Terence “Geezer” Butler, best known as the longtime bassist for the groundbreaking heavy metal group Black Sabbath, was born in 1949 in Birmingham, England. As a teen, Geezer formed his first band, Rare Breed, with schoolmate John “Ozzy” Osbourne. The two reunited in 1968 in the blues quartet Polka Tulk, which also featured guitarist Tony Iommi and drummer Bill Ward. After briefly renaming themselves Earth, the group adopted the name “Black Sabbath” in early 1969, at Geezer’s suggestion.
Black Sabbath was catapulted to the top of the heavy metal charts, particularly after the release of their breakthrough album, "Paranoid", which sold four million copies in the US alone, largely on the strength of the hits “War Pigs” and “Iron Man.”
Geezer has gone in and out of Black Sabbath over the last two decades and formed his own band, G//Z/R, in 1995. As of this writing, it is rumored that the original Black Sabbath members may reunite once again. Read excerpts here:
FBPO: Tell me about your musical upbringing.
GB: I had absolutely no formal musical education. I suppose my earliest musical experience happened when I was about 7 or 8 years old. Skiffle was big in England at the time and the bass players would make basses out of a tea chest, a broomstick and string. I had a toolkit for Christmas, so I made a “guitar” from two pieces of wood, nails and rubber bands.
My first real guitar was an acoustic, bought from a kid at school when I was 11. It had two strings and cost ten shillings (about seventy-five cents). I used to play Beatles vocal melodies on it, no chords. Eventually, my brother saw how serious I was about learning to play and he bought me a new guitar, complete with six strings, for eight pounds (about twelve dollars), when I was 13. I learned to play chords, mainly Beatles songs, with the help of Bert Weedon’s Play In A Day book.
I formed a group with some schoolmates and we called ourselves The Ruums. I eventually bought an electric guitar, a Hofner Colorama, and an amp, a Selmer. We played a few birthday parties and a wedding. The guitarist, Roger “Dope” Hope, and I wanted to get serious about the band, so we replaced the drummer and bass player, recruited a vocalist and started playing heavier, blues-orientated stuff and changed the name to The Rare Breed. We played around Birmingham at proper gigs, but we were never asked back because of our outlandish (for then) stage act. We were so desperate for gigs we temporarily changed the name to The Future, but when we turned up at gigs, the promoter would recognize us and refuse to let us play. Finally, the singer left to be replaced by Ozzy. We did one or two gigs, then disbanded.
Read the full interview on this location.
Geezer says he has “No idea,” about any Black Sabbath reunion.
In other words, nothing has really changed since Geezer’s statement in February of this year, which reads: “I would like to make it clear, because of mounting speculation and rumors, that there will be definitely NO reunion of all four original members of Black Sabbath, whether to record an album or to tour.”
But that doesn’t mean he’s idly sitting around, either, waiting for the Sabbath thing to happen.
“I have been writing songs for a possible G//Z/R album and slowly compiling memoirs – what I can recall of them,” says Geezer.
“I’m hoping to have the book out in 2012, but it is very slow going. An album, maybe in 2012, is also a possibility.”
Tony Iommi doesn’t seem so sure, though. As recently as last month, Iommi said that he thought there was a good possibility of it happening “when the time is right. If we are still alive”
Ozzy chipped in with “I never say never anymore because you never know what’s going to come around. I love those guys — Bill, Tony and Geezer.”
Bill Ward, too, seems amenable to the idea. Speaking in May he said:
“I have a complete open mind. I would be available to see what we would like to do and how we would like to do it. I would have to look at the entire picture. Would I like to? My open mind says yes!”
So are the stars aligning? What would it take to coax Geezer out on the road? Money can’t be the driving force, as Sabbath royalties are likely to keep them in luxury for the rest of their lives. They don’t need to prove anything to anyone either. Hell they invented heavy metal!
Perhaps Iommi’s comment is the most telling -- “when the time is right. If we are still alive”
Let’s face it they aren’t getting any younger and Ozzy in particular has survived self inflicted excesses of rock superstardom which would have done for cockroaches and scorpions let alone your average Joe. Only Keith Richard and Lemmy can claim to have a constitution to match the Prince of Darkness.
But time rolls on and the longer it goes without them taking the plunge the less likely it is that it will ever happen at all, and the more likely it is that, if they do, they will be a grave disappointment to the legions of fans who would give their back teeth to see the original Sabs blast out "Paranoid", and "War Pigs", and "Iron Man".
Let’s face it; despite a revolving door through which 21 members of Black Sabbath have passed, the only constant is Tony Iommi.
Ian Gillan, Tony Martin, Ray Gillen and Glenn Hughes have had stints of varying length as Sabbath’s singer, but only two frontmen could claim to be the real deal when it comes down to it. The passing of Ronnie James Dio ended the other version of Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, leaving the way clear for Ozzy to jump on board again and Bill Ward to nudge Vinnie Appice off the drum stool for one last hurrah.
Will it happen?
You bet it will!
Here’s a prediction that you can take to the bank. Black Sabbath will reform in 2012 and make their return in the UK. They will make that return at a festival and that festival may be Download, or more likely, Sonisphere.
Why? Because a festival appearance will ease them back, allow them to dip their toes in the water and test the temperature of fan reaction. Why Sonisphere? Because the festival has come of age and, unlike any other, can provide a touring showcase which Sabbath can use as a springboard to a full blown headline tour if things go well, and if the band, (particularly Bill Ward whose dislike of touring led him to depart in the first place,) actually want to make more of it.
Like Maiden and Slipknot and Metallica this year, they can opt in and out of geographical locations to suit and to diffuse the pressure of a hectic schedule.
Of course, they could utilise the mothballed Ozzfest event as that springboard, but Ozzfest is too close to Ozzy and more importantly, Sharon, and if old wounds are to be left unopened then Sabbath need to reform as a unit. Not Iommi’s band, not Ozzy’s band, just Black Sabbath, the way it was back in Aston in 1969
Will they be any good? Who knows? I only saw them once, in 1978 as they toured with a youthful Van Halen who literally kicked their collective ass, and that tour led to the demise of the band when Ozzy was sacked. I can’t actually remember if they were any good, probably because it was so fucking long ago, and I may have had a couple of beers, but mainly because it didn’t matter..they were BLACK SABBATH!
And in truth, it still doesn’t matter how good they are, because millions of fans want to see the Masters of Reality take to the stage and thousands would gobble up a festival ticket solely to see Sabbath back on the boards.
It will happen…trust me….Ozzy’s a doctor….