“Being in Sabbath was a complete drama,” vocalist Tony Martin said in 2014 of his time in the iconic metal band Black Sabbath. “I never really had the chance to settle into it because I was constantly learning the ropes or reading between the lines.”
Though Martin appeared on more studio albums than any other Sabbath singer besides Ozzy Osbourne, his tenure in the band — two separate stints from 1987 to 1991 and 1993 to 1997 — remains strangely low-profile, vastly overshadowed by Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio’s celebrated eras.
Martin’s fourth album with the band, Cross Purposes, came out 25 years ago, and to mark the date, we’re taking a look back at the band’s tour behind that LP. In addition to a few songs from the then-new record, plus a few from the first Dio era, the set list for the Cross Purposes dates included a couple older Sabbath songs that hadn’t been played live since the early Seventies. Here, in footage from an April ’94 London show, you can watch Martin sing one of those: “The Wizard,” a classic track from the band’s 1970 self-titled debut. Along with Martin and guitarist Tony Iommi — the band’s only consistent member during its roughly five-decade history — the lineup features bassist and co-founder Geezer Butler, longtime on-and-off keyboardist Geoff Nichols and drummer Bobby Rondinelli, who had worked with both Rainbow and Quiet Riot before Sabbath.
In other clips, you can hear that the Ozzy-era material wasn’t always the best fit for Martin’s lower, grittier voice, but “The Wizard” seems to suit him perfectly. His delivers a gutsy, thoroughly convincing version of the song, and handles the signature harmonica riff with ease.
In his 2011 memoir Iron Man, Iommi explained the origins of the song, which stayed in the set list through the era of Martin’s final Sabbath album, 1995’s Forbidden, and resurfaced in 2001, once Ozzy was back in the band.
“Back then we did a lot of dope,” Iommi writes. “One night we were at this club, in the middle of nowhere. Ozzy and Geezer saw somebody leaping around outside, being silly. To them it was like an elf or something. I fear it must have been the drugs, but that’s where I think ‘The Wizard’ came from …”
Sabbath last performed the song in 2012. As for Martin, he parted ways with the band in 1997, when Ozzy rejoined. “The phone stopped ringing 16 years ago and they haven’t spoken to me since,” he said in 2014. “I saw Iommi very briefly for a few hours in Russia a few years ago and he was very complimentary about me but after that I heard nothing.”
As for Iommi, surprisingly, he announced late last year that he’s turning his attention to a remix of Forbidden, an album that, along with Martin’s final officially released Sabbath performances, included a polarizing cameo from Ice T. Presumably that was one of the topics of discussion when the singer and guitarist met earlier this week, as reported on Tony Martin’s Facebook page.