For as long as most metalheads can remember, the sign of the horns — also known as ‘throwing the goat’ — has been the hand gesture through which metal fandom is communicated. When you see someone in a Celtic Frost shirt, you throw them the horns; if they throw them back, you know you’re in good company.
For ages, the widespread use of the horns has been attributed to Dio frontman and former Black Sabbath singer Ronnie James Dio, who claimed it was a sign taught to him by his grandmother to ward off the evil eye. But now, Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler has noted that in fact he taught Dio the sign.
“I’ve got pictures of me doing it since 1971,” Butler told SiriusXM’s Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk, as transcribed by Blabbermouth. “And I always used to do it in the breakdown in the song ‘Black Sabbath.’ Just before it goes into the fast part at the end, I’d do that sign to the audience.
And on the first couple of ‘Heaven And Hell’ tour shows, Ronnie was saying, ‘When I’m going on stage, everybody is doing the peace sign to me, and that’s an Ozzy thing. I feel like I should be doing something back to them…’ And I showed him the devil horns sign, and he started doing it from there and made it famous.”
Butler is quick to note that he’s not territorial about the sign, claiming, “It was just an alternative to Ozzy’s peace signs, I was doing it. And if you look at the Yellow Submarine album cover, John Lennon’s cartoon character is doing it, in 1966 or whatever it was. So it’s an old sign. I was just doing it ’cause Aleister Crowley used to do it.”
However, Butler goes on the say that Dio borrowed a couple of other things from him during the singer’s time in Black Sabbath. “There’s a lot of things that he nicked off me that he claimed that he was the originator…The album title Sacred Heart; that’s where I used to go to school. And he called one of his songs ‘One Foot In The Grave’ — I jokingly said, ‘We should call the album ‘One Foot In The Grave’…He was very naughty about things like that.
And when I did an autograph, I’d write ‘Magic’. So Ronnie started writing ‘Magic’ as well. In fact, he called his album Magica. He was very naughty about things like that.”
More than anything, we just liked the idea of Dio being…naughty.
Words by Chris Krovatin