Black Sabbath lead guitarist Tony Iommi recently looked back on the time he decided to fire Ozzy Osbourne from the band in 1979. According to the musician, the decision was hard but necessary for the band’s future.
While Black Sabbath has been one of the most significant figures in the metal scene since their formation, not everything always ran smoothly, as the band members faced several challenges along the way. Their eighth studio album, ‘Never Say Die!‘ released in September 1978, was a turning point in their career since the band members realized that their substance addiction was getting in the way of their music.
The tour in support of their album, which began in May 1978 with Van Halen as their opening act, disappointed many critics and fans. The criticism was harsh, as many compared Van Halen’s young and energetic performance to Sabbath’s tired show. The band was back in the studio to record their follow-up album the following year. However, tensions arose between the members, mainly due to the never-ending creative process. Frontman Ozzy Osbourne paid the highest price amid their conflict.
At Iommi’s insistence and with the support of Butler and Ward, Osbourne was fired from the band on 27 April 1979. Although the band members’ excuse was the singer’s substance abuse, Osbourne claimed that every member of the band was on the same level in terms of their drug use and alcohol consumption at that time. During a recent interview, Tony Iommi reflected on the time they had fired Ozzy Osbourne from Black Sabbath.
According to the musician, their main problem was drugs, and creating their new album was taking incredibly long. Since Black Sabbath had somewhat of a material in terms of their music but no vocal parts, the band had to make a decision. They were either going o break up or find a new frontman for themselves which was precisely what they did at that time.
About Osbourne, Iommi said:
“Basically, the major problem started from drugs. We’ve been about for a while at that point and done a lot of touring. It came to a point where we needed to do another album and, off we went to Los Angeles to do another album. We had a house in L.A., we were there for 11 months to rehearse in the house.
We never did anything basically. We came with a lot of riffs and stuff, but we’ve never actually done much as far as putting songs together because all thing was just falling apart. Everybody was going in their own individual rooms, puffing this, puffing that.”
“At the end of the day, it was disastrous. It was very difficult because Ozzy was the first one to go, but it was hard you know. We had to do something because I used to go to the record company, and they would go, ‘How’re the rehearsals going?’ I would go, ‘Oh, great’ which was a lie.
We got some music ideas but not many vocal ideas. Ozzy was going through an awkward stage, and we got so much pressure. Money was going out the window, it was costing a fortune to stay in there. We had to say, ‘What are we going to do?’ We were going to call it a day, or break up, or try to find another singer.“
You can listen to the entire conversation below.