“You could have anyone from Dio to Pavarotti, and it will never be Sabbath. Don’t belittle that band, Tony, move on”: the furious open letter Ozzy Osbourne sent to Tony Iommi telling him to end Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath in 1989 backstage with an inset of Ozzy Osbourne
(Image credit: Niels van Iperen/Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Classic Rock 328 - Front cover featuring Black Sabbath

(Image credit: Future)

The albums Black Sabbath released in the late 80s and early 90s, featuring singer Tony Martin alongside linchpin guitarist Tony Iommi, are finally getting a long-overdue reappraisal via the release of brand new box set Anno Domini 1989-1995, which brings together Headless Cross (1989), Tyr (1991), Cross Purposes (1994) and Forbidden (1995).

The brand new issue of Classic Rock shines a light on this overlooked period of the band’s career, with Iommi and Martin looking back at those turbulent times. In the exclusive new interview, the guitarist admits how tough it was to keep the Sabbath ship afloat in the face of declining album sales and less than successful tours.

“You give in or fight through it, and I wouldn’t give in,” Iommi says. “That’s part of my character, one way or another I always want to carry on.”

Not everyone was so impressed with his decision to hold onto the Black Sabbath name. Tensions had always ran high between original Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne – by this time a hugely successful solo artist – and his former bandmates, but Ozzy’s hackles were well and truly raised by an interview given by then-Sabbath drummer Cozy Powell.

“The other camp would prefer Black Sabbath to finish, so they can get on with their own careers and make a bit [of money] out of it,” Powell told UK magazine RAW in 1990, in reference to Ozzy and his wife/manager Sharon. “But unfortunately for them we’re not about to go away and die that easily.”

The drummer’s comments brought swift rebuke from the Osbourne camp, with Ozzy faxing an extraordinary  open letter to RAW, sarcastically addressed to ‘Mr Black Sabbath And His Three Droogs’, in which he accused Iommi of ‘belittling’ the band, before launching into each member of the current line-up one by one.

Addressing Iommi, he said: “I don’t care what line-up you have, you could have anyone from Dio to Pavarotti and it will never be Sabbath. Don’t belittle that band, Tony, move on.”

To Powell, whose broadside had sparked off this war of words, he said: “Try pushing that drum stick from your asshole so you can think clearly.” Addressing bassist Neil Murray, Ozzy warned: “Get ready for your new gig as Geezer Butler’s bass roadie”. Ozzy claimed to be unable to recall Tony Martin’s name, before concluding: “I would love to say all of this to your faces, pussies, so call me anywhere anytime.”

Speaking to Classic Rock now, Iommi insists he doesn’t remember the letter,. “There was bad blood, but it’s water under the bridge,” says the guitarist. “Ozzy and I have gone through so many things. I played on his last album [2022’s Patient Number 9]. Me and Oz are in touch every week. The [positive] way things turned out [between us] is mad, really.”

You can read the full interview with Iommi and Martin, covering Sabbath’s ‘wilderness period’, exclusively in the brand new issue of Classic Rock. Order it online now and have it delivered straight to your door.

Classic Rock issue 328 - front cover with Black Sabbath

(Image credit: Future)
Classic Rock

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