The journey in search of Black Sabbath
Some time ago, I wanted to go backpacking in Europe. I didn’t know exactly where, though.
One morning, I was on Facebook and I saw a picture of one of my friends in the Santiago Bernabéu. My friend went there because he loves this soccer team, so I thought “Why don’t go to a place where I feel some kind of connection?”. I still had no idea where to go precisely.
Some other day, I was reading an article about iconic album sleeves and their locations. In it was Abbey Road, the famous place where The Beatles walked and I thought it would be cool for a beatle lover to visit that place, but after I finished reading the article, I didn’t mind so much.
Days later, I was reading the book “I am Ozzy” by Ozzy Osbourne. In chapter “The Witch and the Nazi” at page 85, Ozzy talks briefly about the location of the first Black Sabbath’s sleeve location. I didn’t know it was a photograph; for years I thought that sleeve was a painting.
I googled “Mapledurham House” and I found the accurate location of the “terrorific” Black Sabbath’s sleeve and, in my mind, I started to heard the bells and the intro of the song “Black Sabbath”:
BLAM! Dow! Dowwwwwww!!! Dooooowwwwww!!!!!
I felt the connection with this place. I thought about my friend’s passion with the Real Madrid and I also thought about Abbey Road and I love Black Sabbath. So, I told myself “I must go to this place!” That’s how my travel started.
I have been a big fan of Sabbath since I was a teenager; I remember in the high school, a friend lent me the album Paranoid and Painkiller by Judas Priest, since that moment I became a fan. Happily, I got the opportunity to attended one of their concerts back in 2013. They performed here in Costa Rica for the first and probably only time ever. That day, I also met Ozzy Osbourne. It was incredible, the first time I met a celebrity, but that’s another story. :)
Also In my left arm, Henry is tattooed and in my left arm my tattoo is related to Judas Priest.
What is relationship between this place and Black Sabbath?
A photographer and artist called Keith McMillian (a.k.a. Marcus Keef) designed this sleeve in his early twenties. Marcus Keef also worked with Black Sabbath, with the albums “Paranoid” and “Master of Reality” and in my opinion neither sleeve captured the music as well as Black Sabbath. You can read more about Marcus and another facts in this article here.
The band wanted to create “horror” music and in those years there weren’t music videos like now. The only way to represent the music was through the sleeve and Marcus did a very good job. This cover got along with the scary music of Black Sabbath very well.
Also this place was used for a movie called The Eagle Has Landed.
How I arrived there
Before going to this place, I researched a little bit. It might seem ridiculous, but I hadn’t left Costa Rica before that and public transportation in my country is very different than in Europe. Going to Mapledurham at the beginning sounded difficult for someone like me; I usually get lost in my own country. :P
I went to their on-line website and I sent an email asking for information. They gave me a guide about how to arrive there from London. They also told me about a boat that I could take. I got a boat ticket here.
This way, I arrived to England on and I got the train and subterranean tickets in Victoria Station.
I am from Latin America, so English is not my mother tongue. In the beginning, it was difficult for me to understand the Britain accent of the ticket seller but this sir helped me a lot: he told me all the details very kindly and very slowly. He probably won’t read this article, but thanks sir!
Once I was in Victoria Underground Station, I took the underground train to Paddington Station, then I went to Reading Station by train. After walking for about 15 minutes, I reached the Thames Rivercruise. I listed the Black Sabbath album since I came earlier than expected to the boat station :) The people on the boat were very friendly. Also, I think I was the only non-British person on that boat.
After riding the boat for 30 minutes across the Thames river, I arrived to my destination.
What this place conveyed me
When I finally arrived there, I was speechless. I got some kind of flashback and some Black Sabbath and Judas Priest songs started to pop in my mind. It was some kind of infinite bliss Before getting to this place, I went to some of the most amazing places in Europe and they were very nice but I didn’t feel the way that I felt in Mapledurham. This was the “mission” of my travel.
Here, I asked for help with the pictures to a bunch of British people and a man kindly helped me with that. I think these people felt my emotion and they were surprised when I told them that I came all the way from Costa Rica.
After the photo session, I got into the the village and the house. I can tell you, this place is far from being as scary as you can see in the cover of Black Sabbath.
Funny story: I talked with a British man and he asked me why I wanted to go to Mapledurham since this place is not a sightseeing spot in London. I told him I came here because this place is featured in the first Black Sabbath’s album.
What is this the stands before me?
I want to thank Ronald from Victoria Station, the ticket seller who sold me the tickets and explained everything about the journey. Also Adrian, from couchsurfing; he is a very friendly person who gave me some kind of backup guide about the journey. Also thanks to the personnel of Mapledurham and the very friendly people I met there, and for sure thanks to Black Sabbath especially to Tony Iommi for decades of amazing music!.
You all made my trip one of the most amazing experiences of a lifetime, It couldn’t have been better!