And in an instant, lo, a hole in the sky appeared, and then it hit me like (bang bang) Maxwell's Silver Hammer when "Get Back," the Beatles? 1969 classic song to roller-coast by, cued up on my iPod during one morning's commute. As Paul McCartney's lead vocal embraced the song's galloping melody line, a great revelation emerged: I can sing Black Sabbath?s "Paranoid" to the same tune! Black Sabbath, the dark lords of melody . . . revealed! Now, before you think I've gone off the rails on some crazy train of thought, hear me out: While there's no question that mighty Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi's doom-laden riffage indelibly mapped the blueprint for the heavy-metal genre, the band would have had limited staying power without showing a keen sense of melody. Think about it: You can sing along with Sabbath classics like "War Pigs," "Paranoid," and "Iron Man" as if they're ingrained in your DNA — which in fact they are, 40 years after their initial release. And some of the credit must go to those lovable moptops from Liverpool.
When I asked founding Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne about his Fab Four fixation as we sat face to face high up in a New York City skyscraper this past summer, he copped to it instantly. "I wanted to be in the Beatles," he admitted. "And I always got a great feeling listening to them." While discussing his muscular 2010 solo release, Scream (Epic), Ozzy, 62, was also more than happy to touch upon recording, the joy of gatefolds, and a certain special "wig" of yore.
You have a recording studio in your house that's been dubbed "The Bunker."
Yes. It's exactly like a bunker: You go down to the basement, and it's there, you know? I must confess that if I spent all day and all night down in that studio, it would drive me f---ing nuts. [Co-producer] Kevin Churko was a big, big help for me on this album because he likes being in that environment all day. He'd call me down there when I was needed.
Scream is very much in your face. It hits you right away when you come out of the box with "Let It Die," and you don't let up.
You're right. When I finally stopped with the drugs and alcohol, I thought, "How the f--- am I going to be able to do music now?" I figured I'd get help, and then my ego went, "Me, need extra help? I'll just jump in with the band and play like I did before." Once I was free from getting loaded all the time, I stopped being paranoid about trying something new. So I had to rely on my band and especially on Kevin. And for getting the right new sounds, Kevin is the man.
What I said to my band was, "We're all in this to make the best album." We spent 18 months on it — not 18 months straight, of course. And it wasn't a conscious decision, but I can hear my Sabbath roots coming out in it. Still, after listening to the album, I think, "Now why didn't I put this part there?" But even if you spend a lifetime on it, you'll always find something else you want to do.
It's like writing: You can refine and edit a story until the end of time, but at some point you've got to let your baby go.
Right, right. I'm a good person; I'm not gonna demolish your work if you spent ages on it by saying, "Why the f--- are you putting that there?" You have to know when to let go.
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