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

Chapter 63. Glenn falls, but there is a Ray of hope

The Seventh Star tour kicked off in Cleveland, Ohio, in March 1986. We had a big stage set with lasers and everything. Don Arden’s idea again, but I had to pay for it all. Of course. To say the tour got off to a bad start is an understatement, because it went disastrous with Glenn. I had hired this bodyguard called Doug Goldstein, who later managed Guns N’ Roses, to watch him and to keep all the hangers-on away from him. But no sooner did the tour start than Glenn disappeared back to Atlanta. Doug brought him back just in time for the show. We were at the side of the stage and he went: ‘I can’t go on, I can’t go on.’

So I literally threw him on: ‘Get out there!’

I hated being like that but I had to do it.

Doug Goldstein ended up doing all sorts of things to pin Glenn down. While staying in rooms with adjoining doors, he actually attached a string to his toe and tied it to Glenn’s hotel room door, so as soon as Glenn moved Doug would know about it. It was a bloody nightmare. But Glenn was cunning; he managed to get drug dealers in somehow.

I wasn’t there when it all happened. I just know that our stage manager, John Downing, ended up thumping Glenn on the day before the first show. John was tough, very forceful, and he could handle himself. He was good at what he did. He had worked for Jimi Hendrix and The Move in the past. John said that he couldn’t control Glenn and that he took a swing at him, so he clocked him. That was John Downing’s side of it, but he is dead now so we can’t ask him about it any more. He drowned. While he was on tour in Europe, John had had a row with some bootleggers and when he was coming back to England on the ferry, they were on the same boat. The story goes that those bootleggers lobbed him overboard and his body was washed up a couple of days later.

John broke Glenn’s nose. Don Arden apparently said to John: ‘He had to go on stage, why didn’t you thump him in the back of the head?’

Typical!

Glenn claimed that the blow caused a blood clot in his throat. Sure: of course it wasn’t the coke. It obviously affected his voice. It does sometimes, it dries your throat up. Glenn is such a great singer but he was just unable to perform. On top of that, he was getting extremely paranoid. I spoke to Don about it, and I said: ‘We are going to have to pull the shows.’

‘We can’t pull the shows. If we do, they’ll sue us!’

‘Oh . . . fucking hell!’

I simply couldn’t afford to run that risk, so what we had to do was locate another singer and bring him in a couple of days before we actually fired Glenn. This way we’d be able to get him to see the show and see how it all worked, before taking over. We’d go down to the gig in the afternoon to rehearse with him, to get him into the role of it. Then, when it all happened with Glenn, the new singer would be able to go on stage to continue with the rest of the shows.

Dave Spitz knew this young singer called Ray Gillen from a band in New York. He was a good-looking guy with a great voice. The girls loved him, and when he was with us there were suddenly lots of women coming to the shows. We brought Ray in during the afternoon of our third show. We ran through the songs and Glenn was wondering what was going on: ‘Who is that guy I keep seeing?’

It was really awkward, but it was the only thing left for us to do. It was either that or cancel shows. We had to go on with Glenn and then slot Ray in straight away. It was also difficult for me, because Glenn had always been a mate and I felt really underhand doing it. We’ve talked about it since and Glenn understands. We gave him all these chances and he just buggered them up.

That third gig went great from our side, but Glenn was so bad that night that I had a row with him after the show. I got angry because he was letting everybody down, including himself. He could hardly sing at all any more and Geoff had to take over on some of the vocals. Of course he sounded nothing like Glenn, but he just tried to finish the songs.

A lot of people underestimate how tough you have to be when you’re leading a band. You always become the arsehole. People don’t understand, they’re not there and they don’t see all the things that are happening, why you end up kicking somebody out. But there’s a reason why they’re not there any more. Either they leave of their own accord, or they are not pulling their weight and you get rid of them, because the band has to carry on.

The gig in Worcester, Massachusetts, on 26 March was Glenn’s last. When he discovered he was out, he banged on my door, screaming: ‘I know about this fucking singer!’

I thought, I’m not going to answer it now. He was raging!

Fate would have it that our next gig in upstate New York was cancelled thanks to another Christian protest, one of the many times that happened to us. And the irony of it was that the cancelled gig was in a town with the fitting name of Glens Falls. Luckily for both of us, ten years later and the drugs consigned to history, we’d hook up again for the DEP studios sessions.

Three days after Worcester, Ray Gillen did his first show with us. He was thrown in at the deep end, but he did really good. Finally we had somebody again who really wanted to do it and had the right attitude. Even so, ticket sales weren’t very good. With Glenn we did big gigs and we did good business. Now we were touring with an unknown guy, so the interest went off. It took all that time to build it up, and then it all came crashing down right quick. It was appalling. We had to pull the tour in the end, because we were losing too much money.

But we soldiered on, starting our UK tour in May, doing twelve dates ending with two shows at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. The halls weren’t that big, but ticket sales were all right. Of course, there was a bit of confusion about who was in the band as well: Ian Gillan, Ray Gillen, it was hard. Ray was really a good find, but nobody knew him. We had to break him in, people had to come and see him. It would take time to build it up.

The big question was, did we have that time?