Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "The Wizard," from Black Sabbath (1970)

If you’ve spent any time over at my book blog, you’ll know that I’m a complete fantasy geek, so it should come as no surprise that “The Wizard” is one of my favorite Sabbath tunes.

While the eponymous “Black Sabbath” announced the arrival of a new genre, “The Wizard” opens with a wistful harmonica that speaks to the band's blues roots. Of course, as Tony Iommi’s big, brooding guitar riffs come into play, the tone changes from wistful to angry. The combination of the guitar and harmonica riffs, though, are simply infectious, and when they combine there’s a certain sense of joy among the heaviness.

This song also marks the first time that Geezer Butler’s powerful bass lines are really felt in Sabbath’s music. As much as Iommi’s monster riffs created metal and remain the best in the genre all these years later, I’ve often argued that Butler was the heart and soul of the band. We know now that he wrote most of the lyrics that Ozzy delivered, and his bass lines provided the very foundation that everything else about the band’s music was built on.

It’s interesting, being the fantasy geek that I am, it was years after I first heard this song that I discovered it was inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Gandalf. I did, however, pick up that the wizard character seemed to be a euphemism for drug dealer. Of course, we all know that Gandalf did love the hobbits’ weed.

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