Few, if any, bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s had a specific ‘brand’ logo that was consistently used throughout their album sleeves and merchandise. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that bands began to see the power of consistently branding their product with the same logo design (e.g. AC/DC, IRON MAIDEN).
Black Sabbath were no exception to this lack of brand identity in their early years and their sleeve designers used a myriad of logo styles to identify their latest release, with complete disregard for design continuity!
1. BLACK SABBATH
Nearly everybody will try and tell you that the debut album sleeve has a logo that is made up of Letraset “Manuscript Capitals”…and they’re wrong! Close, but wrong!.
Here’s the logo from the album sleeve with the same characters from Letraset’s “Manuscript Capitals” positioned beneath for comparison:
You can see certain similarities, but far too many differences for it to be a close match. It would seem therefore that Marcus Keef (aka Keith MacMillan; read this article on RareRecordCollector.net) either used the Letraset letter forms for inspiration and redrew it to suit the wording ‘Black Sabbath’ or it’s from an entirely different source altogether. Sadly, Mr MacMillan ignored my request for an interview on this and his other album sleeve designs. There is a digitised version of Manuscript Capitals available for download but it is pretty awfully executed and not really worth downloading in my opinion.
Another Marcus Keef design and featuring lettering that is obviously hand drawn. There is a reasonable version of this that’s downloadable, called “Dark Black”. Here’s the album logo and the digitised version below for comparison:
What’s immediately apparent is that the ‘counters’ or ‘apertures’ of the B A and P characters are missing or filled in. Otherwise, it’s not a bad rendition.
3. MASTER OF REALITY
Designed by Bloomsbury Group and art directed by Mike Stanford, the design is based on distorted and emboldened lettering using the font Kabel Ultra. With some warping and emboldening of each individual character in Illustrator or Photoshop it would be possible to accurately recreate this logo style:
4. BLACK SABBATH VOL.4
Here’s another oft-mistakenly identified Sabbath font. Sadly, it’s not Baltar, Balta or Washington Black…it’s hand-drawn and nothing comes close to it in digitised format.
The original logo is at the top, Baltar font in the middle and Washington Black at the bottom. As you can plainly see, neither is anywhere near close.
5. SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH
This album features a distinctive hand drawn lettering style for the album title that dominates the front cover above the striking deathbed scene illustration. The band logo is simply an Old English blackletter font which is very discretely placed beneath the illustration. Cloister Black is freely available.
Simply uses Futura Extra Black Condensed with a hand drawn, stylised ‘S’. This logo was also used by the NEMS record label for the ‘We Sold Our Souls For Rock ‘n’ Roll’ compilation double album in 1976…one of the first times a logo style had been repeated, although it was a cynical label cash-in and not a ‘legitimate’ band release:
7. TECHNICAL ECSTASY
Futura Demi Bold for both album title and band ‘logo’.
8. NEVER SAY DIE
This album was originally scheduled to have a completely different front cover design by Hipgnosis (it was eventually used for Rainbow’s “Difficult To Cure” LP – see the alternative design as it might have appeared here at RitchieBlackmoresRainbow.wordpress.com)
The stencil logo for the Never Say Die album can be closely recreated with Portago font, with the ‘A’ character obviously substituted for the graphic triangle symbol.