No major rock band played Spokane more than Black Sabbath from 1970-1980. The godfathers of metal and sludge rock performed in the Lilac City five times during that period. That’s not shocking since Spokane has always been a hard rock town, but routing often prevented recording artists of Sabbath’s stature from visiting Spokane.
The Sabs’ local debut, March 14, 1972, happened despite local politicians’ attempt to ban the band from performing.
“City Council tried to stop them because of their song ‘Sweet Leaf,’ ” 4000 Holes owner Bob Gallagher recalled (sweet leaf is a paean to marijuana). “City Council said it encouraged people to experiment with drugs.”
The show went on, and the record shop proprietor saw the British legends.
“The crowd was a sea of denim, and I had never seen them before, and I remember (vocalist) Ozzy (Osbourne) staggering around the stage flashing the peace sign,” he said. “They were so powerful, but I actually went to the show to see the opener, which was Yes.”
A half-century ago, it was common for tour support to come from a different place sonically. The prog rock from Yes was complicated, often pretty and atmospheric. Black Sabbath bludgeoned its audience with a visceral shot to the gut.
“There was no denying how great they were,” Gallagher said. “They created the genre (metal). Nobody has touched Sabbath. Who would have thought that metal would still be popular 50 years later?”
Gallagher knows how popular Black Sabbath’s catalog is, and he’s thrilled that many of the albums have been reissued.
“It’s huge that Sabbath albums are out there again,” he said. “Whenever someone brings in a used Sabbath album, it’s almost always in bad shape since fans play Sabbath albums to death.
“Fans of metal bands like Sabbath often hold on to the albums. I just don’t see albums by certain metal bands, like Iron Maiden. … So, it was great when (Rhino) started to reissue the Sabbath catalog.”
Classics such as the Sabs’ eponymous debut “Paranoid,” “Volume 4” and “Heaven and Hell” have been reissued. Fans should check out the remastered version of “Sabotage,” which was released in 1975 and supported with a tour that stopped at the Spokane Coliseum on Sept. 11, 1975.
“Sabotage” is regarded as the last of the band’s legendary six first releases. The album, which includes exceptional Sabbath tracks such as “Symptom of the Universe” and “Hole in the Sky” is often overlooked.
Sabbath took some sonic chances, and it paid off on the album closer, “The Writ,” which is a top-tier Sabbath song and arguably features Osbourne’s finest vocal performance.
“Sabotage” is one of the greatest nihilistic albums and influenced disparate recording artists ranging from Nine Inch Nails and Black Flag to Metallica and Ghost. The “Sabotage” reissue is also pleasing visually since it has been released on 180-gram, limited-translucent purple vinyl.
“There is no band like Black Sabbath,” Gallagher said.
Sabbath also played the Coliseum on Nov. 13, 1977, Sept. 28, 1978, and Sept. 18, 1980.
“I never went to another Sabbath show, but I’ll never forget the time I saw them,” Gallagher said.
“I’m sure other people from Spokane who saw Sabbath would agree that Sabbath live is unforgettable.”
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