But I started to watch the programme with some fascination. The unpretentious honesty of Ozzy, Geezer, Tony and, ah, the other one immediately shone through. Like a lot of "musicians" of that era, they were just unlikely lads who got lucky but, unlike most of the ones you and I have heard of, they had the saving grace of knowing and appreciating the scale of their improbable good fortune. They have clearly never quite got over it; well, it certainly beat working for a living.
The really fascinating thing, though, was their creative method: Tony would come up with a riff, Ozzy would wail a tune with nonsense words, and Geezer Butler would get out his Encyclopaedia of Black Magick and knock out some lyrics. "I was interested in all that mystical astral plane cobblers at the time", he said.
armchair boogie, 1973
It's easy to forget how far the level of education and information has increased since the 1950s, due in part to state education but mainly due to the mass media and, since the 1990s, the internet. Contrary to what educational reactionaries would have us believe, the level of general knowledge back then was actually very low; much more a case of general ignorance. Most people knew very little about anything that didn't put food on the table, and for a young man to have any interests beyond sport, music and "courting" -- especially anything involving books -- was considered downright strange.
Acquiring knowledge used to be a very shallow, dry, and colourless affair. Deliberately so: to crave anecdotes and illustrations was regarded as the mark of a third-rate mind. You might learn the principal exports of Brazil at school, but have no idea what Rio de Janeiro looked and felt like, or how the experience of watching Santos or Corinthians play might differ from a drizzly winter afternoon on the terraces at Anfield or Highbury. The Girl from Ipanema might as well have come from Yarmouth.
In the decades since, the knowledge base really has spread and deepened, with the amazing result that the general knowledge pub-quiz has become as entrenched in popular culture as the car-boot sale. Thanks to TV, we all know (or think we know) the sights and sounds of the Rio carnival and the Amazon jungle, though we'd probably flounder without the helpful voiceover should we ever get to witness the real thing. Even quite taboo areas have become common currency. Who doesn't smile (or wince), at least inwardly, whenever the word "Brazilian" comes up?
An album like Paranoid is what you get when young people of limited opportunities and restricted access to education and culture suddenly get the chance to paint their own vivid pictures. Like a tattoo or a comic, the result is garish, and a little crude, but full of energy and a longing for a bigger, brighter life. It's also full of false emotions and trite posturing. It takes more than opportunity and youth to make art.
Inevitably, Metal was the music of choice of East European youth when the Iron Curtain came clanging down in 1989. It is a strange thought, that the supernova of energy released in a place as quotidian as England's Black Country would burst open the massive iron gates of Heavy Metal, and that grotesque, rough beasts would be slouching out of there, without pause, for the next 40 years.
Surely some revelation is at hand!