Black Sabbath recently announced plans to release deluxe editions of Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules from their early-Eighties Ronnie James Dio period on March 8th. The sets feature remastered sound, previously unreleased cuts, and live performances of classics like “Neon Knights” and “Die Young” recorded at various gigs between 1980 and 1982.
Ronnie James Dio is the most famous singer to front Black Sabbath after Ozzy Osbourne left the band, but he was far from the last. When he left in 1983, the group devolved into a Spinal Tap–like situation where the lineup seemed to shift radically with each passing album and tour. Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan stepped in to front the band in 1983, but that lasted for just a single album and tour. Glenn Hughes stepped into the breach for 1986’s Seventh Star, but he also left the band after just a single tour.
They finally found someone that stuck in 1987 when they brought in relative unknown Tony Martin for The Eternal Idol. Unlike Dio, Gillan, and Hughes, Martin wasn’t someone with a career of his own to fall back on and he committed himself 100 percent to the band. Their most notable tour took place in 1989 when they become one of the first major rock bands to play Russia when Mikhail Gorbachev opened up the country to Western acts. They played 13 shows at Olympic Hall in Moscow and 12 shows at EKS Hall in Leningrad.
Here’s footage of “Heaven and Hell” from a November 19th, 1989, show at Olympic Hall. Guitarist Tony Iommi is the only member of the original lineup still with them by this point. He’s joined by bassist Neil Murray, drummer Cozy Powell, and keyboardist Geoff Nicholls.
In 1992, Martin was pushed out of the band when Iommi put the Ronnie James Dio lineup back together for the Dehumanizer album and tour. But history repeated itself and things fell apart before they could cut a follow-up album. They went back to Martin for 1993’s Cross Purposes and 1995’s Forbidden, but these LPs were commercial disasters that proved once again that the public had little interest in a Sabbath fronted by anyone besides Osbourne or Dio.
And during the past quarter century, Osbourne and Dio were the only two singers the public got when they saw either Black Sabbath or the spin-off act Heaven and Hell, which was essentially a reunion of the Dio lineup that lasted until the singer died in 2010. None of these shows featured any music from Tony Martin’s long tenure in the band, and for years he had no contact whatsoever with Iommi. But in 2016, they finally met up at the unveiling of a Cozy Powell memorial plaque in Cirencester, England.
“Well, what a great day,” Martin wrote on Facebook. “I attended the unveiling of Cozy Powell’s memorial plaque in his home town of Cirencester, along with Brian May, Neil Murray, and Tony Iommi …. And to my surprise was greeted by Tony Iommi VERY warmly. Its the first conversation of any length I have had with him in 15 years!!!! And it turns out we may well be working together soon!”
That day hasn’t come yet, but let’s all hope it does at some point soon. Martin endured getting sacked twice by the same band with great dignity and deserves one more chance to shine.