Riff for riff, few rock guitarists measure up to Anthony Frank Iommi, whose guitar work with Black Sabbath in the early 1970s personified heavy metal. On November 1st, Tony Iommi’s autobiography, Iron Man: My Journey through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath, will be published by Da Capo Press. Co-written with T.J. Lammers, the book recounts all the ups and downs the guitarist experienced with Ozzy Osbourne and company. Iommi recently talked to Rolling Stone about why he chose to pen his autobiography now, his friendship with Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham and the chances of a Sabbath reunion.
What made you decide to write your life story now?
Probably because I had a bit of time to do it. I’ve been trying for years, to be honest. I remember at about 1985, the idea was to do one then, and I worked with a guy in America. It just got too hectic. I couldn’t carry on, so I stopped. So it took all those years later to do it, and I decided to do it again.
There’s a great story in Iron Man about hijinks with your best man – John Bonham – the night before your wedding.
On my stag night, Bonham and myself – it was only the two of us…well, also the driver – we went out to celebrate. Of course, we went to a few nightclubs in Birmingham. We’d done our little rounds, and we wound up at this one club at about 1 or 2 a.m. John goes in and he orders 12 bottles of champagne – all to be opened along the counter. He says, “This is for you!” I go, “You’re kidding! I can’t drink all that. What state am I going to be in?” He got the guy to pour all these glasses on the bar, and we’re drinking them all, one after the other. We were absolutely paralytic by the time we left.
The owner of the club was at the top of these stairs, and John decides to put his arm around him and hug him. Instead, he pushed him down the stairs, and the owner goes flying. It was so embarrassing. Eventually, I got the driver to give me a hand, and we got [Bonham] into the car. We took him home, and his wife wouldn’t let him in. She opens the door, and says, “I’ll let him in, but he’s not coming upstairs.” So we brought him in and sat him in the hallway by the radiator. I said to him, “You’re not going to turn up tomorrow, are you?” He held his thumb up, and the driver took me home.
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I couldn’t believe it, early in the morning, he turned up all dressed up in his top hat and everything! I’d only gotten up – I hadn’t had a shave or anything. I felt absolutely awful, and he was as bright as a daisy.
While we’re on the subject of Zeppelin, there’s been rumors over the years that Zeppelin and Sabbath jammed together once.
Yes, we did. They came down to one of our sessions. I think we were recording at Battersea in London. That was the end of our session, and then we just started jamming. It was good fun – John wanted to play one of our songs, “Supernaut.” We started playing that, and then we just jammed about. But the thing was, in the early days, John would want to come up and play with us, but Bill [Ward] wouldn’t let him play his kit. John did get up on one occasion, and broke Bill’s kit. It was in the early days, and Bill couldn’t afford to buy new cymbals and snares. Of course, after that, John would come along, and say, “Can I have a go on your kit, Bill?” And he’d go, “NO!”
I remember reading earlier this year that the original Black Sabbath line-up was reuniting for a new album and tour. What’s the status?
I remember reading that, as well [laughs]. There is no status at the moment. That’s something that always can happen. We just get on with it and see what happens.
Are all the original Sabbath members on good terms?
Yes, I think so. I talk to Ozzy a lot – we’ve always been in contact. And I talk to Bill occasionally. Geez, I played with him until Ronnie [James Dio] passed away. We still stay in contact. Geezer is not one for being on the phone, we normally email. We all get on well – I don’t think there’s any bad vibes or anything.
When was the last time all four original Sabbath members were in the same room?
A long time ago.
If Sabbath were to work on a new album, do you think the new material could measure up to the group’s early classics?
I don’t know – that’s always the question, isn’t it? But I don’t know if you’d try and match it up. We’ve moved on since then. I don’t know quite what we’d be doing. It would be a Black Sabbath thing, but I don’t know to what extent. Until that’s written and done, I wouldn’t know.
What would it take then for the original Sabbath to reunite?
The band can decide to do something, but there are a lot of people involved, and everybody’s got individual managers. It’s not as easy as like it was in the old days – us all going in one room and it all works. I mean, we can certainly do that, but it’s a bit more involved than that.
Lastly, if Iron Man is ever made into a movie, who should play you?
I never thought of that one. I don’t know – I’m too old to play myself, I suppose [laughs].