Geezer Butler Remembers How Black Sabbath Originally Had a Sax Player Who Only Knew "Take Five"

Their first show was "crap"

Photo: Ross Halfin

BY Alex HudsonPublished Jun 21, 2024

Black Sabbath are one of the most famously badass bands ever, having basically invented heavy metal. But things nearly went a very different way, as bassist Geezer Butler has reminisced about how they originally had a saxophonist who specialized in playing the jazz standard "Take Five."

Appearing on Marc Maron's WTF podcast, Butler recalled forming the band (who, in 1968, were called the Polka Tulk Blues Band) with the classic lineup including singer Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi and drummer Bill Ward, plus two additional players: slide guitarist Jimmy Phillips and sax man Alan "Aker" Clarke.

"The saxophone player could only 'Take Five,'" Butler told Maron, laughing. "But he played it really good! So when I first seen him, [I said], 'What does he do, is he any good?' And he'd do a great rendition of 'Take Five.' But we didn't know that's the only thing he could play!"

The lineup didn't last long: during their first show, they were heckled intensely. "At the end of the gig, we finish, and all Tony and Bill's fans come: 'You're crap, and that singer's crap, and that sax player's crap, but Tony and Bill are good, so I think you should all just piss off.'"

After that, two men attempted to fight them, prompting the police to come and arrest the two men.

Following that disastrous gig, the band changed their name to Earth and continued as a four-piece without the slide player or saxophonist. The next year, they discovered there was another British band called Earth, so they changed it to Black Sabbath after a 1963 horror film — and the rest is history.

Ozzy Osbourne recently said that he would be up for reuniting Black Sabbath's classic lineup one more time. Perhaps they can bring a sax player on stage to play "Take Five" while they're at it?

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