Check the exclusive video, showing the vinyl for sale!
Check the exclusive video, showing the vinyl for sale!
Ozzy Osbourne – lead vocals, Tony Iommi – guitar, Geezer Butler – bass, Bill Ward – drums
Black Sabbath – Technical Ecstasy
Label: Vertigo – 9124 100
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Genre: Rock, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock
A1 Back Street Kids
A2 You Won’t Change Me
A3 It’s Alright
B1 All Moving Parts (Stand Still)
B2 Rock ‘N’ Roll Doctor
B3 She’s Gone
B4 Dirty Women
Distributed By – Phonogram
Pressed By – Columbia, Athens – 5314
Written-By – Wade*, Osbourne*, Butler*, Iommi*
Greek 1st press.
Columbia Athens pressing number (A/A) is present.
Fully laminated cover and translated right on labels rim.
Matrix / Runout (A side runout, etched): 9124100 A ℗ 1976 410 X
Matrix / Runout (B side runout, etched): 9124100 B ℗ 1976 410 X
Pressing Plant ID (Labels): A/A 5314
Rights Society: BIEM
Other (Printed on labels): ℗ 1976 410 X
“We were at Tony Iommi’s house in the studio … the door flung open and there was this guy, dark glasses, as you see Ozzy, all in black with a hat on, absolutely drunk as a skunk,” he said. “He walked over and said, ‘What’s going on here?’ ‘We’re choosing the album cover, Ozzy.’ And you could feel the tension in the room. It was really unpleasant, and he just looked down and said, ‘That one. That’s the one,’ and I think Tony Iommi said, ‘That’s just as well because that’s the one we’ve all chosen,’ in that great Birmingham accent. And Ozzy suddenly turned on him and completely flipped. They started fighting. I was by the manager, and I’ll never forget when he said to me, ‘I think that went rather well, don’t you?’ I said, ‘What do you mean? It was mayhem and chaos in there. It was horrible.’ And he said, ‘Well, we got an album cover out of it.’ It was so rock & roll in a way. It was fantastic.”
Black Sabbath’s seventh album Technical Ecstasy was released in 1976. The album was a bit of a departure for the heavy metal gods, as they ventured into, as the album title stated, more technical territory. The tour featured two legs, a North American run featured Ted Nugent and Journey opening and a European run featuring AC/DC. Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler allegedly pointed a switchblade at AC/DC’s Malcolm Young in Switzerland (hopefully it was just a switchblade comb) and the tensions never subsided for the two for the rest of the tour.
By 1976, guitarist Tony Iommi was ready to reinvent the band and prove its mettle amidst an ever-changing musical landscape. Now managing and producing themselves, Black Sabbath aimed to create new, progressive music at the cutting edge of late seventies, pre-disco, pre-punk rock culture. After several weeks of writing sessions in England, the band flew to the ultra chic Criteria Studios in Florida to cut Technical Ecstasy.
It’s to Iommi’s credit that he wanted Sabbath to remain an exploratory venture. Back in 1970, before anyone had heard of heavy metal, they’d released their first album on progressive rock label Vertigo. Throughout their remarkable career, tunes like “Planet Caravan” and “Changes” and “Supertzar” proved that they were more than just the monolithic inventors of a loud and burgeoning genre.
Iommi intended to show off the musicianship and versatility of the band. Technical Ecstasy was a purposeful trajectory toward a new era in a time when bands like E.L.O. and Kansas were enjoying huge sales. Led Zeppelin’s abstruse Presence album had just charted at number one on both sides of the pond. Surely Sabbath could surf this same wave, especially with an album made in Miami.
With no managers or producers breathing down his neck, Iommi was able to make the album he envisioned without compromise. Sometimes though, a second opinion can be valuable.
This eclectic set of songs, wrapped in a white-bordered jacket that depicted–as Ozzy colorfully phrased it–“two robots fucking on an escalator” was more than enough to convince a great many fans that Sabbath had lost their way. But I would argue that the biggest issues were simply the muddy, coke-addled mix job, and the sequencing. Had the album not been so frontloaded with curveballs, opinions on this rewarding record might be more in line with what it’s always deserved.
I get why the modern, high energy “Backstreet Kids” was chosen to kicks things off. Bands like Boston and Foreigner were on the cusp of huge success with shiny hard rock songs of this ilk. With the right producer this song could have been hammered into shape for FM radio and the masses. While “Backstreet Kids” has more than enough raw personality to keep it properly Sabbathian, hearing the creators of heavy metal singing joyfully about “rock and roll” was a misstep, especially on the album’s lead track.
The ship rights itself immediately with “You Won’t Change Me.” The doomiest dirge on the album, this would have fit right in on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Sabotage. Why it’s almost never cited as one of the band’s classic tracks is a head scratcher. One imagines that this was placed second in order to reassure the hardcore fan base that depressive doom was still on the menu. And that might have worked if the third track was equally heavy.
Instead they gambled on a long shot with “It’s Alright.” I adore this song. Apparently so did Axl Rose–since he covered it on stage during the Use Your Illusion tours. This piano-driven rock ballad sounds positively Beatlesque, thanks to a lead vocal turn by drummer Bill Ward. He’s got a great voice, and the song stands strong on its own. But as the third track on Technical Ecstasy it was a big ask of the audience, who by now were shaking the album sleeve and trying to see if any remaining metal bits might fall out.
As if in answer, “Gypsy” closes out Side One, with Sabbath’s hand of doom flexing in its new fingerless glove. Frontloading the album with this track, and relegating “It’s Alright” to Side Two might have created a very different impression.
No doubt R2-D2 and C3PO would have approved of the weirdest song on Technical Ecstasy, “All Moving Parts (Stand Still).” That is, until Ozzy starts howling “I love choking toys.” With Geezer Butler’s proto-disco bassline, it’s a batshit crazy number, and a late addition to my favorite Sabbath tunes.
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor” has always received my vote for the worst song on Technical Ecstasy, mostly because of the boner title, and the basic boogie verse riff. Recent re-evaluation has led me to appreciate the massive intro, though, and the groovy outro vamp. This little tune is the shortest on the album anyway.
While the Beatles’ “Doctor Robert” provided them with acid, Sabbath’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor” reportedly gave them uppers in the morning and downers at night. He’d been employed by Elvis prior to working with Sabbath. Pretty sweet resume, Doc!
In the boneyard position is “She’s Gone.” This is one of the most contentious songs of the Ozzy era, often cited as a least favorite tune among the more macho and less emotionally secure Sabbath listeners. Personally I think it’s one of their standout tracks, and pairs nicely with other lovely ballads like Judas Priest’s “Before the Dawn.” In its album mix, “She’s Gone” features a plaintive Ozzy vocalizing loss in love. Iommi’s melancholy guitar line glides over a gorgeous foundation of synths and strings.
VIDEO: Black Sabbath “Dirty Women”
The album ends with a bang. “Dirty Women” may have been a trite subject for Sabbath, but it’s the only killer tune from this era brought back for the Reunion sets in the late ‘90s and beyond. As a showcase for Iommi’s lead guitar, it still shines bright. Gerald “Jezzy” Woodroffe had been enlisted to play keyboards and assist with song arrangements from 1975-1977. He claims to have written most of this song, though he remains uncredited. Fortunately he got his due later on by working with Robert Plant on Pictures At Eleven.
Critics continued to pan Black Sabbath, and sales slumped further. The Technical Ecstasy tour was a success, but Iommi’s confidence was shaken. Ozzy wanted to start his own band, focused on the meat and potatoes metal that fans craved. Sabbath was able to limp across the finish line with one more baffling record before parting ways with their iconic singer, who was ultimately replaced by Ronnie James Dio.