Updated: Nov 12, 2021
The Godfathers of Metal
With darkness, chill winds and the scuttle of fallen leaves blowing into every corner,
maybe this is a good time of year to write about a track from Metal Godfather’s Black Sabbath.
I was entranced by Black Sabbath many years ago…I heard them first by chance on Radio Caroline with my tranny radio, snug under the covers in the dark, enveloped by the incredible new sound they had created which opened a new realm in my soul..
As a Blues rock band called Earth, It all started with a chance idea inspired by their observation that whilst rehearsing near a Cinema in a seedy part of Birmingham where people paid to see scary films, they also might pay money to listen to scary music….well, in the early 70's their songs were different and warning against darkness and melded with the creation of a scary, powerful dark and unique sound which kicked off the Metal genre we know today.
Its a genre that will always be with us and maintains a solid fan-base that just recreates itself with every generation and has now split into many Metal derivatives. Research has suggested that the dark heavy sound of Metal has health and cognitive benefits helping with depression and anxiety and I have known people who you would not imagine to be Metal fans tell me how it helps with their well-being - even greenhouse plants benefit..... see this article from The Scotsman.
Black Sabbath were four guys from industrial Birmingham who just hit the spot with their unique musicianship and chemistry; their original band name , Earth didn’t work , but their new sound fitted with their new name Black Sabbath (taken from the title of a Boris Karloff horror movie you can still see on Youtube) and the rest is history.
They created an atmosphere and connection that was irresistible; who can forget "Paranoid", hastily written but an incredible first single which seemed to link with many struggling with their everyday existence and was unforgettably showcased on Top of the Pops. In reality, (according to a Guardian article, other music analysts and also my view ) their religious views were Catholic and not satanic; notice they wore their crosses the right way up.
Their songs, mostly written by bassist Geezer Butler, were a warning against darkness not a celebration of it; check the lyrics of War Pigs, After Forever, Paranoid, Black Sabbath, Fairies wear Boots, Symptom of the Universe...
However, I am writing about the final track of their second Album "Paranoid" , an album that launched them into the world. That track, "Fairies wear Boots" , had a special magic that drew me in; I played my treasured “Paranoid” album in the silky darkness on my Father’s stereogram when he was out at night; it was surreptitiously delicious as he was a jazz and easy listening fan, and would not have allowed such sacrilege, but that stereogram gave Black Sabbath the power they deserved.
"Fairies Wear Boots" took me to another place that I cannot adequately describe…to this day Tony Iommi’s echoing starting riff and the ethereal ending riff were just perfect for the atmospheric heavy rocking track itself; add to the mix the energy of Geezer Butler's bass, the perfect intricate drumming of Bill Ward and the high power vocals of Ozzy Osbourne and you had the almost perfect Metal track. In fact, I looked forward to hearing the start of it and didn’t want the end to finish as the recorded fade out left me wanting more..
It seemed that the subject of “Fairies wear Boots” was a warning about misuse of drugs and drink, but to me, the ethereal place it took me to was a personal sanctuary purely based on the feel of the music and the exciting connection those notes brought to me. That’s the power of music......you don’t need anything else.
You may not get where I am coming from but I enjoy the track to this day. The story and the significant impact of the band on music is not mine to tell and it seems poignant that vocalist Ozzie Osbourne fell foul of substance abuse himself and had to leave the band for awhile, but he learnt his own personal lesson and it is a joy that he and all the band members are still with us; they started something that will never fade and I am just glad I was around to witness it.
Fairies, boot shod or otherwise were not particularly friendly beings according to legend and mythology but are believed to exist by some…maybe they dwell in the woods and like human beings there are good and bad…but that song remains as an example of how the being is affected by music and maybe the Fairies inspired the band with pure magic.. and in some ways, this is a track whose ending riff can echo with you in the trees…and perhaps imagine being "away with the Fairies", thanks to a true master of his craft, Tony Iommi, who recently turned his hand to composing beautiful choral music.....How Good It Is
Written by Chris Watson, November 2021