“I looked at the cover and I threw up” – the strange story of Black Sabbath’s Born Again


Eddie Van Halen and Michael Jackson. Freddie Mercury and Monsterrat Caballé. Ozzy Osbourne and Miss Piggy. Gene Simmons and Cher. The Lawnmower Deth and The Great Kat. Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle.

The music world has created some powerful, weird partnerships over the years. But nothing stranger – not to say disastrous – than the combination of Ian Gillan and Black Sabbath. It was a marriage made in hell. (Which, when you think about it, was very fitting considering the devil-horned heritage of the Sabs.)

When lead singer Ronnie James Dio pulled out of the band, blaming 1982 arguments evil live effort, Tony Iommi & co found themselves in a difficult situation. Memories of Dave Walker (the unsightly Brummie they brought in to replace Ozzy Osbourne for a few months in 1977) began to resurface.

The Sabs weren’t just without a singer, they were embroiled in a war of words with little Ronald, who accused his former bandmates of tampering with the sound of evil live cutting off his voice and throwing their own instruments instead.

Sabbath countered by saying Dio was spotted sneaking into the studio in the dead of night – through the cat flap, they jibed – and doing the exact opposite. It was all getting pretty silly.

It got even dumber when Ian Gillan broke up his own band, Gillan, on the pretext of joining a Mk II line-up reunion of his old band, Deep Purple. When this reform was put on hold for about a year, Gillan was distraught. Then news broke of Dio and, although Purple and Sabbath had been fierce rivals in the past, Ian began to consider an unusual career move…

Gillan met guitarist Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler in a pub in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. The singer had been in a car accident on the way to the meeting (“I arrived in an L-shaped car,” he once recalled) and the trio got royally pissed off.

The next day, Ian received a phone call from his personal manager saying he had agreed to become Sabbath’s new singer. Gillan was as perplexed as he was hungover. He had no idea what his manager was talking about. But damn it, he decided to join the Sabs anyway.

The only album Gillan recorded with Sabbath, ’83’s born again, is generally considered the nadir of the band’s career. To this day, rumors persist that this was not meant to be a Sabs release at all, but rather some sort of supergroup offering.

However, as the seventh star solo disc that Tony Iommi made with Glenn Hughes, the name of Black Sabbath finally prevailed. Reissued via Sanctuary in 2004, born again was described as “abominable” in issue 75 of Classic rock, but is it really that bad? To be frank, it’s not half as bad as it looks – although the album cover most certainly is.

Gillan’s ingrained rock ‘n’ roll sensibilities and Sabbath’s traditional forest approach remain a volatile mix. (“The boys [Gillan’s] the voice is just too distinctly un-Sabbath,” Ronnie James Dio once complained.) But aside from some horrible demonic cackling in bother the priest and a banal lyricism (keep it warmfor example, being a well-worn story of a horny old rocker walking home with his daughter), there’s a lot to enjoy here at Born again.

Gillan delivers a consummate vocal performance, full of tonsil-tormented howls and banshee moans; Iommi offers an atypically strident solo on In the garbage; the Close Encountersstyle cosmic twitter on the instrumental darkness leads dramatically in zero the hero‘; the gruff riff to …Hero strangely reminiscent of Guns N’ Roses city ​​of paradise; digital female dog is jam-packed with rolling thunder à la Ted Nugent.

There’s no escaping the fact that born again is considered by most to be a dismal failure, even though it reached No. 4 in the UK Charts – the band’s highest position since Sabbath Bloody Sabbathwith Ozzy on vocals, in 1973. But the cause of the Sabs led by Gillan was not helped by an appearance at the Reading Festival in August 1983: in front of a giant polystyrene model of Stonehenge which did not even fit on stage, the band’s set culminated with a version of Deep Purple Smoke on the water. Unexplainable, execrable, but true.

Fortunately, a controversial version of the Electric Light Orchestra evil woman (ELO drummer Bev Bevan having replaced Bill Ward in the Sabs at this time) did not materialize.

In November 1984, this writer reunited with Ian Gillan in Deep Purple. The band’s delayed Mk II line-up reunion had finally happened, and the singer was obviously relieved to be out of Sabbath’s line of fire. But the memories of born again always lingered uncomfortably: “When you’re nobody, then it doesn’t really matter what career blunders you might make. I went through five or six bands before joining Deep Purple and all the failures I had were anonymous failures; no one knew them except a handful of people. Failures happen,” Gillan said candidly.

Initially, Gillan thought born again ” was great. Absolutely sensational…until it was mixed, when it was totally destroyed. I went on vacation after I finished recording it, and I was very happy. I thought, I’ll let the guys do it now, they’ve been there for years, they know what they’re doing. But as soon as I left – as I understand it, anyway – all these outside influences started seeping in.

“When I came back from vacation I found they had sent me a batch of 20 ‘Born Again’ albums. I looked at the cover and threw up. I put the LP on the turntable and I was disgusted with it. It was just rubbish. In a rage, I smashed all 20 albums to pieces.

After all that, it was no surprise to hear Gillan later say, “Heavy Metal drives me crazy. It makes me want to vomit.”


Born Again

Black Sabbath - Born Again Cover

(Image credit: Sanctuary Records)

The cover of Born Again created more controversy than any of the band’s records, and according to designer Steve “Krusher” Joule, the circumstances of the cover’s birth were highly unusual.

“Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne had very acrimoniously parted ways with the management and label of her father Don Arden,” he explained. “Don wreaked his revenge by stealing as many of Sharon and Ozzy’s crew as he could for Sabbath, which he was managing. As I was designing the covers for Ozzy’s albums at the time, I was also approached .

Not wanting to upset the Osbournes, Krusher submitted a deliberately second-rate selection of covers for Sabbath’s next album, intending to get off the hook.

“The baby’s was actually the cover of a 1968 magazine called The living spirit. I took black and white photocopies of the image which I overexposed, I stuck the horns, nails, fangs into the equation, I used the most outrageous color combination I could find. acid can buy, I bastardized a bit of the Olde English font and sat up, shook my head and laughed.

A 1968 cover of Mind Alive featuring a photo of a crying baby

(Image credit: Mind Alive Magazine)

However, things went wrong when Sabs guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler really liked it.

“Suddenly I had to do this fucking thing,” he grimaced. “I was also offered a ridiculous amount of money to deliver finished artwork on a certain date. I kept putting it off until the day before when I switched to action with the help of a neighbor, Steve ‘Fingers’ Barrett, a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and the dirtiest speed money can buy We fought in one night, but strangely, Max Cavalera [Sepultura, Soulfly] and Glen Benton [Deicide] have since said it was their favorite album cover! »

Claims from some quarters that Born Again ripped off the artwork from Depeche Mode’s 1981 single “New Life” are flatly denied,

“It played no part in my design,” Krusher insisted. “Actually, I only learned about it very recently.”


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