The Brutal Story of ‘Never Say Die!’: The Album That Killed Black Sabbath

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The story of Black Sabbath is not only a chronicle of the birth of heavy metal but a narrative of persistence and a collective struggle against numerous obstacles until the last drop of strength was expended.

However, the original lineup of the band was fated to be defeated in this battle. The ultimate blow to the original Sabbath came with the 1978 album “Never Say Die!”, leaving behind a contentious legacy while also standing as a testament to the band’s grit. Here’s the story of that album.

A Sign of What Was to Come

Following the success of 1975’s “Sabotage”, the Birmingham quartet quickly began work on its successor, “Technical Ecstasy”, in 1976.

Although the album was crafted and released rapidly, the effort took a toll on the band, widening existing fractures.

After the “Technical Ecstasy” tour, the band’s notorious drug and alcohol addiction worsened, and the relationships within the group deteriorated further.

Ozzy’s Brief Exit

Late in 1977, during the creation of a new album, Ozzy left abruptly to pursue a solo career. To save the project, Tony Iommi brought in Dave Walker of Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown.

Ozzy soon changed his mind, but the shift in lineup led to problems, including Ozzy’s refusal to perform anything written with Walker.

The process became chaotic, with the group writing and recording on a rushed schedule. Iommi later reflected on the difficulty of this conveyor belt-like process, particularly when Ozzy’s return to the band led to the need for rapid changes to the material.

After a three-month break due to a personal loss for Ozzy, the band was pressured by the label to continue working.

Recording in Toronto

The band chose Toronto for tax benefits, but the studio they selected proved to be suboptimal, resulting in sound issues.

The cold winter and lack of proper rehearsing space made the situation even more challenging. Additionally, friction between Geezer Butler and Ozzy over lyrics added to the hurdles they faced, culminating in the release of “Never Say Die” in September 1978.

The Last Chapter

The album received mixed reviews but had some chart success. Despite criticism for its lack of focus, the band was commended for trying new musical elements, even incorporating jazz influences.

Ozzy’s disapproval of some tracks was evident, as reflected in his autobiography. While the album eventually found admirers among musicians like Dave Mustaine and Kim Thayil, Ozzy’s views remained harsh. After his successful solo debut with “Blizzard of Ozz” in 1980, he referred to “Never Say Die!” as “disgusting.”

The End of an Era

The promotional tour for the album was overshadowed by the supporting act Van Halen, and after a year marked by excessive substance abuse, the original Black Sabbath disbanded.

Iommi’s decision to move forward without Ozzy saved Sabbath from ruin, leading to a new chapter with Ronnie James Dio. Yet “Never Say Die!” marked the end of the original band, an irony not lost on its members. Geezer’s sarcastic reaction to the idea of another ten years together, as told to Guitar World, encapsulates the sentiment: “Yeah, sure!”

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