It’s Throwback Thursday. I thought it would be fun to go back and listen to some ground-breaking music, if not historically ground-breaking, then personally ground-breaking to my own music habits.
It was 1971. I was fourteen, a year into my teens, but still rather innocent musically. That fall I would be entering high school as a freshman.
My dad took me to a record store. Until this day, my musical tastes were poppish and bubblegummy. On the more mature side, I listened to the Beatles, but on the still chikd-like side, I had the entire collection of The Archies albums. I also liked the Monkeys, and most Top 40 hits that were played on the local AM radio station, WOKY, the Mighty 92! (920 on your AM radio dial.)
So who knows what I was looking for when I went in there? The Beatles had broken up the year before, so there would be nothing new from them. The Monkees technically were gone for several years. I liked Creedence Clearwater Revival and their breakup was still a year away, so maybe something from them.
Hard to say. So I just browsed, which is a lost art today considering there are no more record stores. You’d start at A and work your way along looking at all the album art. Because back then, album art was just becoming a thing. In the ’60s, most albums were just graced with a picture of the singer or the band. Boring. But the drug scene changed that and album art became psychedelic, in many cases it was real works of art able to stand on it’s own.
Maybe The Beatles pioneered that, with covers like the White Album (“It’s literally, just a white album, man!” “Far out!”) Or Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was a collage of many different pictures and great fun trying to find all the celebrities.
So often times while browsing you’d run across artwork on an album that was so compelling, you’d buy it even if you never heard of the band before.
Thus, when I got to the Bs, I flipped to this spooky cover. It was simple, really, just some woods, with a haunted looking house, and this blurry image of a green-skinned woman dressed like a witch. I was mesmerized. The only printing on the album were the words, Black Sabbath. What’s a Black Sabbath? I had to know.
“Are you sure?” My dad asked, who I have to believe knew about the band already because he was always kind of trendy.
Once home, I rushed up to my room and put it on my Realistic Clarinette II turntable. The album started with the gentle sound of falling rain, then thunder and the chime of a a bell, like a church bell bonging slowly as if announcing some impending doom. A moment later, the first deep, thunderous guitar note struck, reminiscent of the thunder that came before. Slowly, like a dirge, but powerful like a punch in the chest, the first three notes crashed against my senses and kept repeating, then they grew more soft accompanied by the drums, which were also soft like the rain.
Then came the vocals, deep, raspy like a death rattle, and they croaked out, “What is this, that stands before me? Figure in black, which points at me. Turn ’round quick and try to run, find out I’m the chosen one. Oh noooooo!”
It gave me chills. I could feel the terror of the song’s narrator. I was hooked! This wasn’t anything like The Archies at all!
Even as I’ve grown in my music tastes, this is still my favorite. It has a strong blues influence, yet Tony Iommi’s guitar detuned a step and a half, gives an additional darker, scarier feel to it.
In high school, I also discovered the writings of Robert E. Howard, specifically Conan the barbarian, King Kull, and Solomon Kane. It was like this music was made for it and I’d read those sword and sorcery tales while listening to Black Sabbath’s eponymous first album and also Vol. 4.
So today, when I listen to either of these albums, my mind makes a strong association with sorcerers, demons, black magic, and sword fighting. So strong is the association that I play them when I write in that genre because they not only make a great soundtrack to what I’m writing, but provide inspiration as well.
I mean, with songs like Black Sabbath, The Wizard, Behind the Wall of Sleep, and Sleeping Village, how could you not be inspired to write something demonic?
Here then, is that first album. To me, it still sounds as fresh as it did that day I first heard it as an innocent, pimply-faced kid back in 1971.
Black Sabbath full album
#tbt #throwback Thursday