One of the most bizarre chapters of Black Sabbath’s long and often bizarre career came in January 2015, when Geezer Butler was arrested and thrown in jail following a bar brawl in California.
Aside from a tweet shortly after he was released that described the incident as “unfortunate”, the bassist has remained tight-lipped on what exactly happened that night. Until now…
“My sister-in-law had just died, and I’d gone to Death Valley in California just to get away from it all,” Geezer tells Classic Rock. “Not just that, everything – Christmas, New Year’s, everything like that. I went down to the gift shop in the hotel, and there was this nice Western bar there. I thought, ‘I may as well have one before I go to bed.’ It was the strongest beer I’ve ever had in my life.
“The next thing I know, this guy started mouthing off about something. He was, like, some drunken Nazi bloke. He recognised me, and because I was in the music business, he started going on about Jews and everything – Jews this, Jews that. My missus is Jewish and I’d just had enough, and me hand sort of met his chin. I whacked him one.”
Unsurprisingly, the bar’s owners didn’t take too kindly to a bar brawl on their premises, even one involving a 67-year-old heavy metal legend, and the cops were swiftly called.
“I was absolutely legless at the time,” says Geezer. “I don’t know what happened, but one minute I was in this bar, and the next thing I was being arrested. I woke up jail. That was bad enough, but waking up with a hangover was horrible. I was totally ashamed. I should have just walked away. But when you get pissed out of your brains, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Ironically, it was “Dry January” back in the UK – a period where many Brits choose to give up booze for a whole month following the excesses of Christmas.
“Because it was Dry January, I wasn’t even going to drink,” says Geezer. “And it was something like January 28, so it was so close. But I haven’t touched booze since.”