Geezer Butler Explains Why Black Sabbath ‘Lost the Plot’
Pressure built up after the band’s first four albums, both onstage and offstage, leading to Osbourne’s dismissal in 1979 and a series of lineup changes that sent Black Sabbath into a creative wilderness for several years. In a new interview with Metal Edge, the bassist named the group's second LP, Paranoid, as his favorite work.
“It was a totally complete album,” Butler said. “It wasn't forced, and the chemistry between the four of us was so fluid. … Each song came together so easily and had such fire. And each time we would go into rehearsal, we’d come out with a completed song. I think that’s why that album is special, because of how naturally things came together. It was the most organic record that Sabbath – in any era – ever made. It was completely natural, as it should have been.”
The band’s success led to issues with alcohol and drugs, but Butler said other issues contributed to the mess during the second half of the ‘70s. “Once we finally had time to stop touring, we were wondering where all the money was,” he recalled. “And when we asked our managers why our accounts were averaging down, even though we were selling records, we never got a straight answer. … There was a lot of money that we just weren’t seeing, and then paying taxes became a whole other issue stemming from those money issues. So, that was truly when things started to go wrong for Sabbath.”
He admitted the creative differences with Osbourne were “certainly a problem,” adding that “we were trying to progress too much musically. We completely lost the plot, I think. We stopped doing the things that made Sabbath what it was and began going from more melodic stuff, which was a mistake looking back.
“Ozzy always wanted to still sound like the old version of Sabbath, while Tony and I wanted to expand musically. Looking back, Ozzy was probably right because our expansion caused us to lose what Sabbath was supposed to be about.”
Unsurprisingly, Butler noted that he didn’t see the band's musical output of the mid to late ‘70s in the same way as he did the earlier ones. “I will say that Never Say Die! is easily the worst album we did,” he added. “We tried to manage ourselves and produce the record ourselves … but in truth, not one of us had a single clue about what to do. By that point, we were spending more time with lawyers and in court rather than being in the studio writing. It was just too much pressure on us, and the writing suffered.”