New Dio-era Black Sabbath song, Slapback, unearthed and verified by Geezer Butler

Tony Iommi recently talked to Guitar World about his five favorite Dio-era Black Sabbath riffs. And while there were obvious inclusions like Neon Knights and Heaven and Hell, one song that didn’t make the electric guitar legend’s list was Slapback, which is likely because until a few days ago, no one even knew it existed.

The song – recorded during the 1979 songwriting sessions that produced Heaven and Hell, the band’s first album with singer Ronnie James Dio – was recently uploaded to YouTube by Gary Rees, the stepson and executor of the estate of Geoff Nicholls, Black Sabbath’s longtime keyboardist, who passed away in 2017.

Following Rees’s YouTube posting, questions arose as to Slapback’s authenticity. But in a new interview with Eddie Trunk on SiriusXM's Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk, Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler offered confirmation. 

"Yeah, that was one of the songs that we did before I left," he said of Slapback

He added, jokingly, "It's probably the reason I did leave. It was just one of those songs that didn't make the grade."

And while Butler exited Sabbath for a short time before returning for the recording of Heaven and Hell, he also stated that it is his bass that can be heard on the song.

"Yeah, that was right before I left,” he said. “It was just a one-off thing. We just jammed it and didn't think anything more of it. It didn't really work."

Roughly a month ago, Rees posted a previously unheard rehearsal recording of Heaven and Hell from the same sessions. That performance, however, featured Nicholls on bass, as it was recorded during the period when Butler had left.

“I recently found this SONY C-90 tape cassette amongst the thousands in Geoff Nicholls' archive,” Rees wrote in the accompanying text. “On the inlay card is written 'ON & ON  HEAVEN & HELL  ORIGINAL VERSION GEOFF PLAYING BASS'. Inside the cassette case was a Maxell UD 90. The B side is written 'On + On HEAVEN HELL ORIGINAL GEOFF ON BASS.' ”

On March 5 of this year, both 1980’s Heaven and Hell and 1981’s Mob Rules were reissued in remastered/expanded editions.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.