Geezer Butler

By: Patrick Cates
July 17, 2010

It’s easy to laugh at Black Sabbath bassist GEEZER BUTLER (born 1949). His name makes him sound like the decrepit weirdo who answers the mansion door in an old-time horror flick. And his lyrics would feel more at home scrawled in the back of an occult-obsessed schoolboy’s exercise book than brought to life in the studio by Ozzy’s haunting wail. Can we ever respect someone who soliloquizes this lumpenly and unpoetically about the supposedly terrifying phenomenon of a man made of iron? “Is he alive or dead? / Has he thoughts within his head? / We’ll just pass him there. / Why should we even care?” But ignore the name and the lyrics for a moment. Consider instead how Geezer’s marvellously sludgy, funky and downtuned bass lines launched a metal revolution. Stay with the unsurpassably tight and rifferiffic 1970 album, Paranoid, and listen to the dark, sexy bass tease that opens Hand of Doom. Within the space of a minute, it beckons you in, seduces you and then throws you out the back door to the dogs of explosive doom. This music is so precocious that, even now, long after whole genres have emerged that pay lip service to Butler and the boys, it sounds like the next big thing. As all Sabbath songs of the early 70s do. Geezer Butler has a silly name and writes silly lyrics. But forgive him his follies; he is a cornerstone in the edifice of heavy metal.

ALSO BORN THIS DATE: Wong Kar-Wai.

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