I grew up listening to hard-rock and heavy metal. Classic stuffs, starting when I was 10: Metallica, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, ZZ Top. I have for sure to thank my brother for that. Now I am still pretty much like I was back then, I just expanded my musical horizon a bit more. Among my favourite bands of all time there is for sure Black Sabbath. Still, I remember the first time I listened to them. It was in the attic of my best friend. He had a really good sound system and he played for me the song Black Sabbath from the first album of the band from Birmingham. I still remember it quite vividly simply because I was terribly scared! There was not foot tapping or head shaking, but just a feeling of discomfort and fear. I must have been 11-13. I never listened to them again since I was around 16, and I could not stay away from them ever since.
Sometimes I stop and think what people thought back in the late 60’s in the UK, when they listened for the first time to a song like Black Sabbath. In that time the popular music in England was all flower power and folk music. In the charts at that time there were the “candy girl” of “Sugar sugar”, or the blues-like love stories told in a mix of sex explicit or implicit lyrics by Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream. Then, suddenly people had to hear the rain, the bells, the tritone (a riff made of three adjacent notes), and the lyrics saying:
Figure in black which points at me
Turn around quick, and start to run
Find out I’m the chosen one
Telling people their desire
Satan’s sitting there, he’s smiling
Watches those flames get higher and higher
Oh no, no, please God help me!
Mother’s screaming in the fire
Satan points at me again
Opens the door to push me in
Satan’s coming ’round the bend
people running ’cause they’re scared
The people better go and beware!
No, no, please, no!
No wonder I have been scared for several years. I was also use to a sort of heaviness, a sort of hard bit. But this song is not an heavy bit, or a a kicking rhythm. This song alone can scare, it makes the black dropping down the walls, it keeps children awake at night. I still can’t quite figure out what the guys listening to this in ’69 might have thought. The flowers were now dead, you were not running after girls now but away from the darkness. There were no loves or broken hearts to cure in this song, but just souls running to save themselves. Imagine, you have been smoking pot for the last couple of years lying on a green naked together with other stoned kids, listening to this song must have been like waking up from a dark nightmare, sweaty and shacking. The only think you could have said was “What the hell is this s**t!?”.
And now, if you are brave enough, enjoy the song: https://youtu.be/0lVdMbUx1_k