Ozzy Osbourne had been out of Black Sabbath for just five years by the time that Live Aid came around in the summer of 1985, but quite a lot happened in that time. Ozzy established himself as a solo superstar with the 1980’s Blizzard of Ozz and even managed to endure after the tragic death of guitarist Randy Rhoads two years later. The rest of Black Sabbath carried on for two incredible albums with Ronnie James Dio at the helm, but struggled so mightily when Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan took over that their disastrous tour was a key inspiration for This Is Spinal Tap.
Sabbath were essentially nonexistent when they got the call to join Led Zeppelin, the Who and CSNY and reunite for Live Aid. “We probably thought that it might be the first step towards getting back together again,” Tony Iommi wrote in his 2011 memoir, Iron Man. “We got to the rehearsal space and were supposed to rehearse three songs. Instead of doing that we ended up talking about old times … We went back to the bar afterwards, had a great time together and got solidly sloshed.”
The band took the stage at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium at 9:52 a.m., right after Billy Ocean and directly before Run DMC. “I had a dreadful hangover,” said Iommi. “So I put my dark glasses on and we played ‘Children of the Grave,’ ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Paranoid’ in the bright sunlight. It was a great thing to do and we certainly we aware of the importance of the occasion, but it was over very quickly.”
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It would be another seven years before the original lineup played together again, and 12 years before they actually went on tour. They’re hitting the road (minus Bill Ward) for a supposed final tour next year, but consider the fact that they closed out Ozzy’s “farewell” concert in 1992 and seven years later did their own “Last Supper” tour. Things might be different this time considering Iommi’s recent battle with cancer and the simple fact they’re all pushing 70, but let’s hope they have many more farewell tours to come.