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"We played like punks. All our anger was coming out": Black Sabbath and the messy birth of Heavy Metal

Black Sabbath on stage
(Image credit: Jorgen Angel/Redferns)

In the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, Black Sabbath drum legend Bill Ward offers his unique insider perspectives of the rise and fall of the godfathers of heavy metal and suggests that the frustrations, fire and fury which would help fuel the emergence of punk rock in England in the second half of the 1970s had also served as a catalyst for the birth of Sabbath in Aston, Birmingham more than a decade earlier.

“We played like punks on stage," Ward recalls."The band was just fucking crazy. There was this force, all this resentment and anger that was coming out. It came from what we thought was bullshit at the time: politics and war, and upbringing and people’s ways of life."

As Ward tells Classic Rock writer Dave Everley, from the moment he heard Ozzy Osbourne sing, he knew that his new band had potential. But the drummer says he knew this group – originally The Polka Tulk Blues Band, then Earth, then Black Sabbath, after a Boris Karloff B-movie that bassist Geezer Butler’s brother had seen – were on to something genuinely special the very first time they played the song they’d named after their band.

“I came away knowing that we were different and that everybody would probably hate us,” he says. “And I was right. But at twenty-one I was unstoppable. I was in Black Sabbath, what did you expect?”

“It was us against the world,” he continues. "The camaraderie was amazing. We were always fucking around and cracking jokes at each other’s expenses, but we respected each other’s abilities and the friendships we had. We were all from the same place, same background; we had a common language.”

For the full interview with Bill Ward, and much, much more, pick up the new issue of Classic Rock, coming soon. 

Paul Brannigan
Paul Brannigan

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. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.