After somehow surviving snorting $75K's worth of cocaine while recording Vol. 4 in 1972, the 1977 version of Black Sabbath was still deep into druggy indulgences. So much so that while working on their eighth studio record, Never Say Die!, they would arrive at Sounds Interchange Studios in Toronto too high to play and would go back to their hotel rooms
Ozzy spoke briefly about his brief departure from the band in his book I Am Ozzy, likening it to a "marriage ending" and for a while all you want to do is "hurt each other." In Osbourne's case, he spoke poorly about his bandmates to the press–something he admits wasn't "fair" to do at the time. And instead of hitting the pause button on Sabbath, Tony Iommi reached out to talented blues-based vocalist Dave Walker (Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown) to take Osbourne's place. Like the rest of Sabbath, Walker was a local Brummie whom Ozzy personally admired. Walker got to work with remaining members of Sabbath on Never Say Die! with Walker taking over some of the lyric-writing responsibilities from Sabbath's primary lyricist, Geezer Butler. One song in particular on Never Say Die! penned by Walker is "Junior's Eyes," a track detailing the dark side of society and mistreatment of the poor. Heavy stuff.
Though Walker's time in Black Sabbath was brief and despite writing much (if not all according to Walker), of the original lyrics for Never Say Die!, he never actually recorded with the band in the studio. However, Walker did perform live with Sabbath at the Pebble Mill Studio in Birmingham for the BBC television show Look Hear on January 6th, 1978 during which he sang two songs with Sabbath (armed with a tambourine and harmonica), "War Pigs," and "Junior's Eyes."
While footage exists of this somewhat odd blip in Black Sabbath's timeline, and has been posted on YouTube in the past, it gets removed quickly as the BBC, who owns the copyright to the video, refuses to release it. Not long after this performance, Dave Walker unsurprisingly ran into Ozzy at a pub in Birmingham and after chatting with Osbourne felt sure he had intentions of returning to Sabbath sooner rather than later.
Like so much of Ozzy's life, his time away from the band was filled with difficult, life changing events. Osbourne's father, Thomas "Jack" Osbourne would pass away after battling cancer on January 20th, 1978 which is also the birthday of Ozzy's daughter Jessica with his first wife Thelma Riley.
After his passing, Ozzy would return to Sabbath. Walker never had any contact with the members of Sabbath after Ozzy's return. And though Ozzy was back, Never Say Die! would be the last album featuring the classic lineup of the band for 36 years until the release of 13 in 2013. That said, things didn't exactly go well while trying to rework the material for Never Say Die! as Ozzy refused to sing anything written by Dave Walker.
He was also pretty harsh with Geezer Butler who took on the monumental task of rewriting lyrics for the album, often telling Butler what he had written wasn't good enough and had to be changed. For instance, the song "Junior's Eyes," was reworked as an homage to Ozzy's recently departed father. Here's a look at the opening lyrics by Walker, and the ones written by Geezer Butler that appear on Never Say Die!
"Junior's Eyes" (lyrics by Dave Walker): "Take now, pay you later, drowning in a sea of finance/Hey now, money maker, how is it we don't stand a chance? (Folks) hear footsteps runnin', someone met his maker tonight ' (Looks calm), clothes are stunnin' nobody is safe out of sight"
"Junior's Eyes" (lyrics by Geezer Butler): "Junior's eyes looked up to the skies in tears/He prayed that his maker, the giver and taker, would 'pear/Junior sighed, as his hands reached out to the sky/Junior cried, the day that his best friend died."
Things would only get more divisive when Sabbath returned to England. Tony and Ozzy were not on speaking terms, and Ozzy would joke that Sabbath had become "a jazz band" (even though elements of jazz are routinely heard in the band's catalog), and should change their name to "Slack Haddock."
Ozzy was so disengaged with the material for Never Say Die! he refused to record the vocals for the track "Swinging on the Chain." This is why you hear Bill Ward's voice on the song. Completing the album was a huge relief for every one in Sabbath and Tony Iommi wasn't especially proud of the finished product. For fans, the album wasn't exactly what they had been expecting, and more than likely Sabbath would perhaps agree with this statement. And, after all this talk about "Jazz Sabbath" this review of Never Say Die! from the Houston Chronicle published on November 19th, 1978), kind of says it all.
To finish up Metal Injection's latest deep-dive into the history of Black Sabbath, let's listen to both versions of "Junior's Eyes."