A Complete Ranking of Every Song From Black Sabbath's Original Lineup
Warner Bros. Records via Wikimedia Commons
Black Sabbath is calling it a day. After Wednesday night, they will (supposedly) never play Phoenix again.
Now this isn’t the original lineup, as Bill Ward has been replaced by Tommy Clufetos. But the other three original members (vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, and bassist Geezer Butler) are on board for the final voyage and the final show for the metal pioneers, who helped invent multiple music genres, including stoner rock and alternative metal.
Black Sabbath has inspired so many musicians and bands over the years that we thought it would be interesting to take a long, hard look at the songs from the first era of Ozzy-led Sabbath and rank them from worst to best. A few of the tracks off the first eight records — Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), Master of Reality (1971), Vol. 4 (1972), Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973), Sabotage (1975), Technical Ecstasy (1976), Never Say Die! (1978) — were disqualified because they were really just noise/filler, and some others were lumped together in medleys, as Black Sabbath was often inclined to do. More than anything, I’m sure every Sabbath fan will agree, wholeheartedly, with my rankings.
66. “Children of the Grave” from Master of Reality (1971)
Worst Black Sabbath song ever. I blame this song for much of the bad heavy metal that followed. The guys from Judas Priest heard “Children of the Grave” and thought, “We’ve been doing this wrong.” Then everyone with a Marshall stack and a mullet thought they could play metal. The rest is history.
65. “Solitude” from Master of Reality
This song does nothing for me and makes me glad I don’t remember 1971 at all.
64. “FX” from Vol. 4 (1972)
63. “The Writ” from Sabotage (1975)
This turd is responsible for more hair metal than I care to imagine. Somewhere in Los Angeles right now there's a middle aged guy thinking, "If I'd just written 'The Writ' I'd be driving a Rolls Royce instead of this Chrysler K car. At least I still have a rad mullet."
62. “Air Dance” from Never Say Die! (1978)
Crap. Just crap. Geezer … really? How could this happen? Maybe “Children of the Grave” isn’t as bad as I thought.
61. “Rat Salad” from Paranoid (1970)
Filler. Worst song on Paranoid. Two albums in and they are recycling riffs already. At least Bill Ward got to show off a bit here.
60. “After Forever” from Master of Reality
Boring. Terrible choice for a second track.
59. “All Moving Parts (Stand Still)” from Technical Ecstasy (1976)
What the fuck is this? The drugs, man ... the drugs have kicked in.
58. ”Gypsy” from Technical Ecstasy
A meandering mess of a song. Still better than much of what Guns n' Roses did. This kind of reminds me of a Meat Loaf/Who/Billy Joel sandwich.
57. “A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning” from Black Sabbath (1970)
Probably much better live than on the recording, but this is pretty boring … at least to me.
56. “Am I Going Insane (Radio)” from Sabotage
There are times when you just want to do a toxicology report on the boys in Sabbath. This is one of them. Clearly the boys were listening to too much Amboy Dukes when this one was hatched.
55. “Don't Start (Too Late)” from Sabotage
Iommi being Iommi. This is why people love him. Too bad he couldn’t save this song.
54. “Fluff” from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973)
Brilliantly named, for sure, but useless except maybe as a downer when the coke runs out. I’m not sure if the coke ever ran out for the boys in Sabbath in the 1970s.
53. “Johnny Blade” from Never Say Die!
The keyboard intro is totally fucked. Where is the "skip track" button? People avoid "Johnny Blade" for more reasons than those mentioned in the song. "Leroy Brown" would have kicked his ass completely.
52. “Breakout” from Never Say Die!
What are they doing here? Who is this? Where has Black Sabbath gone? One word: horns.
51. “Over to You” from Never Say Die!
In 1978, Jimmy Carter was President of the United States. That's all you need to know about this song. Well, that and at one point, there was something that closely resembled evil in Black Sabbath’s sound.
50. “Shock Wave” from Never Say Die!
This is neither shocking nor wavelike. Seriously though, if Geezer Butler didn’t have those super-fat bass lines going on, this would be unbearable. The chorus of owls at the end is mesmerizing, though.
49. “A Hard Road” from Never Say Die!
Six-minute songs rule the day on Never Say Die! This one is just one of the bunch, and it pretty much sucks.
48. “You Won't Change Me” from Technical Ecstasy
“I'm just a man” — lyrics like that are not a dime a dozen. How many times has Ozzy quoted this song when trying to make up with Sharon? Yoko Ono has nothing on Sharon Osbourne.
47. “Swinging the Chain” from Never Say Die!
Bill Ward does lead vocals. He sounds pretty good, but the Bill Ward songs always stick out like sore thumbs and are a bit jolting. Good harmonica work on this song, though, by John Elstar.
46. “Under The Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes of Confusion” from Vol. 4
Last song(s) of the album. Good reminder that it's time to change the record and put on some Dayglo Abortions.
45. “Junior's Eyes” from Never Say Die!
Totally unremarkable drivel. Yet still better than anything Wham! ever did.
44. “Rock 'N' Roll Doctor” from Technical Ecstasy
A little swamp rocker kind of thing that could have been done by Eddie Money in a different universe. The break down in the middle numbs the mind better than Nyquil. Definitely over-the-counter stuff, though.
43. “Spiral Architect” from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Nobody phones in the last track of an album like Black Sabbath. Nobody.
42. “Supertzar” from Sabotage
Not a lot that is memorable about this one. I don't remember hating it, that's for sure, but I don't remember caring, either. I wonder who was clever enough to come up with the title of the song?
41. “Wicked World” from Black Sabbath
Some song had to be ranked 41. This is as good as any in the lower-middle range of Black Sabbath songs.
40. “Orchid” from Master of Reality
Sabbath showing their soft underbelly. Imagine a 25-year-old Ozzy stepping out of the shower, soaking wet, eye liner running. “Sharon, where’s my towel?”
39. ”Megalomania” from Sabotage
Why is this song so long? While this question pertains to many a Sabbath song, this one goes way over the top in terms of length, but I'm sure Axl Rose loves it.
38. “Looking For Today” from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
The '70s were a great era to grow up in. People roller-skated to this song, I know it.
37. “Laguna Sunrise” from Vol. 4
A nice little memory of the boys being too high to go to bed while visiting Los Angeles and finding themselves on Laguna Beach. At least that’s how I imagine it until I start imagining Brian Dennehy riding a horse across the screen of a drive-in movie theater.
36. “Killing Yourself to Live” from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Ozzy was always pretty good at a clever turn of phrase. McCartney-esque song structure, too.
35. “It's Alright” from Technical Ecstasy
Bill Ward sings this one, and it is quite a departure. In fact, it almost seems like it is not a Sabbath song at all and is a nice little palate cleanser.
34. “St. Vitus Dance” from Vol. 4
This song almost sounds like the Rolling Stones at first then kind of just meanders around for a while. Not bad, not great, and not as good at the Bauhaus song with the same title. Scope it out, mullet!
Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath
33. “She's Gone” from Technical Ecstasy
For some reason, I would have loved to have heard the early '80s version of the Damned cover this one. It would have been interesting, for sure. So hard to hear this song, though, and think, "Wait, this is the same band that did 'Iron Man'?"
32. “Sabbra Cadabra” from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Ozzy had mastered the art of arriving fashionably late by this time. Vocals don't kick in for about 50 seconds or so. And something about this song reminds me of the Grateful Dead.
31. “Tomorrow's Dream” from Vol. 4
Compared to a lot of the later stuff, this track is rad. Compared to a lot of the earlier stuff, it's just okay. This is the conundrum of so many bands with a huge catalog. If it would have been on Never Say Die!, it would have been the best song on the album.
30. “She's Gone” from Technical Ecstasy
As heavy metal ballads go, this one ranks pretty low on the nauseating scale. Fairly good work here by Ozzy, although the string accompaniment is pretty lame.
29. “Wheels of Confusion” from Vol. 4
Middle of the road Sabbath.
28. “Sweet Leaf” from Master of Reality
Heavy. Butthole Surfers' version, “Sweat Loaf,” off of Locust Abortion Techician, is way more entertaining. With weed becoming legal in more and more places, Sabbath should really consider marketing this song for pot commercials.
27. “A National Acrobat” from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Plodding and unrelenting. This song made it possible for bands like Clutch and the Deftones to exist. Thanks, Sabbath, for giving hope to musically talented meatheads everywhere.
26. “Cornucopia” from Vol. 4
More middle of the road Sabbath. Isn’t a cornucopia supposed to be a horn of plenty? No horns here. Evil, yes. Horns, no.
25. “Behind the Wall of Sleep/Wasp” from Black Sabbath
Lines like, “Turns your body to a corpse.” Ozzy getting deep.
24. “Fairies Wear Boots” from Paranoid
As usual, bringing the riffage and dancing a fine line across the world of fantasy … and LSD. Dropping acid to Black Sabbath is just inviting trouble. You might as well just cut up a Ouija board into little squares and put that on your tongue.
23. “Hole In the Sky” from Sabotage
The first song on Sabotage is fairly compact at just under four minutes and pretty straight ahead for mid-'70s Sabbath.
22. “Under The Sun” from Vol. 4
Nice and doomy at the start, then breaks into some bluesy Sabbath cheese.
21. “Who Are You” from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Sabbath meets Gary Numan meets Devo on heavy narcotics. What's not to love? There may have been a few Black Sabbath fans wondering who their favorite band had become after hearing this one.
20. “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Sabbath matures a bit and Ozzy grows up.
19. “Hand of Doom” from Paranoid
Every time you think "This is the song that invented bluesy stoner rock," Sabbath would write another one that could take the blame.
18. “Into the Void” from Master of Reality
Heavy as fuck, as the kids say. Solid Sabbath.
17. “Back Street Kids” from Technical Ecstasy
Ozzy is so fucked up at this point he's just sort of spouting off nonsense. This is also the song that spawned the Backstreet Boys. Go Satan!
16. “Changes” from Vol. 4
What do you say about this song? Forty-some years after it came out, it's pretty prophetic. Yes, Oz, you've gone through a few changes.
15. “Planet Caravan” from Paranoid
Monster Magnet's early stuff would not have happened without this song.
14. “Never Say Die” from Never Say Die!
Title track rocks and is pretty fun. Ozzy knew he was about out the door, and his enthusiasm here eludes to a man with 'short timer' syndrome. Too bad the ending is completely cheesy.
13. “Symptom of the Universe” from Sabotage
Perhaps I'm a sucker for killer riffs, but this one gets my blood going a bit. (High pitched voice) METAAAAAAAALLLLLL!
12. “The Wizard” from Black Sabbath
Helped to establish the band's weird genre-bending sound and probably started Dungeons and Dragons as well. This song rolled an “18” for dexterity.
11. “Dirty Women” from Technical Ecstasy
After a bit of a slow start, this song is pretty rockin'. Midway through the song, there is some life in Ozzy for the first time, really, on Technical Ecstasy.
10. “The Thrill of it All” from Sabotage
Textbook Sabbath. Solid and probably the last really good song of the first Ozzy era. Would rank higher if the wheels of the song didn't fall off at the end.
9. “Electric Funeral” from Paranoid
This will always be “Electric Hosebag” for me thanks to Mighty Sphincter. Rad song.
8. “Snowblind” from Vol. 4
Ode to cocaine. Ozzy doing drugs? No way!
7. “Black Sabbath” from Black Sabbath
Quintessential. The beginning of it all. One of the best first songs on a first record ever. Legions of fans were hooked at about the 40-second mark.
6. “Supernaut” from Vol. 4
Solid rocker. Best song on Vol. 4, for sure, and definitely influential. Jammy, as in jam-band jammy, but the wheels never fall off.
5. “Lord of this World” from Master of Reality
What a killer riff. Best song on this record. Stony.
4. “NIB” from Black Sabbath
For many bass players, this is the very first bass line they learn. "Some people say my love cannot be true," but all bass players have love for Geezer Butler.
3. “Iron Man” from Paranoid
Fucking. Heavy. Metal. If you don't like this song, you don't like metal. Fuck you.
2. “War Pigs” from Paranoid
Often covered, and covered well by locals Sacred Reich. Faith No More does a pretty great version too. No matter who is doing this one, somebody somewhere is flying the devil horns. Great song.
1. “Paranoid” from Paranoid
Probably responsible for at least a little bit of what punk rock would later become. … Butler and Iommi rule here, as do Osbourne and Ward. At two minutes and 48 seconds, one of the shorter Black Sabbath songs, and by far, the best. There was a killer local band, Desecration, in the '80s that did a ripping version of this song, but nobody does it like Sabbath. If they don’t play this on Wednesday, Phoenicians will lose their minds. Spoiler alert: Probably be the first encore (Thanks, setlist.com).
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.