Geezer Butler felt a range of emotions when Black Sabbath played the final notes of its last-ever show on Feb. 4 in its home town of Birmingham — captured in the film Black Sabbath: The End, whose clip of the closing number “Paranoid” is below.
“I felt relief that it was all over, that it was done with, that we’d done a good show — and quite sad in a way to think that we’d never do it again,” the bassist, who co-founded Sabbath back in 1968, tells Billboard. “It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, actually. It just felt right. We’ve been around for 49 years now, and it’s time to call it a day.”
The End Tour sent Butler and his bandmates Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi (with drummer Bill Ward acrimoniously on the sidelines due to money and contractual issues) around the world for nearly 13 months, saying farewell with a selection of Sabbath favorites including “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” “N.I.B.,” “Children Of The Grave,” “Into The Void” and more. And the hard rock titans had no thoughts of reconsideration.
“It just felt right that this was the last tour,” says Butler, adding that guitarist Iommi’s battle with lymphoma was the determining factor. “It was mainly done for Tony’s health. He didn’t feel like he could tour anymore. If it was up to me, I would have toured for the next five years, because I love touring and travelling. But because of Tony’s illness, he just couldn’t travel much more. It wasn’t the gigs, it was the traveling that really got to him, and the different hotels every night and the stuff like that. He just couldn’t cope after being treated for his cancer, and we all sympathize with him and were just grateful that we could have done the last tour together.”
And while Butler maintains that he treated The End “the way I do any tour,” that was at least partly a defense mechanism. “If you think about it too much, then it might be a bit too emotional,” he acknowledges. “The whole thing felt like a special tour. It felt like each night had to be our best show ever, because it would be the last time anyone would ever see us. So I think we put in, psychologically, extra effort every night, I think Ozzy was the best that he’s been in a long time, and I think the band was probably the best that it was in a long time.”
With Sabbath at an end and The End coming out Nov. 17 on album and home media, Osbourne has returned to his solo career and announced his own farewell tour for next year. Iommi has not revealed any plans, while Butler has been “enjoying the retirement,” though he’s not necessarily done with music. “I’m not in a hurry to do anything,” he says. “I’m traveling a lot, seeing the places (the band) only stayed for one night and going back and spending some time there. We’ve recently moved house this year and I’m going to be building my home studio, but it’s taken me ages. Next year I’ll see if I can get back into music.”