Writer(s): Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Bill Ward (see lyrics here)
Released: August 7, 1970
First Charted: August 29, 1970
Peak: 61 US, 79 CB, 58 HR, 1 CL, 25 AR, 4 UK, 54 CN, 18 AU, 5 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.6 UK
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 274.6 video, 551.53 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
The “three-chord classic [was] dashed off as last-minute album filler.” GW It was written and recorded so quickly that Ozzy Osbourne was reading the lyrics as he was singing. SF Tony Iommi wrote the “simple riff that chugged, paused, and kept prowling, like a predator always in search of its next meal” PF while the rest of the band headed to the bar. PF “The driving guitar and bass create a nervous energy to go along with Ozzy Osbourne’s desperate vocal.” SF
Lyrics for Black Sabbath songs were generally left to bassist Geezer Butler because, as Ozzy and guitarist Tony Iommi have said, they considered him the intelligent one. SF However, Butler said, “Basically, it’s just about depression, because I didn’t really know the difference between depression and paranoia. It’s a drug thing; when you’re smoking a joint you get totally paranoid…you can’t relate to people.” SF The song “foregrounds an adolescent sort of worry – about being depressed and not understanding the symptoms or root of it, about crying when others laugh, about breaking up with someone because ‘she couldn’t help me with my mind.’” PF The word “paranoid” is never used in the lyrics.
The record company, Vertigo, heard a hit and issued the “three-minute assault” PF as a single just six months after the band had released its debut album. Vertigo also pushed for renaming the album Paranoid (instead of the originally planned War Pigs) “to remind potential customers of the song they’d seen four long-haired weirdos headbang to on Top of the Pops.” PF “Despite virtually nonexistent radio play,” AMG “Paranoid” charted in the United States in an era “when it was far more fashionable to sing gentle acoustic songs about ‘getting back to the garden.’” GW
It “isn’t only a heavy-metal classic, but “presaged the coming of punk rock.” GW Cash Box said the “crashing, non-stop beat with gobs of bass and drums laced liberally with stinging, echoey vocals and hot guitar licks move the song along at a blistering pace.” WK The magazine also described it “as dense, musically as ‘Whole Lotta Love.’” WK The song has amusingly achieved the same level in Finland as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” has in the United States where the audiences humorously request the song during other peoples’ concerts. WK
First posted 3/14/2022; last updated 8/3/2022.