Geezer Butler claims to have invented heavy metal horns, then backtracks

Geezer Butler/Ronnie James Dio
(Image credit: Tibrina Hobson/WireImage/Fin Costello/Redferns)

Who invented ‘the horns’? Was it Ronnie James Dio? Was it Gene Simmons? Was it Ronnie James Dio’s grandmother? Was it Gene Simmons’ grandmother? Was it the guy who made helicopter noises from the Police Academy movies? We truly don't know. And, quite honestly, we don't really care that much.

Still, that doesn't stop the question from arising every few years. This time around, it’s Geezer Butler who is claiming to have invented metal’s most recognisable hand signal. 

In a new interview with Trunk Nation presenter Eddie Trunk, the Black Sabbath bassist says that while his  bandmate Ronnie James Dio popularised the horns, the idea came from Geezer himself and not Dio’s Italian granny, as the late singer claimed.

“I always used to do it in the breakdown in the song Black Sabbath – just before it goes into the fast part at the end, I’d do that sign to the audience. And on the first couple of Heaven and Hell tour shows, Ronnie was saying, ‘When I’m going on stage, everybody is doing the peace sign to me, and that’s an Ozzy thing. I feel like I should be doing something back to them.’ He says, ‘What’s that sign that you do in Black Sabbath?’ And I showed him the devil horns sign. And he started doing it from there and made it famous.”

Asked why he hadn’t mentioned this potentially world-changing factoid before, Geezer explained: “I didn’t really think much of it. As I say, I’ve got pictures of me doing it in 1971. And it was just an alternative to Ozzy’s peace signs, I was doing it. And if you look at the [Beatles’] Yellow Submarine album cover, John Lennon’s cartoon character is doing it, in 1966 or whatever it was. So it’s an old sign. I was just doing it cos [ occultist] Aleister Crowley used to do it.”

And there we have it. Geezer invented the horns. Except he didn’t. Within hours, he took to Twitter to clarify the situation.

“Just to clarify..I did not say I invented the ‘devil horns’ hand sign, I always used it in the song Black Sabbath. I merely shared an onstage moment between Ronnie and me. Ronnie made it famous, and it will always be associated with him, regardless of what anyone else says.

“Also, I do not want people to think that I was dissing Ronnie in any way. He was one of my dearest friends ever, and I will always miss him and our friendship.”

So there’s your answer. The Beatles invented the horns. Maybe.


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