Pink Floyd's Roger Waters and Free's Paul Rodgers reviewed Black Sabbath in 1970, and were not at all impressed

Roger Waters, Paul Rodgers, Black Sabbath
(Image credit: Roger Waters - Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns - Paul Rodgers - Mark Sullivan/Getty Images / Black Sabbath - Chris Walter/WireImage)

Once upon a time, in the late '60s and early '70s, British music magazine Melody Maker ran a weekly column titled Blind Date, where guest musicians would be invited to share their opinions on a selection of Tracks of the Week, without being told who had recorded the songs in question. This led to some honest and forthright opinions being shared, as the members of Black Sabbath would discover when two of their early singles were included in the feature.

In the January 10, 1970 issue of the paper, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters offered his thoughts on songs by, among others, his former bandmate Syd Barrett, Canned Heat, The Rascals, New York Rock & Roll Ensemble and Black Sabbath. The Sabbath song in question was their first single, the Birmingham band's cover of Crow's Evil Woman: Waters was far from impressed.

"Well, well, well... I'm speechless - well almost," Waters said. "It's got that kind of Dragnet, Peter Gunn, American detective series beginning. You keep thinking it's going to start. You think that for the first minute but then, if you are really perceptive, you realise it isn't going to start, and that's all there is."

On August 1, 1970, another Sabbath single, Paranoid, was included in the Blind Date column, alongside new releases from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Yes, The Jackson 5, The Supremes and more, with Free frontman Paul Rodgers being asked to run a critical eye over the songs. Again, Sabbath fared badly.

"This is a heavy sound, but I don't know who it is," Rodgers said of Paranoid. "It's very well recorded but I feel like I have heard so many things like this before. The bass and the drummer don't seem very together, and neither does the guitarist really. Maybe they are better on stage. I like things to sound heavy but melodic at the same time, as well as tight together."

In 2017, Sabbath's Tony Iommi spoke to Planet Rock magazine about some of the criticism that his band faced from the music press in their early days, and singled out Roger Waters' critique of the band... but there may possibly have been some confusion here, as Iommi remembers Waters being mean about Paranoid.

"I used to read the slaggings we’d get and I’d just think 'Why?'," said Iommi. "There was one moment that really hurt and that didn’t actually come from the press. It came from Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. He reviewed Paranoid when it came out as a single because he was reviewing the singles that week for a music paper. He gave it such a terrible review. I thought 'Blimey!'  Hearing that from a fellow musician seemed really harsh."

To be fair, Waters was more caustic in some of his others Blind Date reviews. Pink Floyd's leader described the New York Rock & Roll Ensemble's I'm Too Busy as "like something Pete Townshend might have written when he was four." The New York Rock & Roll Ensemble were fronted by one Michael Kamen, who would go on to work with Metallica, Queen, Kate Bush, Rush.... and Pink Floyd, supplying the orchestral arrangement on Is There Anybody Out There? and Comfortably Numb on Roger Waters' masterpiece The Wall.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.