40 Years Ago: Ozzy Osbourne Gets Fired From Black Sabbath

April 26, 2019

After Black Sabbath finished touring in the summer of 1978 in support of their album, Never Say Die!, they were unmistakeably in a state of discontent. They were very unsatisfied with their record. It did not fare well with their fans. They demolished their bodies with substances like alcohol and cocaine. Lastly, they were being outshined by an energetic, up-and-coming Van Halen.

With the failure of Never Say Die!, along with their previous album, Technical Ecstasy getting poor reception as well, the band turned to increasing their substance abuse to cope with the current state of Black Sabbath. Vocalist Ozzy Osbourne took it especially hard, as he suffered physical and mental abuse by both family and peers before joining the band, which was the first time he felt especially confident. But soon he was back to second-guessing his worth, leaving him hesitant and not always willing to pick himself up to work on another Black Sabbath album. He would continue to abuse alcohol and drugs, and keep giving excuses for why he didn't want to sing. After many attempts to reignite his passion for music, Black Sabbath officially fired Ozzy from the band on April 27th, 1979.

Guitarist Tony Iommi admits that firing Ozzy was no easy decision. But if they wanted Black Sabbath to continue, Ozzy had to go.

Giving Ozzy the axe was not an overnight decision for the band either. When they rented a house on Los Angeles to begin their follow-up album to Never Say Die!, converted the garage into a jam studio that they would use for rehearsal. But as soon as they began compiling new music, Ozzy disappeared for six weeks, leaving everyone without any knowledge of his whereabouts. Iommi later learned that he was out partying at nightclubs and never returned. 

Ozzy's abscence was a huge weight on his bandmates' shoulders. Geezer Butler, who quit drugs in 1976, wanted to continue writing the album without Ozzy. But Iommi used Ozzy's abrupt departure as a reason to do drugs, and drummer Bill Ward was simply drunk all of the time.

Iommi would reassure Warner Bros. record executives that the record was coming along fine, even though they had nothing to play for them. The rest of Black Sabbath came to the conclusion that if they don't replace Ozzy with someone else, then Black Sabbath would break up.

Months would pass where Ozzy would show no improvement, and progress on the new Black Sabbath album came to a halt. Since Ozzy and Ward were dubbed the "drug commandos", Geezer and Iommi agreed that it should be Ward who had to break the news to Ozzy that he was out of the band. In his book I Am Ozzy, Ozzy tells how he felt like Iommi would force him to do takes and wanted him out of the band after he would disappear so many times.

Ozzy also said in his book that he felt that his bandmates were unfair kicking him out of the band for drugs when they themselves weren't exactly sober all of the time either.  “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel betrayed by what happened with Black Sabbath,” he said. “We were four blokes who’d grown up together a few streets apart. We were like family, like brothers. And firing me for being f**ked up was hypocritical bulls**t. We were all f**ked up. If you’re stoned and I’m stoned and you’re telling me that I’m fired because I’m stoned how can that be? Because I’m slightly more stoned than you are?”