Single Stories: Black Sabbath, IRON MAN

Thursday, October 7, 2021

October 1971. While the exact release date is murky, that was the month that Black Sabbath released "Iron Man" as a single in America. Taken from the band's second album, Paranoid (released all the way back in September of 1970), the song sounded like nothing else happening in rock and roll that year--or ever. Ominous, foreboding and heavier than heavy, the track's brutal riffs were matched by the apocalyptic lyrics.

"I was heavily into science fiction at the time," bass player Geezer Butler told Classic Rock of Iron Man's creation. "A lot of the stuff I was writing about was inspired by those sorts of stories. I was fascinated by what might happen to a man who's suddenly transformed into a metal being. He still has a human brain, and wants to do the right thing, but eventually his own frustrations at the way humanity treats him drives this creature to taking extreme action. It's almost a cry for help."

After that early October release date, Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" made a relatively strong chart run, peaking at #52 on the Hot 100 for the week of March 11, 1972. The #1 song in America that week: Harry Nisson's "Without You."

"I really do feel that when you listen to 'Iron Man,' what you're getting is the essence of what made Black Sabbath such a special band," Butler revealed. "It's fairly simple, yet also has a lot of depth. I'm very proud of what we achieved here."

"Iron Man" is among the songs that appear on We Sold Our Soul for Rock 'N' Roll, the first Black Sabbath compilation, released in 1976 here in America. A new generation of fans discovered the track through exposure in the Iron Man movie franchise, appearing in the teaser trailer and end credits of the 2000 film, as well as the extended trailer for Iron Man 2 and the Iron Man video game.