The love of my life - Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers 

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

Chapter 75. The love of my life

Early in 1997 Sharon Osbourne called and said: ‘Would you be interested in doing a few shows with Ozzy, or maybe a tour? I’m asking you first and if you say yes, then I’ll ask Geezer.’

It was supposed to be a casual thing as opposed to involving lots of lawyers, so I said yes. Then she asked Geezer and he said yes. I think she was under the impression that Bill would want to go through lawyers and therefore it would be hard work involving him as well, so she didn’t ask him. I asked her about Bill, but she said: ‘No, we are going to use Mike Bordin, Ozzy’s drummer.’

Geezer and me were only going to do a few songs and it didn’t seem like it was a big thing, so we agreed on doing it with Mike. The plan was for Ozzy to do his own set first, and then we’d walk on and close the show, not unlike we’d done in Costa Mesa back in 1992. It was just a ‘join you on stage’ sort of thing. We agreed on a fee and did it. In May 1997 we started a five-week tour of America, for about twenty-five Ozzfest shows.

I liked it. It was good and things were going well between me, Ozzy and Geezer. I think it was a bit of a trial thing anyway, to see how we all got on again. Initially we didn’t see a lot of each other. Ozzy would fly in later and arrive at the gigs separate from us and Geezer and me each travelled in a bus of our own. We also stayed at the best hotels, always the Four Seasons or the Ritz-Carltons. It was okay, it was organised well.

On 17 June, Ozzy’s voice gave out and he cancelled the show. Geezer and I heard Ozzy was not going to fly in, but we were in the dressing room already and the bands were playing. We had Marilyn Manson on with us, Pantera, Type O Negative, Fear Factory and a couple of others. Somebody said: ‘Would you be able to play with some of the other guys, with Marilyn Manson singing?’

I said: ‘No, we don’t want to do that.’

‘Well, we’ve got to do something.’

‘Not with us. If you want to do that, let them do it and jam or whatever.’

It wasn’t that we had anything against the other bands, but we were there to do it with Ozzy and that was that. We certainly wouldn’t go up and jam, because that was the kiss of death: you could see before it happened what was going to happen. And, sure enough, it did: before they all went on to jam somebody announced that Ozzy had lost his voice, and there was uproar. They just went crazy. As they do.

These other guys went on anyway and played, which was good of them. They prevented it from getting completely out of hand. Still, the crowd turned police cars over, rioting, it got pretty bad. We left fairly sharpish afterwards and got out all right. We went back there two weeks later to do the rescheduled gig and that went fine.

One day I bumped into this girl, Martina Axén, who was the drummer in the Swedish band Drain STH, who were on the tour as well. She said: ‘You’ve got to come and see the band.’

I went to watch them a couple of times. They were really good, so when Martina asked if I could help them with a song, I said: ‘Yeah, come over to the house after we’re done.’

Their singer, Maria Sjöholm, always kept to herself, so I never met her. After the tour she and Martina flew over from Sweden, just for a day. They came over to the house, where it was just me and my daughter, Toni. Valery wasn’t there, because at that point we weren’t an item any more, so they said: ‘Can we cook for you?’

‘Yeah!’

After getting groceries at the local market, we went into the studio and I played them some things. I asked them what they wanted and came up with an idea for them. That took all of twenty minutes and then they went into the house to start cooking. They had brought all this red wine over and two huge bars of Swedish chocolate. I already had this big bar of Cadbury’s chocolate. They started eating that, and we had a few drinks. It was off to dinner and we had some more drinks and they also ate all the chocolate they’d brought for me as well. The pair of them just polished off these two big bars! I’ll never forget that about them – it was really funny.

I had to fly off somewhere the next day to start another tour, so they drove up to London with me. I picked Ozzy up on the way and then the four of us went to the airport where they took a flight back to Stockholm.

Throughout the year I talked to Maria on the phone about how the song was going. It became a regular thing. I’d call her and we’d just be chatting away, sometimes for hours and hours. We got more and more friendly and, right before the 1999 Black Sabbath Reunion tour started, I just said: ‘Why don’t you come over for a few days? I’ll send you a ticket. Come to the show in Phoenix.’

She thought about it and said: ‘Okay.’

She flew in and she was really nervous. I didn’t quite know what to do either.

Oh dear, she’s turned up!

We played Phoenix on New Year’s Eve and then she came with us to Las Vegas. We really enjoyed each other’s company. And that was it: we started seeing each other a lot and eventually she moved to England. That was in 1999.

The track we wrote for Drain STH was called ‘Black’ and it appeared on their album Freaks of Nature. It was released in 1999, but the band broke up not long after that. As an all-girl band, it was tough for them out there. They had toured for years and Maria had had enough of the travelling. She told the other girls and gave them a tour’s notice to find somebody else. They didn’t, so they parted company. I probably got the blame for that.

We didn’t get married until 2002. I’d been married before on 2, 3 and 6 November, so that wasn’t an auspicious month for me. I said to Maria: ‘No way we’re getting married in November. Don’t even mention November!’

We were on tour in August, a safe distance from November, and when we had a break in Los Angeles my office organised this woman to come over to the hotel and marry us right there. We got married on 19 August at the Sunset Marquis. I didn’t tell anybody, not even the band. Nobody was there, so I got Eddie, who worked for me, to come up to be the witness. We wanted to do it without all the fuss, so we did it all quietly.

Best thing I ever did!