Note: Both Josh and I powered this out this afternoon, don't get hung up on a grammatical error if you find one, it's the underlying message which is important.
We were all overjoyed when Black Sabbath announced they were reuniting for a new album; all seemed well with the band at the press conference with all four original members appearing to be extremely excited about things to come. Then, on January 9th, dark clouds began to form when the band officially announced that Tony Iommi had been diagnosed with early stage lymphoma .
Fans were heartbroken, but rallied to show their love and support for both the legendary guitarist and Black Sabbath.
Talk continued of the album and a tour, but the hammer fell once again when Bill Ward, drummer and founding member of the group, published a press release on February 2nd via his Facebook page which essentially stated that he was no longer participating in the new Black Sabbath project due to the fact that he wasn't able to accept the contractual terms presented to him.
The internet exploded, people were not only just grief stricken, as they had been with the news of Iommi's diagnoses, but also, downright pissed off. How was it possible that one of the founding members couldn't come to terms with the contract he had been given? What was it about the contracts which made him refuse to sign them? People screamed: " This is not a reunion without all four original members!"...reality was quickly setting in that the new album would most likely be just another footnote in the long history of Black Sabbath rather than a return to the days when four friends brought forth some of the most amazing music in rock n roll history.
Quickly, rumors circulated that Sharon Osbourne had something to do with it; the interwebs began to seethe with anger towards the woman. Accusations are flying around, laying blame at Ozzy's feet for not taking a stand, at other members of the band not showing solidarity with Bill....is Ozzy being manipulated? Do the others even care? We don't know the exact particulars of the contract nor can we be certain who exactly is behind Bill Ward leaving, the only response to Ward's press release has been the following (published on Black Sabbath's FB page a day after Ward's announcement):
"We were saddened to hear yesterday via Facebook that Bill declined publicly to participate in our current Black Sabbath plans...we have no choice but to continue recording without him although our door is always open... We are still in the UK with Tony. Writing and recording the new album and on a roll... See you at Download!!!
- Tony, Ozzy and Geezer"
One thing folks have to keep in mind, is that the wording in both statements are carefully crafted, and are not the words of the musicians themselves....this is a public dispute being handled by managers, PR and lawyers. Hell, if you're a bit paranoid (excuse the pun), you might even consider that this, in of itself, could be a pr stunt...though I seriously doubt it.
In the long run, you have to realize that this is a war of management, not a war between band members themselves; if you take a step back, you might be able to see this as the Greek tragedy it really is. Here you are presented with a group of men, who have done astounding things with their art, musicians who began playing together in their teens and yet now, with an uncertain future and old age taking hold, they are held under the constraints of others, they are forced to do the bidding of a management company, a label, a brood of lawyers...perhaps their greatest day in the sun will be lost forever due to money, the rights to intellectual property and control of the Black Sabbath brand.
Bill Ward's statement clearly points out that the others have signed onto the contractual agreement while he has not...this tells you that the band, even if they wanted to, can't back out...most likely from fear of having their balls (and bank accounts) cut off by corporate entertainment lawyers for breach of contract. They either play and do what they had signed on for, or they live the rest of their days in the poor house.
A sad scenario which has been played out to a full house many times over by bands who have realized their own wildest dreams; ask Vince Neil of Motley Crue. Yes, it does seem Black Sabbath did sell their souls for Rock N Roll after all.
Who is ultimately to blame? One article saying that "a reliable source" confirmed Sharon Osbourne had fired Bill Ward has recently surfaced on the internet, but it's unsubstantiated. If it 's true, it's a travesty... if it's just a rumor, the website in question could find itself in hot water...either way, they certainly had a visitor traffic coup on their hands.
One also needs to take into consideration that if it was Sharon, Ozzy must be in an emotionally vulnerable state, he may actually be torn between his wife and his old brothers...it is not a good situation any which way you look at it. With cancer and Ward's departure, the band may be under more stress than at any other time in its history.
But, the problem still remains, what hurdles need to be overcome in order to get the original Sabbath together again?
The members of Black Sabbath are well into their twilight years, they might not have much time left to leave a body of work which may put a cap onto a history which has already established them as one of the greatest bands in History. In artistic terms, you could compare it to Pablo Picasso. After he had found the magic formula of cubism and endless promotion among galleries and art speculators, and though he made millions upon millions of dollars for his work, he essentially didn't produce any art which surpassed what he had previously done. Yes, each one of those pieces are worth millions today...but he was just going through the motions, there was no longer the level of creativity or emotional expression as clearly seen in the earlier works of his....that was, until he was elderly and had to confront his own mortality. Not long before he died, less than a year to be exact, he created one of his most powerful pieces, a piece which is, at least to me, both frightening and thought provoking...that piece was his own self-portrait. It was appropriately entitled: "Self Portrait Facing Death"
So, this upcoming album could be either a piece of shit, another commercial turd plopped into the cesspool of musical mediocrity or it could be the gem in Sabbath's crown...a masterpiece if you will.
Time is a wasting, fans need to overcome the labels, agents, managers, pr firms, the machine and get these four friends of youth, back together to concentrate on what needs to be done; creating music.
Recently a page has been created on Facebook named "1,000,000 Black Sabbath fans say yes to Bill Ward", which is a great step in getting the word to the powers that be, that the fans don't give a fuck about money and deals, they want Black "fuggin'" Sabbath and that means all four of those old men who sold their souls for Rock N Roll in Birmingham so very long ago.
Hopefully Tony, who created the page, will also leverage the power of Twitter and Google+ as to utilize the full power and potential of social media...because with several million metalheads from every corner of the planet lurking on the social machines, sending a strong message out that Black Sabbath must be given a chance to do one more album without interference by anyone else other than themselves, a message that will be heeded, is something that can realistically be accomplished!