Black Sabbath - The Wizard
I will plant my tongue firmly in cheek here and say that with The Wizard, Sabbath invented the unicorn chaser. Well, they toyed with the idea of it anyways: After grabbing the listener by the throat, pounding them with doom, Ozzy smiles that innocent schoolboy-smile and pulls out a harmonica. “Oh good,” says the shellshocked audience, who came wanting to hear some good blues music (you know, like John Mayall or Fleetwood Mac), “they’re gonna do Baby Please Don’t Go!”
And Ozzy, suddenly experiencing a strange vision of having a dove in his pocket, puts the harp to his lips and bends one note a couple of times. Fellow British harp players in the audience are not impressed, like, “Dude, Paul Butterfield totally used that minimalist thing in Born In Chicago. Have you even *heard* Clapton?! He’s god, you know!” And then Ozzy finishes holding that note for the third time, and everything goes back to hell.
In Popoff’s first book, Ward speaks:
“I really liked ‘The Wizard,’” reminisces Bill. “That was a real sod to figure out. There are lot of movements, just like ‘Symptom of the Universe.’ Doing those live, you had to pretty physical to be able to play both of those. Especially ‘The Wizard,’ because it actually doesn’t stop for me as a drummer from beginning to end. There’s no actual time [signature], so I’m actually just pushing it through with all the different rolls and things like that from top to bottom.” (Popoff, 25)
That they make it sound completely natural is testament to their tight delivery on this track; even as a musician, I never noticed the weird time on this song, even when playing along with it, until I read this passage of Popoff’s book. This whole record has a very primitive feel to it, and this strange stomp is an essential part of that; Sabbath were deep in murky waters, picking up on something dark and heavy that was slouching towards England to be born. This song, arhythmic but viscerally gripping, is the sort of music one would expect to find in R’lyeh, where the mathematics don’t work right.
In lieu of having time to do my own post today, I instead leave you with this. A great song and a great piece of writing.