Saturday, May 30, 2009


Yesterday, news came out that Ozzy Osbourne is suing Tony Iommi for the rights to the name "Black Sabbath," just as Tony kicks off a tour with Heaven & Hell (essentially the second version of Sabbath, which also includes Geezer Butler, Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice).

I kind of figured this came from Sharon Osbourne, obviously. I'm sure her relationship with Tony, even since the 1997 reunion, hasn't been smooth (it certainly wasn't in the years leading up to the reunion). Sharon runs Ozzfest, and most of the Sabbath tours since '97 have been Ozzfests. Tony has always been Sabbath's leader and I don't think he took kindly to his singer's wife (and former manager's daughter) taking the reins of his band. Tony is the legal owner of the Sabbath name, having bought the rights to it from Ozzy, Geezer and Bill back in 1985 (according to the best Sabbath site out there, -- why Sharon allowed that at the time, I have no idea).

I figured this stemmed from Tony's lawsuit against the Live Nation owned Signatures Network from last year. He was suing Signatures for selling Black Sabbath merchandise after the band's agreement with the company expired. He wanted three times the profits that they made from Sabbath's stuff, plus an immediate halt to selling Sabbath merchandise. The problem, I figured, was that Sharon deals with Live Nation for Ozzfest (which she didn't put on this year, I think the reason may actually have been spun as: her and Ozzy wanted to concentrate on their ridiculous variety show, but it was probably that they have been having problems booking great bands, and they've pretty much booked every cool band they could have gotten - where do you go after Metallica?). Plus, even though Ozzy has been concentrating on his solo career in recent years, there's probably still some resentment that Tony (and Geezer) is with Dio again -- although keep in mind that Tony could have called it Sabbath, but didn't. I imagine Tony may be able to counter with the fact that Ozzy cheapened both his and Sabbath's name via The Osbournes, hopefully he won't go there.

Ozzy posted his press release (with an explanation to fans) at his website, and he actually makes some good points. While Sabbath did have some success after Ozzy originally left the band (both with Ronnie James Dio and Ian Gillian on vocals), through the late '80s and the early '90s, they were kind of a joke: it was just Tony Iommi and whomever he hired. People forgot what was so great about them: that changed in '97 when Ozzy rejoined. The weird thing is, in his press release, he says that the trademark should be owned by Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill equally. But according to news reports, Ozzy is trying to get a 50% stake (leaving the other 50% to be split among the other three guys), and a cut of the profits that Tony made from his post-Ozzy Sabbath tours (that's just bitter).

It sucks that this has gone as far as it has, I hope they resolve it soon. I had the privilege and honor of writing some of the liner notes to The Black Box: The Complete Original Black Sabbath 1970 - 1978 box set, which included all of the Ozzy-era Sabbath albums remastered. It came out in 2004, in a break in the Sabbath action, but Geezer told me that if they never did anything together ever again, he was satisfied with the way it ended. The reunion happened, they played some mindblowing shows, and more importantly to him, they were all friends again. Since then, they've toured a bit more, and appeared together when they were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's a shame that this may end up being the last page in the book.

I wonder if Tony (or Geezer or Bill) participated in Wreckage Of My Past, the documentary on Ozzy that Jack Osbourne is working on (due in 2010): it looks like a very "sober" un-Osbournes like look at Oz's incredible career. Watch the trailer here.

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