We all know about Ozzy Osbourne: sang with Black Sabbath in the 1970s, enjoyed a big solo career in the 80s and 90s, has an immensely successful TV show, and now tours every summer as the headliner of "Ozzfest", occasionally reuniting with Black Sabbath.
But what about Black Sabbath's life without Ozzy? Ozzy's solo success, combined with the hoopla over Black Sabbath's nostalgic CD re-releases and reunions for the Ozzfest concerts, has sadly led many to assume that Black Sabbath did nothing (or at least nothing worth writing about) in between Ozzy's departure in 1979 and the mark-1 reunions of 1997. In truth, the band saw an immense INCREASE in new album sales immediately after firing Ozzy in 1979 and replacing him with Ronnie James Dio. And despite the confusing number of drastic line-up changes that would later hit the band (particularly in 1983-1986), Black Sabbath continued to put out more albums WITHOUT Ozzy than they had ever done with Ozzy, up through 1995. These and countless other facts are finally set straight in "Never Say Die", an exhaustive look at Black Sabbath's 1980-1997 history.
Like Joe the first reviewer, I've long been a die-hard fan of all things Black Sabbath, and with that considered myself an expert when it came to their 30+ year history. I've always grabbed and devoured any information I could find -- interviews, web sites, magazine articles, CD liner notes, etc. I thought I knew just about everything...until I read this book! There is SO MUCH written here that I had absolutely NO IDEA about. There's no doubt that much of the information has never been available before. A good deal of the information is from Geoff Nicholls, Black Sabbath's current keyboard player who's been with them since 1980 (yes, somebody other than Tony Iommi got a chance to play with every other Black Sabbath member!) It's hard to believe that this guy is still hidden on the side stage during concerts.
The format is what you'd expect -- chapters mostly each centered around a particular album or line-up, and arranged in chronological order. There's a full background of biographical information for EVERY member who was ever in Black Sabbath from 1980-97, plus photos of all the line-ups. The book also covers every album and tour, why various line-ups didn't work out, the tragic deaths of members Ray Gillen and Cozy Powell, and even the 1985 and 1992 reunions with Ozzy (which is why the book is subtitled "1980-1997" and not "the post-Ozzy years"). Best of all, the book exhaustively covers Black Sabbath's most confusing and questioned era, circa 1985. What was the real story behind the mark-1 reunion at Live Aid? Did evangelist Jeff Fehnholt really write and sing for Black Sabbath, as he claims? How did Tony Iommi's solo album become Black Sabbath's "Seventh Star" album? How did singer Glenn Hughes lose his voice? Read the book and find out.
I only have two complaints about "Never Say Die". First of all, there are tons of spelling mistakes. But for some reason, that's typical when it comes to books dealing with some sort of pop culture, so I'll let that slide. Also, the author seems to speed through the period covering their last two albums, 1994's "Cross Purposes" and 1995's "Forbidden" (which at the time of this writing, is still the newest studio album put out under the name of Black Sabbath). The last chapter or two definitely feel rushed. Still, the book deserves 5 stars for being the only one of its kind to cover this history in such depth, and for having an overwhelming amount of information that even a die-hard fan wouldn't know.
After so many years of seeing "Ozzy" this and "Ozzy" that, I was thrilled to see a book that acknowledged (let alone fully covered) Black Sabbath's 1980-1997 period. Even if you're NOT a fan of Black Sabbath, this book is quite an intriguing look at all the crazy stuff that goes on in the music industry that the public never gets to see. "Never Say Die" is anything but a story about a 70s hard rock band that flopped in the 80s. It's about a band rich in history, a roller coaster of success and failure, laughter and tragedy, with Tony Iommi AND (even more importantly) Geoff Nicholls bravely staying at the helm, and about a band who kept sacrificing stability for the hopeless success of short-lived reunions. And of course, it's about 15 years worth of excellent hard rock music that others would like to have you believe didn't exist.