Earlier this month, original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward went public with his desire to reunite with the group via a video on his Twitter account. “I wanted to say that I love Tony [Iommi, guitar], Geezer [Butler, bass] and Ozzy [Osbourne, vocals] very much,” he said. “I’ve loved them for a long time, and I still do. And I would be very open-minded to any ideas about playing together in the future. That’s it. Love you all. Thanks.”
Related: Ozzy Osbourne: On the Road With the Prince of Darkness
That might seem like a bit of a tough request considering that Black Sabbath wrapped up their farewell tour in February 2017 with an epic show in their hometown of Birmingham, England. But this is also a band that played a series of Last Supper concerts in 1999, only to reunite at the KROQ Weenie Roast just six months later and then hit the road again in 2001. And their lead singer is a guy that went on a No More Tours farewell trek in 1992, which was followed three years later by the inevitable Retirement Sucks tour.
The original Black Sabbath toured regularly between 2001 and 2005, mostly on the annual Ozzfest summer tours, with their final performance taking place October 18th, 2005 at the UK Music Hall of Fame ceremony where they played “Paranoid.” Here’s video of that performance.
They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year, but opted not to perform even though they all showed up. It was the first sign that there was trouble in Black Sabbath world. It became even more apparent later that year when Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler recruited former Sabbath singer Ronnie James Dio and began touring under the name Heaven and Hell.
Dio’s death in 2010 lead to end of Heaven and Hell, which lead to a reunion of Black Sabbath the following year. All four members attended a press conference on 11/11/11 where they announced a new album and tour, but months later Bill Ward said that he was presented with an “unsignable” contract and wouldn’t take part in any of it. Rage Against The Machine’s Brad Wilk played drums on the album and Ozzy’s solo drummer Tommy Clufetos took over for the tours that followed.
Ward and his bandmates exchanged sharp words in the press throughout the course of all this. “I don’t think he could have done the gig, to be honest,” Osbourne told the New York Daily News in 2013. “He’s incredibly overweight. A drummer has to be in shape. He’s already had two heart attacks. I don’t want to be responsible for his life.”
Ward responded in 2015. “With a sad heart, I have to say I will not participate in any musical undertakings until a righting of the wrongs spoken against me has been achieved,” he wrote in a statement. “I must admit, I have little to no expectations of this happening, but in the order of first things first, I’m looking for an honest accountability of all of Ozzy’s statements that I felt were untrue. I would want Ozzy to amend his opinions and exaggerations.”
Ozzy fired back via Facebook. “Wow Bill,” he wrote. “What the fuck are you on about? I cannot apologize for comments or opinions I may have made about you in the press during Sabbath’s 13 album and tour– physically, you knew you were fucked. Tony, Geezer and myself didn’t think you could have done a two hour set with a drum solo every night, so we made the decision to move on. With Tony’s condition we felt that time was not on our side.”
He continued: “Bill, stop this smokescreen about an ‘unsignable contract’ and let’s be honest. Deep down inside you knew you weren’t capable of doing the album and a 16 month tour. Unfortunately for you, our instincts were correct as you were in hospital several times during 2013. Your last hospitalization was for a shoulder surgery that you now say you’ve only just recovered from. This would have meant that our world tour would have been canceled. So how is all of this my fault? Stop playing the victim and be honest with yourself and our fans.”
All of this made a reunion seem pretty damn unlikely, but Ward has appeared at public events with Iommi and Butler over the past year. And Ozzy is singing a different tune now when asked about it. “I didn’t like the fact that Bill Ward wasn’t there [for the last tour],” he said in May. “The four of us started this, and it should have been the four of us ending it. Those final gigs in Birmingham were bittersweet because you think of how far we came, and how much we did, and it would have been good to have shared that together. Maybe one day there’ll be one last gig, I don’t know.”
Could there actually be a true final, final, final Black Sabbath gig with all four of them? Right now, it seems far from impossible.
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