Black Sabbath had a massive change in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. Technically, a replacement for Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio was more than that. And the “Heaven and Hell” album proves it. This was a major risk at the time.
Tony Iommi opens up on the matter
Tony Iommi recalls in an interview with Kerrang, the audience was surprisingly positive about Ronnie in the band. Asked about how people reacted to Dio fronting Sabbath, Iommi said:
“It was pretty positive. We had to work really hard to promote that album, which was good, I think, because it made us work. It wasn’t just something where you go, ‘Oh, that’s going to do alright.’ We had to prove it and prove that the band was good and could do it live. It was a lot of ups and downs, but eventually we pulled through. We were always proud of that album, and we believed in it. If we hadn’t believed in it, we wouldn’t have done it. It was one of those things where we knew it was right at that time.”
Considering all the massive changes in rock music during the 1970s, it’s obvious that even mighty Black Sabbath was going to get some competition. Asked whether Black Sabbath needed to prove themselves after about a decade of work with the same lineup, and reminded of other bands that emerged at that time, Iommi replied:
“I think within ourselves there was pressure, but we weren’t competing with anybody else. These bands like Van Halen and Judas Priest had come around, and that was great. It’s a totally different sort of music in some ways. The way we would write and the way we’d approach things was different to a lot of the other bands that were around.”
Further on, Iommi tried to look back on the first gigs with Ronnie on vocals and how the audience reacted:
“God, it’s hard to remember now. We did this tour, The Black And Blue tour, which was us and Blue Öyster Cult, because of the manager we had at that time, and that’s how we introduced Ronnie to the fans, and eventually people come around to accept him. But yeah, as I say, it’s a challenge, because you’re gonna go out there and obviously you’re gonna get people shouting for Ozzy. And we did get that, and people are bound to do that, because they’re seeing the band for the first time with somebody else and it must be odd. But Ronnie just took notice, and then eventually we pulled the crowd round.”