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

Chapter 48. Ignition

I had set Bill Ward on fire before, but this time things got out of hand. While he was rolling around the studio howling, I was laughing my head off. But when he continued screaming and writhing the horrible truth sank in: my drummer was going up in flames!

It all started as a party bit. Bill and I had joked around a few times before, where I would hold a lighter to his beard and the thing would burn for maybe a second. It was always good for a laugh, so when we were doing some work on the Heaven and Hell album at the Town House Studios and he walked in, I said to him: ‘Bill, can I set fire to you again?’

‘Not just now, I’m busy.’

‘Oh, okay.’

And I completely forgot about it. A couple of hours later Bill came over while I was doing things on my guitar and he said: ‘Look, I’m going back to the hotel, so do you still want to set fire to me or what?’

Martin Birch, the producer, couldn’t believe it. He went: ‘Oh, blimey.’

As Bill seemed so keen on doing this, I decided to make a bit of a production of it and dosed him in this stuff with which studio technicians clean their tape heads. His clothes just absorbed it. I lit him and he went up like a bomb.

‘Whoosh!’

He fell to the floor and I kept pouring on the tape-head cleaner. I thought he was joking, but he was actually ablaze. The flames consumed his trousers and they melted his socks. He ended up with third-degree burns to his legs.

Birch rushed him to the hospital. And then Bill’s mother phoned me up: ‘You barmy bastard . . .’

What she called me over the phone practically singed my ear. Finally she said: ‘Bill might have to have his leg off!’

Bloody hell, I felt so bad I didn’t know what to do. But he was okay, although he actually did get burn marks down his legs. Not too long ago I said to him: ‘You still got those scars on you, Bill?’

‘Yeah, I’ve still got them, yeah.’

I might have killed him, which is a little over the top for an innocent party bit. So I’ve not set fire to Bill since then.