If there is one thing we love learning more about, it's Black Sabbath's obsession with cocaine in the 70s. For example, we learned a few years ago that in 1972, the band had a $75,000 cocaine budget.
Well what did they do with that budget? A new, excellent retrospective from Rolling Stone has all four original members recalling the recording process, and naturally there are a lot of stories about drug use. While Bill Ward chose the "no comment" approach, some of the other members were more forthcoming.
“At that time, [the cocaine] was good stuff, and we used to have it flown in on a private plane,” guitarist Tony Iommi recalled “That’s why we used to have all the musicians turning up at our house at the time, pretending they’re coming to visit us. We were all bloody smugglers if you think about it.”
Later in the article they elaborate:
“We had a dealer who used to appear every so often,” Butler says. “He used to have these washing detergent boxes, like Persil and Oxo, and instead of washing powder in them, there’d be cocaine. And he’d literally empty these boxes of cocaine out in the middle of the table. It’d be a little mountain. And then we used to have stuff flown in by people that the manager knew.” Butler deepens his voice melodramatically: “The mafia.” He returns to normal pitch. “And they were all in these little bottles with wax tops on them. So they were, like, 100 percent pure cocaine. And that was the good stuff.”
“One day, I was sitting by the pool and I said to [a guy sitting there], ‘We had some great coke yesterday,’ and he goes, ‘Oh, I sold it to you,'” Osbourne recalls. “‘Oh, OK. What do you do?’ He said, ‘Oh, I work for the Food and Drug [Administration].’ He was an official. I went, ‘Oh, fuckin’ hell.’ He went, ‘No, you’re all right.'” Osbourne pauses. “He may have been winding me up, I don’t know. When you’re on that fucking bullshit powder, everything seems fantastic for five seconds and then you become a misery beyond belief.”
The overuse of cocaine led to the writing of "Snowblind," which highlighted the bands literal highs and lows.
“We wrote ‘Snowblind’ because it was the most amazing discovery of our lives,” Osbourne says. “We thought that’s what success was, but it turned out to be our worst enemy. We were headfirst into that shit, and it was terrible. Now I think to myself, ‘What the fuck was I thinking to think that was a good night out?’ The night never ended. You’d still be going to the next morning.”
What makes it interesting all these years later is the inherent sadness within a song about such a happy drug. “I suppose it was about being frightened of getting addicted to it,” Butler says of the lyrics.
If you're a Sabbath obsessive, the entire Rolling Stone piece is definitely worth a read.