Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)
Chapter 81. An audience with the Queen
The year 2001 passed without much incident. Again Black Sabbath joined the Ozzfest, starting off with a couple of gigs in the UK, after which the summer was spent on the road in America. The following year after we skipped the Ozzfest, as we didn’t want to headline it every single year. The same bands on the bill every time would be deadly for the fest and we didn’t want to get into a situation where people would think, oh . . . them again!
Sharon Osbourne did have a big surprise in store for me that year. In May 2002 she got in touch about me and Ozzy doing a gig at Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, celebrating the fact that Queen Elizabeth II had been on the throne for fifty years. I thought, that’s a strange request to get us on that show. They were used to having Cliff Richard and The Beach Boys, Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey, Paul McCartney even. But I certainly wouldn’t have expected me and Ozzy. That was a real curveball.
They said: ‘Would you mind having Phil Collins play drums?’
‘Of course, great, fantastic!’
And we had Pino Palladino from The Who playing bass, a lovely guy. At our rehearsal we started playing ‘Paranoid’ and Ozzy turned around and gave Phil Collins a really weird look. I know what Ozzy’s like, he just does that anyway. But Phil didn’t. After a while Ozzy left and I ran through the song with Phil and Pino again. Phil said to me: ‘What’s the matter with Ozzy, haven’t I been playing it right?’
‘Yes, you’ve been playing it fine.’
‘But he gave me such a dirty look!’
‘He probably didn’t even notice he did that. No, there’s nothing wrong.’
‘Oh, I was concerned. Tell me if I’m not playing it right.’
‘You’re playing it great!’
The next day we went to Buckingham Palace to do the sound check. It was like Fort Knox to get in it, which is understandable I suppose. We went on stage, outside in the grounds of the Palace. We did our sound check but had to come off stage in the middle of it, because there was a fire in one of the rooms in the Palace. Apparently they had boxes and boxes of fireworks they were going to let off on the night and were concerned we’d all blow up, so they had to go and investigate.
Brian May had called me the day before. He was to go up on the roof to play ‘God Save The Queen’, and he said: ‘Would you do it with us?’
I said: ‘Oh God, I can’t do that. I would never be able to learn that and be comfortable enough to play it in front of billions of people watching on TV!’
‘Well, just come up with us then.’
‘I don’t like heights. I can’t!’
‘You play on stage then and I’ll play up there!’
‘I’d never learn it in time!’
Thank goodness I said no to that. But Brian was brave enough to do it.
Backstage before the gig I stood outside talking to Paul McCartney and some other people. It was great, but there were all these signs saying ‘No Drinking’, ‘No Swearing’, no this, no that. That terrified Ozzy more than anything, because with him everything is fucking this and fucking that, so he was practising not swearing. He walked up and down in the dressing room going: ‘Raise your hands, come on, raise your hands . . .’ instead of his normal: ‘Raise your fucking hand, you fuckers!’
I thought, no way he’s going to keep that up! But he did.
We went on, and Ozzy went on too soon. He was excited and was already walking on as they announced us. We did the gig and it went really good. We came off and I had a chat with a few others, Tom Jones and the rest of them.
A great day.
Afterwards we were invited to the Palace for a drink. I was standing there in this fantastic, huge, lovely room talking to Phil Collins when Tony Blair spotted me and came over: ‘Tony! Tony!’
I’d never met him in my life. It was unreal to have the prime minister come over to me like he’d known me for years. He said: ‘I’m a big fan. I’ve got all the early albums!’
Then his wife came over and he introduced me to her. While I was talking to them, I saw Ozzy walking over to me. He asked me something and I went: ‘Oz, meet Tony Blair.’
He went: ‘Oh, eh . . . hello.’
And that was it. Tony Blair put his hand out and it was like . . . nothing. Ozzy didn’t even acknowledge him and just walked off. I said to Tony: ‘He’s always like that, you know.’
Because I didn’t know what to say.
Tony said: ‘It’s okay.’
Then I saw Prince Charles walk over to talk to Ozzy. I thought, oh hell, there’s no way Ozzy is going to be able to talk to him without swearing. The whole thing, it was just unreal.
I ended up meeting the Queen, Prince Charles, Princess Anne and all the gang, and they were really nice. When you see them on TV it’s all very serious, but they were down to earth. I was quite surprised. The Queen didn’t really say anything and I didn’t say anything to her. She just comes by and smiles and you nod and that’s it really. She talked to hardly anybody. But the two young princes, William and Harry, came over and said to me: ‘Why didn’t you play “Black Sabbath”?’
I said: ‘I don’t think that would have gone down that well.’
It was a great night. The original idea was to stay there for only fifteen minutes and clear off, but I’d been there half an hour, forty minutes, and I was the first to leave. Maria and me went back to the hotel, the Lanesborough, overlooking the back of Buckingham Palace, a real flash place. We went up to our room, got into bed and about two and a half hours later the fire alarm went off: ‘Would you please leave the rooms, please leave the rooms.’
We got dressed and, as we walked out into the hallway, I saw the Fire Brigade going into Ozzy’s room.
Somebody had set the alarm off and they assumed it was coming from his room. But it wasn’t him; he was in bed with Sharon. The Fire Brigade burst in and Ozzy had a fit.
We had to evacuate and stand around outside. I couldn’t believe it: twice in one day, in the afternoon at Buckingham Palace and then at our hotel. So everybody thought, that’s strange, it happened over there and now here as well . . . it must be them!