Eight months earlier, in October ’69, Sabbath had first visited Regent Sound to record their self-titled debut album. This time, they’d been booked in for six days rather than just two. The decision to treble the band’s studio time was a reflection of the success they’d enjoyed around their first album. Released in the UK on February 13, 1970, Black Sabbath had sold impressively, peaking at Number 8 in the British charts. As far as their label Vertigo was concerned, Sabbath were now a band worth investing in – a point that seemed lost on the four-piece, who remained unused to the idea of any sort of luxury.
“As everyone knows we actually recorded the first album in a day, so when we came to the second album we said, ‘Blimey! We’ve got a whole six days! What are we going to do with that?’ We genuinely didn’t know,” laughs Tony. “Our way of recording was quite simple; we’d turn up, set up, and play. That was it.”
The job of capturing their performances was down to 25-year-old producer Rodger Bain, the man who’d worked with Sabbath on their debut album, along with engineer Tom Allom (soon to become a producer of note thanks to his work with fellow Brummies, Judas Priest).
“Rodger became really involved with us at that point,” continues Tony. “It was hard to bring somebody in with us because we had our own idea of how we wanted things to sound. Rodger didn’t interfere. He’d listen to what we were doing and he’d suggest various things that we could develop. Tom would mic everything up, and we’d just play. It certainly wasn’t a case of it taking five hours just to get a guitar sound or a drum sound. It was just a case of getting things down in a natural manner, and that’s what Rodger and Tom allowed us to do.”
If their debut album had essentially been based around their live set of the previous 18 months, this time around the four-piece had written new material that was a little more diverse and, in some cases, more progressive. The bluesier inflexions of their first record were replaced by a harder, more cohesive sound – the result of their own increased confidence as a band, and the fact that they had now fully established their own identity. Some of their new material had been routined in their rehearsal room in Aston, other tunes had been worked up during a break down in Monnow Valley, in verdant Monmouthshire, where the four members had attempted to get away from the distractions that surrounded them on their home turf.
“The idea was to go and live together somewhere where we would feel less encouraged to do, er, other things,” chuckles Tony. “But of course everyone ended up in the bleeding pub anyway, so it was not a lot of use! But it did mean that the next morning you could always go a bang on someone’s door and go, ‘Come on! Get up now! We’ve got to rehearse!’ It was good to be under one roof so that everyone could be together and we’d actually get things done. Then, there was also the material we’d written on the road too that we’d worked up over time.”