Friday, August 3, 2012


Black Sabbath has just hit the stage at Lollapalooza. As I wrote in a piece for my day job, the irony here is rich.  In the '90s, Sharon Osbourne pitched Ozzy Osbourne to Lollapalooza (when it was a summer tour), and as legend has it, they laughed at her. So she went and founded Ozzfest. The Lollapalooza tour soon died out, and Ozzfest thrived for years.  Classic Sharon Osbourne. She doesn't mess around.

In Ozzfest's first year as a national tour, Ozzy reunited with Black Sabbath, and played one set with them, and one with his solo group. Sabbath, however, only had 3 of their 4 members: it was Ozzy, guitarist/leader Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler, along with drummer Mike Bordin (of Faith No More, at the time he was Ozzy's drummer). Drummer Bill Ward wasn't invited.  I remember interviewing him that summer; he said he didn't know why he wasn't included. Two years later, the Sabs toured on Ozzfest again, and this time, Bill was there.

All these years later, Lollapalooza has reinvented itself as an annual weekend festival in Chicago, and this year, Sabbath headline along with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jack White and the Black Keys. And again,  sadly, Bill won't be there - this time Sabbath are using Ozzy's current drummer, Tommy Clufetos.  I saw Tommy in Ozzy's band about a year and a half ago and I noted that he was a monster on drums. He's perfect for the band, if Bill can't be there.

I've followed the band, and their drama, a lot over the past few years.  As I've mentioned in the past, I wrote the liner notes for The Black Box, the box set that collects all their albums from the Ozzy era.  And I was interviewed for the Sabbath doc that aired on the Biography Channel. I guess all I can say is that Ozzy, Tony and Geezer with Tommy can do a great Sabbath set, but it's just sad that they can't make it work out with Bill.

Of all bands, Black Sabbath should realize that life is finite.  Ronnie James Dio, the guy who originally replaced Ozzy (and with whom Tony and Geezer toured and recorded with as Heaven & Hell in recent years) recently succumbed to cancer. Tony himself recently finished chemo and radiation therapy, and happily, things went well.   But these guys know: they don't have decades ahead of them to work things out.  I interviewed Geezer after Sabbath left the stage the year of the first Ozzfest, and I asked him how the reunion happened:  he just said they were "too old" for squabbling.  

In my interview with Geezer for the box set, he told me that if the band never played another gig, he'd be ok with it. They had done a few reunion tours (with Bill), and they were all friends again. If that was "it," he'd be cool with that.  As a fan, I felt the same way. I thought it was cool that Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill showed up together for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, even though they didn't perform (Metallica performed for them).  That would have been a perfect end to the story.  So, no matter how great they are tonight (they're currently trending on twitter, I'm guessing they're doing well), if this is it for them, their story ends on a sour note. So I hope that in 2013, they work this CRAP out with Bill and do a few last shows.

All of that said, none of this take away from their legacy: they are one of the best bands of all time, and one of the most influential.  I'm glad that at least the Lollapalooza people have finally caught up.

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