Black Sabbath Wrote ‘Laguna Sunrise’ After Being Inspired by LSD on a California Beach: ‘It Was Absolutely Disastrous
An English rock band that, for many, defines the heavy metal genre, Black Sabbath has endured through many decades in the music industry. In the early days, the band was headed by the legendary frontman Ozzy Osbourne.
However, his drug habit and outrageous behavior drove a wedge between him and the band that he helped to popularize. Over the years, he has left and rejoined the band on multiple occasions, many times with other singers stepping in to take over frontman duties.
No matter what their personal issues behind the scenes, Black Sabbath has always managed to endure — and to record and produce great music all the while.
When did Black Sabbath form?
Black Sabbath was first formed in Birmingham, England, in 1968. The original founding members of the band were singer Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, and drummer Bill Ward.
It took the group some time to settle on the perfect name for their new formation, eventually deciding on the name Black Sabbath in 1969, one year after they first started making music. While the group might have been slow to start, they were quick to ascend to prominence, and their debut album, Black Sabbath, earned them widespread recognition.
Critics didn’t always love Black Sabbath’s intense sound and no-holds-barred approach — but fans couldn’t get enough of them, and over the next few years, the group released several more albums. By 1971, Black Sabbath had completed multiple world tours and started to receive critical acclaim.
Black Sabbath was a huge success when they started to record ‘Vol. 4’
Black Sabbath had begun to experience a number of internal issues by the early ’70s, mainly relating to Ozzy Osbourne’s wildly unpredictable behavior and habit of regular drug use. Still, the group buckled down to work on their music when they needed to — and in 1972, Black Sabbath gathered to work on their next album, which they ultimately titled Vol. 4.
The album would prove to be Black Sabbath’s most successful and went on to be certified gold less than one month after it was released. The band was praised for their willingness to experiment with different musical styles and textures, and while, up until that point, Black Sabbath had primarily been thought of as a heavy metal-only band, Vol. 4 did much to improve their reputation with the entire music community.
What inspired the hit Black Sabbath song ‘Laguna Sunrise’?
Vol. 4 was the first Black Sabbath album that was recorded in California, on the legendary Sunset Strip. The group soaked up local color and influence while they were recording, and according to an interview with Rolling Stone, it was the California culture that led to the story behind one of their most legendary songs – “Laguna Sunrise.”
As Geezer Butler later recalled, “we went down to this girl’s house in Laguna Beach. She had a farm down by Laguna Beach, which probably cost about $50 million. And we did psilocybin and stuff like that. And we all went down to the beach and one of our crew dived off a diving board, thinking the sea was in — but it wasn’t in — and he nearly broke his neck. I was seeing skeletons and really weird stuff, and I suppose that rubbed off in the lyrics as well.”
Tony Iommi recalls the composition of “Laguna Beach” a little differently, remembering how inspired he was by watching the sun come up against a beach backdrop. Realizing that they needed additional instruments to complete the song perfectly, Iommi tried to incorporate a violin and cello into the song by playing them himself, which he admitted brought “disastrous” results.
Eventually, Black Sabbath brought in session musicians and one of their most beautiful, lush songs was born — a tune that still stands up to this day.