What Ian Gillan Learned From Joining Black Sabbath for One Album
Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan recalled the high points of joining Black Sabbath for their 1983 album Born Again, even though it remains one of the band’s least popular titles.
Both parties were experiencing their own wilderness eras at the time – Gillan was between projects, having shut down his Ian Gillan Band, while Sabbath had split with original singer Ozzy Osbourne’s replacement, Ronnie James Dio. The deal was struck among Gillan, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler during a heavy drinking session.
“I went for a drink with Tony and Geezer, and we ended up under the table,” Gillan told SiriusXM in a recent interview (via Blabbermouth). “I got a call from my manager the next day saying, 'Don't you think you should call me if you're gonna make decisions like this?' I said, 'What are you talking about?' He said … ‘You agreed to join Sabbath.’ So that's how it happened. I was at a kind of loose end anyway.”
He noted that their “one-year plan” included an album and a tour, but that he “didn’t see much of” his bandmates during recording sessions. “They were night people, so they slept all day and worked all night," he recalled. "I got up in the morning, cooked my breakfast, went to the studio to hear what they had recorded the night before and write a song over it. And that's how the album was made.”
Despite Born Again's negative reviews, Gillan described the project as “a challenge.” “It was a bit like doing Jesus Christ Superstar or singing with [Luciano] Pavarotti -- it's just something completely different," he explained. "But Tony is such a great writer. You know what to expect with Tony. There's no multidirectional approach. He is the father of everything that came out of Seattle, I believe. He's just very direct, and that's how he evolved from the early days. I found it very easy to sing and write songs with him.”
Gillan said the song“Trashed” was a high point, in his opinion, noting it was a “true story about a racetrack and too much drink and spinning a car and crashing it and going upside down. It was exciting times.”
The Born Again tour had an uncannily accurate Spinal Tap moment, when Sabbath commissioned a Stonehenge stage set that proved too big to use at most venues. “We didn't quite go life-size, but it was about two-thirds,” Gillan said. “And we could never get it all up on a stage. We played some huge arenas and places, stadiums, and you couldn't get it [to fit]. So there are parts of it, there are monoliths that are all lying around in docklands somewhere and are spotted around the world, as far as I know.”