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Sharpe-Young, Garry
Black Sabbath-Never Say Die! 1979-1997 (Book Review)
April 2004
Released: 2003, Cherry Red
Rating: 5.0/5
Reviewer: JP

There are a number of substandard books on the market that have attempted to chronicle Black Sabbath. Until now, none of them has really done the complete job. This book is the first and best retelling of the post-Ozzy years of Black Sabbath. This book is by and a large a brilliant companion to Garry’s other book Ozzy Osbourne which features primarily the history of Ozzy’s band, not he man himself.

I knew I was going to enjoy the book immensely when after reading the introduction the author admits he has far more preference for the post Ozzy years. I whole-heartedly agree. Sharpe-Young often mentions that despite better sales, better chart positions and by and large better albums in the 80’s and beyond, the band has always struggled under the yoke of Ozzy. I have long held this position. While admiring and respecting the first 10 years of the band, I really started to enjoy them far more later on and in fact to this day Martin remains my favorite of all of the Sabbath singers.

The book is laid out in a fairly chronological order and relies heavily on the first person interviews that the author conducted with the countless members over the years…from the unknown stalwart Geoff Nicolls to the obscure Laurence Cottle. There is a ton of material here. Almost 400 pages worth and over 60 pictures. The pictures are a great collection of black and white shots, some familiar, most rare and some disturbing. Did I really need to see full frontal nude shot of Ray Gillen? I think not.

The giant sphere of Black Sabbath is undeniable with countless of testimonials of people who were in the band, out of the band, back in the band, auditioned for the band, played with the band for ten minutes…it’s all here. Tales of Dave Donato and Jeff Fenholt; how Ron Keel almost made it, and how Ray Gillen did not, and many others.

There are some great stories about the road, the highs and lows of recording and touring (the excesses of the 80’s which are downplayed to a degree), lawyers, managers, wives, groupies and the general day to day mayhem that is a metal band. Although there is clearly bad blood in the stories, the focus was not on the negative so much as wistful regret and hindsight from members and people affiliated with the band. It’s amazing how much money a band can blow through when touring and recording, astonishing tales of people getting paid to sit around and do nothing for months while management, producers and lawyers hammered out deal after deal, contract after contract. Inevitably someone gets screwed, not a pretty picture, but not altogether surprising when you have ego, money, women and often substances involved.

I really liked Garry meticulous attention to detail even following up with many ex-members in a ‘Where are they now?’ or ‘What ever happened to…?’ fashion. There are many great accounts of bands like White Tiger or Tobruk that were in some small way connected to the band. Growing up in that era it was very interesting to learn lots of interesting tidbits such as Eddie Van Halen did actually play on Cross Purposes and that there are tapes in existence of Tony Martin doing the vocals for Dehumanizer!

Immensely entertaining and educational this is the definitive account of Black Sabbath and I highly recommend it to all fans of the band, especially for those few who may be so close-minded to hang onto the position that Ozzy is Black Sabbath. I’m glad this long unheralded era of the band has been accurately documented. This book is an eye-opening tale indeed of a band that would never say die.

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