Why Black Sabbath’s ‘Never Say Die!’ Was Doomed to Fail
When Black Sabbath released the doomed-to-fail Never Say Die! in 1978, the irony of the title was lost on nobody — including the band.
The metallurgists had revolutionized heavy music at the dawn of the '70s with classic albums like their self-titled debut, Paranoid and Master of Reality. But years of rampant substance abuse and dwindling album sales had left them a worn-out husk of a band. Black Sabbath struggled to complete 1976's messy, freewheeling Technical Ecstasy, and by the time they commenced work on Never Say Die! in early 1978, they could barely stand, let alone play.
For starters, the band found itself without a singer. Ozzy Osbourne briefly quit Black Sabbath in 1977 and was replaced with ex-Savoy Brown and Fleetwood Mac singer Dave Walker. When Osbourne returned a few months later, he refused to sing any songs the band had written with Walker, forcing them to start from scratch. Once Black Sabbath got down to business writing new songs for Never Say Die!, Osbourne couldn't stand what his bandmates came up with.
Months before they released Never Say Die!, Black Sabbath suffered another crushing blow to their morale when they brought the up-and-coming Van Halen on the road as their opening act. Hot off the release of their debut album, the California rockers routinely wiped the floor with the headliners.
Released on Sept. 28, 1978, Never Say Die! peaked at a paltry No. 69 on the Billboard 200 and took 19 years to receive gold certification. It marked the final nail in the coffin for the original band lineup, as Sabbath quickly fired Osbourne and replaced him with Ronnie James Dio, releasing the critically acclaimed Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules. Osbourne, meanwhile, reinvented himself as a solo star with 1980's Blizzard of Ozz, which sold 5 million copies and introduced the world to guitar hero Randy Rhoads.
Watch the video below to learn more about Never Say Die!, and tune into our "Doomed to Fail?" video series each week as we dust off ill-fated classic rock albums and determine whether they're hidden gems or better left forgotten.