In 1970, Paranoid became a Top 10 single for Black Sabbath. Did you enjoy being a pop star for a moment?
“Oh yeah! I mean, none of us set out to be pop stars or rock stars, but it was all an experience. Obviously we hoped we’d be successful, but we didn’t really want to be a regular Top Of The Pops band, we didn’t want to sell out to that point. That was never going to be our world. When Paranoid was in the charts alongside all these awful pop songs, you’d think, ‘How the fuck has this happened?’ We could have chosen to write pop songs, but we wanted to write music with a bit of grit and a bit of substance, rather than (sings) ‘I love you, you love me…’. All we ever wanted was to write music that we liked.”
At that point, did you imagine that making music and being a professional singer would become your job for life?
“I had no idea at all. I mean, before that, I’d no idea that Tony [Iommi] and Bill [Ward] would knock on my door when I placed that ‘Ozzy Zig Needs Gig’ ad in a shop, and I’d no idea that the three of us would end up making music with Geezer [Butler]. I don’t believe in many things, but I do believe in fate, and it was obviously meant to be. But there was certainly no plan involved. We just used to have fun in those days, have a laugh. We were on fucking fire for about five years, before all the business and lawyers and rip-offs dragged us down. I didn’t join a band to become an accountant or a lawyer.”
When you left Black Sabbath, were you scared that it might be the end of your career?
“Of course I was. There was no challenge anymore with Sabbath at the time, we’d all outgrown each other. But it’s like being married to a woman and falling out of love, and thinking, ‘I no longer want to be with her… but what if I meet someone who’s worse than her?’ It’s a very big decision to just go, ‘Fuck this!’ I actually left, and then went back, and then they fired me, so I thought, ‘Okay, well, I’ve no fucking choice now.’ I remember being in Le Parc Hotel [in Los Angeles], thinking, ‘Well, this is it, I’m fucking done now.’ I went back to England and bought a wine bar with my now ex-wife, but ended up drinking more than I was selling. And then I met up with Sharon [Osbourne – Ozzy’s wife and manager], and the rest is history. Looking back, it was good for them and it was good for me. They needed a new singer and I needed a new band.”
As your manager, Sharon obviously had great faith that you could become a solo star. But did you believe in yourself as much as she believed in you?
“Probably not. But then Randy Rhoads came along and it was a match made in fucking heaven. Randy was phenomenal, a great guy and a wonderful musician and he really helped me as a singer. He’d hear me humming a melody around the house and go, ‘Is that yours?’ and we’d work together to build a song out of it. With Sabbath, it worked the other way. Tony would come up with an amazing riff and I had to put a vocal on top of it, which wasn’t always comfortable for me, because I had to bend to what the band wanted.”