Night Flight’s 1986 Black Sabbath video profile featured interviews with Ozzy & Tony Iommi

By on July 14, 2017

“They were the most successful and controversial metal band of the mid-’70s,” announcer Pat Prescott proclaims in Night Flight’s exclusive video profile of Black Sabbath, which aired on April 29, 1986. “Hated by critics, adored by their fans, Black Sabbath mixed a taste for the occult with bone-crushing volume, making them models for all metal bands to come.”

This special episode, nearly an hour long, features our iconic interviews with the stoner rock/doom metal band’s already-former lead singer Ozzy Osbourne and longtime guitarist Tony Iommi, and covers over a decade of the band’s output and individual members’ solo careers.

Watch it now in its entirety on Night Flight Plus (plus, we’ll tell you how to subscribe a little further down, in the middle of this post).

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Ozzy — who appeared in our Night Flight studios in New York about a year before he could be seen playing a fundamentalist preacher in the 1987 movie Trick Or Treat — describes how he at least partly earned his reputation as “the original madman of metal” in the interview (which, frankly, could have used English-language subtitles) saying:

“When I was doing the Diary of a Madman tour, okay, somebody threw a bat onstage, and it was an accident, I thought it was a rubber bat, and I bit into it, but from that incident the press really went crazy. ‘Ozzy’s sawing dogs in half and blowing goats…’ somethin’, and doing, all of these people, I mean, where?, and that didn’t happen, y’know?! But I’d get to the next town and say, ‘OK, what did I do yesterday?’ and the guy says, ‘Well, you’re supposed to have sawed a Doberman’s legs off,’ and I said ‘Oh, just let me know, so I can be ready for what they’re going to hit me with.”

That episode Ozzy refers to above, with what he thought was a fake bat, had happened four years prior to his interview, at a 1982 concert in Des Moines, Iowa. Ozzy ended up having a series of rabies shots after biting the head off a real bat that an audience member threw on stage.

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The incident had actually resulted from the fact that Ozzy began throwing raw meat out at the audience during the Madman tour, and so his fans started throwing stuff back (Ozzy seems to have had a fascination with raw meat ever since his youth, when he worked at a slaughterhouse for three years).

By the time Ozzy sat with Night Flight in our New York City HQ in 1986, his former band Black Sabbath had, as Prescott says, “survived over ten years of legal disputes, news headlines and platinum LP s,” cultivating their “Prince of Darkness image which helped sell over seven million albums.”

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Our Video Profile also features a separately-staged interview with Sabbath’s original guitarist and writer Tony Iommi, who — we’re told early on by Pat Prescott — “shares credit and criticism for Sabbath’s forecast of gloom and doom” with his bandmate Ozzy.

Prescott also told viewers that the “new” Sabbath, circa 1986, were carrying on “the apocalyptic tradition.”

Read more about the Black Sabbath video profile below!

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Ozzy tells us that originally Black Sabbath had started out as a jazz-blues band, and they were very influenced by bands like Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, — Iommi had briefly been a member of that band, in December 1968 — John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and early Cream.

Iommi and Osbourne had first met at school in their Aston neighborhood of Birmingham, England, but they didn’t really “get on that well at school,” Iommi tells us.

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Iommi was in a group in the north of England with Bill Ward, the band’s original drummer, and they were looking for a singer and a bass player when they came back to Birmingham, where, in the window of a local music shop, they saw a hand-written card that said, simply, “Ozzy Zig Needs Gig – has own PA.”

Iommi wasn’t sure if it was the same Ozzy he knew from school — had to be though, right? — and so he and Ward went to the address on the card, knocked on the door, and discovered that it was indeed the same tattooed fellow student he’d known from school.

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Drummer Geezer Butler had also seen the card (Ozzy had given up on trying to be in a band and tried to get a job in the factory where his mother worked, but had forgotten to tell the music shop to take down the card from their window).

The band had originally called themselves Earth — “as in world Earth” Ozzy tells us — although Ozzy had previously suggested The Polka Tulk Blues Band, which came from a brand of talcum powder his mother used. Some sources actually list this as the real first name of the band before they changed it to Earth.

They’d decided to change their name a second/third time because they weren’t getting any gigs under the name Earth, but, also, as Ozzy also tells Night Flight, that often, when he would tell people the name of his band, it sounded to them like he was throwing up (“Eaaaarth!”).

Ozzy explains that they were doing a residency at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany, and they’d already written a song called “Black Sabbath,” and Geezer Butler suggested that they call themselves that.

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Often, when this story is told, its mentioned that the song had come from a movie poster they’d seen at a local cinema, which playing Mario Bava’s 1963 film Black Sabbath — which we recently added to Night Flight Plus, and wrote about in this earlier post — and Ozzy tells us, “When we changed the name, everything changed, the whole attitude, the concepts, the movement, the direction, everything changed.”

Ozzy:

“We also decided to incorporate a horror movie kind of theme to music. As I remember, we starting thinking, people like to go to horror movies. For some reason it can be anything bizarre and aggressive and violent and fangs and blood and bats, and people for some reason get a kick out of doing this and seeing this, like, and so we ‘why not try to interpret a little bit of this into music, you know?’ and it works, you know?,”

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“And then we decided, after that phase had worn out, that we really were a band, we really did have something to offer, away from the boy-meets-girl, and the flower power, y’know, and flowers in the rain. Unbeknown to us, I believe now we were speaking a lot of truth for our time, about the way we, the ghetto kids, were really feeling about reality in life.”

Sabbath would sign with Vertigo Records in the UK, and with Warner Bros. (U.S.) in January of 1970.

Our video profile features a couple of the early 70s promo films (not yet called “videos”) for some of their best-known early songs, including the aforementioned album track “Black Sabbath,” which was the title track of the self-title debut album, Black Sabbath.

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It featured an inverted crucifix that Iommi talks about in his interview, saying that it was the record company’s idea and the band had nothing to do with the artwork or design (it had been Vertigo’s decision, and the image wasn’t featured on their U.S. album release).

Also featured is their promotional “video” for “Paranoid,” which was actually written in just thirty-minutes time as a three-minute piece of “filler” during sessions for their debut album (which had itself been recorded in just a few days time).

In his 2011 memoirs Iron Man: My Journey through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath, Iommi said that he and Ozzy probably had no idea what the word “paranoid” even meant at that time, and they had left the song’s lyrics up to bassist Geezer Butler, as they considered him the more intelligent member of Sabbath.

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“Paranoid” — not “Paranoia,” as we had in our chyron — was deemed to have commercial appeal and was held back from the album, and released as a stand-alone single some six months after their Black Sabbath debut album.

It wasn’t their first single — that was actually a cover the band Crow’s “Evil Woman Don’t Play Your Games with Me” — but it was the only single release of Black Sabbath’s to reach the UK Top Ten, going to #4 and becoming one of their signature songs.

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They didn’t want to be seen as a “singles band,” which would result in their fans coming to their shows just to hear their hits, and much like other British rock bands at the time (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, et al.), they emphasized their overall albums.

Paranoid would also become the title of their second album, replacing the working title of War Pigs, after a different song on the album (said to have been about a “black mass”), but their record company felt it was better to title the album after their hit song. The album’s cover art, nevertheless, kept the image of a pig with a sword and shield.

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Black Sabbath waited a full two years before releasing their second U.S. single, “Iron Man,” which we see Ozzy performing here in the Black Sabbath video profile in a live version, directed by Mike Mansfield, but originally the track wasn’t released as a single in their native England.

It would go on to become the band’s biggest hit in the U.S. even as it got very little airplay on FM stations. Osbourne would remain with Black Sabbath until 1979, when he was fired by Iommi and the rest of the band.

In the book Precious Metal, Iommi says of the circumstances of Ozzy’s departure:

“Ozzy wasn’t in a fine state of mind and, to be honest, we weren’t too far behind him. We were coming up with the music, but Ozzy just couldn’t put his head around getting into doing anything on it. So basically it came to the crunch where we decided that we either had to break up or replace Ozzy.”

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After Ozzy was gone (i.e. fired), there were many singers who would step into the role as the band’s frontman, but each stayed for just a limited period of time, including Ronny James Dio, the former Rainbow and Elf frontman, who joined Sabbath in 1979, and stayed for the two albums, the last being 1981’s Mob Rules.

Pat Prescott tells us that “Dio energized Iommi’s mystical songs, like ‘Neon Knights’.”

The video, featuring a staged production of the song in concert, was directed by Lyndsey Clennell.

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“Neon Knights” — featuring lyrics by Dio and music by the entire band (Dio, Tony Iommi, Bill Ward and Geezer Butler ) — was the vicious opening track from Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell (1980), and it was the last to be recorded for the album, not in Miami (where most the recordings were done) but at the band’s Bel Air estate in Southern California.

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“Neon Knights” would climb to #22 in the UK, and Dio would leave the band sometime in late ’82, after a fight in the studio. He’d return later (1991-1992) to record a third album with the band, and then again in 2006, for their Heaven and Hell tour.

Our Black Sabbath video profile, by the way, also include’s Dio’s own “Last in Line,” the title track from his second solo LP.

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Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan joined Iommi’s Black Sabbath sometime in late ’82, and recorded tracks with the which were released on the band’s eleventh studio album, Born Again, in August of 1983.

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It would be the last Black Sabbath album in nine years to feature original bassist Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, who would quit sometime in 1984 (replaced by Vinny Appice), and although the album sold well — charting at #4 in the UK, and in the Top Forty in the U.S. — it was roundly savaged by the critics.

It seemed that nearly everyone hated the Iommi-approved album cover, designed by Steve “Krusher” Joule, who was working for Kerrang! magazine at the time.

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It which featured a garishly red newborn devil-baby, sprouting devil horns, fangs and claws (based on an actual baby photo that had been published in a magazine in 1968). The cover art was so ugly that according to Bill Ward, that Gillian frequently told the press that he actually vomited the first time he saw it.

Actually, what Gillan famously said was, “I saw the cover then puked. Then I heard the record then puked.”

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Tony Iommi, meanwhile, began referring to the baby on the Born Again cover as “Aimee,” which was the name of Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne’s daughter, born just a few weeks before the album was released.

Sharon later got back at Iommi by having a friend of hers, a Vogue magazine model, arrange a date with the guitarist at Le Dome restaurant in L.A. When Iommi showed up, he found a gift box waiting for him, and inside it had two big turds, one each from Ozzy and Sharon.

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The tour for the album also featured an infamous fuck-up which would later find its way into Rob Reinber’s hysterical 1984 mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap, when their designs for a life-size Stonehenge prop that the band wanted with them onstage was designed with the wrong measurements, and instead of having columns that were thirteen feet high, the finished Stonehenge — made of fiberglass and wood — were just thirteen inches high.

Iommi recalls in his 2011 memoirs that it was Geezer Butler’s idea but the designers had taken down his measurements wrong, but they took a second pass at it and made them the correct size.

In October of ’83, Black Sabbath had brought their Stonehenge set to America, but could only use a portion of it at most gigs because the columns were too high. The set was eventually abandoned.

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As Pat Prescott tells us, Sabbath’s current vocalist (at the time it was Glenn Hughes, although Ian Gillan is seen in the video) and Iommi “perpetuate metal’s occult legacy with visual references to Hitler and Frankenstein that verge on parody in ‘Zero the Hero.'”

The video for “Zero the Hero” — another directed by Lyndsey Clennell — featured live performance footage of the band onstage interspersed with scenes involving several grotesque-looking characters performing experiments on a witless young man in a haunted house filled with rats, roosters and a wild horse on the loose.

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In his interview, Iommi adds that the band’s then-new album Seventh Star — released in January of 1986, just a few months before our profile aired — was titled for a song which detailed the lining up of seven stars, bringing about the destruction of the universe, and rebirth. Something like that.

Iommi adds: “It’s more like a Notradamus sort of thing.”

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By now, Sabbath were basically a Tony Iommi-led recording project, considering that he was the only surviving member left from the band’s original lineup.

Seventh Star — the band’s fourteenth studio album, recorded at studios in both L.A. and in Atlanta, Georgia in 1985, and released on January 28, 1986 — was not intended to be a Sabbath album, not at first.

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Like its predecessor, 1983’s Born Again, Iommi had wanted to release the recordings as a solo album, but Warner Bros. Records, Sabbath’s longtime U.S. label, had decided that the Black Sabbath name was likely to sell more albums than just Iommi’s.

A compromise was reached, with Seventh Star‘s album cover revealing a photo of Tony Iommi and none of the other newer members of the band — lead vocalist Glenn Hughes (who had also been a member of Deep Purple at one time), keyboardist Geoff Nicholls (unofficially already a member of Sabbath for five years before he was made a regular member), drummer Eric Singer (later of KISS), and multi-instrumentalist but essentially the band’s on-stage bassist, Dave Spitz — and it was all attibuted, somewhat-comically, to “Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi,” which surely must have confused some of the band’s fans.

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Black Sabbath, 1985 (Left to right): Geoff Nicholls, Tony Iommi, Dave Spitz, Eric Singer and Glenn Hughes.

The video for the power ballad “No Stranger to Love” featured Glenn Hughes on lead vocals (and supplementing himself with additional harmony vocals to make the song more “radio friendly”), and featured actress Denise Crosby, granddaughter of Bing.

The plotline of the video is said to tell the story of a couple’s relationship gone bad, as seen through the eyes of a menacing Doberman (one with all four legs intact).

Hughes, by the way, would end up being fired during the first week of the tour, to be replaced by Ray Gillen for the rest of the tour.

Seventh Star was savaged by the critics and ignored by the fans, and reached just #78 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart. It dropped off the charts after five weeks.

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On July 13, 1985, the original lineup of Black Sabbath — Ozzy, Iommi, Butler and Ward — set aside their differences long enough to reform to play three songs onstage at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia for the U.S. staged concert to benefit Live Aid, organized by Bob Geldof.

They were billed as Black Sabbath featuring Ozzy Osbourne, and for a moment afterwards the band considered reforming again, but Iommi decided he just couldn’t go through with it (“It was like going back ten years,” he’d later say).

By then, Ozzy was already playing his first solo concerts, anyway. He’d started off the year at the first Rock in Rio, in Brazil, on January 11th and 20th, 1985.

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One of the videos we featured in this video profile for Ozzy’s solo career was his huge hit, “Shot in the Dark,” which was, at the time, Ozzy’s most successful single on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #68, although the Andy Morahan-directed video, which debuted on MTV in December 1985, was played so frequently on all of their shows, and on other cable networks that aired music videos (including the USA Network’s “Night Flight”) that you’d half-expect it to have charted higher than that).

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Morahan would not only direct Ozzy’s “The Ultimate Sin” video, but many of the biggest videos of the 1980s, including those by Pet Shop Boys, Cyndi Lauper, Wham!, and many, many others.

According to a brief mention about the clip in Billboard Magazine (February 15, 1986), Frank Zappa’s son Dweezil appeared in the clip, as well as an L.A. Rams cheerleader (but no one can seem to agree on her name), and six hundred extras were all filmed at what was then called Laird International Studios (today, the studios, located at 9336 West Washington Boulevard in L.A. suburb Culver City, are simply called Culver Studios).

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Also featured in the video profile was Ozzy’s “Bark at the Moon” video, featuring the title track of Osbourne’s first solo album, released in 1980.

Three years before Ozzy sat down with us, a 20-year-old Canadian man named James Jollimore claimed that this was the song that compelled him to stab a woman and her two sons to death.

The following year, 1984, parents of a 19-year-old American man would sue Ozzy and blame his death on another song, “Suicide Solution,” from the same album.

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It would be the first studio album Ozzy released without lead guitarist Randy Rhoads, who died in a plane crash the year before while the band was touring in Florida.

His replacement, Jake E. Lee, along with bassist Bob Daisley, had co-written the song with Ozzy, but due to an arrangement made with Ozzy’s record company and publishing house, only Ozzy’s name was listed as the sole composer of the songs.

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In the liner notes for The Ozzman Cometh, Ozzy wrote that “The title for this song actually came from a joke I used to tell where the punchline was ‘Eat shit and bark at the moon!’ I’d had the vocal line for this and Jake came up with the riff. It was the first song we wrote together.”

Ozzy also expresses a bit of confusion as to why he’s not considered an ordinary guy, and a family man, saying:

“Do they honestly think that I walk around the streets with vampire’s bat wings? Do they honestly think I don’t eat real food, and I don’t go to bed, and I don’t have a family of my own, and I don’t drive a car, and I don’t do all the normal things. It’s just a theatrical role, that I enjoy, giving people enjoyment.”

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Check out our video profile of Black Sabbath, and see all the videos and interview excerpts, and be sure to sign up for Night Flight Plus if you haven’t already so you won’t miss out on some of the fun stuff we’ve got planned in the future. Seriously. Fun stuff. Trust us.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.