At some point in the mid-1970s, I became friends with a guy who lived across the street from me. He was a few years older than me, already at Fresno State while I was just entering high school. And while he was a totally normal, short-haired accounting major who was incredibly athletic and never did drugs, he was also a total metal head. And by far and away, his favorite band was Black Sabbath.
And because of his influence, one of the earliest albums I ever purchased was the two-disc Sabbath compilation We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll, which was a near-perfect (give or take a “Laguna Sunrise”) cherry-picking from their first six albums and still a helluva introduction one of the greatest and most influential bands of the 1970s,
And if I was forced to distill Black Sabbath down to a single song (which I wouldn’t recommend, of course), I would pick “War Pigs.” Nearly everything that made them great is here: big doomy riffs chock full of Geezer Butler’s world-filling bass; Bill Ward jazzily barreling himself through tricky multiple parts; Tony Iommi’s guitar solos appearing from thin air; and of course, the eternally underrated Ozzy Osbourne, who somehow gets away with rhyming “masses” with “masses.”
Unlike their contemporaries and competitors in Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, who left plenty of room even the studio for improvisation, Black Sabbath’s best songs always felt well-thought out, with every note and beat in place, right down to the multiple overdubbed guitar solos.
“War Pigs” Performed Live at California Jam, 1974
My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist: