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Now this isn’t the original lineup, as Bill Ward has been replaced by Tommy Clufetos.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!
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