Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Writ by Black Sabbath

I have always been a huge Black Sabbath fan (mainly the Ozzy years). They have been a huge influence on my taste in music, my metal roots if you will. While their first 2 albums are masterpieces, one of my favorite songs is The Writ (lyrics) from 1975's Sabotage (probably my favorite album). This is one of Sabbath's more “proggy” songs. The song opens with a maniacal laugh that is a segue from the previous song. The laugh fades into a very quiet bass line that goes on for a few measures and then the song bursts wide open with the opening verse. If you're not ready for the opening it can really catch you off guard and make you jump. The song is about being Ozzy's disdain for their manager at the time who screwed them out of a bunch of money and was fired. A writ is a legal document that you are served as part of a lawsuit
which the band was part of. The album title was also a reflection of the what was going to the band from their crooked manager.

My favorite part of the song is the middle section which slows down with a great melody including a xylophone in the background. I always thought that this section could be used in a movie like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It just always personified insanity to me.

The story I have for this song takes me back to my sophomore year in college. It was the middle of winter and I stilled live in a suburb called West Allis which required me to take one of 2 buses down to UWM. Either bus I took was long ride but in the winter it seemed especially long because it was dark on the way home. That semester I had chemistry, mineralogy and a couple of other classes I can't remember. When I was in chemistry, they had the bright idea of scheduling their big exams in the early evening from 7-8 pm. So I was on campus from ~8:30 am to 8:30 pm and then you guess it... I had to take the bus home. This all came to a head when the stars aligned for me and I had a quiz or exam in each class, all on the same day. Although I studied harder for chemistry than the others it was a brutal day from start to finish. After finishing my early quiz and exams I had a few hours to study for chemistry. My brain was already reeling and I managed to get a C on the chemistry exam. Al things considered, I thought that was pretty good.

After all my brain power had been fully drained I climbed on the number 5 bus which is the only choice I had being that late at night. It was dark already and the bus took forever, with a ton of stops. So while sitting there in a vegetative state, I popped in my cassette of Sabotage and just closed my eyes to take it all in. I remember vividly when I got to The Writ, that feeling of being alone during the “insane” part of the song. I was after all, the last person on the bus. It was a nice diversion from the dreadful day I just had and the song seemed to reflect perfectly as to how I was feeling at that moment. When I finally got home, I went right upstairs and collapsed in bed. I have had strenuous days physically, but this has to rank as one of the top brain-busting days I have ever had. Whenever I hear The Writ, I go back to that day and wonder how I managed to get through it. I know this is an obscure song, but do you have a story about this song? Let me know.


  1. Being a Sabbath fan myself, I prefer the Ozzy years (as well as some of the Dio stuff) over most of their later stuff. On Sabotage, my preferences of songs lie with the tunes "Symptom of the Universe" and "Megalomania".

  2. Its hard to argue with either of the songs you mentioned. They are both great. I have a story for Symptom of the Universe as well for a later post. There are so many hidden gems by Sabbath. I never get sick of listening to them (except for maybe Paranoid and Iron Man).

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  4. Although a long-time Sabbath fan, i had always ignored (at my peril) the later albums. Finally, almost 20 years after first discovering the magical first four, I got Sabotage and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. I had recovering from a dislocated shoulder and doing intensive, 3-4 hour a day physical therapy and listening to "the Writ" helped me do my repetitions at the clinic in rural Italy where I was living at the time (feeling slightly stuck out of place at any rate). There's really not much more to say -- nothing relevant to the lyrics or material -- but I was thrilled to find that Sabbath could still electrify me the way it had when I was a teen.

  5. bbrg, thanks for the comment! The lyrics are about the legal troubles they had at the time; nothing too deep I guess. There is just something about this song that I get. You know what I mean. I especially love the slow middle section. Thanks again.