18 Things You Might Not Know About Black Sabbath's Master of Reality
By Dave Basner
July 21, 2018
On July 21st, 1971, Black Sabbath released their third album, Master of Reality. To celebrate its 46th anniversary, here are 18 things you might not know about the record:
1. Master of Reality marks the first time Tony Iommi down tuned his guitar. He did it on the songs “Children of the Grave,” “Lord of This World” and “Into the Void” to give them a bigger and heavier sound. Bassist Geezer Butler followed suit and with that, the band helped define heavy metal.
2. Drummer Bill Ward once said that Master of Reality was “an exploratory album.”
3. The first editions of the album had the album title in black lettering visible in relief, but later pressings had it flat and in grey.
4. The record was the band’s first with lyrics printed on the back sleeve.
5. The first North American edition of the album made it seem like there were more songs on the record than there were. This was done by adding names to parts of songs. The intro of “After Forever” was named “The Elegy,” the outro of “Children of the Grave” was titled “The Haunting,” the intro of “Lord of This World” was called “Step Up” and the intro of “Into the Void” was named “Deathmask.
6. The first editions of the North American records incorrectly listed the album title as Masters of Reality.
7. Ozzy Osbourne has said he cannot remember much about recording the album but in his autobiography, he did recall that “‘Children of the Grave’ was the most kick-ass song we’d ever recorded.”
8. Like some songs on Paranoid,“Children of the Grave” is anti-war.
9. During studio sessions, Ozzy brought Tony a large joint, which made him cough uncontrollably while he was laying acoustic guitar parts. The coughing fit was recorded and part of it plays as an intro into “Sweet Leaf,” a song about marijuana use.
10. The track “Sweet Leaf” came about after Geezer returned from Dublin and was struggling for song ideas. He had bought Sweet Afton cigarettes in Ireland and when he took one out to smoke, he saw on the package, “The Sweetest Leaf You Can Buy!” From there he decided to do a song called “Sweet Leaf.”
11. “Sweet Leaf” is considered by many the quintessential stoner anthem.
12. Bill struggled to play “Into the Void.” He attempted to lay down his part in different studios and had at one point given up trying but eventually got it.
13. Iommi has said that Ozzy also struggled with “Into the Void,” having to quickly sing “Rocket engines burning fuel so fast, up into the night sky they blast.” Tony said Geezer wrote all the words out for him but Oz still couldn’t do it and watching him try was “hilarious.”
14. In the song “Solitude,” Tony plays guitar, flute and piano.
15. “After Forever” was released as a single but didn’t chart anywhere.
16. Geezer, who is Catholic, was inspired by Christian themes when he wrote “After Forever.”
17. The album was the band’s first and only record in the US top ten until 13 came out 42 years later.
18. The record went on to go double-platinum, selling two-million copies in America.