Two very different stories this week provided us a classic good news/bad news scenario. The good news is that more and more people are getting into rock music on its original format. Monday saw the launch of the UK’s first ever devoted vinyl chart – inaugural chart-toppers being ironically-named pop-punkers All Time Low – ahead of Saturday’s Record Store Day, which has grown into an eagerly anticipated, high-profile event. When Dave Grohl was announced as RSD ambassador in February, he spoke movingly of the importance record stores had on his life, and encouraged people to “take an afternoon (and some hard-earned lawn-mowing money) and please support them.”
Vinyl sales are continuing to rise, with 1.29 million records sold last year – a 20-year high – according to figures released by market research agency ICM Unlimited. Furthermore, the first quarter of 2015 saw a particularly pleasing 69% increase in people shelling out for a good old-fashioned long-player. ICM boss boss Martin Talbot adds: “Vinyl junkies could well have snapped up two million units by the end of this year – an extraordinary number, if you consider sales were one-tenth of that just six years ago.” According to the survey, rock music accounts for 41% of the overall vinyl market, with 34% of buyers saying they don’t actually play the records they purchase; as All Time Low frontman Alex Garth explains, ATL fans “buy a vinyl of our record so they can hang it on their wall.” Whatever you do with your records, it’s heartening to see increasing awareness and investment in the trusty circle of wax, especially after the downturn in sales and fears for the future of physical formats during the file-sharing fad of the last decade.
And so to the bad news. This week a friendship that dates back to the Aston bomb-sites of the 1960s publicly dissolved in bitterness and confusion. The bond between Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne and original drummer Bill Ward has endured nearly 50 years of triumph and tragedy, sackings and addictions, miscommunication and madness, estrangement and reconciliation. But that bond is apparently now severed after a venomous exchange of words online. On Wednesday, Bill released a statement declaring that “I will not participate in any musical undertakings until a righting of the wrongs spoken against me has been achieved,” referring to allegations made by Ozzy that Bill wasn’t fit enough to take part in the band’s 2012 reunion. Ward says “the often inaccurate statements about me as a person and as a musician have caused me to be guarded and be especially detached emotionally and spiritually from Ozzy” and “I’ve listened to nothing but insults and false remarks.”
Ozzy replied on Facebook: “Wow, Bill, what the fuck are you on about? …Physically, you knew you were fucked. Tony, Geezer and myself didn’t think you could have done a two hour set with a drum solo every night, so we made the decision to move on. With Tony’s condition we felt that time was not on our side.” Ozzy goes on to point out that Bill was hospitalised several times during 2013, and that he has just recovered from shoulder surgery: “This would have meant that our world tour would have been cancelled. So how is all of this my fault? …Stop playing the victim and be honest with yourself and our fans.” Bill responded, again on Facebook, with an enormous post addressing Ozzy’s points and asking “Why, if you thought I was so unhealthy, did you continue with me at all? You know why, Oz – because I was fine. I was good to go,” insisting that his shoulder surgery was “optional,” conceding that “I came into the studio initially overweight to tour, but not overweight to record” and concluding “It’s hard to love someone who thinks he’s telling the truth by making false claims, elitist comments and just plain rude statements.”
As Black Sabbath approach their late 60s and the end of a momentous career, it is deeply saddening and embarrassing to see them reduced to ignominious bickering via social media, especially after the too-much-fucking-perspective of Tony Iommi’s recent cancer battle. We hope these harsh words aren’t the last that the two old mates ever convey to each other, but maybe this dispiriting rancour is the most fitting way to sign off for metal’s original merchants of doom and gloom.