(If you believe in full fucking solid bass lines in your rock and roll as we do, there are a few bassists in rock history that set the bar for excellence in that regard. One of these bottom-end wizards is legendary Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler. After speaking with Eric Larock this week, we all came to the same conclusion: when it comes to quaking bowels, Butler is right up there with the best of all time. We will feature a few more this week, but here is what the interweb has to say about the WIZARD himself. – FATS)
The longtime bassist for the groundbreaking heavy metal outfit Black Sabbath, Terence “Geezer” Butler was born July 17, 1949, in Birmingham, England. As a teen he formed his first band, Rare Breed, with schoolmate John “Ozzy” Osbourne; in the fall of 1968, the two reunited in the blues quartet Polka Tulk, which also featured guitarist Tony Iommi and drummer Bill Ward. After briefly re-christening themselves Earth, the foursome adopted the Black Sabbath moniker in early 1969, at Geezer’s suggestion. While Black Sabbath’s self-titled 1970 debut laid the foundations for their deafening, sludgy hard rock attack, the follow-up Paranoid was their creative and commercial breakthrough, selling four-million copies in the U.S. alone on the strength of fan favorites like “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” and the title track; though Osbourne was the band’s focal point, Butler wrote the songs’ lyrics, drawing heavily upon his fascination with the black arts to explore recurring themes of death and destruction. During the latter half of the 1970s, Black Sabbath’s popularity dwindled, and in 1979 Butler briefly left the band; his return to the lineup coincided with Osbourne’s departure, although the group continued on with new front man Ronnie James Dio. Butler again exited in mid-1984, forming the Geezer Butler Band before reuniting with Osbourne in 1987. Butler re-joined Sabbath for 1992’s Dehumanizer, but again quit the group two years later; after another fling with Osbourne, he formed G/Z/R, issuing Plastic Planet in 1995. The solo Black Science followed in 1997. It was around this time that Geezer returned again to Black Sabbath, for the Ozzfest 97 tour, and has been involved with Black Sabbath since this point on various Ozzfest tours.
Butler received the nickname “Geezer” at approximately age eight, because “I used to call everybody Geezer” at school. “It was just a slang term for a man. You know, like in America you say ‘guy’. In England, the term for that is either ‘bloke’ or ‘geezer’. I used to call everybody else geezer and then eventually everybody started calling me geezer.”
Butler grew up in an working-class Irish Catholic family and was heavily influenced by the writing of Aleister Crowley as a teenager. Butler formed his first band, Rare Breed, in the autumn of 1967, with John “Ozzy” Osbourne soon joining as lead vocalist. Butler dated a girl who lived near Tony Iommi, and Iommi’s earliest memories of Butler involved seeing him walking past his house in Birmingham quite often to visit her. Later, Iommi and Butler became acquainted when their bands played at a nearby nightclub. Separated for a time, Osbourne and Butler reunited in the blues foursome, Polka Tulk, along with guitarist Iommi and drummer Bill Ward. They renamed their band Earth, but after finding a band in the small-time English circuit with the same name, soon adopted Black Sabbath in early 1969.
Inspired by John Lennon, Butler played rhythm guitar in his pre-Sabbath days, including with Rare Breed. When Sabbath was formed, Iommi made it clear that he would not want to play with another guitarist, so Butler moved to bass. Butler lists Jack Bruce of Cream as his biggest influence as a bassist. Iommi described Butler as being “from another planet” in the band’s early days; he took LSD, wore Indian hippie dresses, and was very peaceful. At the time Black Sabbath was formed, Butler was studying to become an accountant, and this training resulted in him managing the band’s finances in the early days.
Butler briefly left Black Sabbath during the recording of their 1980 album Heaven and Hell. He again left the band in 1984 after touring in support of their 1983 album, Born Again. In 1988 he joined his former Sabbath bandmate Osbourne to take part in the No Rest for the Wicked World Tour. Butler re-joined Black Sabbath in 1991 for the reunion of the Mob Rules line-up, but again quit the group after the Cross Purposes tour in 1994.
In 1995 Butler joined with Osbourne to play on the Ozzmosis album. After recording Ozzmosis, he formed G/Z/R, issuing Plastic Planet in 1995. His next solo album, Black Science, followed in 1997. Butler returned to Sabbath once more for the 1997 edition of Ozzfest, and has remained with the band since. In 2005 he released Ohmwork, his third solo album. In October 2006 it was announced that Butler, along with Tony Iommi, would be reforming the Dehumanizer-era Black Sabbath line-up with Vinny Appice and Ronnie James Dio, under the name Heaven & Hell to differentiate between the reunited touring band fronted by Osbourne, and the current Sabbath line-up.