The early birds catch the first songs - 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 14. The early birds catch the first songs

After I came back from London I said to the rest of the band: ‘If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it seriously and really work at it, starting with rehearsals at nine o’clock in the morning. Sharp!’

We booked a place in the Newtown Community Centre in Aston, across the road from a cinema, and started a whole new regime. I’d pick everybody up to make sure that we got there on time. Geezer didn’t live that far away, so he’d walk down. Occasionally he’d be a little bit late, but on average we were there at a sensible hour to start work. And that’s when we began writing our own songs. ‘Wicked World’ and ‘Black Sabbath’ were the first two that were written during those rehearsals. We knew we had something; you could feel it, the hairs stood up on your arms, it just felt so different. We didn’t know what it was, but we liked it. I just came up with this riff for ‘Black Sabbath’. I played ‘dom-dom-dommm’. And it was like: that’s it! We built the song from there. As soon as I played that first riff we went: ‘Oh God, that’s really great. But what is it? I don’t know!’

Just a simple thing but it had a mood. Only later did I learn that I had used what they call the Devil’s interval, a chord progression that was so dark that in the Middle Ages playing it was forbidden by the Church. I had no idea; it was just something that I had felt inside. It was almost like it had been forced out of me, these things were coming up just like that. Then everybody started putting bits to it and afterwards we thought it was amazing. Really strange, but good. We were all shocked, but we knew that we had something there.

Geezer was going to be an accountant. That’s why he had the job of sorting all the money out every time we had a gig. He was the clever one, so it was him that came up with the lyrics as well. I certainly wouldn’t be able to sit down and write stuff and Bill would be on it for twenty years to write one line. Ozzy would come up with the vocal melody line. He’d just sing what came into his head and so it might very well have been that he sang: ‘What is this that stands before me’ at the time. Geezer would then use that and put the rest of the lyrics in. So both of them really would come up with stuff.

Back then we did a lot of dope. One night we were at this club, in the middle of nowhere. Ozzy and Geezer saw somebody leaping around outside, being silly. To them it was like an elf or something. I fear it must have been the drugs, but that’s where I think ‘The Wizard’ came from, another one of those early songs. They simply put what they saw into lyrics.Those first songs are often described as scary. I liked horror films and so did Geezer. We used to go to the cinema across the street from our rehearsal place to see them, so maybe it was something that subconsciously directed us to that sort of thing. I know there is a Boris Karloff movie called Black Sabbath, but we never saw it at that time. Geezer came up with the name Black Sabbath and it just sounded like a good one to use.

We always thought there was something there that led us into this music that we were playing. I played that ‘Black Sabbath’ riff straight off, dang-dáng-dang, and that was it. It just came up, as a lot of my riffs have. It was like somebody was there, saying: ‘Play that!’

Something or somebody was providing ideas and guidance from some other dimension, like an invisible fifth band member …