You’d been a band for a decade at this point and heavy music had begun to change. Did you see it as an opportunity to recalibrate yourselves?
“Well, yeah, we could expand a bit more because obviously we the way Ronnie approached stuff was different to Ozz. Ozzy was great, but Ronnie was a different singer altogether. We wanted somebody who was different, we didn’t want to bring somebody in who was gonna sound similar to Ozz. So it was good to have somebody totally different, and Ronnie’s voice and the way he approached the songs allowed us to be able to try different things in a different way than what we’d done before. It opened up a lot more variety for us, really.”
It seems like the songs came together quite quickly once you got going with him…
“Yeah, we started getting stuff fairly quick. Because Ronnie had also been a musician himself, we could sit down and he would come up with an idea and you’d go, ‘Oh, I like that.’ And more and more as we worked together, we started getting looser with each other, running sort of in sync on everything. So yeah, it came together pretty quick.”
The last Ozzy album at that point, Never Say Die!, was really quite difficult and trying and it was a bit miserable. Did the change help you rediscover your enthusiasm for what you were doing?
“Absolutely. It gave us a new lease of life. And it also gave us that challenge. Because, obviously Sabbath has been around a while, we knew we could go out and do certain gigs and sell out certain places or whatever. But it was nice, because we had to prove something. You’re trying to bring a different singer into the band, which is very difficult, and he’s got to get accepted, and he's got to prove himself. And we have to sort of prove ourselves that it was working, and that we liked it. And I believed in what we’d got, I really did. I really liked what we what we had with Ronnie at that point.”
What do you remember about people’s reactions when they first heard Sabbath with Ronnie at the front?
“It was pretty positive. We had to work really hard to promote that album, which was good, I think, because it made us work. It wasn’t just something where you go, ‘Oh, that’s going to do alright.’ We had to prove it and prove that the band was good and could do it live. It was a lot of ups and downs, but eventually we pulled through. We were always proud of that album, and we believed in it. If we hadn't believed in it, we wouldn't have done it. It was one of those things where we knew it was right at that time.”
Did you feel like you needed to step up, and prove you were still relevant after being around 10 years? There were new young bands coming through and changing things the way you had done at the start of the ’70s…
“I think within ourselves there was pressure, but we weren’t competing with anybody else. These bands like Van Halen and Judas Priest had come around, and that was great. It’s a totally different sort of music in some ways. The way we would write and the way we’d approach things was different to a lot of the other bands that were around.”
It must have helped with the change that as a lyricist, Ronnie had a really dramatic flair that brought in his own thing to the band…
“Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the thing with Ronnie or any singer is, if they write their own lyrics, they have certain words they can pronounce better, and they put them in and they emphasise those. So, like you say, he had this dramatic thing to his lyrics, and he’d put the right word at the right point in a line where he’d belt it out and it’d have the most impact. It was really good for Geezer [Butler, bass] as well, because he’d always had to be involved in doing the lyrics. So it was it was an opportunity for him to concentrate more on the bass, which he wanted to do.”
What were the first gigs with Ronnie like?
“God, it’s hard to remember now. We did this tour, The Black And Blue tour, which was us and Blue Öyster Cult, because of the manager we had at that time, and that’s how we introduced Ronnie to the fans, and eventually people come around to accept him. But yeah, as I say, it’s a challenge, because you’re gonna go out there and obviously you’re gonna get people shouting for Ozzy. And we did get that, and people are bound to do that, because they’re seeing the band for the first time with somebody else and it must be odd. But Ronnie just took notice, and then eventually we pulled the crowd round.”