Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)

Chapter 31. A rather white wedding

My first wife was Susan Snowdon. I met her through Patrick Meehan in his office in London. Meehan was from a very well-to-do family himself. He mixed with high-society people, had the suit and the Rolls and went to all the in places. I presume that’s how he met Susan. She wanted to do some singing, so I said: ‘I’ll write you a song.’

Of course I never did. She came up to my house one day and it was a bit awkward: I found out she couldn’t sing at all and she found out I hadn’t written a song for her. But we did go out to dinner, and that’s how it all started.

We were totally opposite people. Susan’s parents and her family were all right, but some of her friends, bloody hell: ‘Oh, what do you do then, you play the, ah, what is it, a plink a plonk, ah, you do this?’

Very condescending. I really did not want to go near these people. Susan reacted to my friends in much the same way as I reacted to hers, so she’d go and see her friends and I’d go and see mine. That might not sound like a very solid basis for a relationship, but we lasted for eight years, a fairly long time. Of course I was on tour most of that time. We had a very peculiar relationship. She was always too posh for me, really.

We planned to get married on 3 November 1973. Before I could marry Susan, I had to meet her parents at their enormous mansion and ask her father for his daughter’s hand. I was really nervous when I got there. They brought the cakes out and the tea and teapots and little cups and I thought, God, I hope I don’t knock something over. But her father and mother were very down-to-earth, honourable people. I got on really well with them. Of course, when we got married, we were going to have the reception at their house. I was thinking, oh bloody hell, what’s going to happen when they see my friends?

But first I needed to survive my stag night. It was only John Bonham, me and a driver. We went to clubs around Birmingham, and the last one we hit just before closing time was Sloopy’s on Corporation Street. John said: ‘Let’s go and have one last drink.’

Right, one last drink . . . he had the bloody bar lined up with twelve bottles of champagne and twelve glasses, and he said to the bartender: ‘Pour them out!’

I thought he was going to treat everybody in the club, but, no, he said: ‘This is for you.’

‘Fuck off, John, I’m getting married in the morning. If I drink that, you’re never going to see me there!’

‘Well, I’ll drink them then.’

Which he duly did. Of course, within half an hour he was absolutely paralytic, and he was going: ‘Whuehheu . . .’

To make matters worse, the club was closing and we had to get out. Sloopy’s was upstairs and the stairs to the exit were steep. On our way out John grabbed the owner of the club around the neck and of course the bloke fell down the stairs. He hurt himself so he wasn’t very happy. Our driver and me finally managed to get Bonham out of the club and into the car, and we took him home first. When we got to John’s house he didn’t have his keys on him. It was four o’clock in the morning. I pressed the doorbell: nothing. Again: nothing. Then the lights went on upstairs. His wife, Pat, opened a window and shouted: ‘He’s not coming in!’

I said: ‘Pat, please, let him in. I’m getting married in the morning and he’s got to be there.’

‘He’s not coming in!’

‘Please!’

Finally Pat said: ‘All right, but he’s not coming upstairs then! If he’s coming in, he can sleep downstairs.’

‘Okay.’

She came down, opened the door and ran straight back upstairs. We carried John in, put him in the hallway, sat him against a radiator and I said to him: ‘You’re not going to make it tomorrow, are you?’

He put his thumb up and slurred: ‘Yeah, I’ll be there.’

The driver took me home and I thought, bloody hell, John’s never going to turn up and I’ll be without a best man.

I had to be there at some silly hour and I couldn’t believe it: eight o’clock sharp I saw Bonham coming up the drive, with his top hat and tails on, all dressed up. He lived a good thirty-five minutes from my house and I hadn’t even had a shave or anything yet. I opened the door and he was all chipper and energetic, going: ‘I’m ready. Are you?’

I actually felt worse than him. We got in the car and of course we immediately did a quick couple of toots. I thought, oh dear, so this is how the day is going to be. We got to the bloody church and, before we went in, all our lot kept disappearing behind the building, one after the other, having a line. Come back, snort and go: ‘Right!’

And then somebody else would go: ‘I’ll be back in a minute.’

On my wife’s side they were wondering where they kept going off to and I was thinking, Christ, I can’t do this! Once inside, my friends were all sniffing and snorting, all those sounds going on in the church, it was terrible. And then you had her side, all immaculate and straight.

I had written this instrumental thing called ‘Fluff ’. They played the tape when Susan walked down the isle and it started going wrong. First it came on and then it went off and it came on again and everybody started giggling. A total disaster.

When the guy said: ‘Is there anybody here who’s got anything to say about why these two should not be joined in matrimony?’ I was convinced somebody was going to shout out. But they didn’t. They were just sneering. I was bloody glad to get out of that church.

When we got back to the house for the reception, they were all disappearing again. More lines. My mother-in-law said: ‘It’s funny, none of your friends are eating.’

Of course I said: ‘Oh really? I wonder why.’

John Bonham and Ozzy and a few others were notorious drinkers who’d play up once they’d had a few. That’s why we thought it best just to have a toast in champagne and after that not to have any more alcohol. It really didn’t go down very well. We had the champagne toast and then a top-up with apple juice and Bonham spat it out and went: ‘Fucking apple juice!’

Susan’s side never swore, so I thought, oh no, this will upset the cart. My mother saved the day. She said to Bonham: ‘Don’t worry, John. We’ll go back to my house. I’ve got plenty of booze there.’

They all sneaked off to Mum’s house and carried on drinking there. If it weren’t for her there would have probably been antiques going through the walls, on account of all that apple juice.