TONY IOMMI: I'd Like To Remember 'Black Sabbath' As A Groundbreaking Album

Robert Gray of recently conducted an interview with legendary BLACK SABBATH/HEAVEN & HELL guitarist Tony Iommi. A few excerpts from the chat follow below. How did BLACK SABBATH come to meet Jim Simpson, its first manager?

Iommi: We played at a club in Birmingham called Henry's Blues House — it was a pub, and he used to run it. We used to play for him, and he was interested in managing us really. He saw some potential in us, and we were looking for somebody to help, and needed someone to get us gigs really. He was the one who started doing that for us. Looking back, what was he like as a manager?

Iommi: At the time, he was OK, and at the time, we didn't know any different really. He got us some work, and he helped us in the early days, so he was ok. Following that, how did BLACK SABBATH come to sign a record contract with Vertigo Records?

Iommi: Originally, we did some more auditions for record companies where they'd come to see us play, whether it be at Henry's Blues House or wherever. We did a couple of gigs in London for them to come and have a look, and some of them really didn't like us, and some of them did. That's really what happened. Tony Hall Enterprises were interested in signing us; he basically signed us, and we released our first album with him. According to the liner notes for the debut album's 1996 Castle Communications reissue, it was recorded on a six-hundred-pound budget, I believe?

Iommi: It was, yeah. Adjusted for inflation, how much would that roughly be in 2010?

Iommi: Umm... God knows. I dunno. It'd be a fair whack, but it wasn't six hundred pounds. It was actually four hundred pounds I think, but at the time, it was just a very tiny studio. We only had a day to record it. And the record label funded recording?

Iommi: Yeah. What are your memories of those recording sessions? You said the album was recorded over one day, though the 1996 reissue liner notes say the album was recorded over two days with mixing happening on the last day?

Iommi: It was over two days, but the mixing was the next day and we weren't there then. We were there for the first day for recording; we just went, set our gear up, and played as we would play in a rehearsal. They miked it, taped it, and that was it, really. It happened relatively quick, and then we left to go on tour in Switzerland. Do you wish it had been that easy later on in BLACK SABBATH's career? To be able to just record an album in a day, and have it over and done with?

Iommi: (Laughs) Yeah. I don't think it quite happens like that. With this last album we did (2009's "The Devil You Know"), funnily enough, with the HEAVEN & HELL lineup, we tried to approach it the same way and have everything ready for when we go in to record. We then just laid it down, and that was very quick. We did that very quick, but we certainly didn't do it in a day. Were there any negative aspects to recording all of the debut album's tracks in a day?

Iommi: At the time, we didn't know any different. It was just like going to do a show for us; we just basically played our set, and left. Yes, I suppose there would've been negative points. You'd like to maybe try things again, but we didn't have the time. That was it. I think the only one I had the chance to play twice was "Warning"; I wanted to play another solo, and Rodger [Bain, producer] went "Oh well, we'll do it once more". That was it. It was all done very, very quick (laughs). Are there any plans to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of BLACK SABBATH's debut album being released?

Iommi: No. We haven't made any plans at all. It would be nice to actually do a couple of shows for it, but whether we will or not I don't know. Everybody seems fairly wrapped up in everything else, and also coming up is our thirtieth anniversary with (Ronnie James) Dio as well. For "Heaven and Hell", yeah.

Iommi: Yeah (laughs). So there are no tracks in the vault that BLACK SABBATH can pull out which were recorded during sessions for the group's debut?

Iommi: I think we just wrote enough for the album, but there might be outtakes from the record. Otherwise, I don't know. When people say BLACK SABBATH's debut album spawned heavy metal, how do you feel?

Iommi: It doesn't bother me now. I think we're classed as a heavy metal band. I always, in the early days, called ourselves heavy rock. I never knew the term "heavy metal" until later, but some people have got to put a stamp on it somewhere along the line I suppose. But that's basically what we're called now (laughs). Is that something you're proud of then?

Iommi: Well, yeah. I'm certainly proud of what we did, and whatever they wanna call it, they can call it. Obviously, you now have forty year's worth of hindsight. How would you like BLACK SABBATH's debut album to be remembered?

Iommi: For what it was, really. Our debut was a really groundbreaking album, I think, when it came out, and was a breakthrough in this type of music. Nobody was doing this stuff then, so I think it was a real breakthrough, and obviously, many years later it showed with the bands that started to follow. It was difficult to break ground then though. It was very difficult to get our music through then because it was so different, but I'd like to remember that album as a groundbreaking album (laughs).

Read the entire interview from


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