In September 1972, Black Sabbath released their fourth studio album, assigning it the clever title of Vol. 4. Many have declared it to be the best Sabbath album of all time. Others claim otherwise. Whatever your position on this matter, you may still find the following four facts about the LP to be fascinating, ahead of a Super Deluxe Edition of the album coming Feb. 12.
But enough of our yakking. On with the facts!
It was the first album that Black Sabbath ever produced without any outside help.
That’s not to say that they didn’t have any assistance at all – their manager, Patrick Meehan, is credited as a co-producer along with the band – but it was the first time they’d tackled an album without Rodger Bain twiddling the knobs for them. “Although he’s very good,” said Ozzy Osbourne at the time, “he didn’t really feel what the band was doing. It was a matter of communication.”
It was, by the band’s own admission, very much fueled by cocaine.
In fact, this may be one of the greatest understatements in this history of rock and roll, since Tony Iommi freely acknowledged in his autobiography, Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath, that the band regularly had speaker boxes full of cocaine delivered to them at the Record Plant, where they were recording the album. That said, Osbourne acknowledged in his own autobiography, I Am Ozzy, that...
Actually, let us pause for a moment and just say this: “Kids, don’t do drugs.”
Right, so what Ozzy said was, “In spite of all the arsing around, musically those few weeks...were the strongest we’d ever been.” And he was right. But you still shouldn’t do drugs, kids.
The cover art is actually a concert photo.
The photograph was taken by a gentleman by the name of Keith Macmillan - although he’s credited as “Keef” - at a Sabbath concert at Birmingham Town Hall in January 1972. It’s become an iconic shot, one which has been much parodied and has also made it onto a pair of tennis shoes.
It was the album that finally won over Lester Bangs.
Bangs, arguably one of the most influential rock critics of the ‘70s (if also arguably one of the most overrated, but everybody’s got their own opinion, including Lester), was absolutely, positively not a fan of Sabbath’s earlier albums. With Vol. 4, however, he gushed in Creem, “We have seen the Stooges take on the night ferociously and go tumbling into the maw, and Alice Cooper is currently exploiting it for all it's worth, turning it into a circus. But there's only one band that's dealt with it honestly on terms meaningful to vast portions of the audience, not only grappling with it in a mythic structure that's both personal and powerful but actually managing to prosper as well. And that band is Black Sabbath."
Guess he liked it.