Geezer Butler Confirms + Comments on Unreleased Black Sabbath Song ‘Slapback’
"Slapback," a 1979 Black Sabbath rehearsal recording, emerged via a youTube upload by Gary Rees, the stepson of former Sabbath keyboardist Geoff Nicholls and executor of the late musician's estate. Rees had previously shared a rehearsal recording of the Heaven and Hell title track, titillating fans who then wondered what other recordings might be stashed away in the Nichols estate.
When the song surfaced on March 5, it was also uncertain who played bass on the recording as 1979 was the year Butler also left the band for a brief period. In his absence, both Ronnie James Dio and Nicholls played bass at various points during the writing process, which also led to the dispute about who truly wrote the "Heaven and Hell" bass line (Nicholls had maintained it was him as it closely resembled a part from a song by his previous band Quartz).
Butler, who commented on the song in an interview on Sirius XM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk," also noted that it was he who can be heard playing bass on "Slapback."
"Yeah, that was one of the songs that we did before I left," Butler told Trunk (transcription via Blabbermouth) regarding the rehearsal recording, and then joked, "It's probably the reason I did leave. [Laughs] It was just one of those songs that didn't make the grade."
Trunk asked for further clarification about who played bass on "Slapback," to which Butler reaffirmed, "Yeah, that was right before I left. It was just a one-off thing. We just jammed it and didn't think anything more of it. It didn't really work."
Having heard both "Slapback" and the "Heaven and Hell" rehearsal recording, Butler was impressed by the overall sound quality and said, "It's quite good quality as well," he said. "I've heard the two songs from the Geoff Nicholls thing. It's reasonable quality." He also noted it was "incredible" that both recordings have now emerged for fans to hear.
Listen to the song toward the bottom of the page.
In that same interview, Butler also spoke about the history of the band's usage of the iconic 'devil horns' hand gesture. Dio is largely credited with popularizing the gesture now synonymous with heavy metal, but it was Butler who had flashed the sign onstage during the song "Black Sabbath" and was photographed as early as 1971 with his fingers outstretched as such.
He also noted that the gesture was also seen in 1966 on the cover of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine and that he had used it merely because English occultist Aleister Crowley had done so. The bassist gave all credit to Dio as far as popularizing the gesture.
Some fans still mistook this as Butler attempting to lay claim to having invented the sign itself, to which he replied on Twitter, "Just to clarify..I did not say I invented the ‘devil horns’ hand sign, I always used it in the song Black Sabbath. I merely shared an onstage moment between Ronnie and me. Ronnie made it famous, and it will always be associated with him, regardless of what anyone else says."
Black Sabbath, "Slapback" (Previously Unreleased 1979 Rehearsal Recording)
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