The Gospel according to Tony Iommi
Never give up. Ghosts exist. The 90s weren’t fun… At the end of 2017, the year that Black Sabbath played their final gig, Tony Iommi reflects on what his eventful life has taught him
He’s the proud Brummie who plays songs about the devil but has guardian angels. He’s had success and fame beyond most people’s wildest dreams, selling millions of albums and playing to millions of fans with a band who are one of the founding father of heavy metal, and setbacks that are the stuff of nightmares, including being diagnosed with cancer. He is also truly a legend.
Always believe in the impossible
I lost the tips of two fingers in an accident on the day that I was due to leave my job in a sheet metal factory to turn professional. I was only seventeen years old, and the doctors told me there was no point in trying to continue playing the guitar. But I wouldn’t give up and eventually I found a way. All through my life I’ve had that same attitude. If band members left, then I never gave up. You find somebody else and you carry on. And eventually of course we all came back together.
I’ve no idea where those riffs come from
I’m just grateful that they do. They come out of the air; I don’t sit down and work them out. They just arrive. It’s all very strange. I can sit down and two or three different riffs will come along in ten minutes. Some of them will be crap but most are usable. I’m useless at most other things, but if there’s one thing I can do in life then it’s write riffs.
The last Sabbath show was weird
The feeling built as we crept towards to the final gig at the Genting Arena, but it didn’t really sink in 'til the day of the show. Looking out at the audience during the last few songs, people were crying. Those people idolise you and love what you do. In a way it felt like we were letting them down. It was a shame.
Sabbath’s earliest gigs were crap
How we got from those days to what the band eventually became, I’m really not sure. We would play places where nobody was interested. Or we’d turn up and people would think that we were playing pop, when of course we weren’t. I recall a gig at a place called the Toe Bar in Egremont and this bloke shouted out: “Your singer’s crap.” That was really embarrassing. Of course, we improved as the years went by, but we certainly had to teach people – and ourselves – about what we were doing, because it was so different. It was a very steep learning curve.