Black Sabbath is one of the most highly regarded metal bands in the world. The band is one of the pioneers of heavy metal music and has inspired many musicians all over the world. They emerged all the way back in the late 1960s and were dominant due to their counterculture.
The original line-up consisted of Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward. Their debut album was also called ‘Black Sabbath’ and was released in 1970 and was one of the best debut albums of all time. The Hippie culture which emerged in the mid-1960s was one reason, the band was successful.
They have inspired a lot of artists to come out on the musical scene. But they themselves were inspired by many bands back in the day. Black Sabbath wouldn’t have been what they are today if it were not for their influences. Sabbath themselves is a pioneer when it comes to heavy sound but they also took help from their influences over the years.
Bands That Influenced Black Sabbath
Cream was a big part of the Black Sabbath’s earlier days. Back when Black Sabbath was known as Earth, they used to cover Cream songs and played in bars and pubs. Sadly, they couldn’t collaborate, as Cream disbanded before Black Sabbath even released their first album.
The band was composed of Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce. Following their footsteps, Black Sabbath first started out as a bluesy band. One of the main focuses goes on Geezer Butler, who is the bassist of Black Sabbath. He first started out as a guitarist but decided to pursue his career in bass after seeing Jack Bruce play the instrument. He elaborated his story saying,
“I used to play rhythm guitar and rhythm guitar was going out of style back then. I went to see Cream at the local club. I was mesmerized watching Jack Bruce, ’cause I’d heard of Eric Clapton but I’d never heard of Jack Bruce.”
Even Black Sabbath’s drummer Bill Ward was inspired by Baker with the lyrics. He said, “He changed everything around, and what I was holding onto. Pushed me away and almost demanded I start all over and listen closer this time.”
Both the bands, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were formed in the same year. It was back in 1968. But, according to Ozzy, they were still inspired a lot by their debut album which was released in 1969, which was a year before Black Sabbath’s.
They were also friends before they came to fame. While talking with Launch Radio Networks back in 2007 he also revealed how he was asked to join a band called ‘The New Yardbirds’. Geezer Butler already knew Rober Plant before they had fame in their hands. “The first two albums had such an impact on my voice and on my life. Similar to The Beatles when I first heard them. We knew Planty and Bonham. Bonham was the best man at my first wedding. I used to knock about with him a lot. We used to play the same gigs.”
In 1995 Ozzy confessed in an interview for the documentary, History of Rock and Roll, “I remember listening to the first Zeppelin album. It was like such a great breath of fresh air for somebody doing something acceptable but yet so different.”
John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers
Another big influencer of the Black Sabbath was the British blues pioneers John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. The band had a history of having some of the best guitarists. Many famous guitarists like Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor from the Rolling Stones, and Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac played in the band. That’s the reason, the guitarist of Black Sabbath Tony Iommi listed this band as one of his biggest influences.
While talking with Guitarist Magazine, he revealed he preferred Clapton playing with Mayall. He said, “I liked Clapton. I liked John Mayall. That line-up was really appealing. When he went with Cream I wasn’t so enthusiastic. But then I got used to Cream. I loved his style and his sound.”
Tony was also interviewed in 2018 and while talking with The Herald, he was questioned if there were any guitarists who he tried to imitate. He answered, “There was Zeppelin and Cream. I liked (Eric) Clapton. We done a few gigs in the early days with John Mayall, who I really liked. I liked blues played on a more modern sounding guitar, which was Clapton of course. That was sort of the way we went, only coming up with more doomy stuff.”
No doubt about it, Black Sabbath was influenced by darker and heavier tones like ‘Helter Skelter’. It is also said that the song gave rise to heavier sounds in the rock and roll genre. During an interview with Blabbermouth, Ozzy Osbourne once said, When he heard the Beatles, he knew what he wanted to pursue. That was like yesterday for him when he had a transistor radio and ‘She Loves You’ came on.
Again while talking with Daily Express, He disclosed, “I loved The Beatles, still do. They changed the world. Lennon’s lyrics were so different to anything that had come before. Unlike previous bands and singers in Britain, they didn’t try to sound American. Their sound was totally British. Theirs was the first music I could truly relate to.”
About Jethro Tull, Iommi explained, “At first, I thought Tull were great, but I didn’t much go for having a leader in the band, which was Ian Anderson’s way. I learned that you have got to work at it. You have to rehearse. When I came back, and I got [Earth] back together, I made sure everybody was up early in the morning and rehearsing. […] I said to them, ‘This is how we have got to do it because this is how Jethro Tull did it.'”
Jethro had a big influence on Iommi himself. He had even joined the band and appeared alongside The Rolling Stone and Roll Circus concert. He revealed the most he learned from them was their work ethic.