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Ten Things About... Black Sabbath

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Black Sabbath

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The rumors have been circling for a while, and at last they've been confirmed. The original lineup of Black Sabbath have reformed. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward have reunited!

They'll be headlining the Download festival, playing their own world tour and releasing a comeback album produced by who else but comeback king Rick Rubin. To celebrate, we've immersed ourselves in rock 'n' roll rumour and history for ten facts about one of the most influential bands in history.

1. Black Sabbath were formed in Birmingham in 1968. They originally featured saxophonist Alan Clarke and guitarist Jim Phillips and were called The Polka Tulk Blues Band (named after some talcum powder), before becoming Polka Tulk. Clarke and Phillips left and the band were renamed Earth. They finally became Black Sabbath in 1969, taking inspiration from the 1963 Boris Karloff horror flick.

2. A whopping 22 musicians have been in the band since then, with guitarist Tony Iommi being the only ever-present member. He had actually quit Earth in 1968 to join Jethro Tull for a bit, but wisely returned for the dawn of Black Sabbath.

3. When Ozzy himself was axed in 1979, the then-Sharon Arden (who went on to marry Ozzy) suggested Ronnie James Dio as his replacement. As well as giving his voice to Sabbath albums Heaven and Hell, Mob Rules and Dehumanizer, Dio is also said to have popularised the infamous "devil horns" hand-gesture in the metal world. After releasing The Devil You Know with Butler, Iommi and Ward as Heaven & Hell in 2009, Dio died in May of the following year.



4. Born John Michael Osbourne on December 3, 1948, Ozzy was apparently taunted by many at school (including future bandmate Iommi) with the name 'Ozz-brain', which later turned into Ozzy. The singer is said to have tattooed the nickname on to his knuckles himself as a teenager, using only a sewing needle and pencil. Ouch!

5. In their early days, the band were asked by a group of Satanists to play their 'Night of Satan' celebrations at Stonehenge. They refused, and the band were told that they had been placed under a hex. Ozzy asked his dad to make the group some aluminium crosses, which the group got blessed and wore round-the-clock for protection.

6. The band's self-titled debut was done in a single day, much of it in a single take, and cost a mere £800 quid to record. Bargain! For years it was said that the band were miffed with their label Vertigo for featuring an inverted cross on the gatefold sleeve, but Ozzy later said that no-one was all that bothered. "Are you sure you were just drinking alcohol?," Ozzy's dad apparently said after first hearing the record. "This isn't music, this is weird."

7. The same year's follow-up Paranoid closed with a song called 'Fairies Wear Boots'. The track's title was a mocking reference to a bunch of skinheads Butler and Osbourne had seen running around a park.



8. Ozzy bit the head off a dove after signing a solo record deal in 1981. "Sharon gave me these two doves, told me to go into the conference room and throw them up in the air," he explained later. "I did that, but one of them didn't fly...so I picked it up, bit its head off and threw the body towards all the suits around the table... hoping they would, you know, see the funny side."

9. He followed that up a year later by biting the head off a bat thrown on stage at a gig in Iowa. He apparently thought the bat was rubber. He was wrong. The bat-thrower claimed it was dead. Ozzy says it was alive and bit him first. "I got rabies shots for biting the head off a bat but that's okay," he is reported to have said. "The bat had to get Ozzy shots." Iommi later claimed that Ozzy once chucked the body of a shark through a window, dismembering it and covering the room with blood.

10. Iommi lost the tips of his middle and ring fingers on his right hand at the age of 17 when working in a sheet metal factory. (Ew!) A left-hander, he failed to relearn the guitar by changing his fretting hand and instead switched to lighter strings and made special thimbles for his fingers. The accident is also said to be behind the band's downtuning their guitars from E to C# from third album Master of Reality onwards.

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