Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Behind the Wall of Sleep

After working 12 1/2 hours yesterday and then riding my bike home, I was pretty beat. I was also restless so I decided to watch something on Netflix. After syphoning through most of the garbage in the "TV" section of their website, I decided for the "go-to" of the music category. I joyfully discovered a newly posted documentary on perhaps my favorite band of all time, the original - and in my opinion the only lineup worth taking the time to write about - Black Sabbath. 

There's so much to say about these four Birmingham blokes who have time and time again come to my rescue and lifted me up. In my mind, they are the masters of all things musical, and highly misunderstood for those not in the know. Written off by many as simply a heavy metal band that either worshipped the devil, sang about the occult, or doing drugs, many didn't give them a chance, especially the press. I feel sorry for all of these people, and as for the press, by ridiculing Sabbath they helped the band achieve mass success - suckers, everyone knows that bad publicity usually earns a band respect and notoriety, especially among fans of this band. 

Lyrically, topics varied from politics and war (Wicked World), pollution (Into the Void), religion (After Forever), government propaganda (Electric Funeral), addiction (Hand of Doom), isolation (Wheels of Confusion), self empowerment (Under the Sun, Children of the Grave), labor (Killing Yourself to Live), space (Planet Caravan), greedy corporations (Cornucopia), love - that's right - love, (Sabbra Cadabra, St. Vitus' Dance), heartbreak (Changes) ... the list goes on.

And the rhythm. I dare anyone to contend that Geezer Butler and Bill Ward weren't two of the tightest bass and drum players ever to have played together. Listen to the constant changes in Sabbath's music - even a popular and overplayed song like Iron Man seethes with originality, as the song just goes from one place to another ... suddenly you're riding the wave and in control, then it grabs you and picks you up, taking a journey to outer space, ultimate chaos, and the unknown. Then, it comes back down, sometimes gently, other times crashing, but either way you're right back where you started. Much of Sabbath's music did this, as they were all about the adventure of which music can take those with open minds on. All one has to do is simply close their eyes and listen, really listen, and experience the chaos, confusion, sadness and sense of hopelessness - humanity. Sabbath didn't hide behind the flower power movement or the positive outlook that the revolution was supposed to bring in the '60s. They knew it wasn't working, they know it still isn't working, because a song like War Pigs is just as relevant today as ever. It always will be.

Then there's Tony Iommi, the man missing two fingertips, the master of all guitar riffs, and undoubtedly one of the most influential players ever. Other members of Sabbath always stand behind the belief that Iommi was usually the one to come up with the great song ideas. Most of it was never planned. It was created from the gut, with feeling, on the spot, and the rest of band fed off of the energy and made some of the most memorable songs in history around it. 

Heavy most of the time, but oh so sweet and gentle at other moments, their music creates nostalgia, for a time when the earth and its people lived in peace, if there were ever a time. 

I will forever remain young, good or bad, because of Black Sabbath. Thank you for the journey fellows, I hope there are many more to come, and when I move on from this world, I am able to "sail through endless skies ... bathed in cool breeze ... as the silver starlight breaks down the night ... and pass on by the crimson eye."

Bonus live show from 1970, the year I was born. The band in their best form, most likely.

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