Original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward has today published a statement on his website regarding where he currently stands on the previously announced Black Sabbath reunion. In it, he states that the matter of an appropriate contract currently stands in the way of the reunion coming to fruition:
I am unable to continue unless a “signable” contract is drawn up; a contract that reflects some dignity and respect toward me as an original member of the band. Last year, I worked diligently in good faith with Tony, Ozzy and Geezer. And on 11/11/11, again in good faith, I participated in the L.A. press conference. Several days ago, after nearly a year of trying to negotiate, another “unsignable” contract was handed to me.
As implied in his statement, the issue of a contract has been long standing, and Ward has, in his mind, stood back and proceeded as though the issue would ultimately be resolved. The fact that he at this time chooses to make a public statement naturally suggests that the issue is far from resolved, however.
What Ward does not state is, unsurprisingly, specifically what would entail a signable contract. Instead of discussing the issue of money directly, he states that “I’d like something that recognizes and is reflective of my contributions to the band, including the reunions that started fourteen years ago”, while adding “I’m not holding out for a “big piece” of the action”. What he does not say is what type of contract would reflect his ‘contributions’, and whether that entails something other than monetary compensation.
He sounds noble enough in his pursuit, restating his position as wanting “a contract that shows some respect to me and my family, a contract that will honor all that I’ve brought to Black Sabbath since its beginning”. However, the ambiguity of his claim is counterproductive to the motivations of making the statement in the first place. Bill Ward felt inclined to make a public declaration of his position regarding the progress of the reunion so that people would understand his position. And he wants people to understand his position so that they will not judge him harshly for sabotaging a musical event that means the world to its fans and to the genre of which Black Sabbath is the forefather. Yet what he has accomplished is to create an atmosphere of ambiguity, mistrust, and doubt.
Black Sabbath represents to many a pure, untainted, personal expression, free from the constraints of business and industry. This is evidently something that Ward understands, saying, “I am in the spirit of integrity, far from the corporate malady, I am real and honest, fair and compassionate”. Yet through the lack of clarity of purpose in his statement, what he has managed to do is to make people question his motives, not only in terms of the contract, but in terms of making the statement to begin with. For a reunion from which the band stands to make over 100 million British pounds, the squabble over a contract may to some reek of pettiness.
There is one slight shade of grey in Ward’s statement, however. Regarding the contract, he states that, were he to sign it “‘as is'”, he would “stand to lose my rights, dignity and respectability as a rock musician”, and he also refers to receiving the ‘cold shoulder’ treatment “not for the first time”. It is questionable, in the context of his statement, what ‘rights’ he speaks of, but if he is referring to actual rights with respect to legal rights concerning the band, then there is a genuine issue. Ozzy Osbourne sued Tony Iommi in 2009 for a 50 percent interest in the “Black Sabbath” trademark, a case which he lost.
If this is truly the issue, however, he should more explicitly state it. In the meantime, his statement is open to speculation and ridicule. And the fans are left waiting for wealthy men to settle the issue, so many might be left to speculate, of how many more millions they are entitled to through this reunion.