Riffipedia - The Stoner Rock Wiki
Riffipedia - The Stoner Rock Wiki
Studio album by Black Sabbath
Released September 18 1970
Recorded 16 – 21 June 1970 at Regent Sound Studios in London, England
Genre Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Doom Metal
Length 41:51
Label Vertigo
Producer Rodger Bain
Black Sabbath chronology
Black Sabbath
Master of Reality

Paranoid is the second studio album by the English rock band Black Sabbath. Released in September 1970, it was the band's only LP to top the UK Albums Chart until the release of 13 in 2013, over forty years after Paranoid's relase. Paranoid contains several of the band's signature songs, including "Iron Man", "War Pigs" and the title track, which was the band's only Top 20 hit, reaching number 4 in the UK charts. It is often cited as a widely influential album in the early development of the heavy metal genre.


Writing and Recording[]

In an effort to capitalize on the recent UK chart success of their eponymous debut album, Black Sabbath returned to the studio with producer Rodger Bain in June 1970, just four months after the album was released. Paranoid was recorded at Regent Sound Studios and Island Studios in London, England.

The album's title track was written as an afterthought. As drummer Bill Ward explains: "We didn't have enough songs for the album, and Tony (Iommi) just played the guitar lick and that was it. It took twenty, twenty-five minutes from top to bottom."[1] In the liner notes to the 1998 live album Reunion, bassist Geezer Butler recounts to Phil Alexander that they wrote the song "in five minutes, then I sat down and wrote the lyrics as quickly as I could. It was all done in about two hours." According to Alexander, "Paranoid" "crystallized the band's writing process, with Iommi initiating the ideas with his charred riffs, Ozzy (Osbourne) working on a melody, Geezer providing drive and the majority of the lyrics, and Bill Ward locking into a set of often pounding rhythms beneath Butler's bass rumble." The single was released in September 1970 and reached number four on the UK charts, remaining Black Sabbath's only top ten hit.[2]

Most of the songs on Paranoid evolved during onstage improvisational jams. In the Classic Albums documentary on the making of Paranoid, guitarist Tony Iommi recalls that "War Pigs" came from "one of the clubs" with Butler adding, "During the song "Warning" we used to jam that out and that particular night when we were jamming it out Tony just went da-dum!" In the same documentary, Iommi demonstrates his approach to the guitar solo in the song, explaining that "I always tried to keep the bottom string ringing so it fills it out nicely." On "Planet Caravan", Osbourne sings through a Leslie speaker, with the singer telling Mojo in 2010, "Then Rodger Bain used an oscillator on it – whatever that is. It looks like a fridge with a knob on."

The album's opening track "War Pigs" was originally intended to be called "Walpurgis". It was then changed to "War Pigs", which the band intended to name the album until it was changed to Paranoid after the record company became convinced that the song of the same name had potential as a single.[3] Butler explained his intentions to Classic Albums: "I wanted to write a song called 'Walpurgis' – you know, the Satanic version of Christmas – write it about that Satan isn't a spiritual thing, it's warmongers. That's who the real Satanists are, all these people who are running the banks and the world and trying to get the working class to fight the wars for them. We sent it off to the record company and they said, 'No, we're not going to call it that. Too Satanic!' So I changed it to 'War Pigs'." In his autobiography I Am Ozzy, vocalist Ozzy Osbourne recalls, "It was originally going to be called 'Walpurgis' ... which was a term for a black magic wedding or something. Then we changed it to 'War Pigs', and Geezer came up with these heavy duty lyrics about death and destruction. No wonder we never got any chicks at our gigs. Geezer just wasn't interested in your average 'I love you' pop song ... Geezer also liked to put a lot of topical stuff, like Vietnam references, into our songs. He had his ear to the ground, Geezer did."

The song "Iron Man" was originally entitled "Iron Bloke". Upon hearing Iommi play the main guitar riff for the first time, Osbourne remarked in awe that it sounded "like a big iron bloke walking around". The title was later changed to "Iron Man" as bassist and lyricist Geezer Butler composed the lyrics.[4] The riff to "Iron Man" is iconic among heavy metal guitarists, with Osbourne declaring in his memoir that "...Tony Iommi turned out to be one of the greatest heavy rock riff-makers of all time. Whenever we went into the studio we'd challenge him to beat his last riff – and he'd come up with something like 'Iron Man' and blow everyone away." Butler wrote the lyrics as the story of a man who time travels into the future and sees the apocalypse. In the process of returning to the present, he is turned into steel by a magnetic field. His attempts to warn the populace are ignored and mocked. This causes Iron Man to become angry and vengeful, causing the destruction seen in his vision. "Electric Funeral" also contains apocalyptic imagery dealing with nuclear warfare. In The Last Supper concert film, Iommi remembers that at the time with most bands "it was all the 'flowers in your hair' and we wanted to sing and play about the other side of life." In the 1992 documentary Don't Blame Me Osbourne concurs: "It was me and five kids living in a two bedroom house. My father worked nights, my mother worked days, we had no money, we never had a car, we very rarely went on holiday ... And suddenly, you know, we hear about 'If you're going to San Francisco be sure to wear a flower in your hair'. And we're thinking, (contemptuously) 'What the fuck is San Francisco? Where is this? What's all this flower shit? I've got no shoes on my feet.'" "You could just see that a lot of things were going wrong in the world," Butler recalled to Classic Albums in 2010, "and no one was saying anything about it. Bob Dylan had long since faded from the present memory and there was nobody talkin' about the things that I wanted to talk about – political stuff – so that's what inspired me."

In 2013, Butler told Mojo magazine that the song "Paranoid" was "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 about people, you can't relate to people. There's that crossover between the paranoia you get when you're smoking dope and the depression afterwards." In 2015 Butler elaborated further to Dave Everly of Classic Rock: "I used to be a cutter. I'd cut my arms, stick pins through my fingers, that kind of thing. I used to get really depressed and it was the only thing that could bring me out of it. If Sabbath hadn't made it, I'd have been long dead. I'd have killed myself." According to Mick Wall's book Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe, Butler was dead set against the song because he thought it too closely resembled Led Zeppelin's "Communication Breakdown", with the bassist admitting, "I thought it was so much like that we couldn't possibly get away with it ... They were our favorite band by that time." "Planet Caravan" was an unusually quiet song which showcased that the band was capable of more than bone crushing guitar riffs. Iommi admitted that the band had doubts about the mellow number, telling Classic Albums, "It was almost one of those 'Should we do this?'" with Butler adding, "We just came up with that in the studio and it was really laid back so and we didn't want to come out with the usual love crap. So it was about floating through the universe with your loved one, instead of 'Let's go down to the pub and have some chips', or whatever ... Just taking a spaceship out into the stars and having the ultimate romantic weekend." Django Reinhardt's jazz influence is apparent on Iommi's guitar playing. "Hand of Doom" dealt with the problem of soldiers returning from the Vietnam War strung out on heroin, which the band witnessed first-hand when they played two American Army bases but, as Butler observed to Matthew Longfellow in 2010, there was "nothing on the news about this. There was no programs telling you that the US troops in Vietnam, to get through that horrible war, were like fixing up and all this kinda thing. It just stuck in me head and when we got to "Hand of Doom", that's what I wrote it about."

According to Butler, Ward's drum solo "Rat Salad" resulted from the band having to play eight and three quarter hour spots a night in Europe early in their career. "Bill used to fill out a whole 45 minutes doing a drum solo just to get rid of that 45 minutes," he revealed to Classic Albums. "I have no idea where the title came from, though." While Butler may have now forgotten where the title of "Rat Salad" came from, in 1971 he was on record stating it came from a joke about Ward's hair having not been combed.[5] In 2013, Sabbath biographer Mick Wall described the closing track on the album, "Fairies Wear Boots", as a "hard-driving riff sweetened by a beautifully baleful melody" with a lyric written by Osbourne about a nasty encounter with a group of skinheads.

Title and Artwork[]

Paranoid was originally titled War Pigs, but the record company allegedly changed it out of fear of a backlash from supporters of the ongoing Vietnam War.[6] Additionally, the band's label felt the title track was more marketable as a single. Ozzy Osbourne states in I Am Ozzy that the name change had nothing to do with the Vietnam War, and was entirely due to the record company deciding the album would be easier to sell if it was named after the single, which had already had significant success by the time the album was released, reaching number 4 on the UK Singles Chart. It was too late, however, to alter the artwork. Joe Smith, who was executive vice-president at Warner Bros. from 1970 to 1972, told Classic Albums that the rest of Warner Bros. didn't want anything to do with them: "We were in the midst of the war ourselves in this country and what their reasoning was not that important to me. I knew we weren't going to call it 'War Pigs'." Regarding the song "Paranoid", Smith recalls, "It was on an acetate. I remember playing it and turning the sound way up and shaking the whole building ... I said 'I think that's the breakthrough album. I don't understand it but that 'Paranoid' sounds like a great title for an album and a great title for a single.'" "That album title had nothing to do with the sleeve," Osbourne explained to Phil Alexander in 1998. "What the fuck does a bloke dressed as a pig with a sword in his hand got to do with being paranoid, I don't know, but they decided to change the album title without changing the artwork."[7]

The cover, with the original War Pigs title in mind, was designed and shot by Keith Macmillan (credited as Keef) in Black Park. His assistant, Roger Brown, was the model.[8] The original UK vinyl release was in a gatefold sleeve featuring a black-and-white photo of the band, posed outdoors on a grassy hill. Also shot by Macmillan, it was the band's first appearance on album artwork.

Release, Reception and Legacy[]

The album was issued in the United Kingdom in October 1970, where its sales were enhanced by the success of the "Paranoid" single. "That single attracted screaming kids", Iommi recalled in the liner notes to Reunion in 1998. "We saw people dancing when we played it and we decided that we shouldn't do singles for a long while after that to stay true to the fans who'd liked us before we'd become popular." Paranoid's US release was delayed until January 1971, as the Black Sabbath album was still on the charts at the time of its UK release. Paranoid reached No. 12 in the US in March 1971 with virtually no radio airplay.[9][10]

In a retrospective review, AllMusic's Steve Huey cited Paranoid as "one of the greatest and most influential heavy metal albums of all time", which "defined the sound and style of heavy metal more than any other record in rock history".[11] Ben Mitchell from Blender said it was "the greatest metal album of all time".[12] According to Rolling Stone's Joe Levy, "Sabbath ruled for bummed-out kids in the Seventies" and "nearly every heavy-metal and extreme rock band of the last three decades", including Metallica, Nirvana and Slipknot, "owes a debt of worship" to Iommi's "crushing" guitar riffs, Ward and Butler's "Visigoth rhythm section" and Osbourne's "agonized bray" on tracks such as "Paranoid", "Iron Man" and "War Pigs".[13]

The album is currently ranked at No. 131 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Paranoid's chart success allowed the band to tour the US for the first time in October 1970, which spawned the release of the album's second single "Iron Man". Although it failed to reach the top 40, "Iron Man" remains one of Black Sabbath's most popular songs, as well as the band's highest charting US single. As of 2014, Paranoid is Black Sabbath's best-selling album, having sold 1.6 million copies in the US since the beginning of the SoundScan era.

Speaking to Guitar World in 2008, Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains called "Hand of Doom" "a masterpiece. It's hypnotic and terrifying and has a seductive groove. The song explodes into a twisted landscape made physical through sound." Scott Ian of Anthrax told Nick Bowcott that "War Pigs" is "the sound of the apocalypse. It's the sound of a vengeful God. It's the sound of a beast crushing everything in its path." In the Holiday 2008 issue of Guitar World, Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead called "Iron Man" one of the most memorable riffs of all time while Kerry King of Slayer cited "Electric Funeral" as having "some monster riffs that have stood the test of time".

Paranoid has been re-released several times over the years. Notably the North American version renamed two songs in similar fashion to the self-titled to give the appearance of more songs: "War Pigs" and "Fairies Wear Boots" to "War Pigs / Luke's Wall" and "Jack the Stripper / Fairies Wear Boots", respectively. Castle Communications would re-issue the album in 1986 with a live version of "Wicked World" as a bonus track. This live rendition would later appear on Past Lives.

In 2009 Paranoid would be re-issued as a three disc set with a remastered mix, the quadraphonic mix and a disc of instrumentals and alternate takes. A four-disc edition of Paranoid would be issued in 2016, featuring a 2012 remaster of the album, the 1974 Quadraphonic Mix and two live performances from 1970.[14]

In 2020 Paranoid would be re-issued for it's fiftieth anniversary as part of a 5LP box set which includes the album, the quadraphonic mix and two widely bootlegged live performances from 1970, fully remastered.[15]


In the early 1970s, an American nurse committed suicide and the Paranoid album was found on her turntable. The album's possible influence in her decision to commit suicide was mentioned in the inquest, but ultimately it was decided that Black Sabbath were not to blame for her death. "A lot of the words in the songs – a lot of the moods of the songs – are aggressive," Iommi acknowledged. "Especially in the early days – Satanic, if you like ... That was the way it felt, so that was the way we played. But it got out of hand. With Paranoid in England, for instance. There was a girl found dead – a nurse she was: dead in her room with our album on the turntable going round. And it was taken to court saying that it was because of the album that she was depressed and killed herself, which was totally ridiculous, I think."

In a 1982 interview with The New Music Butler claimed, "If the moral majority don't understand it they'll try to put it down, or get other people to read all sorts of things into it ... The moral majority sort of people picked up on the Satanic part of it. I mean, most of it was about stopping wars and that side of it, and some science fiction stuff. There wasn't that much Satanic stuff, and what there was it wasn't exactly for the devil or anything like that; it was just around at the time and we just brought it to people's attention." In the documentary The Black Sabbath Story, Vol. 1, Butler expresses his frustration at how fans misinterpreted the band's lyrics, stating that "for instance, on 'Hand of Doom' they'll pick up one sentence out of that and blow it up into this big thing, like as if we're telling everyone to go and shoot smack. The whole song is against drugs."


  • In 1989, Kerrang! magazine listed the album at No. 39 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time".[16]
  • In 1994, Paranoid was ranked number three in Colin Larkin's Top 50 Heavy Metal Albums. According to Larkin, "Pretenders have often grasped at their crown, but Paranoid shows that Black Sabbath remain the quintessential metal band."[17]
  • In 1999, Q magazine (12/99, p. 170) included it in their list of The Best Gothic Albums of All Time, writing that, "[Black Sabbath] stamped their bombastic and doom-laden imprint on British rock forever."
  • In 1999, Vibe (12/99, p. 162) included it on their list of 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century.
  • In 2003, the album was ranked number 130 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time,[18] and 131 in a 2012 revised list.[19]
  • In 2006, the album was ranked number 6 on Guitar World magazine's list of The Greatest 100 Guitar Albums of All Time.[20]
  • In 2010, Paranoid was covered as part of the Classic Albums documentary series, which examines albums "considered the best or most distinctive of a well known band or musician or that exemplify a stage in the history of music".
  • In 2015, Decibel Magazine would rank it #11 on their "Top 100 Doom Metal Albums of All Time" list.[21]
  • In 2017, Rolling Stone considered it the greatest metal album ever.[22]
  • In 2018 Loudwire would rank Paranoid #1 on their "Top 25 Doom Metal Albums of All Time" list.[23]

Charts & Certifications[]

  • In 1970 Paranoid would peak at #5 on VG-lista (Norway),[24] #2 on the Offizielle Top 100 (Germany)[25] and #1 on the OCC Uk Albums Chart[26] and Dutch Album Top 100 charts.[27]
  • In 1971 Paranoid would peak at #12 on the US Billboard 200.[28]
  • Paranoid would re-appear on the UK albums charts, at #54 in 1980, #63 in 2002 and #96 in 2012.[29][30][31]
  • In 2008 Paranoid would appear on the Italian FIMI charts, ranking at #96.[32]
  • In 2020 Paranoid would appear at the Belgian Ultratop Wallonia Charts, at #133.[33]
  • In Canada, Paranoid would go Platinum, selling over 100,000 copies by 1 September 1977.[34]
  • In Italy via FIMI, Paranoid would go Gold with over 50,000 copies sold.[35]
  • Paranoid would go Gold in the United Kingdom, selling over 100,000 copies.[36]
  • In the United States, Paranoid would be certified Gold on 7 May 1971, Platinum and 3x Platinum on 13 October 1986, and 4x Platinum on 31 January 1995.[37]


All songs composed by Black Sabbath (Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, Ozzy Osbourne).


BLACK SABBATH - "Paranoid" (Official Video)


BLACK SABBATH - "Iron Man" (Official Video)


  • 1. War Pigs (7:57)
  • 2. Paranoid (2:48)
  • 3. Planet Caravan (4:32)
  • 4. Iron Man (5:56)
  • 5. Electric Funeral (4:53)
  • 6. Hand of Doom (7:08)
  • 7. Rat Salad (2:30)
  • 8. Fairies Wear Boots (6:15)

Deluxe Edition Disc Two: Quadraphonic Mix[]

  • 1. War Pigs (7:55)
  • 2. Paranoid (2:48)
  • 3. Planet Caravan (4:30)
  • 4. Iron Man (5:58)
  • 5. Electric Funeral (4:47)
  • 6. Hand of Doom (7:07)
  • 7. Rat Salad (2:29)
  • 8. Fairies Wear Boots (6:13)

Deluxe Edition Disc Three: Alternate Takes/Instrumentals[]

  • 1. War Pigs (Instrumental (8:00)
  • 2. Paranoid (Alternate Lyrics) (2:50)
  • 3. Planet Caravan (Alternate Lyrics) (6:01)
  • 4. Iron Man (Instrumental) (5:57)
  • 5. Electric Funeral (Instrumental) (4:52)
  • 6. Hand of Doom (Instrumental) (7:14)
  • 7. Rat Salad (Alternate Mix) (2:29)
  • 8. Fairies Wear Boots (6:16)


  • Ozzy Osbourne - Vocals
  • Tony Iommi - Guitar; Flute (Planet Caravan)
  • Geezer Butler - Bass
  • Bill Ward - Drums; Congas (Planet Caravan)
  • Tom Allom - Engineer; Piano (Planet Caravan)
  • Brian Humphries - Engineer
  • Rodger Bain - Producer
  • Marcus Keef - Graphic Design, Photography

External Links[]


  1. [Rosen, Steven (1996). The Story of Black Sabbath: Wheels of Confusion. Castle Communications.]
  2. Rolling Stone
  3. [Osbourne, Ozzy (2011). I Am Ozzy. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0446569903.]
  4. [Classic Albums – Paranoid, by Isis Productions/Eagle Rock Entertainment]
  5. Academia.edu
  6. Channel 4 via Wayback Machine
  7. [Classic Albums – Paranoid, by Isis Productions/Eagle Rock Entertainment]
  8. Rolling Stone
  9. AllMusic
  10. Rolling Stone via Wayback Machine
  11. AllMusic
  12. Blender via Wayback Machine
  13. [Levy, Joe, ed. (2005). Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (First Paperback ed.). Wenner Books. ISBN 978-1-932958-61-4.]
  14. Louder Sound
  15. Louder Sound
  16. [Kaye, Don (21 January 1989). "Black Sabbath 'Paranoid'". Kerrang!. 222. London, UK: Spotlight Publications Ltd.]
  17. [Larkin, Colin (1994). Guinness Book of Top 1000 Albums (1 ed.). Gullane Children's Books. ISBN 978-0-85112-786-6.]
  18. Rolling Stone
  19. Rolling Stone
  20. Guitar World via Wayback Machine
  21. Reddit
  22. Rolling Stone
  23. Loudwire
  24. Norwegian Charts
  25. Musicline.de
  26. Official Charts
  27. Dutch Charts
  28. Billboard
  29. Official Charts
  30. Official Charts
  31. Official Charts
  32. Italian Charts
  33. Ultratop
  34. Music Canada
  35. FIMI
  36. BPI.co.uk
  37. RIAA

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