“We didn’t know anything about the music business”: Geezer Butler explains what he’d change about Black Sabbath’s career
“I do wish that we had gotten a lawyer and an accountant right from the start, so that we wouldn’t have been so badly ripped off in the ‘70s like we were.”
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On an episode of The Rock Podcast With Denny Somach, the legendary bassist is asked if there’s anything he would have done differently in hindsight. He replies, “I’d like to have been more of a business person when we first started. But of course, we didn’t know anything about the music business or any business as far as that goes.
“I do wish that we had gotten a lawyer and an accountant right from the start,” he continues, “so that we wouldn’t have been so badly ripped off in the ‘70s like we were. I think that’s about the only change I’d make. I’ve had a great life, so there’s not much I would change.”
In 2011, Butler explained that the band realised that they were getting “ripped off” by their management and record company, with legal difficulties influencing their sixth album, Sabotage, which came out in 1975.
He said, “Much of the time, when we weren’t onstage or in the studio, we were in lawyers’ offices trying to get out of all our contracts. We were literally in the studio, trying to record, and we’d be signing all these affidavits and everything. That’s why we called it Sabotage – because we felt that the whole process was just being totally sabotaged by all these people ripping us off.”
Meanwhile, former Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward said in 2020, “We were taken for a ride financially. We couldn’t afford a lawyer. I was busy looking at the women’s backsides and everybody was drinking cognac, so it was all fine by me. It was only a few years after Paranoid that we started asking, ‘Er, where’s all the accounting?’”
“We’d get £500 after a gig, and we’d be like, ‘Fuck! You’re kidding?!’ We hadn’t seen that much money in two years. In 1970, that was huge money. When we wanted money, we’d just go and ask [manager] Pat[rick Meehan] for some. There was no accounting or anything.”