A few months back that Craig Kemery told me to dig deeper into Black Sabbath. Up until a then I only possessed two Black Sabbath CDs, the self titled “Black Sabbath,” and “Paranoid,” I have since rectified that situation by purchasing “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” and “Black Sabbath Volume 4.” It is a wonderful thing that after so many years I can still look deeper into bands I have known for years and learn so much more about them.
Songs can take on radical new meanings if they come into your life at unique times, and speaking of Black Sabbath whenever I hear “Changes,” I think about a very specific moment in time. I believe the year was 2003; I got a phone call from my friend who was looking for someone to drink with. This was the night that my friend's first love had left him, and he wanted something to distract him and someone to talk to. That something was beer, that someone was me. The night did not seem unique at the time, we treated it like any other, but there was one thing my friend said that stood out to me.
As if to sum up the evening’s purpose my friend gave me a quick synopsis of his situation. The metaphor of his choice was a song, Black Sabbath – “Changes.” He told me about how Ozzy Osbourne’s live version of the song is the much more popular version and how that live version got a lot more radio play than the original studio version. He told me about how Ozzy sang it in tribute to Randy Rhoads after he died. Ozzy lost his guitarist and best friend when Randy died, and it seemed so appropriate to sing “Changes,” since after all that was what Ozzy was going through. My friend too had lost someone close to him, and he too was going through changes.
My friend was right about everything he said. The history of the song “Changes,” was true, the song experienced a huge resurgence of popularity after the death of Randy Rhoads. It is true that for the longest time the only version of “Changes,” you heard on the radio was a live version of Ozzy performing in memory of Randy Rhoads. My friend was right about himself too, he was going through changes.
I did not want to admit it at the time, but I had never heard the song “Changes” before then. In fact my ignorance of Black Sabbath really was something to be ashamed of. That moment, as unimportant as it was for me, is permanently imprinted on my memory and whenever I hear “Changes” now, I think of that conversation, that girl, and my friend. Unlike “Sabbra Cadabra,” there is some depth in “Changes,” at least emotions more complicated than lustful/loving joy. While the song “Changes” is clearly about losing someone dear, a lover originally, and now arguably a friend in Randy Rhoads, that does not matter too much to me. “Changes” is a song about my friend’s broken heart and the person he lost.
My friend did not realize it at the time but he had brought up Black Sabbath songs to explain his feelings at both the beginning and end of this relationship of his. It never occurred to him that he had said these things, or the obvious correlation within the two statements, until years later when I pointed it out. It seemed to me to be a pretty good idea for a pair of Music In Reviews, and now here we are.
That night, all those years ago, my friend said something nice to me about how I was always there for him. Operating as best friend, I was there for him that night, but I was not the only one, so was Ozzy. It feels like a redundant thing for me to say that music is like a friend, that's always there for you, or that music stirs us and helps us understand ourselves, but it is true, and it bears repeating. If you know the man as well as I do, Black Sabbath songs could very well be used to sum up my friend’s entire youth, or at the very least, his first love from beginning to end, and it’s amazing those songs written for an entirely different purposes could so perfectly fit a mold of meaning so different from original intent. My friend’s friend Ozzy Osbourne was always there for him, just as he is there for me and all of you as well. Whatever the song means to you, that’s what the song means. Let your heart feel its way through the music and let the prince of darkness enlightened you in his own unique way.
Now shut up and enjoy the Ozzy.
- Colin Kelly