A History Of Black Sabbath’s Drummers

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Black Sabbath shortly before their split with Bill Ward. photo credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Black Sabbath shortly before their split with Bill Ward. photo credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Over the weekend, Black Sabbath announced their new record 13 will be released in June, and revealed that former Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave drummer Brad Wilk played on the album. So it’s the perfect time to review some of the many musicians who bashed the skins for the metal legends over the decades.  We could give our takes on them… but we thought we’d leave that to the band’s guitarist, leader and the only guy to play on every Sabbath album, Tony Iommi (via his autobiography, Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven And Hell With Black Sabbath).

WHO: Bill Ward, the founding drummer. For many fans, he’s the only guy who belongs behind the kit.
ERA: He’s the original, and played on all the albums during the “Ozzy era,” from 1970’s Black Sabbath through 1978’s Never Say Die. He lasted a little longer than Ozzy, staying for the first album of the “Dio Era,” 1980’s Heaven And Hell. He reunited with the band for 1983’s Born Again (featuring former Deep Purple singer Ian Gillian), and has been with the band on and off since they got back together with Ozzy in 1997.  Read more about Ward’s recent history of battles with his former band here.
B.S. (Before Sabbath): There is no “before Sabbath” for Bill Ward!
A.S. (After Sabbath): Other than a few solo albums, he hasn’t done much outside of Sabbath.
WHERE IS HE NOW: Hosting an internet radio show Rock 50.
TONY SAYS: “He was good, but he had his own style, he created his own thing. Very unorthodox. Bill wouldn’t play a straightforward beat, he always put some little bits in, like a percussionist. He would hear these symphonies in his head and try to play like he had eight hands.” Also: “We called Bill ‘Smelly.'”

vinny appice by paul kane A History Of Black Sabbaths Drummers
(Vinny Appice performing with Heaven & Hell. photo credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images)

WHO: Vinny Appice, younger brother of Vanilla Fudge’s Carmine Appice, replaced Ward and has spent more time with the band than any other drummer other than Ward.
ERA: He’s most closely associated with the “Dio Era,” having played on the second album with Ronnie James Dio, Mob Rules. That lineup (Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, Dio, Appice) briefly reunited in 1992 for Dehumanizer, and again in the mid-2000’s for a few tours (calling themselves Heaven & Hell) and the 2009 album The Devil You Know.
B.S. He played drums for Rick Derringer!
A.S. He left Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio to join Dio.
WHERE IS HE NOW: He has a band called Kill Devil Hill with former Pantera/Down bassist Rex Brown.
TONY SAYS: “Vinny’s drumming brought something else to the music. It made it tighter, it made it more precise, probably even more mainstream. Less playful (than Bill Ward), but more precise.”

WHO: Bev Bevan, formerly of Electric Light Orchestra, was an odd choice for Sabbath.
ERA: He replaced Bill Ward for the Born Again tour, and was credited with some percussion on the 1987 Eternal Idol album.
B.S. Other than ELO, he played in The Move.
A.S. He formed ELO part II, much to the chagrin of ELO frontman Jeff Lynne (who was not involved in that project).
WHERE IS HE NOW: Hosts a BBC Radio show.
TONY SAYS: “He said to me, ‘ I don’t know whether I can play it.’ I said, ‘Come and have a go.’ We rehearsed, he got used to the songs and he played better and better as it went on.”

eric singer by alejandro pagni  A History Of Black Sabbaths Drummers
(Eric Singer now plays drums in a different band. photo credit: Alejandro Pagni/Getty Images)

WHO: Eric Singer, who today is most well-known as the man who wears Peter Criss’s makeup in KISS.
ERA: Mid-’80s, on 1986’s Seventh Star and 1987’s The Eternal Idol.
B.S.: Played in Lita Ford’s touring band
A.S.: He left Sabbath with singer Ray Gillen to join Badlands.  In 1989, he was hired to play on a solo tour by Paul Stanley of KISS, which led to joining KISS after the untimely passing of drummer Eric Carr. After KISS reunited with their original lineup, Singer went on to play with Alice Cooper and Queen’s Brian May. He has since rejoined KISS.
WHERE IS HE NOW: Still with KISS, he’s played on their last two albums, Sonic Boom and Monster.
TONY SAYS: “Eric had this eighties hairstyle which made him look a little bit like a woman, and so we started calling him Shirley. He is a good drummer and he has done well for himself, playing with Alice Cooper and KISS and the like.  When we had Eric and (bass player) Dave (Spitz) in the band, they were a great little team.  They loved to play, and would try stuff all through the night. They were always energetic and that was good for me as well.”

terry chimes and the clash by evan agostini A History Of Black Sabbaths Drummers
(Terry Chimes was later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his other band.  photo credit: Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

WHO: Terry Chimes, was another surprising recruit; he’s the original drummer in The Clash.
ERA: A very brief one: just a few months in 1987, and he never recorded with them. He first joined to play in the band’s music video for “The Shining” from The Eternal Idol, during a time when Sabbath’s lineup seemed to have a revolving door.
B.S.: Other than The Clash, he briefly played in Billy Idol’s band Generation X.
A.S.: He retired from music, although he appeared with his former Clash bandmates when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.
WHERE IS HE NOW: He’s a chiropractor.  Seriously!
TONY SAYS:  “Bloody hell, it was getting ridiculous. (But Chimes) was a great guy and we ended up doing some shows in South Africa later with him.”

cozy powell A History Of Black Sabbaths Drummers
(promo photo of Cozy Powell from 1990)

WHO: Cozy Powell, a legendary drummer who has played with a number of legendary bands.  
ERA: 1988-1991 (on 1988’s Headless Cross and 1990’s TYR)  and 1994-1995 (1995’s Forbidden). 
B.S.:  The Jeff Beck Group, Rainbow, Whitesnake and Emerson, Lake & Powell.
A.S.: Played with Brian May as well as former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green.
WHERE IS HE NOW: Tragically, he died in a car crash in 1998.
TONY SAYS: “I had all these ideas, Cozy would tap along and come up with ideas as well… it worked really well.  We felt inspired.  We were coming up with stuff and we were really pleased with it.”

WHO: Bobby Rondinelli, a hard-rock fan from Brooklyn
ERA: In the mid-’90s, playing on 1994’s Cross Purposes.
B.S.: His first big gig was replacing Cozy Powell in Rainbow.
A.S.: He’s done stints in Blue Oyster Cult and Foghat.
WHERE IS HE NOW: Playing in a Long Island, New York, R&B covers band called Buttered Soul.
TONY SAYS: “At a certain point, Bobby Rondinelli called me. He wanted to do it. I suppose it’s the old thing: if you don’t call, you don’t get anywhere. Fair dues to him, he got in touch and it got him the job. He flew over and as soon as he started playing, that was it. He was a similar drummer to Vinny, very precise. He fit in personality-wise as well.”

WHO: Mike Bordin, who came to Sabbath via Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band
ERA: Black Sabbath’s first big reunion tour with Ozzy on the 1997 Ozzfest. He never recorded with them.
B.S.: He’s the drummer in Faith No More
A.S: Faith No More did a very successful reunion tour in 2009
WHERE IS HE NOW: Faith No More toured Europe in the summer of 2012, but their website ominously lists the band’s career as “1982-2012.”
TONY SAYS: “Early in 1997 Sharon Osbourne called and said, ‘Would you be interested in doing a few shows with Ozzy, or maybe a tour?’… I asked her about Bill but she said,’ No we are going to use Mike Bordin, Ozzy’s drummer.'”

tommy clufetos by ethan miller A History Of Black Sabbaths Drummers
(Tommy Clufetos/ photo credit: Ethan Miller)

WHO: Tommy Clufetos, who also came to Sabbath via Ozzy’s solo band.
ERA: Just a handful of concerts last summer
B.S.: Other than playing with Ozzy, he’s also played with Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie.
A.S.: Still a member of Ozzy’s band
WHERE IS HE NOW: Like the other guys who back Ozzy, probably wondering how long the Sabbath reunion will be.
TONY SAYS: (about the two U.K. concerts Sabbath did with Clufetos over the summer): “I really enjoyed both gigs.”

brad wilk by michael buckner  A History Of Black Sabbaths Drummers
(Brad Wilk/ photo credit: MIchael Buckner/Getty Images)
WHO: Brad Wilk, formerly of Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave
ERA: It’s just beginning.
B.S.: Besides Rage and Audioslave, he’s also played for hip-hop group Cypress Hill, and did a song on a KISS tribute as part of an alt-rock supergroup called Shandi’s Addiction.
A.S.: Who knows?
WHERE IS HE NOW: Probably preparing for another gig: he’s performing with Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players at the Sundance Film Festival Friday (January 18) and again at the Hollywood Palladium on January 31.
TONY SAYS: Nothing yet – but given that tons of rock drummers would have loved to play in Black Sabbath, Wilk must have Iommi’s approval.

Brian Ives, Radio.com

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