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

Chapter 82. Hats off to Rob Halford

On 9 December 2003, people from several British television shows got in touch with me to see if I would do an interview about Ozzy’s accident. I didn’t know what the hell they were on about, but I soon learned that he had crashed his quad bike and broken his collarbone and lots of other things. He was in hospital for quite a while where he had metal bars put in his shoulder and his collarbone. He was very lucky to be alive.

I spoke to him, of course – I wouldn’t just leave him like that – and Sharon let us know how he was doing as well. Apart from him nearly dying, he was doing very well actually. Ozzy had just released the old Black Sabbath song ‘Changes’ as a duet with his daughter Kelly. I never knew he was going to be doing that and I was quite surprised, but it was great. And after his crash it went straight to No. 1.

It took Ozzy quite a while to heal, but in June he was well enough to do the Ozzfest again, with Black Sabbath headlining once more. We kicked off in Hartford, Connecticut. While we were playing ‘War Pigs’, they projected a film behind us showing George Bush sporting a clown’s nose, together with Adolf Hitler. One of the problems with these Ozzfests was that all this stuff was done without us knowing about it. Either that, or they would show it to us at such a late stage that it would be a case of use it or scrap it altogether. The Hitler thing caused a bit of an uproar, but, then again, there’s been uproar about everything we’ve bloody done.

Judas Priest was on the bill as well. Towards the end of the tour, Rob Halford had to step in for Ozzy. In the afternoon of the Camden, New Jersey, show, the tour manager and the production manager said to me: ‘We’ve got a problem.’

I thought, oh, here we go.

They said: ‘Ozzy is not going to make the gig tonight.’

‘Ah . . .’

‘How would you feel about somebody else doing the gig, like Rob Halford?’

‘Has anybody asked Rob? If he’d be interested in doing it?’

‘No, we thought we’d ask you first.’

I said: ‘As long as you let the kids know that Ozzy is not doing the gig before they’re coming in, or let them know well in advance that Rob is going to do it, fine. We will do it if Rob can do it.’

Rob quickly learned our stuff in his bus. He’d seen our show umpteen times so he just had to watch the DVD a bit and run over the things that he didn’t know so much.

We were due to go on stage and I said to the tour manager: ‘You did tell the kids, right?’

‘No, we haven’t said anything.’

‘You’re kidding. You have to let the kids know that Ozzy is not going to be doing it!’

They asked me if I would go on and announce it and I said: ‘You left it this late, I’m certainly not going to walk out and say Ozzy’s not showing up!’

Eventually Bill told the crowd Ozzy couldn’t do it, but that Rob was kind enough to stand in, and so on. Black Sabbath followed Judas Priest, so Rob came off the stage, changed his clothes, and he had like a half an hour before he had to go on again. It went great. It was tremendous how he did his set and then ours as well. My hat off to him, he’s such a great performer.

The tour went on until 4 September, when we were going to do a show in West Palm Beach. You could say we went down a storm without even playing, because it was cancelled due to Hurricane Frances. We were staying at this hotel there and I had some friends who flew out from England to watch the show. As soon as they arrived it was cancelled.

The band had a private jet so we got out before the storm came in big time, and I let my friends stay in my hotel room. They survived it. They must have been all right, because when I received the bill later I saw they drank my minibar dry.