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See Revealing, Lost Black Sabbath Items From UK Auction

Collection includes handwritten lyrics, postcards and photos from between 1968 and 1971 when band defined heavy metal

Black Sabbath Auction Gallery

See a gallery of rare, lost Black Sabbath items from the band's formative years that will be going to auction next month.

Chris Walter/Getty

UPDATE: Sheffield Auction Gallery has withdrawn their upcoming Black Sabbath auction after revealing that Osbourne's family has purchased the entire lot. "The items have been sold by Private Treaty, for an undisclosed sum, to the Osbourne family, ensuring that this important piece of 'hard rock' musical history remains intact," gallery auctioneer Stephen Flintoft said in a statement.

A collection of rare and curious Black Sabbath ephemera from the group's formative years will be going to auction next month. Handwritten lyrics, posters, photos and postcards written by Ozzy Osbourne (signed "John"), make up the majority of the lot, which Sheffield Auction Gallery will sell off beginning September 30th.

The items, which were rescued from a building in London's Docklands before the area was demolished and rebuilt in the Eighties, date back to between 1968 and 1972, the years in which Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward first came together as the Polka Tulk Blues Band, before changing their name to Earth and later Black Sabbath. 

The band released its first three, genre-defining albums – Black Sabbath, Paranoid and Master of Reality – in 1970 and 1971, containing songs the members had written at home in Birmingham, England and while playing abroad at residencies in Zürich and at Hamburg's Star Club, where the Beatles made the "BIG TIME" as Osbourne wrote in a postcard. Some of the items reflect the band's writing process at the time: the lyrics to the Master of Reality cut "Solitude" are attributed to the band name Earth, and those of "The Wizard" show the original song title as "Sign of the Sorcerer."

Sheffield Auction Gallery, which expects to make between US $2,606 and $3,909 for the items, has provided Rolling Stone with photos of items in the lot. The following items provide a closer look at the period in the band members' lives when they were just beginning to define the heavy-metal sound. 

The band launched the last leg of its final North American tour, dubbed "The End," Wednesday night. Black Sabbath will play their last-ever show in Birmingham in February.

Black Sabbath Auction Gallery

Courtesy of Sheffield Auction Gallery

Postcards From Ozzy

The collection features a number of notes Osbourne wrote to his parents while the band was on tour. One, from France, finds him telling his parents that the place they were at was "not a very nice place … I don't think the people like long hair." The other, written from Hamburg, finds the singer telling his parents that everyone in the band was getting along and that he was excited about playing the Star Club where the Beatles made the "BIG TIME."

Black Sabbath Auction Gallery

Courtesy of Sheffield Auction Gallery

More Letters From Ozzy

A second set of postcards cover a cross section of Sabbath's early years. In one, written from Los Angeles in 1970, Osbourne writes that the house they were staying at was hot. In another, undated from Sicily, he says that traveling has been tiring but enjoyable; it's signed by John and then-wife Thelma. Another from the couple in Italy, with the date obscured, reports "tour going well."

Black Sabbath Auction Gallery

Courtesy of Sheffield Auction Gallery

Even More Postcards From Ozzy

Another set of notes to home cover a wide period of time. One, undated from Valais, Switzerland, finds Osbourne again fretting over people's reactions to his long hair, saying that restaurants refused to serve them. Another, written by Thelma in Florida in 1972, reports that the singer is enjoying the rays. And a final, from Switzerland in late November 1969, shortly after the group recorded its self-titled debut. He says he hopes his family heard Black Sabbath on the radio, praises the sights around St. Gall (calling it "quaint") and raves about a "chick" he met named Marianne. He also said he wasn't sure if he'd be home by Christmas, as the band might be recording a TV spot for German TV. About six months later, they would perform four songs (including "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Iron Man") for the German program Musikladen.

Black Sabbath Auction Gallery

Courtesy of Sheffield Auction Gallery

A Note From Ozzy, a Postcard From the Band and a Ticket Stub

A 1971 note from Hawaii begins with "Aloha" and finds Osbourne writing, "I don't think that I have ever seen so many beautiful sights all in one place before." Another from May 1970 appears to be not from Osbourne but someone named Erika saying the family could call the band while they are in London, shortly before the recording of Paranoid. The last, and most curious item on the page is a ticket to the Big Bears Ffolly, a band showcase hosted by then-manager Jim Simpson, in February 1969. It promises "an evening of experience, experiment and blues." Earth is the fourth-billed band. General admission tickets were £10.

Black Sabbath Auction Gallery

Courtesy of Sheffield Auction Gallery

More Notes From Ozzy

A 1971 postcard appears to have imagery related to Black Sabbath's Master of Reality album on the flip side, but the side with writing shows that Osbourne corrected the spelling of "Ozzy" in the description. Writing from California, he wants to know what the family thinks of the postcard and signs it, "Lots of Love, Ozzy, your son." Another, signed "John" in Tampa, Florida in 1970, reports that everybody is suntanned. He says that the band has been selling crosses, ostensibly made by his father, as merch and that they expected to receive "two gold discs at the end of the tour."

Black Sabbath Auction Gallery

Courtesy of Sheffield Auction Gallery

Ozzy, Illustrated

A drawing of the Black Sabbath singer shows his discombobulated head floating among stars, as he shoots lasers from his eyes. Although it is signed, it's unclear who drew it.

Black Sabbath Auction Gallery

Courtesy of Sheffield Auction Gallery

Ozzy Buys Firecrackers

A photo of the Black Sabbath singer shows him purchasing fireworks somewhere in the United States sometime in the early 1970s. "Thunder bombs" were less than $10 then.

Black Sabbath Auction Gallery

Courtesy of Sheffield Auction Gallery

An Early Draft of “Solitude”

The ballad "Solitude" appears on Black Sabbath's third album, 1971's Master of Reality, but a page of lyrics featured in the auction suggests its lyrics were written well before then. The sheet refers to the song as "Changing Phases" and, in addition to writing credits to Osbourne and Butler, it also says "By Earth," the moniker the group used in much of 1968 and 1969. The second verse contains some different, subsequently scratched-out lyrics.

Black Sabbath Auction Gallery

Courtesy of Sheffield Auction Gallery

“The Wizard” Lyrics

An early draft of the words to "The Wizard," a bluesy song on the group's 1970 self-titled debut, shows its original title was "Sign of the Sorcerer," before that was scratched out. The words are written on a log sheet for the recording studio where the band cut the LP. The final verse shows refigured lyrics and the top of the sheet contains a running order for the album's track list. Note that it refers to the second track as "D. Island." At the time, the group had recorded a song called "Devil's Island" for John Peel's Top Gear show; the song would later become "Sleeping Village," the song on the album before "Warning."

Black Sabbath Auction Gallery

Courtesy of Sheffield Auction Gallery

“N.I.B.” Lyrics

The lot also contains lyrics to "N.I.B.," a song on the group's self-titled debut. The lyrics are as they were recorded.

Black Sabbath Auction Gallery

Courtesy of Sheffield Auction Gallery

Ozzy Snorts Coke

The Black Sabbath singer, photographed in the early Seventies, foreshadows a pun in the liner notes of the band's 1972 LP Vol. 4: "We wish to thank the great COKE-Cola Company of Los Angeles."

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