Will The Original Black Sabbath Line-Up Ever Return?

It seemed like it was going to be the dream reunion that many fans expected. According to an interview with guitarist Tony Iommi in the Birmingham Mail, the original Black Sabbath line-up of Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward were reuniting for a new studio album and tour and were already rehearsing for what would undoubtedly be a lengthy global trek. While the group has toured a few times since 1997 (they also released two new songs on the 1998 Reunion double live album), this would have been their first full-fledged studio album since 1978’s Never Say Die!.

Iommi and Osbourne reportedly had written new music in June, according to journalist Andy Coleman. Now it comes to light that his exclusive and revelatory interview with Iommi took place two months ago and is misrepresentative of what was discussed, but mass media like Rolling Stone and the Washington Post have reported it based on Coleman’s piece, which ran today.

Soon after the story’s emergence today, Iommi wrote on his website: “I’m saddened that a Birmingham journalist whom I trusted has chosen this point in time to take a conversation we had back in June and make it sound like we spoke yesterday about a Black Sabbath reunion. At the time I was supporting the Home of Metal exhibition and was merely speculating, shooting the breeze, on something all of us get asked constantly, ‘Are you getting back together?’ Thanks to the internet it’s gone round the world as some sort of ‘official’ statement on my part, absolute nonsense. I hope he’s enjoyed his moment of glory, he won’t have another at my expense. To my old pals, Ozzy, Geezer and Bill, sorry about this, I should have known better. All the best, Tony.”

Is it possible that the original members of Sabbath have something in the works but that Coleman jumped the gun? Or was he just practicing tabloid journalism and really stretching the truth into the realm of fantasy? Iommi says he should have known better — but it’s unclear whether he meant about speaking with Coleman or about the reunion. I won’t put words in Iommi’s mouth, especially after he claimed someone else just did that. Obviously many fans are hoping it is true, but we’ll have to wait and see. Rolling Stone offered this update: “In a statement, Iommi says that these quotes are from June and claims that he was merely ‘speculating’ and ‘shooting the breeze’. However, his statement does not actually deny the crux of his statements: that Black Sabbath are reuniting for a new album and planned tour.”

There has not been any comment from the other members of Sabbath yet, but presumably they will come. An even bigger question is: If the story isn’t true, why did Coleman let it run?

Black Sabbath live in Stuttgart in 1999.
(Photo credit: Alex Ex.)

A brief recap of Sabbath history: Osbourne was fired from Black Sabbath in 1979 because of his problems with drug and alcohol, although he quickly went to forge a successful solo career that has lasted ever since. Iommi kept Sabbath alive in various incarnations between 1979 and 1996 with numerous singers, including the late Ronnie James Dio (who came back in 2006 for a greatest hits package with three new songs, then three tours and one new studio album under the moniker Heaven and Hell, before passing away last year), Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes and Tony Martin (who recorded five albums with the band, including the fantastic Eternal Idol and Headless Cross albums). Iommi has also done two solo albums, including one with Hughes, and always seems to possess a never-ending supply of riffs in reserve.

It seems like a good time for a classic Black Sabbath reunion. If the Birmingham rockers do decide to go through with it, expectations for a new album will surely run high. Many fans are dying for it to happen, although the band knows this, which is perhaps why they have not done anything together since Reunion. It might be hard to live up to what fans want. But never say never. Or die.

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