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Rat Salad: Black Sabbath, The Classic Years, 1969--1975

Rat Salad: Black Sabbath, The Classic Years, 1969--1975
By Paul Wilkinson

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Product Description

A brand-new look at Black Sabbath, one of the most outrageous bands in the history of rock music
This information-rich, idiosyncratic, and beguiling book paints a vivid picture of Black Sabbath at its beginning, from 1967 to 1975---the time in which the band made its greatest albums:  Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Master of Reality, Vol. 4, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and Sabotage.

But Rat Salad diverges from routes taken by most rock biographies---its detailed, song-by-song analysis of the band's masterworks is interwoven with a personal account of the news stories and culture of the time, from Vietnam to Bloody Sunday to the space program. These narrative chapters---think Ian MacDonald's Revolution in the Head meets Spinal Tap meets Nick Hornby---persuasively explain the appeal of the music, its compositional artistry, and its frequently audacious inventiveness.

Original and passionate, Rat Salad embraces a remarkably diverse cast of characters---from Ozzy Osbourne himself and the other members of the band through to Edith Sitwell, Breugel the Elder, John Milton, and Doris Day. The author's hand looms large in the piece, as he grows from schoolboy ingenue to inveterate devotee and looks back at a life populated with love, sex, drugs, and death and played out against a rich sonic backdrop of crucifixes and power chords.

Product Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #1215248 in Books
  • Published on: 2007-07-24
  • Released on: 2007-07-24
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 256 pages

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
The instant popularity and phenomenal sales of Black Sabbath's first two albums in 1970 created a generational divide within the rock music audience, with teenage listeners too young to have experienced the Summer of Love responding to Sabbath's dark vision of a violent world in songs like War Pigs and Iron Man. In this witty and musically sophisticated appreciation, first-time author Wilkinson forcefully argues that Sabbath produced six truly exceptional albums about which remarkably little of consequence has been written. Album by album and song by song, he shows how the gloomy tone of Sabbath's music resulted primarily from guitarist Tony Iommi's repetitive use of the minor key tonic/subtonic shift of E and D and the frequent adoption of semitonal intervals. His short chapters on the historical and biographical context of each album will entertain his stated audience, the grown-ups who were there at the time and who lived through it. Best of all, Wilkinson is never dull in his assessments, dismissing one song that dissolves into a turgid and repetitive 4/4 riff on a B power chord, praising another that mixes spectacularly intricate and weighty guitar work with passages of surprising, and enduring, melody and noting that yet another is breathtaking in its alternating ugliness and beauty. (Aug.)
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"Engaging…a loving look at the group's first six albums. A convincing case that these are indeed classics with in-depth, often hilarious dissection of the records."--Kirkus Reviews
UK Praise for Rat Salad
"You won't find a more intimate guide to Sabbath."---Guitar & Bass
"No ordinary rock biography."---Sunday Mercury
"Makes you want to crank out those records and remember just why everyone loves these four blokes."---Rock Sound
"An affectionate and enteratining account of Sabbath's glory years."---Classic Rock
"An in-depth look at everyone's favourite Sabbath era."---Metal Hammer
"Wilkinson should be applauded."---Q magazine

About the Author

Paul Wilkinson was raised in England's Peak District and graduated with a degree in psychology in 1983. Since then, he has worked extensively in the arts and entertainment industry and currently manages an arts center in east London, close to where he lives. He has played guitar and sung in a number of failed pop outfits: most notably, inept Beatles-copyists The Originals, and close-harmony, cabaret joke-band The Stallions of Love. He has been a fan of Black Sabbath for over thirty years. Rat Salad is his first book.

Customer Reviews

Vile Vermin Volume1
Part personal bio, part band history, part musicology ... and one big mess. Wilkinson's inability to focus his energies in one direction makes this one tedious tome. With his pretentious faux scholarly treatment of Sabbath's musical devices (such as down-tuning and tritone use), readers won't be sure who the author is trying to impress: himself or 12-year-old budding metal guitarists.

The glossary uses confusing, incomplete or even erroneous explanations of musical terminology. "Chromatic" is defined as "the name given to a scale comprising every note within it." Come again? Try using that explanation on a young guitar student and witness the immediate puzzled face. Defining the electronic effect chorus, Wilkinson duly notes the use of delay in creating the effect, but omits the ever-important use of pitch alteration. The author's explanation for modes is completely wrong: Wilkinson's definition would indicate that modes can only exist in the key of C when he states that modes use notes located only on "the white keys on a piano."

Discussing "Planet Caravan," Wilkinson states Ozzy Osboune's vocal is "barely discernible through the panoply of effects." What panoply? The effect is a microphone fed into a Leslie speaker (which creates a warble) and possibly some reverb. Hardly a "panoply."

The band bio portion of the book reveals few new items (even the casual fan must know "Vol. 4" was created in a cocaine haze) and the personal accounts are a waste of space (how does the author recounting feeling up his babysitter help me better understand Sabbath's music?).

The musicological elements offer some worth, but don't merit nearly 250 pages. Instead, this book really could have been distilled to magazine-article length by focusing on the different elements of Black Sabbath's music and offering specific examples. Rather than listing every song in the 1970-1975 catalog and mentioning such elements as the "tonic/subtonic shift" ad nauseam, Wilkinson should have listed the musical device (harmonic distortion, tritone use, Aeolian mode), discussed its central importance to the Black Sabbath "sound" and then explored certain tunes exemplifying those traits. Instead, readers are forced to suffer yawn-inducing repetition of concepts and terms in an eye-tiring and patience-testing tirade. Sorry, but piling on inane literature/history references and distracting footnotes doesn't equal sophisticated scholarship, either.

Black Sabbath's lyrics, most penned by bassist Geezer Butler, are worthy of study as they cleverly mesh the horrors of Vietnam, drug abuse, the A-bomb, oppression and abuse of power with sci-fi concepts and Christian mythology. But you have to understand the wordplay to explore and appreciate it. In a major misstep, Wilkinson says the "lyrical message" of "Into the Void" is "wildly contradictory," stating that when rockets are first mentioned they are the villain, yet by the second verse they offer salvation. Nope, don't think so. Even when I first heard those lyrics as a young teen, I understood the rockets were the means by which humans were to escape the unnamed holocaust impacting the Earth and not the provokers of the plight.

Bottom line: Rock writing should approximate the music's excitement. "Rat Salad" can't even approach a power chord at half-current.

Rat Salad1
It's hard to determine if the author actually likes Sabbath or hates them. I found this book in a sales section at a store, $6, I think I paid too much. The author is trying too hard to impress himself with his vocabulary. His insults to Iommi's playing and the rest of he band runs into an endless babble fest. Talking just to hear himself talk. Don't pay more than $2.00 for this book.

How much more can this book suck?1
None. None more suck. Black Sabbath has been my favorite band for over 20 years. The author has a horrible voice, not mention his opinions are quite insane. This book is worthless. The author actually dismisses 3 entire ozzy era sabbath albums as "Rubbish". What more can I say? Terrible, just terrible. If you really want to read this get it from the public library.

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