Long Beach Arena 1975 Mike Millard Master Cassettes (Zodiac 401)
Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA, USA – September 7, 1975
Disc 1 (44:08) Intro, Supertzar, Killing Yourself To Live, Hole In The Sky, Snowblind, Symptom Of The Universe, War Pigs, Megalomania
Disc 2 (61:07) MC, Sabbra Cadabra, Jam / Guitar Solo, Sometimes I’m Happy, Drum Solo, Supernaut, Iron Man, Orchid, Rock ‘N’ Roll Doctor Jam, Black Sabbath, Spiral Architect, Embryo / Children Of The Grave, Paranoid
Volume 36 of the Lost and Found Mike the MICrophone series brought a previously unheard recording to the surface, the band in question is Black Sabbath, and the venue is the famed Long Beach Arena. This was a recording most didn’t expect, the known list of bands Mike was known to have taped gives us an idea of his musical preferences. Perhaps this is a good time to get Mike’s “accomplice” Jim R’s recollection of the show that provides the information we are looking for:
“Mike and I attended the Black Sabbath concert on Sept 7, 1975 at the Long Beach Arena. We sat in the 3rd row, dead center at the front of our sweet spot for sound quality. The wheelchair era was fully established by this point in 1975. I pushed Mike into the building and helped him to his seat next to me. It was also an extremely active concert year: Mike and I attended and recorded many shows including Jethro Tull, Faces, Zeppelin, Yes, Pink Floyd, The Stones, Clapton, Elton John and The Allman Brothers.
The Sabbath concert was sandwiched three weeks after Eric Clapton (Vol. 33) and three weeks before Elton John San Diego (Vol. 28). Mike was not that into Sabbath, but he agreed to record it as a favor to me. I was the bigger fan. In fact, my first concert ever in 1972 was Sabbath with Yes as the opening act. What a bill. My favorite member of the band was Geezer Butler, the wild bass player.
The show was typical Sabbath. A mix of old and new tunes. Ozzy shouted multiple “We Love You” and “Get Higher” exclamations. Geezer was his energetic self. Iommi was steady on lead guitar. Bill Ward hammered away on the drums. On this tour the band did a lot more jamming than previous ones, especially compared to the first time I saw them in 1972, where each song played live sounded pretty much like the album.”
Certainly one of the reasons this recording never circulated was the sound quality, Mike gave it a rating of poor, he was extremely picky about how he rated his tapes and this one, to his ears, did not live up to his high expectations. Jim R tells us their positions being in the “sweet spot”. Mike’s rated his recording poor because of Tony Iommi’s guitar being high in the mix, Ozzy’s vocals come through clear but Geezer’s bass is audible just not detailed, Bill’s drums are clear just very much in the back. While Mike rated it poor, it is actually a very good, on the cusp of excellent, recording and had the balance been better would have been certainly rated as excellent. This is directly from the JEMS transfer of Mike’s master tape and the transfer and slight mastering is superb. Something included in the original torrent but not in the Zodiac artwork is a portion of Mike’s list, it shows Eric Clapton 8/14/75, Crosby Nash 8/16/75, Elton John 9/29/75, and Edger Winter 10/14/75 all being rated Stereo-Ex., Sabbath gets a Stereo-Poor.
We get a bit of pre show tape as the lights go down and the arena is dark just prior to the Superstzar opening music and it sounds like a war zone, the amount of fireworks being blown off is incredible, one wonders what Mike was thinking during this time, probably “what the hell am I doing here?”. The opening song is Killing Yourself To Live, Ozzy’s vocals are a tad rough at the beginning but the rest of the band is on. Ozzy greets the crowd by saying “It sure is good to be back with some beautiful people” saying it almost tongue in cheek. He then introduces Hole In The Sky, live this song has a real swing, something almost overlooked in the Sabbath sound was their ability of hit grooves, it wasn’t all bludgeoning riffs.
Ozzy must be feeling a good buzz as he dedicates Snowblind to the “Rock and Roll Doctor” who helped them out during the recording of Vol. 4, in Ozzy’s words a “good guy”, the band on this tour would be augmented by Jezz Woodroffe and his keyboards can be heard backing up Tony’s guitar in certain spots giving it a sound very close to the LP version. Symptom Of The Universe get a nice ovation, aggressive thundering Sabbath at its best, live it is a monster…so much Ozzy implores the audience to “Boogie”…he is feeling no pain tonight and is having a great time. The siren at the beginning of War Pigs sounds eerie and the band deliver on one of the most well known song, very heavy.
There are a couple really nice highlights to the Sabotage tour recordings, the first is the ten minute side 1 closing song Megalomania. This song, and side 2 closer The Writ most certainly come from the band’s legal battles with their former management where they lost an incredible amount of money, the chorus is bleak, “Why doesn’t everybody leave me alone”. Like other great Sabbath songs it starts off slow and sparse but the middle of the song opens up into a stormer, the song is quite lyrical as well, something of which 1975 Ozzy has no issue with.
Ozzy almost forgets what’s next, it’s Sabbra Cadabra and it’s a long version and vehicle for band improvisation and jamming. Ozzy tells of the previous night in San Diego and troubles with people up and dancing, and then implores them to dance and once the song begins, “let’s see you f***ers move”. The jam portion is really good, the band slow it down and plays a funky, well maybe not funky, but more Sabbath funky jam that is really good. Geezer plays through at least a wah pedal and probably something else, great to hear him so clear. Tony’s lead playing is so fluent, going from fast to slow on a dime, the jam goes into Sometimes I’m Happy then into a Bill Ward drums solo. Bill Ward, like Ian Paice, is certainly one of the most under rated and under appreciated drummers in Rock, his solo is excellent and he gets into some really solid rhythmic patterns. Think it’s Bill or maybe Ozzy who pulls out a harmonica and gets into a bit of Oh Susanna just prior to the band breaking into Supernaut, shame they never played stand alone versions of this song, its got one of Iommi’s most inventive riffs.
A quick drum solo leads into Iron Man expanding the jam sequence to encompass full songs. Tony plays a great solo before Black Sabbath including the haunting Orchid and a bit of She’s Gone, a song that would be released in 1977 on the vastly under rated and fully excellent Technical Ecstasy record. The TE previews also include a bit of Rock n Roll Doctor as well, More cowbell Bill! The second highlight of the set is the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath deep track Spiral Architect, just incredible live, one of my favorite songs from my favorite Sabbath album brought to life onstage, superb version of the song as well, Jezz providing the much needed keyboard fills as well, glorious.
Children Of The Grave finishes the set proper, Tony plays the wonderful Embryo solo as a prelude and as soon as they break in the song proper one gets the feeling of being steamrolled. The power of Black Sabbath lies within songs like this, just monster riffage and the audience is ecstatic and rapturous in their response. “Whatta Ya Wanna Hear”….Paranoid! The classic Sabbath closer ends the concert in stellar fashion, not before Ozzy asks for people in the front to move back a step, then they hammer into Paranoid with a fury, the audience proceeds to go nuts and is vocal in their love for the band. Mike keeps the tape rolling until the house lights come on to a round of boos. Incredible concert and a recording that does it justice.
The packaging is very nice, the full colour inserts feature Jim R’s photos on the front and rear, images in the Sabotage mirror. The front insert opens up to a picture of the master tape J cards, very nice. The interior photos are other live shots and the picture on the CDs come from the Don Kirchner show as does the sticker photo. First and foremost Mike, Jim, and JEMS get a massive round of applause for this one and Zodiac do a really nice job with this title, only thing they could have done is thrown in a scan of the ticket stub. For Black Sabbath fans this is an essential release.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)