Here's How Black Sabbath Got Their Name

In 1969, with the majority of popular music dominated by themes of love, drugs, and drug-based love, a dark and sinister force was taking shape. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward were primed and ready to take a crazy train of cultural ubiquity off the proverbial rails with their band, a group destined for universal recognition. That group, of course, was The Polka Tulk Blues Band.

Or at least it had been The Polka Tulk Blues Band, until they changed their name. In late 1968, they came to the conclusion that a moniker that made them sound like a pizza eatery's special animatronic birthday singers just wasn't doing the trick, so, according to Black Sabbath's website, they switched things up and started calling themselves Earth Blues Company.

But that was too long. Too unwieldy. That, more than anything, is why they made the big change — perhaps the one they'd be most famous for — shortening the band's name to "Earth."

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Only it turns out that there was another band called "Earth," so they needed another name.

Around this time, Butler described having experienced a late night, supernatural visitation in which a black silhouette stood at the foot of his bed. The harrowing tale became the basis for a new song, titled "Black Sabbath," named after a 1963 Boris Karloff film.

The name worked well with the group's new direction, which incorporated blues riffs with dark themes and cries of "no, no, please no." More than that, it separated the band from the pack, hammering home their onstage presence as, bluntly, bleak weirdos. In a 1971 Rolling Stone interview, Geezer summed it up well. "Even in freak communities, people are trying to be freakier than the other person, to be one up on them, to be better." At a point in history when the big question on music journalists' minds seemed to be "What will those crazy Beatles boys get up to now that they're all on their own?" a name like Black Sabbath definitely did the trick.