Concert ticket – check. Train fare – check. Beer/food/merchandise money – check. Everything is in place and we were ready to go and witness an historic moment in Heavy Metal history, the reformation of the original line-up of the founding fathers. And then it all went horribly, horribly wrong…

black sabbath

This one was very close to our hearts as we broke the original reformation story and also broke the story that Sharon Osbourne had fired Bill Ward and broke the news that Tommy Clufetos was to replace Bill. We were ridiculed for all three stories and one particular Metal website even directed the worst kind of foul mouthed insults and abuse at us. I have been advised by a top lawyer to bring about a slander case over that. More on that shortly. Let’s nutshell the history of this whole thing first.

The reformation was announced on in August 2011 and became official on November 11th 2011 when the band held a press conference in Los Angeles. A world tour and new album was on the way.

Then in January, the horrible and tragic news that Tony Iommi had lymphonia was announced. After Ronnie James Dio’s death from stomach cancer in May 2010, the remaining Sabbath members all decided to undergo regular check-ups and thankfully this led to Tony’s illness being diagnosed in its early stages. So far the signs that he will make a full recovery appear positive and this just absolutely has to happen.

Because of this situation, most of the gigs on the previously announced world tour were pulled and Black Sabbath were replaced by Ozzy And Friends with Zakk Wylde and Tommy Clufetos joining Ozzy and Geezer in probably the most satisfactory replacement band/line-up that could have been put together under the circumstances.

Work on the new album continued and Sabbath kept the gigs at Download and Lollapalooza with Tony, Bill, Geezer and Ozzy lined up to perform together.

But what should have been a triumphant moment in Metal history began to descend into farce in February when Bill Ward announced that the contract he had been offered was ‘unsignable’ but that he was still hopeful of reaching an agreement. The backlash from the fans was incredible and unprecedented.

Tribute sites popped up all over the place, Facebook pages were created and gained mega followings almost overnight and the outpouring of angst and disappointment from Sabbath fans was on a level never before witnessed.

Sabbath themselves said very little about Bill’s announcement and with hindsight, that was definitely a mistake. Silence is not always golden and the band would have been better advised to explain their position straight away. Because they didn’t, a large section of their following began to turn against them.

Bill’s statements were articulate, intelligent and appeared to be more than fair. He stressed that he only wanted what was right and it was plain that he was absolutely not being greedy.

Bill’s son also made a lengthy statement which backed up everything Bill had said and by now the lack of response from the Sabbath camp was becoming deafening.

Then we received a call from a very well known and long established band manager with very close connections to the Sabbath camp. She was in tears and was claiming that Bill had been fired by Sharon Osbourne and wanted us to have the story as we were the only ones with the balls to publish it.

Once again we were ridiculed and abused for this and Sharon put out statements saying that she had no power to fire Bill as she manages her husband, not Black Sabbath.

You may or may not be aware that Bill Ward and Geezer Butler sold their rights to the Black Sabbath name a few years ago and it is now owned by Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne who apparently have 50% each. Well we all know who makes the business decisions in the Osbourne household. Please do not take that as a negative comment. It’s just a fact and I say it to back up our ‘Sharon Fires Bill’ story.

I wish I could disclose our source for this story but I can’t because we don’t break people’s confidences. I have promised not to say who told us and I won’t break that promise. All I will say is that if I could disclose it, you would be in absolutely no doubt about the truth of the story.

And besides, take the denials how you want. When we broke the reformation story back in August, Tony Iommi’s manager, Ralph Baker, strenously denied the story and slagged us in the process.

At the same time that we published the ‘Sharon Fires Bill’ story, we announced that Tommy Clufetos was to replace Bill. Once again we were slaughtered for that and it was at this point that I was advised to sue for slander.

There is no need to go into the history of that scenario because Tommy Clufetos is indeed the new Black Sabbath drummer but I imagine there are still people out there slating us for this ridiculous story.

Black Sabbath announced Saturday night’s Birmingham O2 gig with the drummer situation unresolved but the massive positive was that Tony was clearly well enough to play and Download was definitely on. A donation from the gig proceeds was to be made to Help For Heroes, a noble and worthy charity. Note the word ‘donation’. This is most important…

Then last week Bill issued another statement confirming that he was absolutely not going to take part in the reunion as he had tried to reach an agreement over his contract but this had not been possible. Apparently he had been asked to come to Birmingham, play for free and “see how it goes”.

Sabbath issued a very short response saying “there are two sides to every story”, which is indeed very true, but we didn’t hear their side until the afternoon of the gig, Saturday 19th May 2012, when Geezer issued a statement saying that Bill was asking for ridiculous amounts of money. The statement attempted to justify the ‘play for free’ request by saying that the whole purpose of a charity gig was to play for free.

I refer you back to the word ‘donation’. Make of that what you will.

Geezer also pointed out that the Download gig was an expensive event to stage, which is very true, but headline acts at Download are paid enormous amounts, for example AC/DC were paid more than £3million to headline Download in 2010 and one band who headlined in the last three years received more than £4million. This is pretty much the norm for a headline gig of such magnitude.

There are other points in Geezer’s statement from Saturday that simply do not add up but I will leave it there because I love Geezer Butler as a person and as a player and I really do not wish him, or anyone else associated with Black Sabbath, any ill will whatsoever.

I saved the main point of grievance until last and it is in two parts.

On Friday afternoon, the official Black Sabbath website was heavily amended. The discography was altered so that it only included albums up to 1979, i.e. albums by the original line-up. Also, every image on the site was doctored with Bill Ward’s image completely removed. Airbrushed out of history? Bulldozed out of history more like…

A statement appeared on the Sabbath site on Sunday morning saying: “At the request of Bill Ward, through his attorney, so as to not give the public the wrong impression about his involvement in the current Black Sabbath lineup, we have temporarily removed Bill Ward’s images from the main pages of the official website. In accordance with Bill Ward’s attorney’s request, we are doing so for the duration of the forthcoming shows.”

Was this a backtracking response to the huge fan backlash that the image doctoring received? Surely the band would have been better advised to have anticipated this inevitable reponse and issued that statement up front? Yes, hindsight is a wonderful thing but after all that has occurred in recent months, do they get the benefit of the doubt?

I doubt very much whether Sabbath would have the audacity to issue a statement saying that Bill had made that request when he hadn’t but I have just written to Bill to ask him to clarify. I might not get a response but if I do, I’ll decide what to do with it when and if it arrives.

The second part concerns the discography. Yes, it is fully understandable that with this line-up back in place, the band will want primarily to promote the pre-1979 catalogue. That is the material they will be playing live and that is the material that this current line-up are known for. It makes perfect sense, however to completely remove the post-1979 albums as though they never existed was wrong on so many levels, mainly because it was done in the week of the second anniversary of Ronnie James Dio’s death and the band could not have disrespected him in a harsher way if they had put their collective minds to it.

I don’t want to believe that they did it on purpose because I cannot believe that they would disregard Ronnie like that. Geezer was one of his pall bearers for crying out loud. I would much rather believe that it was an error of judgement or an oversight and I hope that I am right on that.

So prove me right Sabbath and create a post-1979 section on your website so you at least acknowledge Ronnie and give him the respect he deserves. You could do this in less than an hour.

Ronnie James Dio joined Black Sabbath in 1980 because Sharon Osbourne recommended him to Tony Iommi. Please don’t think there is any agenda against Sharon or anyone else here. We truly appreciate and fuly acknowledge the fact that she is wholly responsible for the success Ozzy enjoyed after he left Sabbath and we doff our cap to all she has done to help keep the Black Sabbath name alive.

One of the purposes of this gig review was to draw a line under all the bullshit that has taken place over this last few months and totally move on from this unsavoury situation and just support the band.

But those plans came crashing down on Friday night after the disrespect shown to Ronnie and Bill and we took our train fare and beer/food/merchandise money and donated it all to Help For Heroes and The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund, 50/50 between the two.

And we stayed in London and watched old Black Sabbath concerts on YouTube, mainly ones from 1980 onwards. We searched high and low for a full concert on video with Ronnie and Bill but there doesn’t seem to be one available. The closest we could get is the one below, Black Sabbath at New York in 1980. Vinnie Appice had replaced Bill just before this gig so I’ve also included a performance of ‘Sweet Leaf’ with an extended Bill Ward drum solo for your enjoyment.

But we did find an audio recording of Sabbath with Ronnie and Bill on Wolfgang’s Vault and you can listen to it by clicking here.

And we’ve included some video clips from Saturday night’s gig. There’s plenty on YouTube but a lot of them have really bad sound quality or are cut very short or don’t do the band justice. The ones below are the best we found and are more than well worth a watch.

So that is that then. For us, the story has come to an unsatisfactory conclusion but of course it isn’t fully over yet. It never will be. Black Sabbath will live on long after we have all departed this mortal coil. What a shame that events of the last few months have soured their legacy. It was totally avoidable and it’s unforgiveable really.

But we want to wish Tony, Geezer, Ozzy and Tommy all the very best for the three gigs they will play this year and send massive positive vibes to Tony for what we hope with all our hearts will be a full and complete recovery.

We love Black Sabbath. But the world is full of kings and queens who blind your eyes and steal your dreams…

If you would like to donate to Help For Heroes, you can do so by clicking here and if you would like to donate to The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund, you can do so by clicking here.

Black Sabbath’s set-list on Saturday night was:

‘Into The Void’
‘Under The Sun’
‘War Pigs’
‘Wheels Of Confusion’
‘Electric Funeral’
‘Black Sabbath’
‘The Wizard’
‘Behind The Wall Of Sleep’
‘Fairies Wear Boots’
‘Lord Of This World’
‘Tomorrow’s Dream’
‘Sweet Leaf’
‘Symptom Of The Universe’
‘Drum Solo’
‘Iron Man’
‘Dirty Women’
‘Children Of the Grave’
‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’

Here’s our favourite clips from Saturday night…

Sleeve Notes

Sign up for the MetalTalk Newsletter, an occasional roundup of the best Heavy Metal News, features and pictures curated by our global MetalTalk team.

More in Heavy Metal


Search MetalTalk

MetalTalk Venues

MetalTalk Venues - The Devil's Dog Digbeth
MetalTalk Venues – The Green Rooms Live Music and Rehearsal
The Patriot, Crumlin - The Home Of Rock
Interview: Christian Kimmett, the man responsible for getting the bands in at Bannerman's Bar
Cart & Horses, London. Birthplace Of Iron Maiden
The Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton

New Metal News