Watch history in the making: In 1998, the original lineup of Black Sabbath appeared on TV together for the first time in more than 20 years

Black Sabbath in New York, 1998
Black Sabbath in New York, 1998 (Image credit: Steve Granitz)

On October 30, 1998, Black Sabbath fans watching TV in the US bore witness to something no Black Sabbath fan had seen in two decades: the original lineup, playing on television. Twenty years previously, the band had mimed to Never Say Die on UK music show Top Of The Pops, but five months later Ozzy Osbourne was fired and on his own.

The seeds of the band's eventual reunion were sown in 1992, when Ozzy played the final show on his No More Tours farewell tour and reunited Black Sabbath for one last performance together. It would not be their final show, of course, nor his final tour. 

Five years later, Ozzy worked a double shift as he rejoined Sabbath – minus Bill Ward – as both acts played 21 dates across the US on the Ozzfest tour. With Faith No More's Mike Bordin behind the kit – apart from one rescheduled show, which saw Godsmack's Shannon Larkin on duty – the lineup was never going to truly satisfy the Sabbath zealot, but just before Christmas 1997 it finally happened: Black Sabbath played two reunion shows at the Birmingham NEC, with Ward back in the seat (a second drummer, Vinny Appice, waited in the wings in case Ward – who'd had a heart attack during a rehearsal in May – fell ill).

A year later, the Reunion album – recorded at the Birmingham shows – came out, and Sabbath flew to New York to play the classic Paranoid on Late Show with David Letterman to promote it. 

"Among bass fishermen, our next guests are considered the preeminent heavy metal band," said the host, by way of introduction. "Their new live CD is called Reunion. Please welcome the four original members of Black Sabbath." 

Almost two decades of occasional, on-off-on-off activity from Ozzy and Sabbath would follow – most of it without Ward – before the band finally called it quits in 2017.   

The triple vinyl version of Black Sabbath's Reunion album is out now. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.