something faster.   So Neon Knights was born.

The plan at this point was to mix the album in the UK back where Tony lived, but apparently due to tax purposes, they couldn’t do that, so the band shifted to Paris France, where the album was finalized.  The picture to the right is from when the band was in France finishing up the album.

Somewhere during all of this the subject of whether to call the band Black Sabbath or not was broached.  I’ve read interviews with them where there was a lot of internal struggle as to whether to call it that or not.  It was decided around this time that it would be called Black Sabbath. There were 3 of the 4 originals there, and according to an interview I read with Ronnie, he said the guys asked him whether they thought they should carry on with the old name, viewing him as an “outsider” with his opinion, in that he wasn’t as invested as the other three were with the band’s legacy at that point, so it was decided to call it Black Sabbath again.

The band actually got on well (at least at this point, anyway), and the inclusion of Ronnie James Dio seemed to re spark what had become a lazy, tired band. However, this specific combination 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.

  • 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

The Heaven & Hell tour was moving along, when suddenly, 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 (I was 17 then) 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.

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • Born Again

After Dio splits, another singer is needed. After a short search, Ian Gillan of Deep Purple is brought in for vocals (apparently by the suggestion of Don Arden), and Bill Ward is also brought back to play drums (after reaching a level of sobriety). 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.

In the Summer of 2011, Born Again was released in a 2 CD Deluxe Edition.  Disc 1 was the album we knew with a new remastering.  Disc 2 was , with two additional tracks, Stonehenge (extended), and the previously unreleased studio track called “The Fallen”.  The rest of the disc was (most of) a live gig with Ian Gillan on vocals, more commonly known as “Paranoid in Reading”.  :)


  • 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. Bev’s first live gig with the Sabs was August 18, 1983.

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 (Geezer Butler told me in 2010 that this was funny, but untrue). Also at a few gigs, Sabbath played the old song “Apache” by the Shadows. The last date on the tour was March 5, 1984. At what point Ian’s departure was “official” is not known to me. Have any hard facts? Let me know.

In 2008, Bev started posting contents of his tour diaries with Black Sabbath online – they make for some interesting reading. If you want to read them, check out Bev’s blog here.

  • Ron Keel – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bev Bevan – 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 then wildly successful 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 Keel went shortly after this.

Here’s some older 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 Gillan 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.”

When I was working on the new site revision in Spring of 2011, I discovered Ron Keel online.  I wrote in, said who I was, and eventually got a hold of Ron himself.  We chatted a bit, and he told me some more detail about this period I was unaware of.  I’ll let Ron talk for himself here:

My time with Tony and Geezer was limited to three days of hanging out in LA getting to know each other and making plans. One thing we all agreed on was that we couldn’t let Spencer Proffer and his ego turn such an iconic metal institution like Sabbath into a commercial 80’s hair band, which he was attempting to do by pushing the band to record outside material that was “radio friendly.” My voice on the demo of that material was what got me the gig, and my justification for even discussing that short period of time is the fact that Tony, Geezer, and Don Arden all shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and welcomed me into the band. I was really pushing them to get into rehearsals – Tony gave me a set list for a proposed upcoming tour, and I had rehearsed tirelessly on my own and was ready to nail the vocal chores, staying true to Ozzy, Dio, and Ian but adding a small taste of my own style- but Bev Bevan was unavailable during that short window of opportunity. I firmly believe that if we had gotten to that stage and actually played together, it would have cemented my position in the band and I would have been on the subsequent album(s) and tour(s).  They said that Bev was still officially the drummer at the time and his unavailability was the reason we never got to the rehearsal stage. I recall conversations in which Geezer and Tony were hopeful that Bill could return but that was uncertain at the time.

After I was told by Tony that I was their man, I called a band meeting with my band KEEL, which was just getting started at the time, and told them I was taking the gig with Sabbath. I told no one else, under orders from the Sabbath camp – but as soon as I left that KEEL band meeting, I got in my car to go home and heard the announcement on KLOS radio in LA that “Ron Keel is the new lead singer in Black Sabbath.” When I got home, it was all over MTV. Shortly thereafter, the next issue of KERRANG! magazine carried the announcement as well.

This all happened in late March/early April 1984. KEEL was formed in early March of that year, and I got the Sabbath call within a week or two of that. The first KEEL gig was April 7 1984, and that was the last time I saw Tony & Geezer in person.

Ron did go on to tell me that they never took pictures together, so a picture of this combination of the band is impossible to find.  Not unless someone snapped something “candid” during the three days they were together that Ron mentions.  Ron had quite the voice, and I always wondered what form the band might have taken with a young American singer at the helm like this.  Dio was also an American too, but he wasn’t the young “80’s American metal singer” mold like Ron was at the time.

Finally, I used to count this as a “non lineup” due to the fact it never really progressed past demo stage, but given the note that it was “announced” as such, I’m now counting it as a proper (if very short lived) lineup.

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • None, but at least one of the songs from this period ended up being used on the Eternal Idol album.

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. No really, there’s some fantastic insight into this period in that article.  READ IT. (The next paragraph comes from that story).

All told David calculates he was with the band some six months. He believes the alliance fell apart not from any lack of faith in his abilities but a split amongst the core members. “We kept up with these rehearsals at the Rockhouse for quite some time. Then I was called by Pat Sciciliano to come in to pick up a cheque. I was on just rehearsal pay at that stage but it was odd, to be asked to collect my cheque. So, I asked him what was going on to which he replied ‘We’re not gonna work for a while’. Of course I said ‘Does this mean I’m fired?’ Pat said ‘No, they think you’re great. You are not the problem. The guys are just not working.’”

In early 2006, a recording from the Dave Donato sessions turned up online. Click here to hear a song the Donato Sabbath recorded called “No Way Out”, which musically is the song “The Shining” (with different lyrics) that turned up on 1987’s ‘Eternal Idol’ album. This appears to have been removed from the site as of March 2007.

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! :)   That’s Pedro Howse on the right, Geezer’s nephew, and his solo band guitarist.

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.  This could be the time Bill was homeless.  Bill doesn’t talk about that much, but there was a period in the 80’s where he was homeless on the streets of Los Angeles.  This would be a logical time for that to happen, but the truth is, I don’t really know when his homeless uh, “event” happened.

Band Inactive ’til Early 85:

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.

It remained this way until 2010 until the resolution of the lawsuit that Ozzy Osbourne brought against Tony Iommi was resolved out of court.  By court order, the resolution cannot be made public.  I have some theories about that, but due to the nature of the legal case, and my own relationship with the band, I’d rather not comment on that unless I’m 100% sure I’m right.  Which I’m not.

  • Jeff Fenholt – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Gutiar
  • 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.  Black Sabbath didn’t exist during the time period that Jeff was supposed to have been a part, 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.

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.  The band as it appeared on TV was billed as “Black Sabbath featuring Ozzy Osbourne”.  I guess at that point in time, Sabbath wasn’t a universal name with current music people as Ozzy Osbourne was.

Tony has said in interviews later on the reason he wore the sunglasses he did was that he was hung over doing that gig.  Also, Bill seemed to be rather unhappy with his own playing, although I don’t know why – he seemed fine to me.

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.

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • Seventh Star

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.

Glenn has made remarks over the years that he didn’t feel right here mostly because he was up on stage without his usual bass guitar.  He was just the singer.  Which he’s more then capable of, but at this point in his career, he seemingly panicked over the issue while on stage.

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.

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.

When I saw this show, there were no tour programs, or (if memory serves) anything with Glenn’s face on it.  It was, at the time only the 10th gig Ray Gillen had done live.  I did think the no tour program was odd, and when I saw the gig, I thought I was seeing Glenn Hughes.  It wasn’t until later that I discovered that the band had changed singers.   I always wondered if they tried to keep it a secret or something from fans.

Anyway, the rest of the tour was fairly uneventful.  Ray finishes the tour, and then the fun begins when the band starts to demo material for the next album.

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • The Eternal Idol (unreleased for ages, finally came out Nov 2010)

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, and Spitz refuses to talk about why he exited the band). Either way, from what I can gather, he wasn’t officially fired as such.

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.  During this time, it was discovered that Ray’s ability to write lyrics was not the greatest, hence a lot of lyrics came from Daisley & Nicholls.

Bob tells me that he was asked to join Black Sabbath formally during this period (and again afterwards) after laying down the tracks for the album, but was committed to the Gary Moore band at the time, 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 sending him a copy of the bootleg, he confirms that the version of Eternal Idol that is floating around with Ray Gillen on vocals is from this version of the band.

  • Ray Gillen – Vocals
  • Tony Martin – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Well, not sure exactly, Dave Spitz? – Bass
  • Eric Singer – Drums
  • Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

This period is highly confusing, as there were multiple comings and goings.  People listed in the lineup weren’t here for the entire period.  It’s probably the weakest part of the band’s history.  I’m really surprised they didn’t just give up here.

After Bob Daisley left for good in October, there was no formal bassist in the band (even though Dave Spitz was formally not out either – that’s weird). 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.

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.  The situation was so bad, that Eric’s equipment was stuck overseas, and I recall a story about Eric having to pay to get his own equipment back because the band had no money or something along those lines.

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 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!”.

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

As production stretched on into mid 1987, Sabbath was gearing up to play some gigs in July, most of which were the Sun City gigs below.  As such, an actual rhythm section was needed.  However, as with most things in 1987, it didn’t go according to plan.

Geezer Butler was coerced into rejoining, although whether it was just for those gigs or something longer, I don’t know.  Additionally, 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 (it probably was before July 14th), I don’t know.

According to the online diaries of Bev Bevan, the band was supposed to play a music festival in Plymouth on July 18th, but back out at the last minute when there’s only like 500 people in the audience. The lineup for that festival was supposed to be Martin / Iommi / Butler / Bevan, and the band was in rehearsals on July 14th through 16th.

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

However, Geezer decided at the last minute he was not going to play the gigs, and left again.  The band had to fly in Dave Spitz at the last minute so they could have a bassist to play these gigs.

On July 21st, 1987, Sabbath played a music festival in Greece, which (until 2007) was 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. That gig was Tony Martin’s first live performance with Black Sabbath.

  • 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.

One last thing about the Sun City gigs… 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.

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).

Bev Bevan departed for Sun City, does have a credit on the final Eternal Idol album as “percussion”, what (if anything) he played on the final album isn’t known for a hard fact. 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.

In January of 2008, I posted a 20th anniversary retrospective on the Eternal Idol album (you can read it here). About a year after that, I got an email from Bob Daisley explaining why Dave Spitz was credited on the Eternal Idol album, when he hadn’t actually played anything. Bob said, “By the way, the question as to why Dave Spitz is credited on the album in the bass credits is answered by the fact that I wouldn’t join the band and Spitz stayed, so to give some sort of continuity to the album and live performances, his name appears on the record. It’s the same reason that Michael Innez had his name on the Ozzy album “No More Tears”. I played on it but wasn’t in the band and not going on the road to promote it. Michael was already in the band when I got the call from Ozzy to play on that album and I played on the whole thing, like with “Eternal Idol” and because Michael was still in the band and going on the road, he got a credit as well. So there it is…” aergag


  • 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.

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

This is the only exception to the section of the last entry talking about inactivity. This variant of Black Sabbath played one time; just one gig. 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!

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • Headless Cross

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”.


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

Albums from this lineup:

  • Tyr
  • Forbidden

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 at that point. 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 (or so said the quote I read at the time).

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).

  • 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

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 (despite the last entry on Tony Martin). It’s damn confusing, that’s for sure.

This is 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”.  Look in the scene where Wayne is pulled over by a cop, who turns out to be the liquid Terminator from T2.  That’s the bit with Black Sabbath.

  • 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.  It wouldn’t be the last time Halford stepped in to help out in a pinch.  More on that later on.

Here’s a couple more pictures from that gig.  Please excuse the quality of the photos.  Video from this concert was never (ahem) released officially.

  • 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.

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • Cross Purposes
  • Cross Purposes Live

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 somewhere along the line, but I’m not sure about the timing of Bobby’s entrance. 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.  Basically, the band was still trying to put together some sort of reunion with Ozzy, and still working on new material on the side.  Makes me wonder what would have happened to Cross Purposes if they managed to figure it out with Ozzy in 1993 after having finished Cross Purposes.

This version of Black Sabbath lasts the entire tour, until the absolute end when 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.

On a more positive note… 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 and Eternal Idol tours, put him back!

In Mid 2012, I got an email from a site visitor who claimed to have some information on the Rondinelli departure.  He said..

I kind of doubt that you remember me telling you this, but I interviewed both Tony Martin and Cozy Powell when they were touring the U.S. in 1995. In the course of conversation bridging the gap between CROSS PURPOSES and FORBIDDEN, Tony mentioned that it was actually Bobby’s manager (at the time) who caused him to lose the gig. Basically he was making demands like that a limo had to be available for Bobby 24/7, and that he had to be “seen” hanging around very exclusive clubs (for “spontaneous” photos ops, presumably)- that kind of stuff. Of course the band management responded by letting him go, although I’m not sure how he ended up back in under a year later. I seem to recall that Bobby was unaware of what his manager was doing, but I wouldn’t swear to it either.

I can’t corroborate this story one way or the other – those who were with Sabbath at the time don’t remember, and Tony Martin himself when I sent him that text said he doesn’t recall anything of the sort, but then again added that he likely wouldn’t have known about it anyway.   So I’m not sure what to believe.  But it IS the only thing I’ve ever seen about his departure, so I’ll leave it here in lieu of some formal announcement on the matter.  :)

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • None

After the South American 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 (yeah, that stuck, Geez).

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.

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

Albums from this Lineup:

  • Tyr
  • Forbidden

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.

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

Albums from this lineiup:

  • 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 at the very back end of the tour in December. 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.

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • None, although a live track showed up on an Ozzfest Compilation later on.

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.

  • 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.

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • Reunion

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 late 1979, after Ozzy went originally. 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 31, 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…..

  • 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 (much less play drums for Black Sabbath) 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).

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • Reunion

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.

  • 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.


  • 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 31, 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.

  • 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.  (As of the last edit of this document in April 2011, that album STILL hasn’t come out).

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, I’m 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.

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

Albums from this Lineup:

  • None, but most of the groundwork for the new Dio Years tracks was laid here

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”.

Much later on Bill was interviewed about Heaven & Hell, and he spoke as to why he declined to be involved. Here’s what Bill had to say on an Aug 7, 2009 interview with Eddie Trunk…

“Let me see if I can say this as comfortably as I can, because there’s some sensitive stuff about this, and I haven’t spoken at public level about any of this stuff… There was a musical difference. For quite a long time now, the only band that I’ve ever felt comfortable in is the original band. And I’ve tried to do Sabbath with Ronnie, Sabbath with Ian [Gillan] and Sabbath with other singers as well. And as much as I either like, or don’t like, these guys or whatever, it never feels the same to me. And I’ve never been able to make that move when it comes to being with Tony and Geezer with another singer. However, I thought that because, originally, we were talking about Ronnie — when we were first trying to put some of this together — and I thought, ‘Well, I’m gonna have an open mind to this.’ But, at the time, it felt like I was kind of backpedaling a little bit, but I thought that I would be able to actually hang with it and do it and what have you. So I went in there as much as I could with an open mind. A couple of things happened, which I’m gonna have to keep private, which, actually, I felt very angry about. Originally, there was some stuff on the business end, which really, really, really cut me up. And there’s still some unresolved things on the personal end as well, which I’m hoping to have clarified and resolved one day — one day it’ll clear up. But the main reason inside everything was that Tony, on one of the songs, it was a pretty fast song, was pushing his guitar — it was just like a down beat — and in all the years that I’ve played with him, since I was, like, 16 — me and him have played together a long, long time — I’ve never cut across him. In other words, I never go through him — I don’t travel through him, I travel around him, and I either build or I pull away, or I make holes, or I do whatever I can do to make sure that I am interacting with the bass and the guitar in the way that I do it. It was requested of me to play a straight beat through, and playing a straight beat through was absolutely against everything I know about drumming, and it was an intolerable request. End of story. I can’t do that, and I’m not gonna do that to Tony. He’s a man that I love — I’ll love him for the rest of my life; we’ve done so much together. But I could not adhere to the track in which it was being requested of me. I need to go with him. So if he’s punching, I punch with him; it’s just a natural way that I play. I never go through him like he [doesn’t] exist. To me, what was being asked of me was disrespectful to Tony as a player. So I didn’t do it. I won’t compromise my sensibility… and my sensitivity, either, in music. So I just couldn’t cut it.”

The Heaven & Hell Era

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

Albums from this lineup:

  • Black Sabbath: The Dio Years (& UK Tour Edition – No Scott Warren)
  • Heaven & Hell: Live at Radio City Music Hall (& Companion DVD/BluRay Release)
  • The Devil You Know (no Scott Warren)

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.

Tour dates started showing up in mid January as well.

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 1st.
  • 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 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. 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.

The last date on the tour was November 18th in Bournemouth UK. It’s was 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.

At the time the tour ended, there was a lot of talk wondering if that was really the end. Pre-tour, there was a lot of stink of “This was it” – after this tour, we’re done, no mas. 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). After all, 2008 was the 40th anniversary of the founding of the band.

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 2007, 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.

When this was announced, the fans went nuts. 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.

2008:

So we got on into 2008, and the early part was rest from the end of the 07 tour. Geezer was watching old Doctor Who & Lost DVD’s.. Tony walked his dogs… hahah. No seriously, the guys took some time off after the tour to recharge, and somewhere in the early part of 2008 tracks started being thought about.

Ronnie took a side tour, and played some gigs around Europe in May with the Dio band. Places like Norway, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, etc… It wasn’t a huge tour, just a few gigs here and there from what I recall.

Once the short spring Dio tour was over, I got some word that the band had started formally writing new songs. When Ronnie is in the band, Geezer takes a more relaxed attitude towards writing (and an increased interest in his Lost & 24 DVDs). Tony & Ronnie did the bulk of the writing, from what I can gather, and then in the summer, they had a short tour rehearsal.

The reason for that is that in August of 2008, the guys stretched their legs and went out on tour in the US. This was the 2008 “Metal Masters” tour. Oddly enough, Sabbath didn’t headline, that slot was taken by Judas Priest, who were supporting their new (and in my opinion bloody awful) album Nostrdamus. It was a short tour, it ran from August 6 through August 31st. With the exception of one date in Canada, all of the shows were in the US. I got to see them in Dallas again, spent some time hanging around backstage with the crew.

However, the real work began once the tour was over. Recording. The guys got together in Wales to record the new album in the same studio (Rockfeld) that Dehumanizer was recorded at 16 years previous. From what I can gather, it was a quick and easy session – I heard no stories of them wanting to kill each other, or them sneaking into the studio to jack up the volume on their instruments (hahaha). On December 12th, Geezer Butler issued the following statement on his website.

The basic tracks for the new Heaven and Hell album have been laid down, and I can report it has been a pleasurable experience writing and recording with Ronnie, Tony and Vinny. We hope to have the album finished, mixed and ready to go in the next couple of months.

So once it was completed, they took off work again for the holidays. But going into the new year with a new album almost completely in the can was a cool thing. Speaking of Christmas, in December 2008, Ronnie & Tony appeared on a holiday compilation named “We Wish You a Metal Xmas & a Headbanging New Year“. They appear together on the track “God Rest Ye Merry Gentelmen”. It was an amusing release to say the least. Lemmy singing “Run Rudolph Run” was seriously worth the price of the CD. :)

2009:

As we rolled over into the 41st calendar year of the history of Black Sabbath, we got something we haven’t gotten in almost 15 years at that point. New album. Fan speculation was high on what it would sound like, what would be the name of the thing – when would it come out? It was promised “early” in 2009, and with Geezer’s remark in December saying “a couple of months’, the popular thinking was that we’d see it in March or April or so. However, early in the year (Jan 6th), classicrockmagazine.com posted a story saying they visited the recording studio and were allowed to hear some of the new tracks. They were described as “moody, thuddingly malevolent”, “pacier and more anthemic”, & “a slice of sloth-like majesty”, referring to the three tracks they were allowed to hear. Which of course stirred up the fan pot a bit more. :)

In early February, tour dates started to appear for the tour later in the year. This was cool, and fans started buying up tickets – but it was nothing compared to the announcement that came on February 10th. The release date for the new album was April 28th, and it was to be titled “The Devil You Know”. This is a brilliant title, as it speaks to the usage of the name Heaven & Hell instead of Black Sabbath. This author likes the move a lot (although I personally would have preferred the working title Bible Black). The first single was Bible Black, and started appearing online in mid March for streaming. There was a rather atrociously awful video produced for the song, which Tony Iommi dismissed himself as being the only part of the project he was disappointed with. Fortunately, a couple of months later, a fan stepped in and produced his own version of the video. Check out both the official and the fan video here.

There was a second single released from the album, too, although no video produced for it. On August 19th, “Follow the Tears” was released as a single, although not one you could buy. It was one of those promo only singles sent to radio stations. It wasn’t released commercially. If anyone ever actually hears it on the radio, I’d be surprised – as I haven’t. Have you?

So anyway, the album came out, which itself was a feat. It was the first studio album by the band in 15 years. It was the first studio album by this incarnation of the band in 17 years. Quite the long undertaking. The tour did immediately commence. There were a few interesting gig happenings, one in particular where Heaven & Hell played the same venue as Britney Spears at the same exact time. One had visions of Geezer and Pedro Howse turning up topside where Spears was and terrorizing them. :) The tour wasn’t totally without problems. Unlike the Ozzfest tours of the past, they weren’t cancelled due to the lead singer’s problem, but there was one gig cancelled due to health concerns of Tony Iommi. The June 21st gig at the Metalway Festival had to be cancelled (Well, Heaven & Hell’s appearance anyway). Tony got quite ill before the gig with severe back pain, and had to be taken out in an ambulance in a stretcher. Geezer, Ronnie, & Vinny came out on stage, and through an interpreter explained what happened. You can see that video below:

That was the only gig cancelled by health problems, but it was discovered that Tony Iommi needed hand surgery. He did have surgery for carpal tunnel a few years back, and while this isn’t related, the surgery will keep him from playing for awhile. But the tour soldiered on, and finished out to completion. The final gig was Saturday August 29th, 2009. The story is that there was going to be more gigs (including a second leg in the US), but Tony’s hand situation prevented that, as he was in active pain when he was playing. Still, as it was, there was a nice tour, lots of festivals, lots of smaller gigs, and again – a new album to support.

After the tour was over, the inevitable questions as to what is going to happen next cropped up. Given that the guys don’t seem to want to kill each other now, and are getting along well, one thought, well, what about a new album again? Fortunately, all parties involved seem to agree that they’re going to get together again and write/record a new album next summer. The Dio band will be touring Europe this fall, there is Dio studio time that will be needed to record the new Magica albums, too. There’s some talk that Heaven & Hell might play some dates around the UK next spring, too. If they are going to write next summer, it could fill the same kind of feeling that the Metal Masters tour did. recharge the batteries playing live together before recording. We shall see. Heck, listen to this video interview with Ronnie taken about an hour or so after the final gig ended in Atlantic City on Aug 29, 2009.

So Black Sabbath (er, Heaven & Hell, whatever) is done for 2009. However, it appears there will be a regrouping again in 2010 for more live dates, another album. Holy crap – Black Sabbath is really back! I’m quite surprised by that! Long live Black Sabbath.

Headless Cross Tour – No Wait…

On June 16th, it was announced that the Tony Martin band was going to tour the US under the name of “Headless Cross”. He was going to tour and play a lot of Tony Martin era Black Sabbath music. It was cool, as Geoff Nicholls is in his band, and he does a great job live, if you’ve managed to hear some of his concerts. Plus of course, it’s the only way we’ll ever hear the Martin era tracks live again. So I was stoked that I might get to finally see the Martin solo band.

Of course, that didn’t work out, and on July 9th it was announced that the tour was not happening for a bunch of reasons which we were not privy to. If you want to read what Tony Martin said about the cancellation, click here, I have a statement of his (as well as some remarks from his band bassist Jamie Mallender).

One thing about the Martin “Headless Cross” tour I wanted to say personally. Tony Martin was cool enough to email me on both the announcement and cancellation directly, and also providing me the honor of announcing it on the net first when it was announced. That’s quite cool of you Tony, thanks – you really didn’t have to do that through me.

About Heaven & Hell vs. Black Sabbath…

One last thing on the “Name” issue of Black Sabbath vs Heaven & Hell. It was nice to see Tony Iommi come out in 2008 and finally address this – it should set the issue to rest. Here’s what Tony Iommi said about the name issue.

it really is Black Sabbath, whatever we do,” but said the artists had chosen to tour as Heaven And Hell “so everyone knows what they’re getting [and] so people won’t expect to hear ‘Iron Man’ and all those songs. We’ve done them for so many years, it’s nice to do just all the stuff with did with Ronnie again.

That hopefully will put that stinkin’ thing to rest. I’m tired of talking about the name issue. To those of you who still want to whine and carry on about Sharon having something to dowith this.. Imagine my middle finger being raised at the various messages I see about that. She has nothing to do with this. Sigh.

Ozzy Sues Tony

I’d be remiss in not covering this, but I don’t want to get into it too much due to it being a lawsuit. I’m allowed certain latitudes by the band in operating this site, and I do NOT want to cause myself trouble by getting too much into the lawsuit thing, but I do have to acknowledge its’ existence. On May 29th 2009, the news came out that Ozzy Osbourne was suing Tony Iommi for 50% ownership of the name “Black Sabbath”, claiming Tony illegally obtained the rights to the name. I was following the band back in 1985 when Tony bought the rights from the remaining originals, and he has owned it since then. For Ozzy (or more probably Sharon) to make this kind of move probably kills Ozzy era Black Sabbath from working together in the future forever, I would think. There’s more on the lawsuit over on this link for you to read. This is about all I’ll say about it, again for the reasons I stated a couple of paragraphs ago.

UPDATE: It was announced late in 2010 that this suit had been resolved “amicably”, although due to (what I believe is) court order, neither side is talking about it legally. My personal guess – and I must stress this is a guess (nobody will tell me anything) is that the band is now legally structured akin to what happened with Pink Floyd in 1987 after the Roger Waters lawsuit. Pink Floyd from 1987 onwards are two separate entities – from a purely legal standpoint. “Pink Floyd” and “Pink Floyd 1987″. The latter being in control of what happens going forward, and the former being the past. There’s overlap for obvious reasons, but it would be MY GUESS that a similar thing is going on here with Black Sabbath, that Ozzy and Tony share control over parts of the band that Ozzy was in, and Tony retains control over everything else. There would be no practical reason to give Ozzy/Sharon any kind of control over the music made with Tony Martin – not that they’d care about it anyway. For the record, “Heaven & Hell” is a separate legal entity than Black Sabbath, and wouldn’t be party to any of this – of that I’m positive. Anyway, this would be my guess as to what’s going on. If I ever get any kind of official update on this, I’ll change this text, but I doubt they’ll tell me anything like that. As long as I’ve been running the site, I don’t lose track of who I am – a fan. There’s certain bits of news that fans will just never be privy to. This is probably one of them.

2010 – The Year of the Doctor

On November 25, 2009 it was announced that Ronnie James Dio had stomach cancer. Tony Iommi needed surgery after the 2009 tour, and Vinny Appice needed surgery too for a shoulder problem. At the end of 2009, the guys seemed to be “breaking down”. Tony and Vinny had their procedures (although Tony’s ended up not being actual surgery), and they were on the mend. Ronnie, however was dealing with chemo treatments which if you know anything about chemo, you know what that can do to a person. Combine that with Ronnie’s age (67, by my best guess), and he’s not going bounce back like he’s 25. Still, he was pretty determined to beat it, and that’s a good sign.

The band meanwhile booked a bunch of festival gigs throughout Europe during 2010, so they must feel confident enough that Ronnie can do it. Next update of this document will probably include what happened.

Boy did it. Major, permanent changes happened to the band, and the people in it.

Ronnie James Dio Dies

At 7:45AM on Sunday morning the 16th of May, 2010, Ronald James Padavona died, after losing his battle with stomach cancer. I’m not getting into a tribute on this page, but it was a sad moment, and one that will likely mean the end of the Heaven & Hell incarnation of Black Sabbath, if not Black Sabbath itself.

I wrote those couple of sentences on May 27th, 2010 – and I did do my own Dio tribute on June 5th, if you want to read it, you can do so here.

Ronnie had been sick for awhile – it was one of those things that he just never wanted to deal with, and when he finally did, the cancer had ravaged him pretty well. He came to my state of Texas for treatments quite often – and frequently accompanied by Geezer Butler. As important as Ozzy’s incarnation is to music, I’ll also say that if Dio hadn’t come along when he did and joined Black Sabbath, that band would have been dead and buried in 1980.

Anyway, the previously announced 2010 dates were canceled on May 4th due to Ronnie’s health. He then died 12 days later. About a month after that, it was announced that there would be an official tribute concert. It would be Heaven & Hell, and would be the final concert given by the band. There also was a memorial service for Ronnie in late May too, where his son Dan spoke, various musicians spoke, and it was very well received by all.

  • Glenn Hughes – Vocals
  • Jorn Lande – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Vinny Appice – Drums
  • Scott Warren – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup:

  • None, although it’s rumored the video might be released on DVD at some point.

NOTE: This was a one shot lineup. It was only ever intended to exist for one gig. It was labeled as a tribute to Dio gig. HOWEVER, since it was officially billed as “Heaven & Hell”, I am counting it as a lineup combination. I’ve counted more obscure ones (May 29, 1988 leaps to mind here).

After the cancellation of the 2010 European gigs, Ronnie died. In the immediate time after that, nobody seemed to know what the heck was going to happen with the band. Were they done? Yeah, pretty much. While everyone knew it was Black Sabbath, it was legally “Heaven & Hell”. A band named after a specific album, which of course was tied to a specific singer. There really was no way to continue the band as it was anymore with Ronnie gone. However, they did decide to do a single tribute gig. One gig (Jul 24) was selected as the one that Heaven & Hell would play. On June 15th it was announced that two singers would handle mike duties for the band for this one gig. This was Glenn Hughes & Jorn Lande. Glenn is someone who is known in Black Sabbath’s past. Was the vocalist for the 1986 album, “Seventh Star”, as wel as being the vocalist on a couple of Iommi’s solo albums. However, Jorn Lande was an unknown to most fans. He’d been doing Rainbow/Sabbath/Dio tribute songs with his own band for ages; so much so that he released a tribute album named simply “Dio” in the summer of 2010.

The band played it’s normal Heaven & Hell set, and from all accounts, it came off well. If you look at pictures from the concert, it was obviously video recorded. As to when that footage might get released, who knows – I’ve heard nothing on that, sadly.

After the gig was over, that was pretty much it for “Heaven & Hell”, except for one other thing. In November 16, 2010, the band released a CD and a DVD of their Wacken Germany performance of Jul 30, 2009. It was called “Neon Nights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell”. It was a great performance, and it had some nice interviews on the DVD release – told some stories I wasn’t aware of. If you haven’t picked these up, you should. They’re also pretty cheap as these kinds of releases go (you can get both of them new for $25 total). That pretty much brought 2010 to a close.


2011 – NOW WHAT?

My first update of this timeline in April 2011 was a time that was pretty “open”.  It was pretty quiet on the Black Sabbath front. Heaven & Hell was done. The guys have said that they won’t tour under that name ever again with Ronnie gone.

Spring 2011 Rumor Stuff: Most fans had assumed that the original Black Sabbath would tour together again and do another album. Bill Ward has made some remarks along those lines that he’d like to do it. In early February, Ozzy has been making noise about that. But nothing from Tony or Geezer, except some snarky remarks in the press by Geezer about it. I will add this. They’ve had numerous attempts to get that done in the time they were together from 1997-2005. It didn’t happen. There’s a lot of noise going on right now which makes it seem like it’s a certainty. Never believe these things. It may yet happen (and if it does, I’ll be there), but my sources tell me it’s nothing near as concrete as the press reports are making it out to be. We’ll see.   The cards were set up for some sort of original Black Sabbath “something” in 2011, but my gut feeling says it won’t happen. At least not for awhile. And they’re not getting any younger at this point.  Still, the rumors persisted, and you’d see remarks in the press on how they were “in negotations” to do it.  However, in 2011, Geezer Butler put the kibosh on that on February 12th, 2011 by issuing this statement on his website:

I would like to make it clear, because of mounting speculation and rumours, that there will be definitely NO reunion of all four original members of Black Sabbath, whether to record an album or to tour.

Some fans have tried to find the “true meaning” to the statement, but it seems pretty clear.  No original Black Sabbath.  Despite my working for Geezer for a few years now on his website, he won’t tell me if that’s really the end.

Tony has been reported as writing new music again; going so far as to say he doesn’t know what kind of project it will end up on. There’s been talk that Iommi/Butler/Appice will tour with some new singer under a new name for a new project. I’d like that, but Vinny has gone and hooked up with a new band called “Kill Devil Hill”.  Although if Tony & Geezer came calling, something could be worked out, I’m sure.  Geezer has told me he’s been writing music for a fourth GZR album to be released later this year, so that’s out there, too. Ozzy continued to tour into 2011 behind his 2010 release, “Scream”. Nothing was imminent for sure on the Black Sabbath front.  This is the most “wide open” that the future of Black Sabbath has looked to me since I’ve been a fan. There’s several ways it can go, and I don’t think ANYONE has a handle on what will actually happen from here on out.

On August 16th, 2011, news broke that a Black Sabbath Mk I reunion was happening. There was a newspaper article by the Birmingham Mail talking about the reunion, recording plans, Bill Ward’s health, etc… It was picked up by major news people, and spread pretty wide. Even my wife (we live in Dallas) told me that the Facebook page for a radio station in Pittsburgh was reporting it. So if radio stations were hitting it, it must be right, right? Wrong. Later in the day, Tony issued a statement saying this..

Black Sabbath Re-Union Speculation 16th August 2011

Black Sabbath Re-Union

I’m saddened that a Birmingham journalist whom I trusted has chosen this point in time to take a conversation we had back in June and make it sound like we spoke yesterday about a Black Sabbath reunion. At the time I was supporting the Home of Metal exhibition was merely speculating shooting the breeze on something all of us get asked constantly “Are you getting back together?” Thanks to the internet it’s now gone round the world as some sort of “official” statement on my part, absolute nonsense. I hope he’s enjoyed his moment of glory, he won’t have another at my expense.

To my old pals, Ozzy, Geezer and Bill, sorry about this, I should have known better.

All the best,Tony

So that kind of put some water on that fire. Except as people read it, they realized it wasn’t a denial. Tony never came out and said “it wasn’t happening”. Then as time crept along, we’d keep getting strange reports – like the Osbourne kids at a premiere of the “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne” movie talking about their dad being involved in a “secret project”. Ozzy and Tony both went on book signing tours in the fall, and both kind of poo-pooed the reunion, saying “we’re talking”, and “who knows”, that kind of stuff. Then we get to early November…

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

Albums from this lineup

  • None

On November 4th, the site blacksabbath.com (mine has a hyphen, that one does not) replaced it’s long standing “Coming soon” page with just that image above. Speculation ran wild about the meaning of it. I contacted my friends in band management, and inquired. I was made aware of what was happening a few days ahead of time, but was sworn to secrecy. It was a pretty poorly kept secret, tell you the truth.

We get to Friday, November 11, 2011 (yeah, 11/11/11, at 11:11AM PST), and there’s a press conference at the Whisky A Go-Go in Los Angeles. The original four Black Sabbath members got up on stage and said they were getting back together again. But it wasn’t going to just be the greatest hits machine it had turned into in the 2000’s. This was going to be a full new studio album by Black Sabbath. The first official Sabbath album since 1995, the first “sorta” since 2008, and the first with this incarnation of the lineup since 1978.

The press conference itself was filled with the usual talk about how it felt right, how it souds like “old Sabbath” again. I know a lot of fans have been aching for this, and I’ll be curious to see whether it truly sounds like old school Sabbath, or it sounds like.. well, “Psycho Man” (which I like, but has a different feel than the old stuff).

The band announced a single tour date for 2012. It is the Download Festival in June 2012. The new album will be produced by Rick Rubin, and will come out in the fall of 2012, to be followed by a world tour. That means a proper tour, with Sabbath headlining and a full set, not the reduced thing they did on Ozzfests. 11-11-11 was a feel good day for sure. Now the fun begins. The waiting. The band tried this before in 2001 to write a new album, and it fell apart. Granted, that attempt did not have the kind of fanfare this one does. One gets the feeling they wouldn’t make THIS big a deal out of it if they weren’t serious.

More tour dates were announced in November 2011, and as we move on into 2012, it’s an odd feeling that these guys are still around, and are going to be making a new record, especially given everything that’s been said between them and about each other, plus lawsuits, and all that crap.  Time will tell. Let’s hope we make it all the way to next year with everyone alive and healthy, and some good material out of it. Black Sabbath is back.

The healthy part didn’t last too terribly long.  On January 9, 2012, Tony Iommi announced he had cancer.  After what the Black Sabbath “family” went through not too long ago with Ronnie James Dio dying of cancer, that the “C Word” was brought back into the discussion was not something anyone wanted.  Not the least of which I’m sure was Tony himself.   I spoke with Tony’s manager not too long after this, as my mother in law had the same cancer Tony did (she’s been cancer free for over a decade), and offered my own support.  I was told that Tony requested privacy (no shock) on the matter, and as such, there was very little in the way of updates after the initial announcement.   He did get some treatments, and I get the impression that being a “cancer survivor” is much like “recovering alcoholic” – you’re never totally free of it all, the word as of my writing of this paragraph (Nov 5, 2012) is that Tony is doing well these days.

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Tommy Clufetos – Drums
  • Adam Wakeman – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup

  • None

Ok well, what the hell?   After the 11-11-11 event, everything seemed well again.  I had spoken with some behind the scenes a few days before the 11-11-11 announcement, and knew it was coming a few days ahead of time.  I had asked something about “are all the contracts sorted out?” – because I remember what happened a few times in the most – most recently Ozzfest 2004 and the fracas with Bill Ward.   Apparently things weren’t as sorted out as we were led to believe.  Because on February 2nd, 2012 Bill Ward posted a statement on his website saying he was declining to be a part of the reunion due to what he termed an “unsignable contract”.

This appeared to take the other members of Sabbath by surprise – as their reactions seemed to be genuine in their “What the fuck”-ness.   There was a few bickering statements back and forth for a couple of weeks.   For the record, as the person who handles both Geezer Butler’s site and Bill Ward’s site, it was a weird balancing act for me.  As I work for both Geezer & Bill, I had to protect their interests on their site.  Yet I run this site, which is a fan site, and in the middle.   No matter what angle you looked at it with, it was indeed a big bloody mess.  Most fans (based on the feedback I saw) took the response of “Guys, What the fuck?  Couldn’t this have been worked out before the four of you got up on stage last November?”

Ozzy & Friends

The date of Bill’s last statement regarding this was February 17th.  On that same date, it was announced that the European Festival dates that were previously going to be Black Sabbath were going to be now no longer Black Sabbath dates.  This was due to Tony Iommi’s health.  As he was going through all of what you go through when you have cancer treatments, going out and doing a festival tour was out of the question.  However, in order to have something for fans to come check out, the Sabbath dates were changed to “Ozzy & Friends” dates.  There were a few additional dates added beyond the originally scheduled Black Sabbath dates, but this was done due to Tony’s cancer treatments.   Same thing goes for the recording plans for the new album.   Some work was done, but given how tired a cancer patient gets, I’d wager not a hell of a lot got done during those sessions.   For the most part, the Ozzy & Friends gigs came off well.  I know there were a lot of pissed off fans at not getting Black Sabbath at their gigs, but hey – Tony’s got cancer.  Really?  Getting pissed off cuz of that?

Live 2012

The Ozzy & Friends thing didn’t take over 100% of the dates that Black Sabbath was going to do.  Again on the Feb 17th “Ozzy & Friends” announcement, it was said that Black Sabbath would play one date – the June 10th Download Festival gig.  Given the ongoing confusion regarding Bill Ward, there was no mention of who would be drumming, just that Black Sabbath would be there.   In April & May, we got two more dates, which comprised the total live concert appearances of Black Sabbath in 2012.  They were the May 19th Birmingham gig, and the August 3rd gig in Chicago, IL at Lollapalooza.  That was it for Black Sabbath, just three gigs.  Again, Tony’s health.

Up until this point, given there was no official drummer response from either side about the three gigs, it was always hoped perhaps that Bill would come back.  That hope was dashed when Bill Ward issued a new statement on May 15th saying that he won’t be participating in the 2012 live shows.  And yet  again, Black Sabbath responded two days later with their own statement responding to that.  Fortunately, that was the end of it, because I did see a lot of feedback from fans now wondering if they ever actually talked to each other, and why they can’t make these statements to each other instead of through the public.

So we’re now just four days away from the first gig, and we still don’t know who the drummer was.  It turned out to be Tommy Clufetos from Ozzy’s solo band, although that wasn’t officially ever actually announced by the band.   I found out about two days before the gig, but couldn’t get it authorized, so I waited until someone else broke that news to talk about it – and even THAT didn’t happen until the day of the gig.  So they held that tight to the vest.  Given HOW secretive they were, I wondered perhaps if a last second deal was possibly being thought about with Bill, but no.

The three live gigs went off with Tommy Clufetos on drums.  From those who were there, there were outstanding reports on how well the gigs went – especially the Birmingham one.  There’s lots of video from all three gigs floating around Youtube, but I’ll stick this one in here below to watch.

Additionally, right before the Birmingham gig, a reissue of the 2009 Universal Greatest Hits album occurred (UK/Europe Only).  This new compilation was titled “Iron Man: The Best of Black Sabbath“.

 

Mid Year Stuff

Also, on May 9th, Tony Iommi & Ian Gillan put out a full album of material.  It was called WhoCares – and was made up of the single they released the previous year, as well as a ton of other extras.  Both never on CD rarities, Japanese tracks, things of that nature.   It was also interesting as it included the proper Black Sabbath tracks “Zero the Hero”, as well as “Anno Mundi” from the Tyr album.  Why they chose to put a Tony Martin era track on that compilation is a bit of a head scratcher.  Not that I mind at all, but it does seem out of place.   Go check out my review of that, if you haven’t seen it.

After lying dormant for the better part of a decade, the Official Black Sabbath web site was launched on May 18, 2012.   It’s available at http://www.blacksabbath.com – The band finally made a move on official Twitter & Facebook presences, too.  Granted, Black Sabbath hadn’t done anything official before this since 2005, so this is the first action in the Social Media age, but the website has been a non issue for ages.   I know part of that was caught up in the dual lawsuits by Ozzy against Tony (ownership of name), and Tony against Merchandise people.   That’s finally been resolved, and there’s a minimalistic Black Sabbath website there.  There’s news, there’s pictures and all that, but it’s still mostly a vehicle to support the current project, not a “proper” official site that talks about the entire 40+ year run of the band.   This harkens back to the last time blacksabbath.com was anything more than placeholder or a merch storefront.  That was in 1999 when blacksabbath.com forwarded to the Epic records website and existed SOLELY to “support” the then current release of “Reunion”.

It was noticed almost immediately that the official site had Bill Ward’s pictures removed from virtually everything on the site.  Given the flavour of discussions back and forth in the public between Sabbath & Bill Ward, it was assumed by most that Black Sabbath was just trying to cut him out.  There was a lot of noise and fake news stories floating around at this time, one of the more famous ones was that “Sharon Osbourne fired Bill Ward from Black Sabbath”.  That was false (she can’t do that), and it turns out the reason Bill’s pictures weren’t there is he instructed his lawyers to request that his picture be removed from the new official Black Sabbath website so that people didn’t think that he was actually involved in the current incarnation of the band.

Weirdness abounds.

Black Sabbath In the Studio 2013

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Brad Wilk – Drums
  • Mike Exeter – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup

  • 13

After the August Lollapalooza gig, attentions turned back to the recording of the new studio album.  Granted, given the situation with Bill Ward, there were hopes that Bill would come back, and yet Tommy Clufetos was the incumbent drummer, so I think most fans just assumed it would be Tommy.   There were a ton of rumours back and forth in the fan community about all number of things.  That all Tony’s guitar tracks were laid down first (false), and that anyone from Tommy Clufetos, to Bill Ward, to Vinny Appice was going to be the drummer on the album.   Part of that in my opinion lies at the feet of Black Sabbath management.  What I mean by that is that in the absence of any real news, folks have a habit of making up their own news.   If you’ve been a fan of Black Sabbath for any length of time, you’ll know that rapid dissemination of news is not their thing.  They tend to go slow with most news tidbits.   However, after the 11-11-11 announcement, the thirst for anything NEW was ramped up big time, so a lot of fans at this point were feeling like they’re all dressed up with nowhere to go.

On October 23rd, we got a post from the band saying they were going into the studio that day to record.  This announcement also included a photo of the studio they were in.  I’ve copied that below.    Still, no announcement on a drummer.

On October 31st, we got an announcement on more tourdates.  Several dates for Australia in April 2013 were announced.    We also on November 1st got an announcement of Black Sabbath headlining the May 12, 2013 Ozzfest Japan appearance.   So some live dates are starting to trickle out for 2013.   There’s some talk that the new album will be released in April 2013 too.  If that’s accurate, then the dates in April & May would be likely a tour kickoff.   It’s all very much up in the air at this point.

Speaking of “up in the air”, that brings us back to the situation with a drummer.   An interview with Tony Iommi done during the Dio cancer benefit event on Halloween surfaced.  Some VERY interesting tidbits came out of that interview, most of which were new to fans and reporters.   That being there will be 15 tracks for the new album, and about six are already recorded.   Given six are already recorded, that means the drummer has been in place for a little while now.   But who the hell is it?

I think we can say that it’s not going to be Bill Ward.  Tony said in the interview that “we’ve gone past that” when asked about a possible return of Bill Ward.  Given they’re well into the recording of the album at this point (if six tracks are finished, then yeah, I’d say so), they had to do something with a drummer.   At the same time that interview surfaced, I also heard a rumour that the drummer is neither Bill Ward nor Tommy Clufetos.  The rumour was that Rick Rubin didn’t feel that Clufetos was right for the material.   They’ve apparently gotten someone new, but nobody is saying.  The only other thing I heard about “who” is that when folks find out who it is, they’ll be rather surprised.

Additionally, Adam Wakeman was initially thought to be involved with keyboards, but I can’t get any confirmation of that either.  So we have a drummer in place, and likely a keyboardist in place, but they’re not saying who.  It’s a mystery.

The guesswork lasted into 2013, when the information started to trickle out.   First up was the name of the album, that was announced on January 12th as just “13”.  Nothing more erudite or wordy, but just the number “13” (not spelled thirteen, I asked).   The name is quite puzzling, to be honest.  I’ve heard many theories as to what it means, but nothing has been confirmed as to the meaning of that.  I really hope it’s a better reason than just “2013 = 13″.

We also got formal confirmation that day as to who was playing drums on the album.  It’s Brad Wilk who is more well known for playing in “Rage Against the Machine”.  When it was announced, a lot of hothead (read Non thinking) fans jumped to the immediate conclusion that the album would suck based on the fact that they assumed the entire album would sound like Rage.  Sigh.   Wilk was chosen according to interviews as having the same kind of “swing” playing that Bill Ward had back in the day.

In February, the band started releasing videos from the studio.   There’s several of them, which I’ve archived on my “13 page” here on the site.

In March, we got more details about the album, including things like release date, number of tracks, etc…

In April, we finally got the cover art released, with a video to accompany that.

ozzytonystudio

In Studio with Brad Wilk

Black Sabbath on CSI

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Tommy Clufetos – Drums
  • Adam Wakeman – Keyboards

Albums from this lineup

  • None

First off, the “???, 2013″ is on the last entry and this one because I do not know exactly at what point Brad Wilk departed when recording finished, so I had to guess.  If/when I actually find that out, I’ll adjust somewhere, but it did go into 2013, I believe.

As the promotion for the 13 album started ramping up, attention turned to the announced concert dates, and of course, the concept of who was drumming.   I asked, and was told that Brad Wilk was not going to play live due to possible “Rage” commitments.   That of course lead to the question of who was going to play live?   The immediate thought was Tommy Clufetos, which is who it actually turned out to be in the end.  But that wasn’t announced right away.  For some reason, Black Sabbath has held the indentity of their drummer out until the last possible minute every time since the 11-11-11 press conference.  It first happened in the spring 2012 concerts.  They NEVER announced it, the news just came out during the first gig.  It wasn’t announced it was Wilk on the studio album untill WELL after he had worked with them, and they didn’t announce Clufetos this time, either.

Live 2013

It kind of “leaked out” when Black Sabbath filmed an appearance on the US TV show, “CSI”, which aired on May 15th.  That was actually recorded on April 10th, 2013.   Clufetos was the drummer for the CSI footage, but it was sort of confirmed a few days before the first live concert, which was April 20th.

Also, Adam Wakeman told me he’s on board for all the live shows in 2013, so basically, we’re back to the Osbourne/Iommi/Butler/Clufetos/Wakeman lineup we saw in 2012 before they started recording the “13” album.   So that’s the live shows handled.   But there’s still the album to release.

Inbetween the CSI recording and the first concert, on April 14th, the first single was announced to be “God is Dead?”, and it was released on April 19th, the day before the first concert of the year.   Given it’s 2013, we live in a digital age, so if you pre-ordered the album from iTunes (which also was available at the same time), you’d get “God is Dead?” at the same time.   Artwork for the single is shown here.

Also, the band released the song for free to Youtube for streaming as well, you can see that below.    As I write this part of the page, it’s May 20th, 2013, and we’re in that weird limbo phase where the album is about to come out, yet hasn’t.  So I’m sure I’ll have another update shortly after the album comes out.    More later, as there usually is.  :)


COMMENTS BY JOE SIEGLER

Santiago Dufour on "13"And this is where we stand as of the most recent update of this document on May 5, 2014. For more further developments, make sure to check the news page. Has there been enough lineup changes for you? :)

This page is the one I’m the most proud of out of all the stuff I’ve done for the site. Please let me know what you think of it. Tom Swoboda, one of the Mailing List regulars, dug up a file I had written back in 1987 which was a primitive version of this page. If you’d like to see that, click here. Interesting to go back about 24 years and read my own thoughts on the band back then. Both that file and this page were/are written from memory.

No matter what you feel about Black Sabbath, there is still music to come from this well, so remember..

Get Headless!!
— Joe Siegler
siegler@black-sabbath.com

P.S. Just remember – never EVER EVER believe it when a rock and roll person says they are retiring or it’s a “final gig”.. It’s always ALWAYS a lie.

The text on this page is (c)2014 Joe Siegler – all text was written by me unless it’s noted as such.

Thanks:

  • Some of the Dave Walker text originally appeared on Wikipedia.
  • Thanks to Joe D’Agostino for letting me use the Earth picture.
  • Special thanks to Ross Halfin for letting me use several of his pictures on the site.
  • Thanks to Ralph Baker & Tony Iommi for letting me get away with this page.

I would prefer people not copy this page and put it on their own sites. Please – link back to here. Unfortunately, I’ve had people thieve the work on this page, claiming they wrote it. That is a lie. This text was written by me over the course of many years, and was a lot of work to put together. Please don’t thieve it.

The picture to the right was drawn by Santiago Dufor.  He does some great stuff – go check out his site here.

Finally, if you enjoyed this timeline of mine, and also remember the old American movie review guys “Siskel & Ebert”, you might want to check out my timeline for the 35+ year run of the Siskel & Ebert movie review show. :)

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