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UK, WEST MIDLANDS, Birmingham


Categories: Hard Rock

Biography

RARE BREED was an antecedent act in the evolutionary chain that was to eventually formulate BLACK SABBATH. The Birmingham band would feature two latter day Sabbath personnel, singer John Michael Osbourne, better known as Ozzy Osbourne, and Terence Butler, more commonly known as bassist Geezer Butler.

Osbourne's first attempts at singing came just after leaving school when, together with guitarist Jimmy Phillips, he founded the short-lived act THE PROSPECTORS. Osbourne and Butler, the latter a rhythm guitarist at this point, were members of RARE BREED, a 1966 act that lasted a mere two gigs. RARE BREED also involved lead guitarist Roger Hope, bassist Mike Hill and drummer Tony Markham. Previous to this, Osbourne had stints with local bands THE BLACK PANTHERS and APPROACH before replacing one John Butcher as singer for RARE BREED. Famously, Osbourne had scored the RARE BREED position with an advertisment in a local record store that read 'Ozzy Zig - vocalist - Looking for a band - Owns own P.A.' Osbourne's other credentials saw him having served a six week term of a three month sentence in the foreboding Winson Green prison for burglary. Having been caught robbing stockings from the Sarah Clarke clothing shop in Aston, Ozzy was given a fine, which because he could not afford to pay and his father refused to help him with, he was duly jailed. It was during his incarceration at her Majesty's pleasure that the singer gave himself his now famous 'Ozzy' and smiley face tattoos by rubbing floor cleaning paste into his skin.

RARE BREED soldiered on until the Summer of 1968, putting in a swansong gig on 13th July 1968 in Siloth. The Osbourne / Iommi / Butler / ward axis first gelled when MYTHOLOGY lost both singer and drummer. With the recruitment of Osbourne and Ward, MYTHOLOGY changed its title to MUSIC MACHINE adding saxophonist Alan 'Aker' Clark and Jimmy Phillips on slide guitar. Before long MUSIC MACHINE became the POLKA TULK BLUES BAND and conducted their debut gig on 24th August 1968 at the County Ballroom in Carlisle supported by CREEQUE. Their next gig, at the Workington Banklands Youth Club, would be the last under that title. Upon their return, the group ousted Phillips and Clark, trimming down to a quartet, with Butler adopting a new role as bass player by taking two strings off his Fender lead guitar. Subsequently, Phillips would go onto become a keyboard player performing with PURPLE ONION, FROG and MAGIC ROUNDABOUT.

Within a short space of time the revised band had altered their moniker to the shortened to POLKA TULK before another name change was enforced, the foursome becoming the EARTH BLUES BAND and subsequently simply EARTH, rehearsing at Newtown community centre in Aston. Once again the band debuted in Carlisle, appearing at the Gretna Tavern in late September of 1968. However, following an EARTH support slot to JETHRO TULL in Stafford On Trent, Tony Iommi was poached into the ranks of the headlining act. Iommi actually left to join JETHRO TULL for all of two weeks, to replace the departed Mick Abrahams.

Although the guitarist's stay in JETHRO TULL was brief he did appear with the band at the legendary ROLLING STONES 'Rock n' Roll Circus' film session, recorded at Internel Studios in Stonebridge Park, Wembley during December. Iommi and Anderson did not gel and upon completion of rehearsals for the 'Rock n' Roll Circus' he would quit. The guitarist returned for the day of filming but upon asking to be re-instated discovered he had already been replaced. After a short liaison with THE NICE guitarist David O'List, JETHRO TULL found a permanent replacement in Martin Barre. With Iommi reinstated EARTH got back to gigging, returning to Carlisle's County Ballroom on 21st December.

The band signed up to a management deal with Jim Simpson's Big Bear Management during 1969. Simpson owned the legendary Birmingham haunt Henry's Blues House and managed nationally known acts such as BAKERLOO, TEA & SYMPHONY, his own LOCOMOTIVE band and later was to manage fellow brummies JUDAS PRIEST. EARTH had already put in an appearance in the capitol with a batch of gigs at the legendary Marquee club, commencing in January of 1969. Unfortunately their first appearance was nearly their last as they were banned by the management until TEN YEARS AFTER guitarist ALVIN LEE scored a reprieve for the band. Their first taste of Europe came when Simpson booked a tour of Germany. The shows included a ten date residency at Hamburg's infamous Star Club, the once famous haunt of THE BEATLES, before a return for more UK gigs including a date at the prestigious London Speakeasy.

In August EARTH ventured back into Germany for a second stint at the Star Club. Although still operating as EARTH the group's live set included songs such as 'Black Sabbath', 'N.I.B.', 'Warning', 'The Wizard', 'Faeries Wear Boots' and 'Rat Salad'. Just earlier to this trip the group had been presented with a problem when, arriving for a gig in Manchester, discovered the promoter had in fact thought he was booking a Tamla Motown styled R&B band of the same name. By the time the band was back on British soil they had taken on the title BLACK SABBATH, after the Boris Karloff movie and a newly penned song. An attempt by Jim Simpson for them to consider his suggestion of 'Fred Karno's Army' fortunately fell on deaf ears. Cited by many to be THE original Heavy Metal band, BLACK SABBATH was to force a massive influence on the genre and have sold countless millions of albums. BLACK SABBATH, steered into their chosen doom / occult leanings by bassist and songwriter Geezer Butler, impose an enormous legacy upon the Heavy Metal scene.

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