For some time, co-founding drummer Bill Ward has said he’s waiting on a “signable contract” before joining the rest of Black Sabbath for its pending reunion project. Now, he’s ready to reveal the sticking points — namely a series of alleged demands made by Sharon Osbourne, wife and manager of original lead singer Ozzy Osbourne.
Ward says the contract stipulates a tiered revenue structure where Ward and original bassist Geezer Butler would get five percent of the reunion profits, original guitarist Tony Iommi would get 10 percent, and Osbourne would get the rest.
“Mind you,” Ward says, “I am not on the dole and I don’t need a few quid that badly. I have my honor and as an original member of Black Sabbath I deserve to be shown respect.”
While these contract negotiations have dragged on between Ward and Black Sabbath, Iommi was diagnosed with cancer — forcing the album project to move from Los Angeles back to his native England, where he’s undergoing treatment. The band is working with producer Rick Rubin, as songwriting continues.
Ward claims that Sharon has also been too deeply involved in shaping the sound of that proposed recording, the first to feature Black Sabbath’s original lineup since 1978: “The most unacceptable thing, in my opinion, was how Sharon’s management team insisted that the new album we would put out should contain commercial sounding metal that would make it easier for us to get airplay,” Ward says, in a posting on his Facebook page. “The boys and I were thinking of calling the new album “Doomination,” but she thought the title was too limiting.”
He goes on say that in the past Sharon Osbourne has refused to provide a vegan menu on tour, in keeping with Ward’s dietary restrictions, and even asked the drummer “to walk Ozzy’s twelve dogs before each show.” Finally, Ward claims that Sharon Osbourne was pushing for a guest spot on the Black Sabbath concert bill for daughter Kelly to duet with Ozzy. “I’m sorry, mate,” Ward says, “but that’s where I draw the line.”
Ward stops short of saying he refuses to rejoin the Black Sabbath project, adding “I am ready at any moment to board a plane … if a proper contract with no degrading stipulations exists — one in which I’d also get a proper twenty-five percent.”
Whatever happens with the contract, a decision will have to be made soon: Black Sabbath is scheduled to headline Britain’s Download Festival in June, though a wider reunion tour had to be shelved.
“I am humbled by the outpouring of support you’ve shown me,” Ward says. “On this third round of negotiations my lawyers have sent to Ozzy’s attorneys, here is how the reunion stands. Keep in mind I have nothing but respect for my former bandmates, so I wish to not speak in derogatory terms of them. However, the contract is still unsignable and I am breaking my silence to divulge the reasons why.”
Here’s a look back at previous thoughts on Black Sabbath, and related solo projects. Click though the title for complete reviews …
BLACK SABBATH – SABOTAGE (1975): The end of Sabotage also begins the fade out of the Ozzy era of the band. Though the two records that followed both have their moments, it wasn’t until 1980 and the entrance of Dio that the band put out another truly amazing record with a sound so altered that, at times, it would be hard to identify the music as Sabbath. There’s also a very powerful argument to be made for that record as the band’s best, but I’ll save that one for another time. Sabotage isn’t likely to overtake the groundbreaking debut record or the hit-filled Paranoid as Sabbath’s best work in most people’s minds, and I understand that. But the next time you’re looking for a Sabbath fix, dig a little deeper and give it a listen, especially if you haven’t heard it in a while. It might just be a much better record than you remember.
BLACK SABBATH – THE DIO YEARS (2007): While I was aware of the Ronnie James Dio-fronted version of the band, I just never got around to checking them out. I moved on from being a metal die-hard for a while to other things, but in recent years have been slowly re-integrating a lot of older metal material. What we’ve got here is five tracks from Heaven and Hell, four from Mob Rules, three from Dehumanizer, one from Live Evil, and three brand-new songs that Dio wrote. So, finally, after all this time, the Dio-era Sabbath is finding a home in my collection.
OZZY OSBOURNE – BLIZZARD OF OZZ/ DIARY OF A MADMAN (1980/81): In my opinion, Diary of a Madman is Ozzy’s finest hour outside of Black Sabbath. While his debut had a few duds — “No Bone Movies” comes immediately to mind, and though it may seem like sacrilege to some fans, I’ve never liked “Revelation (Mother Earth),” either — Diary is a far more consistent record from beginning to end, and there’s not a single track that I skip every listen. 1980’s Blizzard of Ozz, of course, features some of Ozzy’s best-known songs, including “I Don’t Know,” “Mr. Crowley” and perhaps his most recognizable solo hit, “Crazy Train.” It also features one of my personal favorite guitar instrumentals, Randy Rhoads’ neo-classical jaunt, “Dee.”
WHOCARES, FEATURING TONY IOMMI AND IAN GILLAN – OUT OF MY MIND (2011): For all the mediocre music he shelled out under the Black Sabbath name following the departure of Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi is making amends later in life. His reunion of the Dio-era Sabbath lineup under the name Heaven and Hell a few years ago produced the best Black Sabbath record (and it was Sabbath, no matter what the cover said) since the same lineup reunited in 1992 for Dehumanizer. With WhoCares, he’s back together with Ian Gillan, who fronted Sabbath briefly after Dio left, for a great charity record to benefit the rebuilding of a music school in Armenia that was destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1988.