Ozzy Osbourne & Black Sabbath: The myths and truths

Black Sabbath is one of a handful of bands that can claim to have invented a genre.

Black Sabbath is one of a handful of bands that can claim to have invented a genre, in its case heavy metal.

The band’s powerful riffs and dark lyrics have influenced everyone from Nirvana to Metallica. Sabbath and original lead singer Ozzy Osbourne may be equally well known for their debauchery, which has given birth to legendary stories of drug use, arrests, groupies and infighting.

As three-fourths of the original lineup comes to Madison Square Garden on a farewell tour, amNewYork tries to separate the myths from the reality.


The Claim: Many of Black Sabbath’s songs are about the devil.

The Verdict: Myth

In a 2013 interview with “The Guardian,” bassist Geezer Butler said war was the main theme of their songs from the Vietnam era. Osbourne said, “We were never really into the occult.”


The Claim: Ozzy Osbourne was banned from San Antonio for urinating on the Alamo

The Verdict: Part myth, part reality

He actually urinated on a monument across the street from the Alamo, but the incident got him arrested and banned from San Antonio for 10 years.


The Claim: Osbourne bit the head off a bat onstage during a concert

The Verdict: Reality

This happened in 1982. He says he thought it was a toy bat.


The Claim: Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi is missing two fingers

The Verdict: Part myth, part reality

Iommi lost the tips of two fingers in an accident at a factory where he worked. He uses two thimbles to replace the tips.


The Claim: Black Sabbath was the inspiration for the “Stonehenge” scene in the movie “This Is Spinal Tap”

The Verdict: Reality

Butler told “Classic Rock Revisited” that during the band’s “Born Again” tour in the 1980s, Sabbath’s then manager wrote down the wrong dimensions for a Stonehenge stage set. Unlike Spinal Tap’s, which was miniature, Sabbath’s was too big — so big, in fact, that it couldn’t fit on a stage.


The Claim: At one point, Sabbath spent more on cocaine than on its albums

The Verdict: Reality

Butler told “The Guardian” that the band spent $15,000 more on cocaine for “Vol. 4’s” recording sessions than it did on the album itself.


The Claim: Black Sabbath once opened for Ozzy Osbourne

The Verdict: Reality

Sabbath, which then featured Ronnie James Dio on vocals, opened Osbourne’s “retirement” concert in 1992. But Dio was so upset about the idea that he quit the band shortly before the show. Judas Priest’s Rob Halford sang instead.


The Claim: Original drummer Bill Ward is skipping the farewell tour because of money

The Verdict: Reality

Ward has publicly said he hasn’t received a “signable” contract from Black Sabbath. He didn’t play on their most recent album and isn’t on this tour. Osbourne has said Ward wasn’t healthy enough for a tour.

If you go

Black Sabbath is at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 25 and Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m., 4 Penn Plaza, 212-465-6073, $65-$149.50

Hal Bienstock