Black Sabbath released Heaven And Hell on 18 April 1980. Their first with the voice of Ronnie James Dio and the production skills of Martin Birch, the eight Sabbath tracks were the ultimate result of a chance meeting between Tony Iommi and RJD at the Rainbow club in Los Angeles.
Upon its release, it would become Sabbath’s most commercially successful album since the ’70s and, apart from the staunch Ozzy-Sabbath fans, would be seen as one of the greatest Black Sabbath albums. And one of the greatest Heavy Metal albums of all time, too.
Black Sabbath – Heaven And Hell – Anniversary Edition
Release Date: Out Now
Words: Steve Ritchie
History shows that Children Of The Sea was the first song that Iommi and Dio worked on. “Tony had this great riff he played me,” Ronnie James Dio said some years later to Mick Wall, “but nothing to go with it. I said, gimme a minute, went into the corner, and started writing down the words. Then we recorded it. When we played it back, it was obvious to both of us we really had something here.”
But Heaven And Hell was not an album I would discover until April 1982, two years after its release and a month after the passing of Randy Rhoads, as I would find out many months later.
I think everyone remembers their introduction to the family of Heavy Metal. My father tells the story of how, in the ’70s, he took us to guitar lessons where the guitar teacher said, after six lessons, he had nothing else to teach me. I knew some chords but had no direction on how to use them in a way which excited me.
A fortuitous watching of Top Of The Pops in February 1982 saw me enthralled by a video and song by some guys with long hair and fast-moving American Indians in black and white. The following week, armed with a pencil and paper, the same video was on, and I noted down the band name.
An equally fortuitous first visit to Andys Records in Norwich led to the purchase of Iron Maiden’s third album. This was followed by a conversation with a guy at school and the loan of the ’45 single Turn Up The Night c/w Lonely Is The Word. A second visit to Andys to purchase Heaven And Hell followed, and with no regard for taping killing music, a TDK D90 cassette was purchased, and with two albums and one single, I had my first mix-tape.
If NOTB was mind-blowing in that it opened up a totally new world, Heaven And Hell was the first album I could thoroughly consume. Sure, with Children Of The Damned, I could join in with Em G D C, but with Children Of The Sea, I could shape a Dm and play a full intro-riff.
Frustrated by trying to play Geezer’s bass parts on a Spanish acoustic, I worked harder in Key Markets, bought a cheap bass and played it through my stereo, working out his bass riffing with Tony on Lady Evil and his wonderful use of octaves on Wishing Well. Hell, even Wishing Well had some acoustic guitar on it.
Lonely Is The Word was the most unbelievable end to an album. Discovering the single-note octave acoustic part, which proceeds the first solo, was inspiring. Until I realised I could still be playing when Ronnie dropped his last two lines in.
If Vinny’s ride cymbal on Turn Up The Night was a wonderous clue for what to expect on the next album, Bill Ward on Heaven And Hell was a revelation. I loved his hi-hat on Children Of The Sea, and the relationship between when he hit a crash or a ride, was engrossing. I did buy drumsticks, and I did create a bed-based kit in the bedroom. It turned out Ward was fucked up on substance abuse, but to this day, I totally love what he added to the album.
And fucked up Ward, Iommi, and Butler were. Mick Wall, in his Sympton Of The Universe book, talked about how Tony and Geezer had given up and “their over-eager new singer, Ronnie James Dio, who wanted things to be so right there could be no wrong,” was driving things.
Mick Wall had been newly installed London PR of Sabbath. He has stories of Ward and paying a plumber $200 to clean a hotel room where the toilets were blocked with shit and vomit. Black Sabbath was already a ghostship when Ronnie joined. Geezer had depression. Tony had poured lighter fluid on an on-fire Bill in the studio.
Ronnie had little cash left, but he opened more doors for Tony, singing across the riffs. The songs were written, Geezer was coaxed back, and Bill was summoned to the studio. “Neither man liked it, but that was their problem, Tony decided,” Mick says. “This was a new Sabbath, and no one was going to spoil it for him [Tony] and Ronnie.”
Sabbath would release the album and then play four nights in May at the Hammersmith Odeon. On the first night, John Bonham, like Bill, now a heroin addict and full-blown alcoholic, according to Mick Wall, asked to sit behind Bill Ward in the spot where the drum tech would normally sit.
“It was incredible,” Paul Clark, who worked with the band, has said. “It was like a fresh Bill Ward because he had John Bonham sitting where his roadie was.” But, in a sign of how things were then, it all got screwed. “Clark was incensed, though, when he saw how ‘Bonham kept grabbing his legs, fucking him, cos he was all screwed-up seeing Bill play so well,” Wall says.
Warner Bros. in America and Phonogram in London didn’t care about Sabbath. The band’s sales were on a steep decline. But they heard the demos, met Ronnie and realised they had someone they could do business with, “someone who wasn’t going to punch the journalist or fall asleep drunk and urinate over themselves during meetings,” Mick Wall says.
Heaven And Hell was released, was a success, and its place in history is secure despite all the mess that was going on. The 7″ singles were released, with some fascinating live music on the B-sides. That was a 16-mile round trip on the bicycle to Norwich market to source these for me. The live music on this anniversary version is a much-welcome edition.
An audit of my original vinyl copy of Heaven And Hell yesterday shows that three of the eight tracks have needle jumps in them, and two have really loud scratch sounds. A new vinyl version is long overdue.
Kids today can search the internet for guitar chords and scan YouTube for clips. Back in the day, I had to wait until 1985 to see Ronnie ‘move’ when The Bell in Norwich installed a video jukebox and Rock N’ Roll Children was released as a video.
As for the guy who lent me the 7″, Michael Kerry was the inspiration for discovering new Metal bands. He was the first of the group to have a girlfriend, get dumped and have Tommy Vance commiserate on the Friday Rock Show by playing Rainbow’s Since You’ve Been Gone. I wonder what he is doing these days.
Want to win a CD set of Heaven And Hell? Email comp@MetalTalk.net telling us the release date of the album. We will draw the winner on new years eve. UK Only. Sorry.
We ran a recent competition for Mob Rules. The first two names out of the hat had not answered the question. Be aware!