Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler Talk ‘Bittersweet’ Finale
“We just couldn’t possibly spend three years in the studio and then do a final tour,” he says. Then he adds dryly, “We’ll probably all be dead by then.”
Instead of starting from scratch with a new LP, the group looked backwards. “After the 13 album, we still had four tracks left over,” Butler says. So they’ve taken those tunes — “Season of the Dead,” “Cry All Night,” “Take Me Home” and “Isolated Man” — and put them on a limited-edition CD, The End, which they’re selling on tour. They’re rounding out the set with live versions of three 13 tunes and Vol. 4‘s “Under the Sun,” which they recorded in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
By Osbourne’s estimation, the fans aren’t interested in new music. “One of the things we learned on our last tour is that the people want to hear the classics,” he says. “We did a bunch of songs off that new album, but people want to hear ‘Iron Man,’ ‘War Pigs,’ ‘Children of the Grave’ and the rest of them. We’ll do maybe one or two off the 13 album this time.”
Does Butler ever tire of playing “Paranoid” and the other big hits? “No, because the reaction of the crowd puts new life into it,” he says. “It’s so hard doing them at rehearsal — you just go through the motions because you’ve played them so many times — but when you get onstage, you get that reaction from the crowd and realize what great songs they are and get into them.”
A teaser video for the tour offers a glimpse of some of the fan favorites they’ve been rehearsing: “Black Sabbath,” “Fairies Wear Boots,” “Into the Void,” “Snowblind,” “N.I.B.,” “Behind the Wall of Sleep.” Butler says they’ve also added “three old numbers that we haven’t done in God knows how long,” including “Hand of Doom,” a number on 1970’s Paranoid about a heroin-addicted Vietnam soldier, and “After Forever,” a seemingly antireligious cut off 1971’s Master of Reality that, Butler says, was actually commentary on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Butler has spaced on the third old number they’re bringing back.
When Osbourne thinks about the vintage of the songs he’s playing, he marvels at the interest level of the multigenerational audience. “To be honest with you, if my father had said to me when I was a kid, ‘Come and see this guy, he’s really a great singer,’ just the fact that my father liked it, I would have gone, ‘Fuck this.'” He laughs. “But at the gigs, we have fathers, sons, grandchildren and fucking everybody. I’m just amazed at the longevity of that early music.”
The one piece of classic Sabbath history that won’t be a part of “The End,” though, is the group’s original drummer, Bill Ward. The band fell out with Ward shortly after the 2011 announcement that they’d reunited when he claimed that they had not offered him a “signable contract.” They recorded 13 with Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk and toured with Tommy Clufetos, who sits behind the kit at Osbourne’s solo shows.