'Paranoid' - Black Sabbath


Writers: Black Sabbath

Producer: Roger Bain

Recorded: Spring 1970 in London, England

Released: Fall 1970

Players: MOzzy Osbourne – vocals
Tony Iommi – guitar
Terry "Geezer" Butler – bass
Bill Ward – drums
Album: Paranoid (Warner Bros., 1970)

Deplored by critics who relentlessly lambasted everything from the band's power-chord crunch and rhythmic trolling to its occult-laden image, Black Sabbath nonetheless was one of the supreme purveyors – along with Led Zeppelinand Deep Purple – of '70s hard rock.

Although Sabbath is synonymous with the gloom and doom of '70s hard rock, the four schoolmates actually had their beginnings in Birmingham, England, 1967. The band's bottom-heavy, blues-based sound didn't come by happenstance, as Sabbath's first incarnation was a group by the name of Polka Tulk, a blues band. Shortly thereafter, it changed its name to Earth before settling on Black Sabbath – after the 1935 Boris Karloff film – in 1969.

As Earth, the band played more dates at Hamburg's Star Club than the Beatles.

"Paranoid" reached Number Four on the U.K. pop chart and never charted in the U.S. To this day, it's the group's only Top 20 hit anywhere. Why this song? Perhaps because the three-chord stomping, this time set at a breakneck pace, allowed for Sabbath's usual depressing lyrics to be whisked by the ears of listeners.

Like many a Sabbath song, the lyrics to "Paranoid" describe a black hole of irreversible mental illness. From the opening line "Finished with my woman ‘cause she couldn't help me with my mind," the fatalistic tone of the song is set, as lead singer Ozzy Osbourne plunges into madness and depression with no hope in sight. It's worth noting that these themes were one of the main points of contention with the critics. Sabbath just wasn't any fun.

The Paranoid album sold more than four million copies and hit Number One on the U.K. chart without the benefit of any real airplay.

The Paranoid album was originally supposed to be called War Pigs, after another song. But Warner Brothers executives felt that the title might be a liability in the midst of the Vietnam War, though they decided to keep the album art of a blurred, sword-waving warrior.

Black Sabbath eventually sold more than eight million albums before Ozzy split in 1979. Guitarist Tony Iommi had briefly left the band during 1968 to join Jethro Tull. He appears in The Rolling Stones’ Rock & Roll Circus.