Black Sabbath

The song Black Sabbath wrote as an ode to cocaine

The recording of Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4 was a distinctly hedonistic affair. It was the first time the group found themselves recording one of their albums without the aid of producer Roger Bain. Now that guitarist Tony Iommi was at the helm, a sense of freedom seemed to pulse through the smoke-filled studio.

While Black Sabbath’s manager, Patrick Meehan, would later insist that he be listed as a co-producer, it seems his participation in the creation of the album was minimal at best. With no filter between Sabbath and their pharmaceutical passions – the group had developed a pretty expensive cocaine habit by this time – it’s no wonder they ended up getting a bit carried away. Indeed, the band spent an estimated $75,000 on the drug during the album’s creation, more than it took to make the LP.

At one point, Osbourne and company felt so indebted to the white stuff that they decided to write what has become one of classic rock’s greatest odes to chizz: ‘Snowblind’. According to Ozzy, the band actually wanted to name the album Snowblind too, which would have made a lot of sense considering its creators were been knee-deep in the old marching powder at the time. Osbourne later recalled his fondness for the album in his autobiography I Am Ozzy: “For me, Snowblind was one of Black Sabbath’s best-ever albums—although, the record company wouldn’t let us keep the title, ‘cos in those days cocaine was a big deal, and they didn’t want the hassle of a controversy.”

The group’s tales of those recording sessions for Vol. 4 sound like something from the life of George Jung. As Osbourne later recalled: “That coke was the whitest, purest, strongest stuff you could ever imagine. One sniff, and you were king of the universe.” Tony Iommi also spoke of how the drug helped the band to expand their sound: “We used to write in the day and jam at night. It was a great atmosphere. We had a fabulous time. In this ballroom, there was a grand piano. I’d never played piano before. And I learnt to play and the first thing I wrote on it was ‘Changes’.”

While Osbourne would later look back on the making of Vol.4 wistfully, the lyrics of ‘Snowblind’ hint at the dangers of his addiction. In the track, Ozzy portrays the drug as both magical and intensely isolating, perhaps even vampiric in its power to drain him. “My eyes are blind but I can see / snowflakes glisten on the trees/ The sun no longer sets me free/ I feel there’s no place freezing me.” And yet, I imagine if you asked Osbourne if he regretted Black Sabbath’s approach on Vol. 4, he’d stare back at you with utter bafflement.

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