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Motor Head and Black Sabbath Rivalry

Even though Black Sabbath doesn't have a Motorhead chapter in its extensive list of official support clubs, the two bands have been closely linked for decades. The relationship is so strong that one of the reasons cited for Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler going solo was that they were sick of being overshadowed by the ferocious roar and unhinged stage presence of Motorhead's lead singer, Lemmy Kilmister. Even before they were both signed to Vertigo Records, Black Sabbath and Motorhead toured together in 1976 and almost every year after until 1983. In between those gigs, the two bands often played shows as support to other touring artists because they were too big to play small clubs on their own. But these weren’t just any old gigs, the animosity between Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy almost led to fistfights on numerous occasions. This article explains why there has always been bad blood between Black Sabbath and Motorhead how the rivalry stalled plans for a joint album and why both bands tried to stop one another from playing certain cities and what happened when Ozzy accused Lemmy of ripping off his lyrics, and where it all went from there...

The History of Motorhead and Black Sabbath’s Bad Blood

The history of bad blood between Black Sabbath and Motorhead dates back to the mid-1970s, when the two bands toured together in the UK. They were signed to the same label at the time, but word has it that the bands didn’t exactly get on. Black Sabbath were pretty much guaranteed a warm reception from audiences, but Motorhead were a different story altogether. Given the somewhat anarchic nature of Lemmy’s band, audiences could be a little unsure as to what they were getting. Combine this with the fact that Motorhead were often upstaged by the sheer volume of Black Sabbath, who were an even louder outfit back then and it wasn’t surprising that relations between the two bands soured. The bands’ respective lead singers, Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy Kilmister, were often at loggerheads as a result, and the two bands’ management teams didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye either.

Why Is There Bad Blood Between Motorhead and Black Sabbath?

As mentioned, the two bands had beef when they toured together in the mid-1970s but what caused the bad blood to boil over? Lemmy has often cited an incident in which Ozzy stole one of his towels on the tour bus as the reason for the bad blood between the two bands. That’s the most likely explanation for the feud although a late 1970s interview with Black Sabbath’s manager, Don Arden, suggests there may have been more to it. In the interview, Arden describes Motorhead’s fans as “a bunch of smelly, greasy louts.” In other words, they’re not your average music fans. Combine Arden’s comments with the fact that Black Sabbath and Motorhead were signed to the same record label Vertigo Records and it becomes clear that there may have been some industrial-level cattiness going on behind the scenes.

Why Didn’t Black Sabbath and Motorhead Release a Joint Album?

Black Sabbath and Motorhead released a joint album in 1981 called “Black Sabbath, Motorhead and Friends,” which was a compilation of tracks featuring both bands, as well as Girlschool, Ted Nugent, and others. However, it has long been rumored that both bands were in the studio to record a joint album, but the sessions were called off. The root of the rumor is a 1980 interview with Geezer Butler, in which he says of the supposed joint album, “It’s nearly finished. It’s been about two years, but the problems are all over now. We’ve been having difficulties with the mixing, but it’s nearly finished now.” That said, both bands’ biographers have since stated that these sessions didn’t take place. The root of this rumor is perhaps the fact that both bands were recording albums at the time, and Geezer’s words were misconstrued as meaning that sessions were taking place at the same time.

Why Did Both Bands Try to Stop One Another Playing Certain Cities?

Anyone who’s ever been to a gig knows that there are certain cities where rival fans will fight each other in the parking lot -- but that wasn’t always the case. In the early years of their careers, both Black Sabbath and Motorhead were too small to play the big cities, so they had to content themselves with playing smaller towns. These smaller towns often had rival football teams, gangs, and local sports teams, which meant that they could be extremely violent places. Black Sabbath and Motorhead found themselves playing in these towns on numerous occasions, and they soon discovered that they were being targeted by opposing fans who wanted to start fights. As a result, both bands decided to stop one another playing in certain cities.

Final Words

The bottom line is that the bad blood between Black Sabbath and Motorhead was extremely fierce at one time, but it’s all water under the bridge now. There’s absolutely no doubt that both bands are metal giants, and it will be fascinating to see how their careers unfold going forward. Fans will soon be able to find out where Black Sabbath and Motorhead go from here, as both bands are currently working on new albums. Stay tuned for those releases and be prepared to be deafened!