Black Sabbath’s keyboard player and back-up guitarist on their final world tour is Adam Wakeman, the son of legendary prog organ wizard Rick, who himself guest-starred on a few Sabbath tunes in 1973.
“With my dad playing on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath it’s quite interesting,” enthuses Adam. “I wrote six songs with Ozzy on his last solo album, and while I was in Ozzy’s studio he brought in this old ARP 2600 synth and said the last time anyone used it was my dad on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath! So that was cool. We spent half a day trying to get the thing to work!”
Were there any Sabbath songs that Adam wanted to play live that didn’t make the set? “I would love to do something like Spiral Architect, something my dad played on,” he admits. “In fact I might start playing it in soundcheck one day, because Tony always plays whatever for fun, and maybe he might join in!”
In sharing his favourite songs from the final Sabbath set, it soon becomes clear that Adam is relishing the very special and rarefied position that he is in, as part of The End of Black Sabbath, and what impresses him more than anything are the most human moments.
“It’s really nice to see, it’s like seeing my dad when he’s with the guys he’s been with for such a long time; there’s such a lot of history, and it’s so nice to be there when they’re all together laughing, it’s great. I do feel very privileged to be a part of this, especially with it being The End. I’ve got an eleven-year-old daughter and when I last came off tour I gave her a retro 1976 Black Sabbath t-shirt. When I see her wearing it I think that’s so cool; we’re passing it on now to the next generation.”
INTO THE VOID (Master Of Reality, 1971)
Adam: ”That’s my ultimate favourite song to play on guitar. For me it’s a collection of the finest heavy metal riffs of all time. I play more guitar with Sabbath now, which is great for me, it’s kind of the ultimate bedroom guitar-playing schoolboy’s dream, you know! I only play keyboards on about three songs, the rest is all rhythm guitar. And it’s not like it’s any help! It’s purely so that there’s a rhythm guitar when Tony’s soloing, because that’s what they did on the records, it makes it more authentic.“
PARANOID (Paranoid, 1970)
“I remember playing Paranoid and Iron Man in a school band in Devon when I was fifteen years old. That was in the days when bands only had a keyboard player because they needed one to play Jump by Van Halen! That was the golden key – you had to be in the band because they couldn’t play Jump without you! Any other songs you just had to fit the keyboards around what everyone else was doing, and I remember doing something to Paranoid!”
IRON MAN (Paranoid, 1970)
“Devon was quite a funny place to live as a teenager because it was at least ten years behind everyone else, so while the rest of the country was listening to the Top Ten, down in Devon me and my friends were listening to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, so I was stuck in this time-warp! It was a great period for me, living down there with all that music that maybe I wouldn’t have listened to so much if I’d been living in London or something. Back then I wouldn’t have dreamt in a million years that one day I’d be playing these songs alongside these legends!“
UNDER THE SUN (Vol. 4, 1972)
“That’s a nice heavy tune, it’s always great to play. Again, I play guitar on that one. When I first started with Sabbath I only played one song on guitar, then Tony saw me playing Sabbath songs on guitar at a show with Ozzy and suggested I should play guitar on all the songs that don’t have keyboards! That hadn’t occurred to me, but it does make sense. And I’m offstage anyway so it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I could be playing spoons! It’s more about what makes it sound better, that’s what’s important.”
DIRTY WOMEN (Technical Ecstasy, 1976)
“That’s one I play organ on, that’s quite a cool tune to play. There’s generally a staple setlist that Tony, Ozzy and Geezer work out, but if they want to change anything they will do – and that’s generally followed by a lot of people running around trying to tell everybody what’s going on! They’re very much in control of what they do, and always have been.”
AFTER FOREVER (Master Of Reality, 1971)
“This one’s cool because it involves quite a few bits of kit. I play keyboard and guitar on that one, so there’s a nice mix of both. We’ve played it a few times on this tour. When you’re touring on this level it has to be relatively well-planned, because there’s such an enormous light show and pyro, the biggest I’ve seen on any Ozzy or Sabbath tour, it’s absolutely incredible. They spend weeks and weeks programming them to the songs, so if you start changing them around too much it starts to affect a lot of things.”
SNOWBLIND (Vol. 4, 1972)
“Snowblind’s great, because it’s got that lovely string line towards the end, and when it goes into the guitar solo, that’s always a nice little build – I like that.”
GOD IS DEAD? (13, 2013)
“I like playing that because it’s a little bit more up-tempo towards the end. It’s quite long and there’s a lot of different parts to it.”
HAND OF DOOM (Paranoid, 1970)
“We’ve started playing that a few times, it’s nice to hear Geezer digging in on the bass. Because it starts off quite quiet, and it’s got those down sections with the bass line and verses, I think it probably got overlooked because it wasn’t all full-on, and they’ve got so many full-on songs with that sort of drive. I don’t think I’d ever played it before this tour, it’s obviously been a while since they did it live.”
BLACK SABBATH (Black Sabbath, 1970)
“That’s another one that gets me every time, just because it’s so dark and it’s so powerful. We’ve opened the show a couple of times with it, and it really does what it says on the tin, that song. It’s a bit of a classic setlist this, it’s got all the best tunes!”
Listen to the songs on our Spotify playlist: The 10 best Black Sabbath songs from their final tour, by Adam Wakeman.
Black Sabbath headline Download Festival’s Lemmy Stage at Donington on Saturday, June 11. For more info, visit the Download site.