"He reckoned we could conjure a demon. We tried it every night on stage, but it never worked": the story of Black Widow, rock's original pretend Satanists

Black Widow onstage on German TV show Beat Club
(Image credit: Beat Club)

Black Sabbath may have found themselves pegged as a ‘satanic’ band in their early days, but they had nothing on another band with a similar name who also emerged in 1969: Black Widow. 

Formed in Leicester, Black Widow became notorious for their stage show, in which they ‘sacrificed’ a naked girl, and also for their association with Alex and Maxine Sanders – the so-called ‘King And Queen Of The Witches’. Their debut LP Sacrifice, which included the spooky Come To The Sabbat, remains a landmark meeting of black magic and heavy rock. 

“We were the first band to get into black magic and base a show on it,” said Clive Beer-Jones, the group’s flute and saxophone player.

It started innocuously enough. The band began life as Pesky Gee!, in 1966, covering soul hits in pubs and clubs. By the time they released their sole album as Pesky Gee!, Exclamation Mark, in ’69, they’d moved away from soul covers to psychedelic rock. But when that record sank without traced they realised that an even more drastic rethink was in order to stand out from the other heavy rock bands who’d begun to dominate the music scene. 

“We found we were trapped with all the other bands who were also going a bit heavy,” said Beer-Jones. “So our drummer, Clive Box, came up with the idea that we should go down the black magic route. And we all had an interest in it.” 

By September 1969 they’d changed their name to Black Widow, and soon after met Alex and Maxine Sanders, who would help steer the band’s philosophical direction on stage and off. 

“Alex made sure we used the right words and demon names, and directed us on stage with the magic circle,” said Beer-Jones. “He always used to reckon we could conjure a demon. We tried it every night on stage, but it never worked.” 

With vocalist Kip Trevor pretending to ritually sacrifice a naked girl with a knife during live shows, the band’s notoriety grew. It reached a peak when they played London’s Lyceum Ballroom, which also hosted the Miss World contest. On hearing about Black Widow’s antics, furious Miss World organiser Eric Morley told the band that the sacrificed girl had to be fully clothed. 

“Strangely enough, she ended up naked,” said Beer-Jones. “There were reporters and photographers there, and we ended up in the News Of The World. That was the start of the ‘Don’t let your kids see this band!’ thing.” 

The band’s debut album, the prog-influenced Sacrifice, was released in March 1970, a month after Black Sabbath’s own debut, and caused a minor stir – not least among confused record buyers. “A lot of people asked for the album by ‘the black magic band’ and were sold the Sabbath album.” 

The appeal of the occult soon wore off for some members, and they ditched the black magic trappings for their next two albums. The band split in 1973, but Beer-Jones continued to fly the Black Widow flag until his death in 2014, overseeing the release of three more albums, kicking off with IV in 1997, followed by Return To The Sabbat (1998) and Sleeping With Demons (2011). Their first three albums were rereleased in 2014, including a deluxe, three-disc version of Sacrifice.

Ian Ravendale

Ian Ravendale began working for BBC's Radio Newcastle's Bedrock show in the 1970s and soon after started writing for local and national music magazines. He's written for Sounds, Classic Rock, AOR, Record Collector, The Word, American Songwriter, Classic Pop, Vive Le Rock, Iron Fist, The Beat, Vintage Rock and Fireworks, and worked with Tyne Tees Television and Border TV.