Formed in Birmingham in 1968, Black Sabbath changed the world creating what would later be known as Heavy Metal music. But before they became a unique act like no one had seen before, the band was influenced by other three famous British groups as they said on their biography on the band’s official website. Rock and Roll Garage selected what the Sabbath members said about the influence of those bands over the years and their connection with some of them.
One of the most influential bands in history, Black Sabbath had many eras with different members. The only musician that was present in all the albums of their discography was the guitarist Tony Iommi. Until 2013 the group sold more than 70 million records worldwide, what makes them one of the best-selling Metal bands of all time.
The 3 famous bands that Black Sabbath listed as influences
Even though Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were formed in the same year, back in 1968, the band led by Jimmy Page released their debut album in 1969, one year before Sabbath. As Ozzy Osbourne recalled in an interview for the 1995 documentary “History Of Rock and Roll” (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), “Led Zeppelin I” had a huge impact on him and his bandmates. It was an inspiration that they could really push foward musically: “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”.
Many members of the two groups also knew each other before fame. Ozzy recalled in a conversation with Lauch Radio Networks back in 2007 that he was walking in Birmingham with Sabbath’s bassist Geezer Butler and they saw Zeppelin’s frontman Robert Plant in the subway. Butler knew him and asked what he was doing at the moment. The singer revealed that he had just been asked to join a band called “The New Yardbirds”. The group would later be called Led Zeppelin.
During the same conversation Ozzy talked about the impact that Zeppelin had on him, saying: “The first two albums had such an impact on my voice and on my life. Similar to The Beatles when I first heard them.”
Sabbath and Zeppelin were friends
That friendship continued after Sabbath also achieved fame. The two groups even had a jam session during the making of Sabbath’s classic 1973 studio album “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. At first, Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham wanted to play “Supernaut” that was one of his favorite Sabbath songs, but they ended up just jamming. Guitarist Tony Iommi already said a couple of times that the moment was recorded. However he has no idea where is the tape.
During other opportunities to play together later on Sabbath’s Bill Ward wouldn’t allow Bonham to use his drum kit. The reason was that he would hit it so hard that he would damage the instrument like he did before.
One of the first bands that made heavier music, Cream was formed by Eric Clapton (Guitar and vocals), Ginger Baker (Drums) and Jack Bruce (Bass and vocals). Sabbath even used to cover Cream songs when they still were called Earth and played in bars. But by the time Black Sabbath released their first album, Cream had already came to an end.
Geezer Butler, who is known as Sabbath’s bassist and main lyricist first learned how to played the guitar. He only decided to become a bassist after he saw Jack Bruce playing live with Cream. In an interview with For Bass Players Only back in 2021, Butler recalled the huge influence that Jack Bruce had to his career: “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.”
“It was fascinating watching Jack Bruce. I said, ‘That’s what I want to do from now on, play bass!’ Then when I got together with Tony, Bill and Ozzy. Tony didn’t want a rhythm guitarist in the band. I said, ‘I’ll switch to bass, then.’ With the encouragement of Tony and Bill, their patience with me, I started learning from there,” Geezer Butler said.
Drummer Ginger Baker was an influence to Bill Ward
The famous supergroup also influenced guitarist Tony Iommi who liked Clapton’s playing and drummer Bill Ward who was a big fan of Ginger Baker. After Baker’s death in 2019 at the age of 80, Ward posted on his social networks a tribute: “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.”
“This man I’d never met, this traveler, rule breaker. This man, who showed the very many that change is possible, will live forever. His final punctuation marks leave me listening to the drums of Africa. I am brought to a place to sit and rest and look at the swollen dark clouds, now opening slightly allowing sun rays to shoot to the ground. Something great has happened. Something beautiful has passed. Thank you, Ginger. Rest in peace,” Bill Ward said. He appeared on the famous 2012 documentary “Beware of Mr. Baker” praising Cream saying that “They started many, many things”.
Curiously, Rick Rubin, the producer of the final Black Sabbath studio album “13” (2013) suggested that the group should hire Ginger Baker to play the drums on the album.”I thought, ‘Bloody hell?’ I just couldn’t see that,” Tony Iommi told Rolling Stone in 2013, Bill Ward wasn’t part of the reunion because he didn’t agreed with the offer they presented to him at the time. Eventually the group hired Rage Against The Machine’s Brad Wilk.
John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers
One of the most famous British Blues bands of all time, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers also was a group where many famous guitarists played before they joined other successful bands like Eric Clapton, Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac) and Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones). Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi already listed the band as one of his biggest influences, especially Clapton’s playing.
During the conversation with The Herald in 2018, the musician was questioned who were the guitarists that he was trying to emulate in the early days and replied, saying: “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.”
Back in 2020, Iommi told Guitarist Magazine he prefered at first Clapton’s playing with John Mayall but later on he got used to his sound in Cream: “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.”
I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG