Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid': 10 Facts Only Superfans Would Know
Are you the ultimate Black Sabbath expert? Put your knowledge to the test with these 10 Paranoid Facts Only Superfans Would Know.
On Sept. 18, 1970, Black Sabbath released Paranoid. It was the second album for the group who had unwittingly reinvented hard rock as heavy metal just seven months earlier when their self-titled debut dropped, with charm and grace, on Feb. 13. Paranoid is inarguably the band's most popular record (whether it is the best is a separate, fierce debate) and rich in history — controversy, compromise, criticism and conquest.
We can help you occupy your brain — oh yeah!
1. I Am… “Iron Bloke?”
We adore British colloquialisms as much as the next non-Brit, but there’s something about “Iron Bloke” that immediately saps any potential power that could be contained within six minutes of groundbreaking, time-honored heavy metal songcraft. Yes, the original title for “Iron Man” was “Iron Bloke.” And now every time Marvel tacks on yet another sequel to the Iron Man film franchise, the world is treated once again to Tony Iommi’s tectonic riffage and the world gains a few new Sabbath (and heavy metal) fans.
2. “War Pigs” Was Originally the Much Darker “Walpurgis”
Before there was “War Pigs,” there was “Walpurgis.” The now iconic anti-war anthem by metal’s biggest hippies originally began as a morbid song about Walpurgisnacht, which, over centuries, has devolved more or less into a sort of witches’ sabbath (with other ties to Christian celebrations).
The lyrics were pretty gruesome, detailing “bodies burning in red ashes” and “eating dead rats’ innards.” For obvious reasons, the record label gave it a big, “Nope!” and Geezer Butler re-wrote it with war themes, still conveying the same message that the real evils of the world run through people in positions of power. Not much has changed these last 50 years.
Black Sabbath, "Walpurgis"
3. “Paranoid” Was Written After The Album Was Done
Sabbath finished writing their new album just four months after releasing their debut. Then the record label told them they’d need to write one more song. Hoping to just knock out an obligation and be done with it, the band hastily wrote “Paranoid,” which, for years, has drawn close comparisons to Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown.”
What was basically a throwaway song wound up becoming the band’s most well-known song and the label was so smitten with it that they had one more demand…
4. “Paranoid” Kind of Rips Off Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown”
In the early eras of hard rock and metal, it was entirely commonplace for musicians playing the club circuit to rip each other off (remember, this club circuit is where all your multi-platinum rock gods started — and they all knew each other). Hell, there’s an entire interview where Deep Purple/Rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore tears apart his best riffs and explains what licks he stole and from who on all of them.
So, it’s not difficult to imagine Iommi, frustrated he had to come up with another song for his second album of 1970, making a mockery of the situation by lifting a Zeppelin cut. It’s not a note-for-note recreation, but the barreling rhythm and accents are the same thing, aesthetically speaking. Whatever. Both songs rule. Would you rather have just one?
Led Zeppelin, "Communication Breakdown"
5. A Legendary Rock Critic Gave Paranoid a C-
Robert Christgau, the self-described ‘Dean of American Rock Critics,’ is known not only for being among the earliest professional rock critics, but for his short and loaded reviews. Unimpressed with Sabbath’s debut, Paranoid did nothing to alter this stance. Here’s the full review:
“They do take heavy to undreamt-of extremes, and I suppose I could enjoy them as camp, like a horror movie — the title cut is definitely screamworthy. After all, their audience can't take that Lucifer bit seriously, right? Well, depends on what you mean by serious. Personally, I've always suspected that horror movies catharsized stuff I was too rational to care about in the first place.”
Well, that hasn’t aged well, has it?
6. The Album Title Was Changed, But Not the Artwork
Conflicting reports exist on whether or not the album title was changed from War Pigs to Paranoid due to the record label’s fear of fan backlash related to negative sentiments about the then ongoing Vietnam War. In his book, Ozzy claimed this was not true and it was done just to make the album more marketable as the title of what they foresaw being a successful hit single. So, the title had to go, but that artwork of a dude dressed as a pig (or so they say), wielding a sword and shield was still fine. Ummm… okay...
7. “Paranoid” Is Black Sabbath’s Only Top 10 U.K. Hit
As legendary as Black Sabbath are today, it wasn’t quite the case during the ‘70s. They were a polarizing act — perfect for those who needed something harder than Led Zep and Deep Purple, but confusing for many who just didn’t get the band’s style. Still, “Paranoid” was too irresistible and shot up the U.K. singles charts to No. 4. It would be the only time Sabbath ever breached the Top 10 in their home country.
8. Van Halen Almost Named Themselves After the Drum Track “Rat Salad”
Before Van Halen exploded in 1978 with the release of the pyrotechnic debut record, they cut their teeth in clubs playing covers. One band they were obsessed with was Black Sabbath and they covered them quite a bit (Eddie Van Halen actually sung on a lot of the Sabbath covers) and at one point the band was weighing the idea of naming themselves Rat Salad after Bill Ward’s drum expo on Paranoid. We like the name Van Halen better, too.
Van Halen, "Tomorrow's Dream" (Black Sabbath Cover)
9. That Vocal Effect on “Planet Caravan” Is Ozzy Singing Through a Leslie Speaker
The second most curious aspect about the meditative “Planet Caravan” is that strange effect on Ozzy’s voice (the first is that there’s friggin’ bongos on a Black Sabbath song). The Prince of Darkness’ voice was routed through a Leslie speaker, which, in the plainest of terms, manipulates the sound through the use of a rotating mechanism in the speaker. The result is that dizzying effect that comes off like Ozzy is spinning around the room right in front of you.
Black Sabbath, "Planet Caravan"
10. “Jack the Stripper” — From Song Intro to Saturday Night Live’s Worst Skit
“Jack the Stripper” was the name given to the intro to “Fairies Wear Boots” and, years later, it devolved into a notorious Saturday Night Live sketch that has lived in infamy, being panned as the worst sketch the hit program ever aired.
It begins with a royal figure exposing himself (outfitted in cartoonish regal clothing) to a British woman on the street. A group of elderly British women hatch a plan to entrap the offender in the street right at the scene of the incident. Jack the Stripper then amuses them with some devested entertainment as the scene transitions from sex crime to sultry past-time.
It’s so bad the scene isn’t even on YouTube.
Black Sabbath Songs Ranked (Ozzy Osbourne Era)