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Ward Gets Left Out, but Not Without a Song to Sing

March 24, 1997|MIKE BOEHM

As Black Sabbath fans roar to the strains of "Iron Man," "War Pigs" and "Paranoid" this spring, they may assume that Bill Ward is just a guy who got left at home.

Singer Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler, the three other original members of Black Sabbath, have announced that they will reunite on the monthlong Ozzfest '97 tour, playing a selection of Sabbath oldies as a nightcap after Osbourne headlines the daylong festival as a solo act.

"I would have loved to play it, but I wasn't invited," says Ward, sounding puzzled but not chagrined. At this point, the drummer says, he is not sure where he stands with his former mates. He is sure that he won't be stuck at home in Seal Beach, since his plans call for plenty of touring on his own to promote his own album, "When the Bough Breaks."

Asked the state of his relationship with the other members of Sabbath, Ward said: "I'm trying to find out, actually." Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy's wife and manager, declined a request for comment.

"I haven't spoken to Oz in two years," Ward said. "I spoke to Tony last year several times."

The full original Black Sabbath lineup, which formed in 1968, has given just two brief performances since Osbourne's departure in 1978: at the Live Aid benefit in 1985, and at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa in 1992, capping what was billed as Osbourne's farewell concert.

Ward said he and Osbourne spoke by phone almost daily during the late '80s and early '90s but that Osbourne's calls stopped coming in the mid-'90s after a proposed full-band reunion tour fell through. Osbourne resumed his solo career instead. Ward did join Iommi and Butler under the Black Sabbath banner to play three stadium shows in South America in 1994.

Brian McNelis, general manager of Cleopatra Records, the label releasing Ward's album, thinks the Ozzfest tour will be a boon to Ward even in absentia (the tour is scheduled to start in late May; no venues have been announced). McNelis figures that fans and writers will wonder where the original Sabbath drummer is, thereby casting the spotlight on what he is up to on his own.

"The timing could not be better," McNelis said. "The visibility that the Black Sabbath tour will bring can only be positive. People are going to want to hear what [Ward] has to say."

Ward's business manager, Mike Slarve, says the 48-year-old rocker could just sit at home if he wanted and live off his Black Sabbath royalties. "Sometimes I say, 'Bill, why not just relax and enjoy life?' But it's a labor of love. There's music that has to come out, and he feels compelled to do it."

"The days are gone for me when I play music to be famous," Ward said of his current ambitions. "I've been famous. I'm not seeking to make millions and millions of dollars. I'm rich with friends. I play music because that's my first love."

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