Artist Behind Black Sabbath’s Debut Album Cover Shares Backstory on 50th Anniversary

Black Sabbath self-titled album cover

Witchy women in dark woods. Decrepit buildings and black cats. High contrast compositions on lo-fi film. These are the makings of the classic metal mystique, and they were tropes set by Black Sabbath’s 1970 self-titled debut whose album cover set imaginations on fire across the rockin’ world.

The classic record turned 50 this week, and Rolling Stone celebrated the milestone with a feature interview centered around the look. They spoke to cover artist Keith “Keef” Macmillan and, most shockingly, the witchy woman who graced the artwork with a mysterious stare. Her name was Louisa Livingstone, and she was about 18 at the time of the shoot. They took the shot on a cool, gray English morning, and Macmillan let his improvisation run wild.

“I had to get up at about four o’clock in the morning, or something as ridiculously early as that,” Livingstone said. “It was absolutely freezing. I remember Keith rushing around with dry ice, throwing that into the pond nearby, and that didn’t seem to be working very well, so he was using a smoke machine. But it was just one of those very cold English mornings.”

Macmillan brought a taxidermy crow and a live black cat to the shoot, the latter of which he swears is pictured in Livingstone’s arms, though she says she has no memory of any cat.

“When I saw the cover, I thought it was quite interesting, but I thought, ‘Well, that could be anybody,’ so it’s not like I got any kind of ego buzz out of it,” Livingstone said.

The full feature goes deep into the direction and tone of the full album presentation, including the divisive upside-down cross on the inside sleeve.

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