Clerk, Carol & Elliot, Paul -Black Sabbath & Ozzy Osbourne (Book Review)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed: July 2021
Released: 2019, Carlton Books
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: JP


I suppose I should not be surprised by the commercial, profit-driven nature of the publishing industry, but at times it still catches me off guard.  This is one of those times.  When I first discovered this book I asked myself, “Does the world really need yet ANOTHER book about Black Sabbath?”  Perhaps not, but here I am reviewing another one, even though there are well over twenty books about Ozzy and Black Sabbath already on the market.

BLACK SABBATH AND OZZY:THE STORIES BEHIND THE SONGS is a nice looking, hard-bound, coffee-table style book. The cover is eye-catching, albeit a bit of a generic image.  It’s not huge by any means, coming in at 160 pages, which are glossy and full colour. This is a collaborative effort written by Carol Clerk and Paul Elliot. Clerk passed away years ago so I think Elliot (Kerrang magazine etc) probably massaged Clerk’s archived material into the script.  This sort of feels like it was a bit rushed out to capitalize on the hype surrounding the end of Black Sabbath and aimed at a bit of an introduction to and/or overview of the band.  The proverbial Black Sabbath/Ozzy 101.  This the kind of book well-intentioned parents get for their kid for a birthday.

This book also is a visual history and it is very appealing to look at.  Lots of big photos, some old familiar stock favorites and some photos I had never seen before, probably drawn from the authors collections. There is also quite a lot of memorabilia, ticket stubs, old flyers posters etc. As one might expect the book follow the band chronologically but has a few diversions.  Periodically there is a chapter inserted about each of the four original members.  It follows along, album by album and decade by decade.  Each chapter has an analysis of some, but not all Sabbath and Ozzy solo songs.  The book feels incomplete. Non-Ozzy albums are given lesser treatment and the long-list of secondary and tertiary members are not given full-due.  Even Tony Martin is essentially reduced to a footnote despite being in the band for over a decade and five studio albums.

I’m not sure if this next point is a mistake but Ozzy’s solo album THE ULTIMATE SIN was not given it’s own chapter, even all the other ones up to OZZMOSIS were. Accordingly, the book feels incomplete and as if the author just didn’t care that much about anything past 1985 or so. Even so the prose is insightful, lighthearted, and lots of good trivia to absorb. Admittedly much of it is regurgitated lore, (Tony cut off his fingertips, Ozzy pissed on the Alamo, Ozzy bit a bat etc) and because the book is largely about the songs, the sensationalistic aspects are not the focus. This was published in late 2019 after the final shows and tour and caps off the entire story nicely and with (original line-up) reverence.

In my opening paragraph I grumbled about the volume of Black Sabbath / Ozzy books on the market. To make this ‘worse’ there are already at least four other books that go song-by-song through the Black Sabbath catalogue; Nolan Stolz wrote one in 2017 (Experiencing Black Sabbath) and Steve Pilkington wrote one in 2018 (Black Sabbath: Song by Song) and Martin Popoff wrote two recently in  2018 and 2019 (Sabotage, Born Again).

That is five books in four years all doing the same thing! How many more times do people need to read that ‘Sweet Leaf’ is about marijuana and ‘Snowblind’ is about cocaine? Authors and publishers really should do some research to determine how many other books of the exact same nature (ie, song-by-song format) that already exist in the market. This was published in late 2019 after the final shows and tour.

Aside from that not insignificant complaint, BLACK SABBATH AND OZZY:THE STORIES BEHIND THE SONGS is quite well done, if incomplete. My average rating reflects the fact that this is decent but redundant. If this is your first Sabbath/Ozzy book it fits the bill perfectly.   Unless you need to buy everything published about the band, if you already have a number of books about the band in your library, you may want to approach with caution.


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