Black Sabbath

Here’s a large double page spread poster that advertised 6 dates in November 1971, to tour the “Master Of Reality” album in the UK. Unfortunately, Bill Ward was suffering from “physical and mental exhaustion following the band’s recent US tour”, and Tony Iommi was “confined to bed with ‘flu, under doctors’ orders”.



All the dates (including an earlier one on Tuesday 16th November at Southampton Guildhall) were cancelled and rearranged (with additional ones) for January and February 1972.

If you’re interested in band logos and how they were designed then there’s a cool site dedicated to logos and brands. It features a fair bit on AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, but has just posted a feature on Black Sabbath’s first 8 albums, including the four Vertigo Swirls as well as Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Sabotage, Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die.  Click here to go to WhatsThatFont…

VO6 6360-011 6360-050-front 6360-071-front

At the end of 2013, the site officially hit 250,000 views (since starting the website in February 2012, but really from around mid 2012 when the bulk of the content and structure really started taking place)…so a huge THANK YOU to everyone who’s found the website and hopefully found it useful!

Here’s some stats for the geeks (like me) who are fascinated with where the queries come from and what people are interested in:

1. Most views by country:

UK comes 1st with over 53,500 views, followed by Russia, USA, Germany, Ukraine, Italy, France, Sweden, Japan and Portugal is 10th with 7,500 views. Propping up the table with just 1 view each (mustn’t have that much in the way of record collections!) are the Cayman Islands, Aland Islands, Aruba, Nigeria, Panama, Tanzania, Qatar, Nepal, El Salvador and Guadeloupe.

2. Most popular pages:

The most popular record label viewed is Vertigo, followed by Harvest, Charisma, CBS, Purple and Island:

vo1label SHVL-751-label1 rare-bird-label 63271---Moby-Grape-wow-label TPS-3501 ILP-985-Jethro-Tull-this-was-labelmono

3. Most popular albums:

Led Zeppelin’s albums are what you seem to want to know the most about with Led Zeppelin’s 2nd album (and all it’s variations no doubt!) leading the way – viewed over 3,100 times!

Here are the top 6 most frequently visited albums in order with only Black Sabbath’s 1970 debut breaking Led Zeppelin’s dominance:

Led-Zeppelin-II-front Led Zeppelin turquoise cover Led-Zeppelin-III---sleeve VO6 220px-LedZeppelinuntitled front-cover


4. Most popular posts:

Led Zeppelin dominates once again! With a massive 5,277 views, the post on the multiple label variants for Led Zeppelin’s untitled 4th album easily tops the chart! The next nearest competitor is Led Zeppelin (again) and all the 6 sleeve variants for “In Through The Out Door”.

220px-LedZeppelinuntitled outer-bag-front

So it seems that rare record collectors just can’t get enough of their Led Zeppelin! Thanks again to all who’ve used the site and left positive feedback, provided corrections and suggestions and even donated the odd photo of their obscure record rarities! Don’t forget the site is constantly evolving and being updated, so please keep coming back and help spread the word!

Many thanks


just come back from a weekend away and happened to call in at Mapledurham water mill…

water mill

but it looks so much more atmospheric if you give it Marcus Keef’s ‘false colour photography’ treatment, like this:

mapledurham false colour

Unfortunately the estate was closed at the time and I couldn’t get to the exact same location as Keef to shoot his album cover shot for Black Sabbath’s debut album. But it’s only about 40 feet away (the other side of the tree hanging down on the left) from where Keef was in early 1970…


Thanks to David from Co. Durham, we now have another label variation (of the second pressing large swirl label) to add to the existing known ones. This new one features slightly different positioning of the text, most notably the track listing for side 2 which features a different alignment for track 3…further to the left than the other labels…


1st pressing with ‘A PHILIPS RECORD PRODUCT’ above




3 versions of the 2nd pressing label above



3rd pressing label above

Black Sabbath were at their peak in 1972, despite their excessive cocaine and alcohol consumption! Their 4th studio album (originally to be called “Snowblind in L.A.” allegedly) was released to mediocre critical acclaim, but the fans bought it in huge numbers none-the-less. Sabbath were however, going through a fairly turbulent time. Despite the successful album sales (“Paranoid” had hit No.1 in the UK album charts 2 years earlier) and the successful worldwide touring, Sabbath had very little financial reserves to show for it (although vast quantities of drugs were being consumed, so most of it probably went up their noses to be fair!).

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Sabbath decided they wanted their own label and more control over the money that went with it. WWA Records was set up (although still manufactured and distributed by Vertigo) to handle the recording of their next album. Relatively short-lived, Sabbath would only release 1 studio album on this label (“Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”) before further legal problems arising over disputes with their former manager Jim Simpson would force Sabbath to effectively curtail all touring and recording commitments for nearly 2 years (“The Writ” on Sabotage in 1975 tells the story of the frustrations etc).

Meanwhile, Vertigo was also going through some changes. The swirl label was dropped in 1973 and replaced with a Roger Dean designed ‘spaceship’ label.

As a net result of all the to-ing and fro-ing between labels, “Black Sabbath Vol.4″ was released several times in an 18 month time span: twice on the swirl label, a quick reissue on the new spaceship label (which was swiftly halted) and then another reissue on the new WWA label (along with the previous 3 albums and the new 5th album).

WWA-006-front WWA007-Paranoid-front WWA008-Master-Of-Reality-front WWA009-Sabbath-Vol-4-front

2 years later in 1975, all of their entire back catalogue (5 studio albums) was reissued yet again on Sabbath’s latest record company signing – NEMS, along with their 6th studio album “Sabotage”.

Black Sabbath’s debut on the iconic Vertigo Swirl label has been issued three times before eventually being reissued on the Spaceship label. However, a sharp-eyed viewer (thanks to Martin in Copenhagen!) has noticed a variation in the label design. Here are the swirl labels in the order I believe them to have been issued:



And here are the differences (in same cases very subtle!)

1st Issue

  • Large swirl logo above spindle
  • ‘VERTIGO’ below spindle
  • ‘BLACK SABBATH’ is slightly offset to the right above ‘VERTIGO’
  • ‘VO6 847 903 VTY’ and then below that ’847 903 2Y’ is all off centre and ranged towards the right with the last line extending beyond the middle line
  • ’33⅓’ is below and left of the ‘℗ 1970′


2nd Issue (Martin’s newly discovered copy) – changes from 1st Issue in italics

  • Large swirl logo above spindle
  • ‘VERTIGO’ below spindle
  • ‘BLACK SABBATH’ is smaller but still slightly offset to the right above ‘VERTIGO’
  • ‘VO6 847 903 VTY’ and then below that ’847 903 2Y’ is all off centre and ranged towards the right with the last line extending beyond the middle line
  • ’33⅓’ is centred below the ‘℗ 1970′


3rd Issue (previously known as 2nd issue) – changes from 2nd Issue in italics

  • ‘BLACK SABBATH’ looks slightly larger and is centred above ‘VERTIGO’, it is also nearer to ‘VERTIGO’
  • ‘VO6 847 903 VTY’ and then below that ’847 903 2Y’ is now closer to being centred and the last line centred below the middle line
  • ’33⅓’ is slightly off centre (to the left) below the ‘℗ 1970′


4th Issue (previously known as 3rd issue) – changes from 3rd Issue in italics

  • Small swirl logo above spindle
  • ‘VERTIGO’ above spindle
  • ‘BLACK SABBATH’ is larger
  • ‘VO6 847 903 VTY’ and then below that ’847 903 2Y’ is centred with the last line ranged left
  • ‘℗ 1970′ has been moved below ’33⅓’ and is slightly off to the right


Thanks again to Martin from Copenhagen…so, are there any more variations in existence! Send me your scans if you find any!

WWA Records was a short-lived vehicle for Black Sabbath and Gentle Giant to enjoy a little more freedom creatively (and probably to give them more control over their finances) having been ‘shackled’ to a larger record label for several years. Only 14 albums were released, several of which were reissues of earlier Black Sabbath albums released on Vertigo swirl.

Click the sleeve images to go to each album’s page…and if you’re wondering what happened to WWA011, my guess is it was reserved for Sabbath’s next album after ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ but with the debacle over getting sued by their former manager, it was delayed so long it ended up being released on NEMS…in other words, ‘Sabotage’…just my guess of course!


This is how Black Sabbath’s second album would have looked if they’d stuck to their original intentions…

When you see the ‘correct’ title of “War Pigs” it makes so much more sense of Marcus Keef’s front cover concept. The pink-clad-warrior idea was obviously intended to reflect the album’s original title and is probably why “War Pigs” was also the first track on the album.

Recorded in June 1970 and released in September just a few months after their debut in February of that year, USA was still deeply ingrained in the Vietnam conflict and anti-war demonstrations were rife in America. Sabbath were due to tour for the first time in support of the debut and new album releases and the new album’s title was deemed to be too inflammatory. The album title was changed to “Paranoid” to coincide with the first single release.

The album went to No.1 in the UK albums chart, and No. 12 in the US, so thankfully the title change appeared not to affect sales in any way, although instead of being identified as anti-war protesters in the US, Sabbath instead were labelled satanists and devil worshippers due to some lyrical content on the first album. Don’t know which is worse!? But it doesn’t appear to have harmed their career…

The first 7 releases on Vertigo carried the catalogue number prefix of ‘VO’ but this was dropped after Cressida’s self-titled album VO7. The numbering system then followed a more formulaic style based on existing Philips Records catalogue numbering with a 7 digit numerical code: 6360 (to denote Vertigo from other labels following a similar system) and then a 3 digit code specific to each release (although this featured some omissions, and other anomalies).

The VO5 number was never officially released although ‘Women And Children First’ by Ancient Grease was supposed to use this number but ended up being released on Mercury instead – 6338 033. The sleeve had a VO Price Code box on the rear giving a clue to its intended Vertigo release.

Click the sleeves below to go to each album’s page where you can see the gatefold sleeves in all their glory and also the various reissues on Vertigo Swirl and Spaceship labels where applicable.



These 1st releases were also the only ones to carry a reference to the Philips Records parent company. “A PHILIPS RECORD PRODUCT” appeared on the base of the labels below the word ‘VERTIGO’. This wording disappeared with the new catalogue numbering system of ’6360 xxx’. There are reissues of many of the above without this PHILIPS RECORD credit.

Also worth noting; both Colosseum and Manfred Mann had the same ”A PHILIPS RECORD PRODUCT” wording on first editions of the sleeves. This disappeared on reissues.