Released: September 18, 1970
Peak: 12 US, 11 UK, 20 CN, 4 AU
Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 0.2 UK, 4.52 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: heavy metal
Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
Total Running Time: 41:51
4.368 out of 5.00 (average of 21 ratings)
Quotable: “Paranoid defined the sound and style of heavy metal more than any other record in rock history.” – Steve Huey, All Music Guide
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
After Black Sabbath (originally called Polka Tulk Blues Band) TL recorded their debut self-titled album, they toured Europe for six weeks and then headed right back to the studio. Considering the negative reviews from the rock press, Geezer Butler said, “it felt like the four of us against the world.” LW They didn’t realize what a loyal fan base they were developing in the U.S. Their main goal was to prove to their families that they weren’t wasting time on music. LW
The result is what has become an essential album in the history of rock music. “Radical songwriting. Ear-shattering riffs. Unforgettable vocals. An all-time great rhythm section. Even a slower love song set in outer space. Paranoid had it all.“ NPR
The Writing and Recording
With only six days in the studio (an eternity compared to the one day they had for their first album), LW they recorded the songs as if playing a live concert. The songs had largely been written on the road while the band toured in support of Black Sabbath.
The Sound…and Satanism?
When the album was released, “the world was convinced that these working class chums…were either satanists or an incredible facsimile.” TL Frontman Ozzy Osbourne’s biting-the-heads-off-bats incident didn’t come until he’d embarked on a solo career, but he had people nervous with his “declaration that he had sat through The Exorcist a gazillion times.” TL
Mostly, though, the band owed its infamous reputation to their creation of “a primal howl of fear and loathing” GW via “Tony Iommi’s crushing, granite-fuzz guitar chords, the Visigoth rhythm machine of Bill Ward and Geezer Butler’s” RS “massive bass riffs,” TL and Ozzy’s “agonized bray.” RS When he “screams, he sounds like he wants to drag you down to the bottom of the ocean and eat your brain.” VB
“The anxieties behind the music simply demanded that the band achieve catharsis by steamrolling everything in its path.” AMG “Iommi’s stump-fingered leads and down-tuned riffs provided the perfect platform for songs about war-mongering generals, boots-wearing skinheads and nuclear fallout.” GW Throughout the album “the subject matter is unrelentingly, obsessively dark, covering both supernatural/sci-fi horrors and the real-life traumas of death, war, nuclear annihilation, mental illness, drug hallucinations, and narcotic abuse. Yet Sabbath makes it totally convincing, thanks to the crawling, muddled bleakness and bad-trip depression evoked so frighteningly well by their music.” AMG
Template for Heavy Metal
“Nearly every heavy-metal and extreme rock band of the last three decades…owes [it] a debt of worship.” RS It “set the standard against which all heavy music would forever be judged.” GW Quite simply, “Paranoid defined the sound and style of heavy metal more than any other record in rock history.” AMG It is “the landmark in the history of heavy metal.” CR
Lines like “Satan laughing spreads his wings” furthered the image of the band as Satanic, but it wasn’t about the devil at all. Butler said, “To me, war was the big Satan. It wasn’t about politics or government or anything. It was evil. So I was sying ‘Generals gathered in the masses / Just like witches at black masses’ to make an analogy.” LW
It's also worth noting that the album was originally to be called War Pigs and the artwork had been designed with that in mind. As Tony Iommi said, “There’s a guy standing there with a shield and a sword, with the album title called Paranoid…’What’s that have to do with Paranoid?” Well, nothing really. But that’s how it was.” LW
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 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 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
“Hand of Doom”
“Fairies Wear Boots”
Notes: A 2009 deluxe edition added a second disc of the album in a quadrophonic mix and a third disc of instrumental versions and versions with alternate lyrics. A 4-CD deluxe edition was released in 2016 which included two live 1970 shows, one from Montreux and one from Brussels.
Resources and Related Links:
Other Related DMDB Pages:
First posted 2/18/2008; last updated 3/14/2022.