Black Sabbath: “Paranoid” (1970)

This is the single that made Black Sabbath international stars and set into motion fifty years of head banging (and counting).

Kronomyth 2.01: Suspicion torments my heart.

This is the single that single-handedly kicked off the heavy metal movement in Europe, the patriarch/progenitor of hundreds of European death metal bands. It may also be the first example of head-banging rock & roll. And, of course, it’s the first single from Black Sabbath’s best album, Paranoid. So many firsts, that the last thing you need is for me to re-hash it all. Either you’ve heard this song a thousand times or you haven’t (in which case, fear not, you’ll have plenty of chances in Hell).

Paranoid is part of a time-honored rock & roll tradition that presents the hero as social outcast: Iron Man, Cinderella Man, 21st Century Schizoid Man, Fool on the Hill. Of course, Sabbath does it darker, without sympathy or the trace of a single tear. It’s a cautionary tale of having crossed the line from sadness to madness, and the burned-out shell-of-a-man singing it sells it.

“We recorded the whole [album] in about two or three days, live in the studio. The song ‘Paranoid’ was written as an afterthought. We basically needed a three-minute filler for the album, and Tony came up with the riff. I quickly did the lyrics, and Ozzy was reading them as he was singing.” — Geezer Butler, as quoted in a 2004 Guitar World article.

For some reason, Vertigo paired “Paranoid” with The Wizard, a track from their first album. It’s another rock & roll archetype (the theme for today, apparently), this time of the supernaturally wise man. (See Tull’s Teacher or Heep’s The Wizard for more examples.) Since we’ve already covered this ground before, I’ll move along to the reissues. In the 70s and onward, “Paranoid” was re-pressed into service on various back-to-back hit singles, so chances are you’ve got one version or another in your singles collection. I have the Warner Bros. reissue from the 1980s, which features the album version of “Iron Man” but incorrectly lists it as the 3:33 single version. You know, that stop watch is water resistant too…

Read more Black Sabbath reviews

Original 7-inch single version

A1. Paranoid (Tony Iommi/Bill Ward/Geezer Butler/Ozzy Osbourne) (2:50)
B1. The Wizard (Tony Iommi/Bill Ward/Geezer Butler/Ozzy Osbourne) (4:22)

French 7-inch single version
A1. Paranoïd (Tony Iommi/Bill Ward/Geezer Butler/Ozzy Osbourne) (2:50)
B1. Rat Salad (Tony Iommi/Bill Ward/Geezer Butler/Ozzy Osbourne) (2:30)

Mexican 7-inch EP single version
A1. Paranoico
A2. Ensalada de Ratas
B1. Funeral Electrico

The Plastic

Released on 7-inch single on August 7, 1970 in the UK, Australia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain (Vertigo, 6059 010), the US and Canada (Warner Bros., 7347), Japan (Philips, SFL-1300) and New Zealand (Vertigo, 6059019) with regional picture sleeve; reached #4 on the UK charts and #61 on the US charts (and was also a Top 10 single in the Netherlands and Switzerland, and presumably other lands as well). Also released on 7-inch single in 1970 in France (Vertigo, 6059 014) with different B side, “Rat Salad,” and on three-track 7-inch single in 1971 in Mexico (Vertigo, 2097) with picture sleeve.

  1. Re-issued with “Iron Man” on back-to-back hits 7-inch single in 1975 in the US (Warner Bros., GWB-0312) [burbank label].
  2. Re-released with “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” on B2B 7-inch single on December 7, 1977 in the UK (NEMS, NES-112) and in 1977 in France (Eurodisc, 11462) with regional picture sleeve; reached #14 on the UK charts.
  3. Re-released with “Snowblind” on B2B 7-inch single on August 18, 1978 in the UK (NEMS, NES-121); reached #14 on the UK charts.
  4. Re-issued with “Snowblind” on B2B 7-inch single in August 1980 in the UK (NEMS, BSS 101), Germany (Intercord, INT 110.604) and Yugoslavia (NEMS/BeogradDisk, SVKS 3019) with picture sleeve.
  5. Re-issued with “Iron Man” on B2B 7-inch single in the US (Warner Bros., GWB-0312) [white watermark label].
  6. Re-released with “Iron Man” on B2B 7-inch picture disc single on September 24, 1982 in the UK (NEMS, NEP-1).
  7. Re-issued with “Iron Man” on B2B 7-inch single in January 1985 in the UK (Old Gold, OG-9467).
  8. Re-issued on 7-inch single in 2018 in the US (Warner Bros., R7 566433) with picture sleeve.

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