Headbangers’ Brawl 5/18: Do Black Sabbath Have The Right To Remove Bill Ward From Vintage Photos?

Posted by on May 18, 2012

Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s contributors take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.

It’s been less than 24 hours since Black Sabbath “commented” on Bill Ward’s statement confirming his departure. And not only are fans still sour over the news, but the band have actually found a way to further upset them. How, you ask? Well, take a look at Sabbath’s newly launched website. As you can see, Ward has been completely removed from most of the site’s old group photos (besides the ones featuring on the site’s history page).

As you can imagine, many of Ward’s supporters (including Tony Conley, the page administrator for “1,000,000 Black Sabbath fans say yes to Bill Ward” Facebook page) are outraged by Sabbath’s actions. So with that in mind, Bram and Zach debate whether Black Sabbath have committed the ultimate sin by cutting out Ward’s appearance in classic photos.


Zach: Ok, so I think a lot of people might give me shit for saying this, but… I don’t think Sabbath are in the wrong in regards to cutting Ward out of the photos. Does it suck? Yeah, just like how it sucks that Ward isn’t going to be on stage with Sabbath tomorrow evening. But the sad truth is that the guys you see in most of the website’s picture are the members you will be seeing this Summer onstage. I almost think it would have been false advertising if they kept Ward in the pictures. I’d have more of an issue if they had replaced Ward’s image in the vintage pictures with the “substitute drummer” (connect your own dots), similar to what Van Halen did in Guitar Hero.


Bram: Yeah, and we all know how much shit Van Halen got for photoshopping Michael Anthony out of album covers on their website. Eventually they went back to using Anthony instead of Wolfie. What pisses me (and, y’know, everyone) off about this is that they’re fucking with legacy. The pictures they’re photoshopping Ward out of are old pictures that clearly had him in them. While it’s not like everything is transparent and laid out there, it’s pretty obvious that this is about money. We don’t know what Ward’s demands were, but even if they were unreasonable, it’s childish, petty and immature to pretend he never existed within the band.


Z: It’s hard for me to view this as “fucking with legacy.” If they literally photoshopped out the image of Ward in a picture, leaving an empty space or replacing him with someone else, then I’d be more ticked off. To me, though, cropping a picture is less of a crime. However, I do admit that such an act is slightly disrespectful because Sabbath didn’t “need” to do this. In other words, if Ward was out, why couldn’t management set up a new photo shoot taking new promo pics? Why rely on old promo pictures that include nonparticipants?

And that brings us back to your point and the reason why this entire situation is so depressing: it’s all about the money. It’s become more and more clear that this reunion wasn’t launched because the four original members missed playing with each other or wanted to record last great album. It’s because they knew a reunion would bring in quite a profit. It’s just good business. And while you can’t fault anyone for that, it’s also disappointing.


B: It’s not cropping him out. It’s retouching a photo to pretend that he never existed. That’s literally rewriting the past. If they wanted to do this respectfully, they would figure out who their drummer is and immediately do a photo shoot with him. And yeah, they’re really shooting themselves in the foot by not putting whatever concerns with Bill they had aside and let him do it. It’s not a true Black Sabbath reunion if it’s not the four original members. I hope nothing but the best for Tony Iommi, but with his health issues, this could be the last time the band tours together. Why not do it with the original four members?

I’m getting away from the main point though. It’s completely whitewashing Bill Ward, a very important part of Sabbath, and pretending he didn’t exist. That’s one step removed from having another drummer re-record his drum parts. But then no one would do something that ridiculous, would they?

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Categorised in: Headbangers Brawl