Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Black Sabbath—
Paranoid (Quadrophonic)


Released 1974 on Warner Brothers
The Seth Man, May 2000ce
It’s a blessing to have found this album at all. To say that this version of “Paranoid” (remixed and released four years after its initial release) is ‘different’ from the stereo version is about as wild an understatement as saying Sabbath themselves were merely ‘heavy.’ Every track was remixed to quad by engineer Mike Butcher and aided by the fantastically-named Spock Wall, who were deeply involved in the engineering of Sabbath’s masterful LP “Sabotage” (To even imagine a quad version of THAT...) Unfortunately, this was the only Sabbath LP given the quad treatment, and that’s a pity because for once you get to hear the soundtrack of your misspent youth as rendered into a 4-way aural head megaforce. And we’re not talking about lame, super-smeared “SQ” either, but the higher-separated (and therefore, superior) “Quadradisc” (or CD-4, as it was technically termed.)

I recently hooked up my 1973-era CD-4 system to listen to this classic for the first time in CD-4. Within forty minutes I was on the phone to a friend whose enthusiasm for Sabbath matched mine, and even before we were mid-“War Pigs” we were reduced to mouth-open awe and hysteria. The sound was about as fat and huge as a pissed-off Sumo and just as funny. And although my friend was situated in the centrally-located “sweet spot”, it hardly mattered: Iommi was panning all over the room, and Ozzy barked call and responses to himself from left to right front channels as the rhythm section continually startled me from behind. “War Pigs” has the opening air raid sirens going on too long and in the wrong spots: they roar from speaker to speaker until the familiar break-in. But familiar pieces are in different places, like an aural equivalent of the classic “Shadowplay” Twilight Zone episode and EQ’ed so that the aural field becomes tangible in front of your face. But the glaring difference on the whole record is the “Luke’s Wall” segment that Joy Division plundered so perfectly on “New Dawn Fades” --
It doesn’t speed up at the end. Not a bit; it finishes in real time.

Up until that point you feel like you’re waiting for something ‘different’ to happen, but now it’s all over: “Paranoid” is all severely panned guitars, especially on the buzzsawed-off quadruple-tracked solo. “Planet Caravan” is still the nocturnal dream weaver it always was, but with additional bass and the ersatz-theramin “wooo-woop-woop-woop” circling around the quiet bongo-ringed campfire continues a good half minute longer than usual. The opening SG roar in “Iron Man” rockets from speaker to speaker and Ozzy’s pronouncement is like the stereo version’s just cleared its throat. Every riff Iommi plays here is so full that every hidden or obscured arpeggio cuts loose here, colouring the whole sonic wave into a fearsome tsunami. And Geezer’s bass is so pumped up in the breakdown it sounds like an 18-string Hagstrom built just for that one run. The wah-wah on “Electric Funeral” is louder than imaginable -- like miked boiling porridge through Marshall Super Fuzz. Then again, everything seems to be over-exaggerated and you’re continually freaking out at how close some sounds that were previously mere details take the size of half the sound field. You’re pointing to the space in front of your leg and saying “There! That bass...” or something equally dumb but your friend’s too busy rekindling his acquaintance with Ozzy, who is now doing call and response with himself from left to right speaker on the “You’re having a good time, baby” segment of “Hand Of Doom.” Here, all the guitar parts have a speaker of their own to blast from and even the drums of the faux “Cat’s Squirrel” solo of “Rat Salad” get reshuffled and ping pong from speaker to speaker. By the time Iommi’s guitar swoops in and out of oblivion and all around the room on “Fairies Wear Boots,” you wish “Paranoid” was a double album. But this version already fulfills that wish with a gloriously high-tech roar.