Vancouver rockers, radio hosts, and record-store owners reflect on the power of Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath


By Steve Newton

Because of its brutal sound and satanic overtones, Black Sabbath was never as widely accepted as the Beatles or the Stones, but its influence among rock fans is incredibly far-reaching. We asked a few local hard-rock aficionados and musicians to divulge their fondest recollections of the Brit metal pioneers.

Bif Naked, former hard-rock goddess turned solo alternative-pop recording artist: “I need to start by saying that Black Sabbath is heavy metal, and Ozzy Osbourne is the king, and all others are pretenders to the throne. I used to lip-synch ‘Iron Man’ in my downstairs-bathroom mirror when I was 12 or so.”

J.J. Caithcart, owner of the heavy-metal specialty shop Scrape Records: “Bein’ bloody terrified of the first album cover. I think that was one of the most frightening album covers of all time, even though there’s no blood, nothing disgusting, really, about it. There’s just something really disturbing about lookin’ at the woods and the house, it’s all very unforgiving. I can still get a bit of a chill from it.”

Brian Gillstrom, former drummer for ’80s metal artists Kick Axe: “My favourite memory of Black Sabbath is listening to ‘Sweet Leaf’ when I was in about Grade 5. It was incredible, the harp-playin’ that Ozzy was doin’. I just remember sayin’, ‘Hmmm. I’d love to drum for that band.’ ”

Gerald “Rattlehead” Hoshida, cohost of the CiTR metal show, Power Chord, with Dwayne “Dr. Death” Anderson and Ron “Metal Ron” Singer: “I was 13 when Vol. 4 was out, and I thought that was just it back then. If you’re a kid at that age, especially at that time, you just go ‘Wow!’ It was somethin’ quite heavy.”Dr. Death: “When the Paranoid album came out I lived in Saskatoon, and I didn’t have a clue who they were. I went down to the Bay and got the second Grand Funk album, and I saw the Paranoid cover and it just grabbed me. I bought it just because of the cover, and the album just blew me away.” Metal Ron: “There’s a thing with Sabbath fans that some people just don’t like Dio at all, and only liked Ozzy, but I was actually a Dio fan—I liked a lot of their singers. But Ozzy, of course, was the definitive Black Sabbath, and I’m so lookin’ forward to this show. To see the original lineup is just gonna be amazing.”

John Armstrong, aka Buck Cherry, former leader of local punk-rock greats the Modernettes: “Back in the days when there were record players, and record players had different speeds, we used to play ‘Paranoid’ at 78 and it sounded like the Damned. But it helps to be drunk.”

Lyle Chausse, cohost of the CFOX radio show Ultrafox: “One of the best [memories] I have was one that was actually a non–Ozzy Osbourne one. I saw them on the Mob Rules tour—just a young kid, heavily under the influence—and I saw the devil, you know? It was like that stage just came alive with everything that was evil, it was just so cool. I also remember Ronnie James Dio tryin’ to bless the Canucks as they were doin’ their Stanley Cup run. Maybe he cursed them.”

Joe Keithley, legendary Vancouver punk rocker and leader of D.O.A.: “I’ve been pretty well a lifelong devotee, but what sticks out to me is their song ‘Sweet Leaf’. In the early days of D.O.A. we certainly were into smoking copious amounts of pot, right, and I just remember bein’ up on [former D.O.A. bassist] Brian Goble’s back porch up on Burnaby Mountain. He lived on kind of a farm, and we were playin’ that song, and after about the 10th time—’cause we kept screwin’ up—finally his dad came out, like, ‘Brian, I don’t think you should play that anymore; the chickens have stopped layin’ eggs.’ ”

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