Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Black Sabbath - Changes



A few months back that Craig Kemery told me to dig deeper into Black Sabbath. Up until a then I only possessed two Black Sabbath CDs, the self titled “Black Sabbath,” and “Paranoid,” I have since rectified that situation by purchasing “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” and “Black Sabbath Volume 4.” It is a wonderful thing that after so many years I can still look deeper into bands I have known for years and learn so much more about them.

Songs can take on radical new meanings if they come into your life at unique times, and speaking of Black Sabbath whenever I hear “Changes,” I think about a very specific moment in time. I believe the year was 2003; I got a phone call from my friend who was looking for someone to drink with. This was the night that my friend's first love had left him, and he wanted something to distract him and someone to talk to. That something was beer, that someone was me. The night did not seem unique at the time, we treated it like any other, but there was one thing my friend said that stood out to me.

As if to sum up the evening’s purpose my friend gave me a quick synopsis of his situation. The metaphor of his choice was a song, Black Sabbath – “Changes.” He told me about how Ozzy Osbourne’s live version of the song is the much more popular version and how that live version got a lot more radio play than the original studio version. He told me about how Ozzy sang it in tribute to Randy Rhoads after he died. Ozzy lost his guitarist and best friend when Randy died, and it seemed so appropriate to sing “Changes,” since after all that was what Ozzy was going through. My friend too had lost someone close to him, and he too was going through changes.

My friend was right about everything he said. The history of the song “Changes,” was true, the song experienced a huge resurgence of popularity after the death of Randy Rhoads. It is true that for the longest time the only version of “Changes,” you heard on the radio was a live version of Ozzy performing in memory of Randy Rhoads. My friend was right about himself too, he was going through changes.

I did not want to admit it at the time, but I had never heard the song “Changes” before then. In fact my ignorance of Black Sabbath really was something to be ashamed of. That moment, as unimportant as it was for me, is permanently imprinted on my memory and whenever I hear “Changes” now, I think of that conversation, that girl, and my friend. Unlike “Sabbra Cadabra,” there is some depth in “Changes,” at least emotions more complicated than lustful/loving joy. While the song “Changes” is clearly about losing someone dear, a lover originally, and now arguably a friend in Randy Rhoads, that does not matter too much to me. “Changes” is a song about my friend’s broken heart and the person he lost.

My friend did not realize it at the time but he had brought up Black Sabbath songs to explain his feelings at both the beginning and end of this relationship of his. It never occurred to him that he had said these things, or the obvious correlation within the two statements, until years later when I pointed it out. It seemed to me to be a pretty good idea for a pair of Music In Reviews, and now here we are.

That night, all those years ago, my friend said something nice to me about how I was always there for him. Operating as best friend, I was there for him that night, but I was not the only one, so was Ozzy. It feels like a redundant thing for me to say that music is like a friend, that's always there for you, or that music stirs us and helps us understand ourselves, but it is true, and it bears repeating. If you know the man as well as I do, Black Sabbath songs could very well be used to sum up my friend’s entire youth, or at the very least, his first love from beginning to end, and it’s amazing those songs written for an entirely different purposes could so perfectly fit a mold of meaning so different from original intent. My friend’s friend Ozzy Osbourne was always there for him, just as he is there for me and all of you as well. Whatever the song means to you, that’s what the song means. Let your heart feel its way through the music and let the prince of darkness enlightened you in his own unique way.

Now shut up and enjoy the Ozzy.

- Colin Kelly

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Black Sabbath - Sabbra Cadabra



In 2001 Ozzy Osbourne released his eighth solo studio album “Down to Earth.” The thing I remember most from that album was the song “Get’s Me Through,” and interestingly enough I am not talking about the song itself but rather the message Ozzy told the world with this song. He said that his fans “get him through” it all, and this was a song written for and dedicated too his fans.

But when you think about it, Ozzy has been writing songs for his fans for years. I suppose every artist, to some extent, creates with the intention of sharing their work with others, but I suspect Ozzy in particular has always had a deeper understanding of the relationship between artist and fan. I cannot remember the exact quote but I remember Ozzy once saying “whatever you take away from one of my songs, that’s what that song means.”

Songs can take on radical new meanings if they come into your life at unique times, and speaking of Ozzy Osbourne whenever I hear Black Sabbath’s “Sabbra Cadabra” I think about a very specific moment in time. I believe the year was 2001, when my oldest friend set out on the task of making a collection of songs he felt appropriate to sum up his relationship, which is a classic youthful love maneuver. For some reason both he and she wanted my input on what songs would be appropriate. I was not entirely comfortable with the idea of helping. How could I possibly put songs to feelings not my own, especially intimate feelings, especially since I am a loner? Regardless I clearly remember my friend talking about it. However I can only remember one song that he mentioned, Black Sabbath’s “Sabbra Cadabra.”

“Feel so happy since I met that girl
When we're making love
It's something out of this world
Feels so good to know that she's all mine
Gonna love that woman till the end of time.”

I did not want to admit it at the time, but I had never heard the song “Sabbra Cadabra” before then. That moment, as unimportant as it was for me, is permanently imprinted on my memory and whenever I hear “Sabbra Cadabra” now, I think of that conversation, that girl, and my friend. If my friend remembers this moment as well as I do it should be safe to say that “Sabbra Cadabra” probably means much more to him than it does to me. The primary reason “Sabbra Cadabra” means anything special to me is simply because it holds meaning to my friend. Furthermore when you look at a song like “Sabbra Cadabra,” other than the awesome guitar riffs of Tony Iommi and the song generally rocking out, it is not a very deep song. It is a simple song about loving someone, nothing too complicated. My friend’s experience and mentioning of the song at a unique moment in our lives has given the song a greater depth than would be there if he had not.

It was just like Ozzy said, what I now take away from “Sabbra Cadabra,” is what the song is about. I could dissect the lyrics and try to place myself into Ozzy’s shoes thirty-nine years ago and make my best guess at hidden meanings and subtle suggestions, but I have never cared too, nor does it matter much. “Sabbra Cadabra” is a song about my friend’s first love.

There are times when I need to step back and walk miles in the shoes of others. I have dedicated a sizable amount of time and effort sharing with others my thoughts and feelings on music and it is wise of me to ponder the thoughts and feelings of others and what music reaches them. I like to fancy that as an amateur music critic that my musical interpretation must mean something, but I cannot forget, so does everyone else’s. Ozzy said as much.

Until later this month, keep on rocking in the free world.