Last November saw the long-awaited reunion of the classic lineup of Black Sabbath, well, three-quarters of the original lineup to be more precise; and they haven’t been without their problems since.
Fans were shocked by guitarist Tony Iommi’s announcement in January that there had been complications in his ongoing battle with lymphoma, his intensive treatment – including chemotherapy and radiotherapy – forced the newly reunited Sabbath to axe all shows from their world tour, save for their homecoming show in their native Birmingham, as well as their headline slot at UK’s Download festival last month and an upcoming Lollapalooza appearance.
It wasn’t the first – or even biggest – controversy facing the newly reunited band, with original drummer Bill Ward saying that he would be sitting out until a contract would be written up that was “signable”. The 63-year-old sticksman making his thoughts public with an open letter published on his personal website, saying he couldn’t proceed until a contract that “reflects some dignity and respect toward me as an original member of the band” is drawn up.
Sabbath promptly replaced him with fill-in Tommy Clufetos, but in a recent interview with The Times, vocalist Ozzy Osbourne says, “there was no row, there was no argument.” Though admitting that he had not spoken directly to Ward, communicating only through legal representatives, he added that the group were not adverse to having Ward back. “The door ain’t closed, whether we work something out up the road, I don’t know,” said the frontman.
“It’s not a personal thing,” added Iommi. “If he phoned us up tomorrow, which he hasn’t, but if he did…”
Now former-Black Sabbath vocalist, Tony Martin, who fronted the band from 1987-97 while Iommi was running the show, has told Classic Rock that he’s confused by the whole reunion saga, and suggests that the relationship collapse with Ward may be a publicity stunt.
“I don’t get it. I really don’t,” says Martin, “I’ve heard all the stories, and not once did anyone ever speak badly of Bill. They’ve never had a bad thing to say about him. They’ve always rated him. He’s had his little moments like we all have, but basically they love him.”
Martin also suggests that Ozzy, Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler should have given Ward more time to prepare for the possibility of an imposing reunion tour.
“I don’t understand why they didn’t give him time to get his thing together. He may have been out of the band for a long time, but set up some rehearsal or something – go and help him out,” says Martin.
“It seems a bit like a publicity stunt,” Martin added, “in that they’re saying, ‘Well, we can’t be bothered to go and do any rehearsals to get him to learn all the stuff again, so let’s keep him for another time so we can have another reunion later on… But I don’t know – I wasn’t privy to any of the conversations and I haven’t seen the contracts they were talking about. So I can’t say for sure, but I just don’t get it.”
The metal icons have committed to appearing at Chicago’s Lollapalooza festival next month.