Management got Black Sabbath to record pop songs in early days
In a recent interview with RollingStone on February 25, 2016, Black Sabbath‘s bassist and founding member Geezer Butler recalled how the band recorded pop songs at the request of their management prior to recording their classic self-titled debut album and which was released in 1970.
The RollingStone article states:
“We used to do these auditions for record companies, and they’d just leave after the third song or something,” Butler recalls. “I’ll always remember one producer told us to go away, learn how to play and learn how to write some decent songs. We were rejected again and again by company after company, and then the management at the time had this great idea to write some pop songs. And it wasn’t even us that wrote them: It was another band that he was managing who wrote them, and we hated doing them. You can tell that when you listen to them.”
One of those tunes a poppy, piano-driven number called “The Rebel” that Simpson’s Locomotive bandmate Norman Haines had written. They also tried their hand at writing an original, titled “A Song for Jim,” a jazzy, syncopated song, which featured Iommi on flute. Snippets of those tunes appeared in the 1992 home video The Black Sabbath Story, Vol. 1, but they never got a proper release, though the latter has leaked online as has another Haines-penned tune, the bluesier “When I Come Down.”
The earliest known Black Sabbath bootleg was recorded in Dumfries, Scotland in November 1969, and it contained “Song for Jim,” complete with Iommi‘s flute, along with other rarely played tunes: covers of Elmore James‘ “Early One Morning” and Buddy Guy‘s “Let Me Love You” and a jittery blues cut, “Blue Blooded Man.” But perhaps what’s more interesting is that it contains Black Sabbath‘s “The Warning” and “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” among other future classics. “When we were recording songs like ‘The Rebel’ and ‘Song for Jim,’ that was our management trying to get us a record deal,” Butler says. “We were playing ‘Black Sabbath,’ ‘Wicked World’ and ‘N.I.B.,’ but record labels told us to go and write proper songs. They just didn’t get it. So they tried to make us a pop band.”
“Sabbath don’t write fucking hit singles,” Osbourne says. “Sabbath is like a clever mistake. I’ve always said, no matter what Tony Iommi and myself have been through with each other personally, I’ve never took it away from him: There’s no guy on the face of the earth that can come up with riffs like him. He’s fucking brilliant with ’em.”
The day after playing Dumfries, the group would record many of these songs in a London session, which recently came out as bonus-disc outtakes on the deluxe edition of Black Sabbath, but despite the palpable elation that runs throughout the recording, the group was frustrated with the material they’d been asked to perform in addition to their original songs, which they preferred.
“When you’re on the inside looking out, you don’t realize how people are going to react to your music, ’cause it came natural to us,” Osbourne says. “We just did it. We didn’t go, ‘Oh, we’re gonna be the next this and that.'”
The most annoying thing, the bassist recalls, is that the pop songs trick didn’t work. “They didn’t do anything for us, so we insisted that we’ll just keep playing live shows,” Butler says. “We figured we’d forget making records.”
You can read the full article at RollingStone.
RARE audio of Black Sabbath live at Rugman’s Youth Club, Dumfries, Scotland – audio originally recorded by Iron Claw member Alex Wilson.PLEASE NOTE: To be cl…