Tangye, David & Wright, Graham
How Black Was Our Sabbath (Book Review)
Released: 2004, Pan Books
I’ve pretty much read every Black Sabbath book on the market and going into this book I wasn’t expecting too much; what more was there to tell? Well, quite a lot actually! HOW BLACK WAS OUR SABBATH was first published in 2004 and was written by two ex-Sabbath roadies, David Tangye and Graham Wright. None so British… Although the charming tale is unauthorized, Bill Ward and Ozzy each gave it their blessing so it does carry some weight, authority and credibility in my mind. This was not just written by some guy who worked for the band for a few months. Graham and Dave were with the band during the first glory-era from roughly 1974-1980 and do they have some stories to tell!
This paperback is about 237 pages long and has about 45 pictures from the authors own personal collection. They are black and white, printed on glossy paper and spread through the book. There are many candid shots, most of which I have never seen before. I especially enjoyed the photos of ‘Atrocity Cottage’, his country home and birthplace of many Ozzy ‘bad boy’ legends, usually involving drinking, a shotgun and various farm animals. It was neat to finally see the place…the band looks so young!
The script follows a familiar and comfortable chronological retelling of the early days of Black Sabbath but loaded with the kind of detail that can only come from people who were actually there…quotes, jokes, incidents and accidents all liberally marinated in a pint or three of Newcastle Brown Ale. The intimate level of detail is stunning because not only were the lads (the authors) part of the road-crew, they acted as personal assistants, gopher’s helpers, and comrades in crime as they assisted in the debauchery as much as helped plug in amplifiers each night.
There are so many stories, many of which I had never heard and the ones I had had more detail. HOW BLACK WAS OUR SABBATH was not airing of dirty laundry, the privacy of the various members of the band was respected, but the authors also were there during the dark times when various members would come and go, have divorces, drug issues, car crashes and assorted rock n’ roll behavior. I’m sure they could probably do more damage to their former employers if that was their intention, but fortunately not. The mood, tone and tempo is positive as they assisted a band at the height of their power. What was also revealing is how much work it was to be a traveling band in the 70’s.
The language could be a bit mystifying for younger North American readers, as the book was written by two lads who grew up in England, in the 50’s and 60’s. For example on page 11, they make a reference to an obscure (by modern North American standards) to a British television (sorry ‘telly’) sit-com called ‘Open All Hours’. If you had never heard of that the show, the sentence about Tony’s parents that states, “They ran a store in Park Lane, which was a bit like Ronnie Barker’s Arkwright, although it was not ‘open all hours’, would make no sense at all. My family, has English heritage so I got it but I feel many young readers may not understand the slang of the older British guys. However, to me the way they write, with regional linguistic flavour, makes it all that more authentic.
I thoroughly enjoyed HOW BLACK WAS MY SABBATH. It’s warm, charming and funny. The story about the smuggled moonshine (hidden in the fake cocaine naturally) being confiscated in Salt Lake City, Utah, is hilarious, and it is just one of many. I feel this is one of the better, more intimate, more real portrayals of the legendary band. A great read for all Sabbath fans!