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The Late Movies: Black Sabbath and the Birth of Heavy Metal

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On February 13, 1970, a band from Birmingham, England, called Black Sabbath released their self-titled debut album. Sure the forty years since then have been rough (i.e., singer Ozzy Osbourne's turn as a reality TV star and musical output over the last 10 years), but that doesn't take anything away from Sabbath's legacy or our celebration heavy metal's birth.

Black Sabbath

The first track off the debut, the song that started it all, is driven by a guitar riff that uses an interval called a diminished fifth or tritone (the interval spans three whole tones). It's also known as diabolus in musica, or "the Devil in music," as it suggests an "evil" or "scary sound." Since its use in "Black Sabbath," the interval has become fairly commonplace and almost cliché in heavy metal riffs.

Children of the Grave

One of Sabbath's faster and more musically aggressive songs doesn't lose any effect even when played under a rainbow prop by guys in yellow Capri pants and fringed shirts. Now that's metal.

Snowblind

Live from the Never Say Die Tour in 1978. If you watch some old Sabbath performances and then shows from Ozzy's solo days or the Sabbath reunion, you'll notice somewhere around 1980 or 1981, he stops hanging out on the side of the stage and moves to the center. According to Ozzy, he took the side of the stage because of his stage fright, but Randy Rhodes (who played guitar for Ozzy early in his solo career) convinced him that the singer should be in the center.

Black Sabbath Superfan

Here's your typical Black Sabbath fan boy in his natural habitat, a record store signing. I'd like to think that I would be above reacting this way in the same situation, but I can't make any promises.

Into the Void

Live in Pittsburgh, 1999. This is my favorite Sabbath tune and definitely one of my "desert island songs." I always wish that Ozzy would just shut up and let the band play the intro, though.

Fairies Wear Boots

Live in Paris, 1970. According to guitarist Tony Iommi, the song's title and lyrics come from a night when Ozzy and bassist Geezer Butler standing around outside smoking and saw fairies running around in boots in a nearby park. I can think of no better way to keep kids off drugs than making them listen to Ozzy speak for 5 minutes or walk up a slight incline.

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Noriyuki Saitoh
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Art
Japanese Artist Crafts Intricate Insects Using Bamboo
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Noriyuki Saitoh

Not everyone finds insects beautiful. Some people think of them as scary, disturbing, or downright disgusting. But when Japanese artist Noriyuki Saitoh looks at a discarded cicada shell or a feeding praying mantis, he sees inspiration for his next creation.

Saitoh’s sculptures, spotted over at Colossal, are crafted by hand from bamboo. He uses the natural material to make some incredibly lifelike pieces. In one example, three wasps perch on a piece of honeycomb. In another, two mating dragonflies create a heart shape with their abdomens.

The figures he creates aren’t meant to be exact replicas of real insects. Rather, Saitoh starts his process with a list of dimensions and allows room for creativity when fine-tuning the appearances. The sense of movement and level of detail he puts into each sculpture is what makes them look so convincing.

You can browse the artist’s work on his website or follow him on social media for more stunning samples from his portfolio.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

[h/t Colossal]

All images courtesy of Noriyuki Saitoh.

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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History
P.G. Wodehouse's Exile from England
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You don’t get more British than Jeeves and Wooster. The P.G. Wodehouse characters are practically synonymous with elevenses and Pimm’s. But in 1947, their creator left England for the U.S. and never looked back.

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, better known as P.G., was living in northern France and working on his latest Jeeves and Wooster novel, Joy in the Morning, when the Nazis came knocking. They occupied his estate for a period of time before shipping him off to an internment camp in Germany, which he later said he found pretty pleasant:

“Everybody seems to think a German internment camp must be a sort of torture chamber. It was really perfectly normal and ordinary. The camp had an extraordinarily nice commander, and we did all sorts of things, you know. We played cricket, that sort of thing. Of course, I was writing all the time.”

Wodehouse was there for 11 months before being suddenly released to a hotel in Berlin where a man from the German foreign office named Werner Plack was waiting to meet him. Wodehouse was somewhat acquainted with Plack from a stint in Hollywood, so finding him waiting didn't seem out of the ordinary. Plack advised Wodehouse to use his time in the internment camp to his advantage, and suggested writing a radio series about his experiences to be broadcast in America.

As Plack probably suspected, Wodehouse’s natural writing style meant that his broadcasts were light-hearted affairs about playing cricket and writing novels, This didn’t sit too well with the British, who believed Wodehouse was trying to downplay the horrors of the war. The writer was shocked when MI5 subjected him to questioning about the “propaganda” he wrote for the Germans. "I thought that people, hearing the talks, would admire me for having kept cheerful under difficult conditions," he told them in 1944. "I would like to conclude by saying that I never had any intention of assisting the enemy and that I have suffered a great deal of mental pain as the result of my action."

Wodehouse's contemporary George Orwell came to his aid, penning a 1945 an essay called “In Defense of P.G. Wodehouse." Sadly, it didn’t do much to sway public opinion. Though MI5 ultimately decided not to prosecute, it seemed that British citizens had already made up their minds, with some bookstores and libraries even removing all Wodehouse material from their shelves. Seeing the writing on the wall, the author and his wife packed up all of their belongings and moved to New York in 1947. They never went back to England.

But that’s not to say Wodehouse didn’t want to. In 1973, at the age of 91, he expressed interest in returning. “I’d certainly like to, but at my age it’s awfully difficult to get a move on. But I’d like to go back for a visit in the spring. They all seem to want me to go back. The trouble is that I’ve never flown. I suppose that would solve everything."

Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack before he could make the trip. But the author bore no ill will toward his native country. When The Paris Review interviewed Wodehouse in 1973, they asked if he resented the way he was treated by the English. “Oh, no, no, no. Nothing of that sort. The whole thing seems to have blown over now,” he said.  He was right—the Queen bestowed Wodehouse with a knighthood two months before his death, showing that all was forgiven.

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