Geoff Nicholls was known mainly as the longtime keyboardist for Black Sabbath. Onstage, backstage or off to the side stage, his textural playing remains an important historical part of heavy metal’s most influential band. Nicholls’ performances were initially noteworthy for enhancing Sabbath’s revitalized return in 1980 when the first of the Ronnie James Dio Era records were released. “Heaven and Hell”, “Mob Rules” and “Live Evil” may have sounded very different with another musician at the keys. (Note – Don Airey and Rick Wakeman contributed keyboards to many of the Ozzy Osbourne fronted records).
Nicholls contributions to the Black Sabbath catalog would continue into the 80’s and 90’s. His role in live performance was put to the front of stage during the period after the release of the “Seventh Star” record. It would be difficult for any fan of Sabbath to ignore his particular contributions to the Tony Martin era of the band. Martin’s vocals were part of a somewhat mainstreamed power-metal sound which many fans found difficult to embrace. Nicholls’ keyboards provided an almost orchestral-like melodic platform for Martin to launch off with his vocals. During this era, Sabbath managed to maintain a very large fan base, particularly in Europe, with this style of sound. Nicholls would often appear with Tony Iommi in interviews during the “Cross Purposes” and “Forbidden” tours. My interpretation of this was it projected Geoff as a member of the band. It really could not be seen any other way.
Despite being willingly relegated to a back and side-stage role for much of his Sabbath career, many would rightfully argue his work made him just as much a member of Black Sabbath as any of the other personnel.
He had been working as a member of Tony Martin’s band before his passing after a long battle with lung cancer at age 68. To hear the best of Geoff’s work, you could listen to each of the Sabbath records