Hear Black Sabbath Cover "Smoke on the Water"

Black Sabbath perform in concert in New York City on October 29, 1983
(Image credit: Larry Busacca/WireImage)

Black Sabbath may have ended their career with (sans drummer Bill Ward) their best-known, classic lineup of Ozzy Osbourne, electric guitar riff-master Tony Iommi, and bassist Geezer Butler in 2017.

In the decades prior, however, the heavy metal pioneers went through a lot of drastic lineup changes. Though the band's music often shifted to accommodate the different strengths of those members who came and went – the vastly different, but equally powerful vocal styles of Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio for instance – rarely did it get as much of a jolt as it did when Dio left the group in 1982 and was replaced by then-former Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan. 

Gillan's bluesy singing and wry lyrics were a tremendous departure from Osbourne and Dio's respective styles as frontmen, to put it mildly, and polarized longtime Sabbath aficionados. Though the Gillan/Sabbath partnership ended after just one album (1983's Born Again), it did give us the unique spectacle of the godfathers of heavy metal covering one of hard rock's other giants.

During the Gillan-fronted tour in support of Born Again, Sabbath took to playing the song for which Gillan is most known, Deep Purple's iconic "Smoke On the Water," as an encore. According to setlist.fm, Black Sabbath played the song 60 times during the tour, which stretched from 1983-1984. You can hear a recording from that tour above.

The Born Again tour is not only notable in Sabbath lore for this cover, however. This, you see, was the tour where the group ordered a soon-to-be-infamous "Stonehenge" set. 

Intending for it to be 15 feet tall, the band accidentally put in an order for a 15 meter set. The end product ended up causing the band no end of grief, leading them to cancel several shows due to their inability to fit the whole thing onstage.

If this sounds similar to the struggles of another legendary British hard-rock outfit, you're on to something...

Jackson Maxwell
Associate Editor, GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.