News Segment


March 10, 2007

CALGARY — How do you promote a Black Sabbath tour when you’re only allowed to mention the legendary Black Sabbath name in the fine print?

Don’t ask Ronnie James Dio, the singer for the current Sabbath tour because he’s a bit foggy about the politics of the name game himself.

When the pioneering heavy metal band touches down in Vancouver tomorrow at the Pacific Coliseum, they do so under the banner Heaven & Hell, which is the title of Sabbath’s 10th album, released in 1980. That was the first Sabbath record in which Dio appeared as the lead singer, in place of the band’s original vocalist Ozzy Osbourne.

So why is the recently reunited Dio-led lineup touring now under the Heaven & Hell moniker?

Many fans have speculated Ozzy’s wife and manager, the ever brassy Sharon Osbourne, is to blame. After all, Ozzy’s version of Black Sabbath has been headlining his summer Ozzfest tours since 1997, and because of that the Osbournes may be laying claim to the name.

“As far as Sharon being the perpetrator of that, I would certainly not like to think so,” says Dio. “I don’t like to think that my life is predicated on somebody else’s whims who has nothing to do with me.”

But Dio’s not sure who has ultimate control of the Sabbath name. “I have no idea,” says the five-foot-four singer with the colossal voice. “That seems to have been a point of contention for a long time. Who owns the name? Is it Sharon? Is it Ozzy? Is it Tony Iommi (guitarist for both Black Sabbath and Heaven & Hell)? I would think if Tony owned the name, we would be calling ourselves Black Sabbath, so maybe he doesn’t.”

Given the recent Ozzfest tours, and the fact that Sabbath with Ozzy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, Iommi and the band’s bassist Geezer Butler felt like they wanted to make the new tour distinct from the other incarnation of Sabbath. “They wanted to carry on with something fresh and new,” Dio says.

“When they proposed (the band name Heaven & Hell), my initial reaction was, and still is, ‘Well they’re gonna call us f—in’ Black Sabbath anyway, aren’t they? You can call as the Boys in the Shed if you want to. It doesn’t matter to me.”‘

So how did Dio get back together with his Sabbath mates, considering that version of the band ended in serious acrimony not once but twice? Dio originally joined Sabbath in 1979, after the band fired the drug-addled Ozzy, revitalizing the sagging group with two platinum-selling studio albums. But three years later, Dio left the band amidst drug-fuelled ego clashes to embark on a solo career as the chief dragon-slayer of heavy metal (according to his fantasy-oriented lyrics).

In 1992, Dio came on board again for the album Dehumanizer, pulling Sabbath out of the lowest ebb of its existence. But Dio felt betrayed when Ozzy, by then a mega-successful solo artist, invited his former band to open for him on the final two shows of his supposed “retirement tour.” The rest of the group jumped at the chance, but an insulted Dio declined to participate and once again he quit.

This latest reunion was instigated by Warner Music who decided to release the best-of CD Black Sabbath: The Dio Years, asking Iommi and Dio if they’d write two new songs for the record. When the pair began working at Iommi’s England home, the chemistry was back. They churned out three songs easily — The Devil Cried, Shadow of the Wind and Ear in the Wall. Talks of a new tour were inevitable. But this time, Dio says, the reunion has a time limit. It will last until the end of the tour and then he’ll return to his solo career. Although, he does predict another full-length album at some point in Heaven & Hell’s future.

Dio hints Butler and Iommi have been creatively stifled working with Ozzy over the last decade. So it’s safe to say there’s no love lost between the duelling Sabbath singers?

“I don’t have any problems with Ozzy,” Dio insists. “I don’t care what he’s done or said. . . . When things come out of that mouth it doesn’t really matter to me. … (Ozzy’s) always loved me when I wasn’t in Sabbath and hated me when I was.”

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