The year was 1984, Black Sabbath had just completed the Born Again tour, Ian Gillian was out, Bill Ward was back in, and Bob Ezrin (KISS, Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd) was on board to produce a new record, Sabbath had no singer. On the recommendation of Ezrin, former Silver Condor singer Joe Cerisano was flown to Los Angeles to audition…and nails the gig! As Bob Ezrin has stated, “He was the best of the singers that we had auditioned and we all agreed that we should offer him the job. It seemed as though our problem had been solved.” That was not the case.
Joe Cerisano is an acclaimed singer, songwriter who has the distinction of possessing one of the most familiar voices in America. Traveling to the west coast in the early 80s, Joe formed the now legendary California rock band Silver Condor with guitarist Earl Slick (i.e. David Bowie and John Lennon) on Columbia Records. In 1981 Silver Condor had the Top 40 hit “You Could Take My Heart Away.” In the mid-eighties Joe began his career as one of the most successful studio session singers in America. He is the voice of the Army’s “be all you can be”, GE’s “we bring good things to life” and was the singer of the 1986 song “Hands Across America”. Joe contributed lead vocals for Blue Oyster Cult on the Imaginos album and appears with Gloria Estefan and Placido Domingo on the soundtrack Goya; A Life in Song produced by Phil Ramone. Joe is also one of the featured lead vocalists on the 1998 platinum selling Christmas album, The Christmas Attic by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and toured with the band on their inaugural trek in 1999 through 2004. Cerisano is possibly the most famous anonymous singer in America!
CC: When you got that phone call to audition for Black Sabbath what did you think? We are talking about a legendary band with quite the list of impressive singers prior to 1984 (Ozzy, Dio, Gillian).
JC: When I got the call from Bob Ezrin and he asked me if I wanted to try out for Black Sabbath I had already been introduced to the lucrative aspects of singing sessions (being a hired gun) in Manhattan. For the first time in my life I was making great money, working with the best musicians on the planet and not begging Columbia Records for an advance to live. I was a fan of the first two Sabbath albums then I kind of lost touch. In fact, I still have my albums to this day. So what did I think, since they were paying my hotel and my flight out to LA? I thought I would check it out.
CC: What was it like during the audition, what did it feel like playing in Black Sabbath?
JC: Oh yeah it felt like Black Sabbath. I was standing right in the middle of Black Sabbath. As for the audition, as I recall it lasted about an hour. It was Tony for sure, Geezer and I think the original drummer (Bill Ward). There were no other musicians. The guys were really nice to me. We got on well. The rehearsal took place at SIR in Hollywood. As for the atmosphere, it was really good. I didn’t really know what was happening within the band. I met the guys. I sang. We had a great time making some music and that was it. Totally professional.
CC: Did you recall what songs you did at the audition and how it felt afterwards?
JC: I don’t remember all the songs but I know we did “War Pigs” and “Iron Man” for sure, we did a couple of others, and then we did some Rock and Roll stuff just for kicks. We did some Little Richard and even did “Whole Lotta Shakin”.
Afterwards I went back to my motel room. I started to think about the situation. You have to realize that I had just moved back East a year before after living in Van Nuys for four years. I was sick of being in bands. I had been totally beat up by the record business and now I was starting to make great money back in NYC. I was working with the best musicians in the world everyday! I had to ask myself, do I really want to join a band again and go through all the bullshit. I had just turned 31 years old and had been doing this professionally since I was 14, which had a lot to do with it too.
I was supposed to go out to Century City and meet with Don Arden the next day to discuss the situation. That night I had spoke to my girlfriend back East and told her I didn’t think I was going to accept if I was offered the job.
CC: Any interesting tidbits about Mr. Arden? He is well known for his business tactics.
JC: That was very interesting, and yes, I knew all about Mr. Arden before I went to his Century City penthouse to let him know my decision. I mean he was the guy who first brought Little Richard to England! I didn’t really take his previous reputation into consideration. I was sure if I decided to accept the gig that he would treat me right. Because I didn’t accept the gig his reputation wasn’t a factor. He was very gracious in fact when we met.
I actually went to Arden’s penthouse. It was a large modern high rise building in Century City. I parked in the private lot and had to walk up to a guard house. An armed guard asked who I was there to see. I told him Mr. Arden. He got on the phone to announce me. About a minute later here comes another armed guard in a golf cart down this long winding asphalt sidewalk. He picked me up and took me to the main lobby of the building. Once inside again I had to say I was there to see Mr. Arden. I took the elevator to the penthouse. The elevator opened into his penthouse. After shaking hands he said “Well the boys are offering you the job.” That’s when I told him ” Sir with total respect for you I’ve truly given this a lot of thought and I can’t take the job. I truly don’t want to mess the guys up. He said “I respect you being honest”. Then the next thing he said was “Do you want a record deal?” That was a surprise! I gave him an instantly honest answer, asking him if I could think about. He said “yes”. I told him I would let him know if I decided to take him up on it. At that we shook hands again and said goodbye
CC: Looking back after so many years any thoughts, or regrets, about not giving it a shot?
JC: No regrets at all. In fact, looking back I did make the right decision. Yes, it was Black Sabbath but at that point it wasn’t a good fit in my life. A few years earlier I would have jumped at the opportunity but the timing was not right. Here’s my thought process at the time. I had just moved back to the east coast a year earlier. I was just digging in in Manhattan. I saw a good future in NYC. I really didn’t want to go through another record deal. I was 31 and I felt like it was my last chance to possibly get a handle on my life by making some good solid money so I could start a family. A record deal had lost all its appeal.
Following Joe’s audition there were a few false starts, most notably with David Donato, but soon Bob Ezrin, Bill Ward, and Geezer Butler were all gone. Tony Iommi would not resurface until 1986 with Seventh Star. We are happy to uncover this little known fact, this hidden treasure in the Black Sabbath history.
For more info on Joe, please go to his website – www.joecerisano.com
New Silver Condor/Joe Cerisano double CD of studio cuts, live tracks and rarities coming soon on MelodicRock Records: https://www.facebook.com/
Charlie Calv has over 25 years of touring and recording experience, playing with members of Journey, Genesis, Rainbow, Savatage, Angel, Danger Danger, Type O Negative, Danzig, Overkill, Accept, Derringer, Meat Loaf and many more.
During his travels, he has found himself on tour buses, airplanes, backstage, and recording studios, hearing some of the most interesting stories. You might know all about your favorite artists new album, hit songs, the breakups, reunions, but what about so of the not so often told stories.
They sang on what song? They turned down what gig? That was who on that?
Charlie is going to share some of these stories with you, right from the people he heard them from as he unearths some hidden treasure.
For more info on Charlie – www.charliecalv.com
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