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Black Sabbath Returns With Sober Ozzy at the Head

The metal pioneers used to get their cocaine flown in by private jet. Now they reunite with their first album since drugs split them in 1978.

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By May Wilkerson

06/07/13

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Miracles do happen. Ozzy Osbourne just celebrated 90 days sober after a recent relapse, and his band Black Sabbath has produced their first record together in 35 years—13, which drops Monday. Back in the '70s, the British rockers pioneered the heavy progressive rock movement, becoming one of the biggest bands in the world. Though the group is known for its fascination with horror and the occult, it was the members' substance use that took them to the darkest places—and splintered the band. Frontman Osbourne's addictions—and recent sobriety—have been subject to much media scrutiny. But guitarist Tony Iommi tells the Guardian that all of the band members were heavily into drugs, and he once nearly overdosed at the Hollywood Bowl. "Nobody could control anyone else," he says, "I was doing coke left, right and centre, and quaaludes, and God knows what else." In fact, the entire group consumed so much cocaine that they "used to have it flown in by private plane." Bassist Geezer Butler says he once had his drink spiked with acid and tried to kill himself by jumping out a window. "Tony and Bill had to hold me down on the bed," he recalls, "I started going off drugs after that."

But Osbourne didn't ease up until many years later, and his addictions got him axed from Black Sabbath in 1978. The singer was often "in the bar getting legless" when his bandmates were in the studio, Butler recalls. He would also frequently go "awol" and lose time to blackouts. "I'd look at my watch and it would say four o'clock. Then I'd look again and it would say 9.30. I'd totally forget where I'd been or what I'd done," Osbourne recalls. According to Butler and Iommi, the singer "would have died" if he hadn't left Black Sabbath. Instead, says Osbourne: "I ended up losing my mind." Things came to a head in the '80s when, in a blackout, he tried to strangle his wife. "I woke up smashed out of my brains, charged with attempted murder," he recalls. "I was like: 'Who the fuck did I try and kill?' The policeman read the charge sheet: 'Sharon Rachel Osbourne'." Decades later, the two are still together, though their marriage went through a rough patch after Ozzy's recent relapse. But X-Factor judge Sharon, 60, says she's stood by her husband through it all, by practicing "acceptance of who that person is." “If you think you’re ever gonna change anyone, you’re not gonna do it," she says. "You love them for who they are.”

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