And Finally Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #97: Black Sabbath v Black Sabbath

By | Published on Friday 10 February 2012

Black Sabbath

This beef really happened last week, but indulge me for a moment, please. Last Thursday, Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward issued a statement saying that he was unable to join the recently reunited band for recording sessions in the UK because he had not yet been presented with a contract he felt he could sign.

Maybe we should skip back a bit. Last year the original line-up of Black Sabbath announced that they were getting back together. It’s not the first time they’ve done so, but previously they’ve only played live. This time, they announced, they would be recording a new album, the first featuring the original line-up for 33 years. Suddenly the get together was elevated above previous reunions, and had a much better PR angle.

When it was announced that Tony Iommi had been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, the band insisted the reunion would go ahead, adding that they would shift recording sessions from LA to the UK, where Iommi was receiving treatment. And though the possibility of touring was now uncertain, they remained adamant that they would play their headline set at Download Festival as planned.

Which made Ward’s statement all the more surprising. As far as anyone on the outside was concerned, the reunion was a done deal. But throughout all of this, Bill Ward was not even contracted to join in.

“At this time”, he wrote last week, “I would love nothing more than to be able to proceed with the Black Sabbath album and tour. However, I am unable to continue unless a ‘signable’ contract is drawn up; a contract that reflects some dignity and respect toward me as an original member of the band … Several days ago, after nearly a year of trying to negotiate, another ‘unsignable’ contract was handed to me”.

Clearly this is not the sort of statement anyone puts out without thought. It was, presumably, an attempt to force the band’s (or their management’s) hand in the contract negotiations. Though it was a move that failed. The next day, the rest of the band issued their own statement, saying: “We were saddened to hear yesterday via Facebook that Bill declined publicly to participate in our current Black Sabbath plans. We have no choice but to continue recording without him although our door is always open”.

Now, had they read Ward’s statement properly, they would have seen that he had far from “declined publicly to participate” in the reunion. In fact, he said: “I am packed and ready to leave the US for England. More importantly, I definitely want to play on the album, and I definitely want to tour with Black Sabbath”.

He also added, to defuse the obvious accusation, that he was not “holding out for a ‘big piece’ of the action (money) like some kind of blackmail deal”, just that he felt he was not being given proper recognition for his role in the band.

Indeed, without Ward, the whole ‘first album for 33 years’ thing was kind of out of the window. It may be that the “door is always open”, but will Ward want to take part now that the rest of the band have called his bluff? Is the reunion worth its salt without him? Clearly the rest of the band see him as an expendable member of the line-up, though many fans disagree.

What harm this will ultimately do the reunion, whether or not Ward rejoins, remains to be seen. If nothing else, such inter-band bickering highlights that they might not be doing the reunion thing just for the joy of being four old mates back together again, or just for the fans, but rather what’s in the fans’ wallets.

Whatever, most shockingly of all, yesterday afternoon Bill Ward’s personal Facebook page was removed from the list of pages ‘liked’ by the official Black Sabbath page. Oh, the humanity.