Friday, 10 August 2012

A Look At A 1969 Black Sabbath Demo

The Rebel

This piece should prove very intriguing for those interested in Sabbath's backstory. Recorded in the transitional period that went from Earth to Black Sabbath, this does not sound like the dark, heavy blues that would become the starting point of metal. This track sounds very unlike the Sabbath we have come to know. It feels upbeat, even happy. While the lead guitar work is foreshadowing for what would come, this song has little to do with the doom and gloom Sabbath became famous for. 

Regarding the band's 1969 demos, Iommi had this to say: "We didn't write those songs. They were written by a chap named Norman Haines. At the time we were managed by Jim Simpson, who was a local Birmingham guy. He insisted that we record these songs. We just wanted to play, so we recorded them. We wanted to write our own songs and make our own record, but this was just an initial effort. We had never been in a recording studio in our lives before that." 

The most surprising element of this recording is Ozzy's voice. The unearthly wails he is known for are nowhere to be seen. The vocals here are pretty much a standard British classic rock affair. They certainly don't sound gloomy; they are not a far cry away from sounding happy, something that the backing vocals only make more blatant. Musically, this also standard classic rock. The somewhat cheesy piano intro makes it know that this will not be a particularly dark song. Besides the bluesy solos, the instrumentation is quite minimal, with the main focus being on the catchy vocals. 

Norman Haines, who also played with a band called Locomotive, not only wrote the song, but also performed on it. On the song, he plays organ and piano. A very interesting fact about this track is that it was produced by Gus Dudgeon, who is best known for producing many David Bowie tracks. While this is an early demo, the production doesn't let you know that. While not overproduced, it sounds like a quite reasonably produced classic rock song. 

The only foreshadowing of what's to come is found in Iommi's soloing. Much darker than the rest of this song, his solos are not much different than the style he would use on the band's first wave of albums. They are bluesy, imaginative and undeniably catchy, easily becoming the best thing about the song. The rest of the song is catchy classic rock, but Tony's lead guitar mastery really steals the spotlight. 

Anyone interested in the history of metal's founding band should give this a listen. While this is certainly not one of the most important Sabbath recordings, it is fascinating to see where the band evolved from. While this is much more poppy than you would expect from them, it is catchy in a very good sort of way. An essential song this is not, but it is good for what it is. 

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