Right before his appearance at the 2017 Loudwire Music Awards, legendary Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi took part in a conversation at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, Calif. During part one of the interview, Iommi talks about his early days as a musician, cutting off his fingers in an industrial accident and his road to forming Black Sabbath.
The story of Tony Iommi’s missing fingertips has become stuff of heavy metal legend. We even cast Iommi’s right hand to create the official 2017 Loudwire Music Awards ‘Hand of Doom’ trophy. While speaking with interviewer Ryan J. Downey, Iommi recalled the accident in gruesome detail.
“I’d be on a line and they’d pass stuff down to me and I’d weld it, and then it’d go on to somewhere else,” Iommi sets up the scene. “One day, the person that would be sending me the thing to weld never turned up, so they put me on this giant, huge press — a guillotine-type press. I don’t know what happened, I must have pushed my hand in. Bang! It came down. It just took the ends off [my fingers]. I actually pulled them off. As I pulled my hang back, it sort of pulled them off. It was left with two stalks, the bone was sticking out the top of the finger.”
Iommi continues, “I went to the hospital and they cut the bones off and then they said, ‘You might as well forget playing.’ God, I was just so upset. I wouldn’t accept that there wasn’t some way around it, that I couldn’t be able to play.”
Iommi speaks about crafting his own prosthetic fingertips by melting down a soap bottle, but being unable to grip his guitar strings. After gluing various types of cloth to the plastic tips, to no avail, the future Black Sabbath legend had his eureka moment after cutting up an old leather jacket. “It worked, but then I had to persevere for a long, long time to get used to working with them… and it was painful.”
The guitarist goes on to talk about the first bands he ever performed with. “The first gig I ever had was just me with a drummer and a piano player and they were about 30 years older than me. It was in a pub and I wasn’t even old enough to be in the pub,” Iommi recalls. After reminiscing about other pre-Sabbath bands he played in, such as the Rockin’ Chevrolets and the Rest — the latter of which featured Bill Ward on drums — Iommi describes wanting to create a “bigger sound” than he had been hearing in rock music.
Having played the final show at the end of The End tour, Tony Iommi sat down with Classic Rock to reveal what he'd learned during Black Sabbath's long career... One of the standout features of Classic Rock 243 is The Gospel According To Tony Iommi, in which the legendary Black Sabbath guitarist looks back over his band's long and storied career, and reveals what he's learned. Here are just five highlights...
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 fromI’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 till 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.
Has anyone got the Black Zeppelin tape?
We were really good mates with Led Zeppelin, especially Robert Plant and John Bonham who came from the Midlands. Zeppelin had wanted us to be on their label, Swan Song, but we couldn’t make it work out. During the recording of the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath album , Zeppelin came into the studio for a jam. John wanted to play Supernaut but we jammed instead. We were in the middle of recording so it fucked up the session. I know that it wasrecorded, and I’d love to hear it. The tape must be around somewhere.
You can read the full version of this feature in The Gospel According To Tony Iommi, in the latest issue of Classic Rock. Buy it online HERE.
Loudwire.com, Teamrock.com, 15 December 2017