Black Sabbath Used to Prank Bill Ward By Painting Him Gold and Setting Him on Fire: 'He’d Got 3rd-Degree Burns'

When you hear the name Black Sabbath, you think of a band synonymous with music like heavy metal. Like any legendary band, the group has some entertaining stories from their years of touring. They also played some pretty dangerous pranks as well. Here’s the story of the band, the pranks they played, and two quite amazing pranks they pulled on their own drummer. 

Who was Black Sabbath? 

According to AllMusic.com, Black Sabbath was a “metal institution whose influence cannot be overstated.” The band helped usher in a new era of heavy metal. Their most successful run came from the late 60s throughout the 70s. The band consisted of: 

  • Tony Iommi
  • Geezer Butler
  • Bill Ward
  • Its most famous and iconic member, Ozzy Osbourne

The band continued its run well past the ’70s, but Osbourne left to embark on a solo career that would make him a rock and roll legend. The band became notorious for their partying, drug use, and for many people thinking they were involved with the occult. 

The band members of Black Sabbath committed some legendary pranks

The band has some legendary stories from the road, including some unbelievable pranks they’ve pulled. Iommi did an interview with The Guardian and talked about some of the more infamous pranks he pulled off.

He even recounted one made at the expense of Virgin executive Richard Branson. They were staying at the mogul’s house to work on an upcoming album. The band’s then lead singer was Ian Gillan, formerly of the band Deep Purple. Gillan had a somewhat diva-like request to sleep outdoors. 

Iommi said the band got back from a night out at a bar and decided to pull a prank on Gillan. They lit fireworks located around his tent, creating the effect of “a mushroom cloud like an atomic bomb.” The explosion caused the fish in a nearby lake to come flying up into the air. A neighboring church reported them to local authorities. 

It wouldn’t be the only prank the band would pull. They had another great one on Ward, the band’s drummer that’s almost too crazy to be believed. 

The most extreme pranks Black Sabbath ever pulled off involved painting Bill Ward Gold and setting him on fire

Iommi remarked about some of the more dastardly pranks made at Ward’s expense. One came when they were staying at painting magnate John DuPont’s LA residence. 

“We found all this paint in the garage, and were all pissed, so thought it would be fun to paint Bill gold from head to toe. He started having convulsions. The ambulance people gave us a right bollocking: “You idiots! You could have killed him.” They gave him adrenalin and we had to use paint stripper to get it off. He looked like a beetroot by the end.”

That would have been bad enough, but Iommi also remarked about the time he actually set Ward on fire. The band had a new producer who was apprehensive about the band’s rumored Satanism, so Iommi brought a voodoo doll as a joke.

Ward jokingly asked if Iommi was going to set him on fire, and Iommi put rubbing alcohol on Ward. When he eventually lit a match, it traveled to Ward’s close and engulfed him in flames. Initially, Iommi believed Ward was joking, but after some particularly loud screams he helped his bandmate. 

Iommi also said that while he keeps in touch with Ward, it’s mostly by email. Based on the band’s stories, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. 

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