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

Chapter 76. Reunion

We didn’t want to play with Mike Bordin. We all wanted to have Bill back for the next tour. Ozzy, Geezer and me had done the initial test of how we were getting on. We were asking ourselves: is it going to work? What is the interest like? Well, we did get along and the shows went great and everybody loved it. So it seemed obvious that we should get the old, full line-up back for a next tour.

We had to make the terms so that we didn’t get into big arguments, not from our side but management-wise. We each had our own management and that could be hard work, so we decided that it should be left to one person without everybody else chipping in as well, otherwise it would be chaos. And that’s what happened. Because Sharon had organised the Ozzfest, she was also going to manage the reunion.

We rehearsed with Bill and worked out the show, and then we did a few gigs before going to the NEC to record the Reunion live album on 5 December 1997. We did the NEC too early in the tour, really. I thought we needed to play a lot more first. We had rehearsed, but we had only done two gigs and then suddenly there we were, doing two days at the NEC and recording it. We hadn’t got into routines and whether to do a little solo here or build a big climax there; we were just playing the songs. It would’ve been nice to have loosened up more.

It was nerve-wracking, because we knew we were recording it. When you do a regular show, after the last song it’s over and done with, but when it’s recorded everybody can see and hear it afterwards forever and ever. Also it was a hometown gig, which made us even more nervous. Friends were coming. Brian May was there and Cozy and Neil as well. As a matter of fact, the four of us went out for dinner to a Chinese restaurant afterwards.

Even so, we were all happy to be able to play together again. I think it went better than we expected. As a matter of fact, it went great!

I went over to the A&M Studios in Hollywood to mix the live album with Bob Marlette. Then these guys from the record company came down and said: ‘Why don’t you write two new songs for the album?’

‘Eh . . . right. Now?’

‘Now!’

‘Oh. What, me and Bob?’

Because we were the only ones there.

‘No, we’ll get Ozzy down as well.’

To write a song in the middle of a mix is not a particularly good idea. You’ve got your head around how everything should sound, and then you don’t want to be thinking, what are we going to write, how do we start? And if you don’t have the band to start jamming, and you don’t even have Ozzy half the time, it’s bloody difficult. We just dropped the mix and started working on the new songs. I had no ideas lying around, so I had to come up with something there and then. It was a good thing I had a guitar there! And off we went.

Blimey.

Bob Marlette used programmed drums, just so that I could put the riff ideas down. That’s how we did it with ‘Psycho Man’: I played a riff and he put a drum to the riff, and then we’d build it up like that. Ozzy came down and disappeared and came down again and went and sat in the other room and got a sandwich and fell asleep and whatever else he did. Quite often he dozed off on the couch in the control room while we were putting the song together. One time he was spark out and then woke up to go to the toilet. He was gone for about twenty-five, thirty minutes. We thought, where the bloody hell is he? We need him now!

We sent somebody out to look for him, but the guy came back and said: ‘I can’t find him. He might have gone home.’

We phoned his home, but he wasn’t there.

‘Where the fuck is he?’

Even Tony, the guy who works for him and never leaves his side, didn’t have a clue. Then we heard all this commotion in the hallway. It was another band, and they were going: ‘Oh man, Ozzy Osbourne is in our studio. He’s asleep on the couch!’

We thought, oh, no!

Ozzy had come out of the toilet, half asleep, and he didn’t remember what studio we were in. He’d gone into their studio, right in the middle of their recording session, and he’d fallen asleep on their couch. They were out in the studio, playing away, and they came back into the control room and found him snoring away. They were in awe of him, so they weren’t about to tell him to leave. We sent somebody in to get him, but in the meantime Ozzy had woken up, come back into our studio, and, hovering about, he’d knocked a full pint of water into the recording desk and the bloody thing blew up!

But when Ozzy was awake at our own session he’d be all enthusiastic: ‘Oh yeah, I like this!’

It was the first time I actually saw him write lyrics down and really get involved in it. We wrote the songs and recorded Ozzy’s and my bits in one day. It was too fast, we never had time to live with them, but the guy from Sony Records was standing outside, waiting to hear them. We got Geezer and Bill to come in later to put their parts down. And that was it. We had the two tracks, ‘Psycho Man’ and ‘Selling My Soul’, but I wasn’t pleased with them. It could’ve been so much better if we’d had more time to work on them.

At the time it didn’t lead to plans for a new studio album. It was only later, right before Ozzy started The Osbournes, that we actually went into the studio to write a new album. We were there for three or four weeks and managed to put about six ideas down. It wasn’t a very full band effort. We had a go but it was a bit like pulling teeth. We’d jam for a bit and put stuff down, but then Ozzy would disappear or fall asleep on the couch again, or he’d go to make the fire and he’d come in and say: ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’

‘Okay.’

And then he’d disappear again for two hours.

‘What happened to the tea?’

It was like it used to be in the old days. He just didn’t have enough of an attention span to stand there and work a song over. But that’s Ozzy, that’s just how he is.

Still, we could have done an album. We got the six songs and the idea of Rick Rubin producing the album was brought up. Geezer, Ozzy and myself went to see him at his house in LA. There was a bloke who came in to greet us, he sat us down and we waited. After about ten minutes Rick Rubin came in. I’d never met him and didn’t know what to expect, but he was definitely a character. He was wearing a kaftan and he was like an old hippie in some ways, like a Buddha. Very calm.

We played him the stuff and he liked about three of the tracks. And that was it: we never saw him again and we never followed it up. It fizzled out because Ozzy started with his television show The Osbournes. It’s a shame, because if everybody had been involved and really got off their arses, we could’ve come up with something good.

I still have those six songs somewhere. We didn’t do anything with them, but that was as close as we ever got to recording a new album.