Book Review: Rat Salad

Rat Salad:
Black Sabbath: The Classic Years 1969-1975

By Paul Wilkinson
Published by Thomas Dunne Books
Review by David Chiu

Part rock biography, part history lesson, first-time author/Sabbath fan Paul Wilkinson’s takes a different approach than others in his career survey of the heavy metal founders. Rather than rehashing the typical that would befit a band of this stature—sex, drugs and rock and roll– although Wilkinson does touches more on the latter. Instead he chooses to focus in talking about the band’s first six albums from its self-titled 1970 debut to 1975’s Sabotage (He doesn’t discuss the last two albums with original singer Ozzy Osbourne, Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die, for he considers them sub par). He delves headlong into describing and telling the story behind each song from the albums, including the classics “Paranoid,” “War Pigs,” “Snowblind,” and “Iron Man.”

Rat Salad is also somewhat of a cultural history of the early to mid ‘70s, during when the author was an adolescent in Britain, as if to provide some context to the times the band lived in. For example, the song “War Pigs” reflects antiwar sentiment as the Vietnam conflict raged on. Wilkinson also draws from poignant moments in his childhood, including a kiss with a sweetheart in school.

The absence of any further discussion on Sabbath and what happened to the group after Osbourne’s departure may make this book somewhat incomplete. However, the author would himself point out that stuff can be found in other books previously written about Sabbath. On the other hand, Rat Salad simply emphasizes the music and the process behind it. His writing style is conversational and lively—even some of the footnotes carry a sense of humor. Overall Rat Salad is strictly for the fans of the original Sabbath, but it is accessible enough for those who aren’t.


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