Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)
Chapter 18. Getting Paranoid
After recording Black Sabbath we immediately started writing songs for our second album. Some of them were written when we were on the road in Europe, like ‘War Pigs’. When we played that grim place in Zurich, we jammed a lot and that’s where the initial idea came from. Later, during rehearsal, we turned it into a song. We had writing sessions in whatever rehearsal place we used at the time, putting tracks together. We also did some work for Paranoid in Monmouth, in Wales, because we wanted to go somewhere where we could lock ourselves away. We were one of the first bands there, after Dave Edmunds. At the other places we’d have to go in and then go home, but here we could all be together and around each other all the time.
The recording of the Paranoid album went pretty quick. We went back to Regent Sound, working with Rodger Bain again. It didn’t take much more than three or four days, just a bit longer than the first one. Because we were in a fight a couple of nights before that, I recorded that album with a great big black eye. It was the days of Mods and Rockers and we were playing at this seaside resort. We had finished and Geezer went out to make a phone call. He soon came rushing back in, going: ‘Fucking hell, loads of skinheads trying to get me, they’re all waiting for us to come out!’
We went out to see what was happening and it was serious stuff. Ozzy grabbed a hammer and I said: ‘Who is the one that got you then, Geezer?’
He pointed at some guy and said: ‘It was him!’
I went down and, bang!, I hit this bloke and then they all came from nowhere. Fucking horrible, but you’re in the midst of it then, fighting. Some bloke got me around the neck and I shouted: ‘Ozzy, hit him with the hammer!’
Ozzy hit him and at the same time he got jumped from behind and he slammed the bloody hammer backwards over his shoulder in that bloke’s face. It was brutal. They were wearing these big metal-tipped boots and we were getting kicked in the face with them. We managed to get away, but we were a bloody mess.
Ron Woodward, my old bass-playing neighbour, had driven us to the gig because he had just bought this new car. We jumped in screaming: ‘Quick, drive, fucking get away!!’
But he took off like a slug on Valium, with us screaming our heads off, big black eyes, blood everywhere: ‘Put your foot down, drive, drive!!!’
All these skinheads were rushing down the hill, catching up with us, bats in hand, and Ron was making a getaway in slow motion. It turned out he was afraid to speed because you’re not supposed to do that with a brand new car. We got away, but it took us ages to get home because he drove so slowly. I finally walked in the house and Mum was in the bedroom.
‘How did the show go?’
I opened the door.
Lyrically, the album Paranoid was political, or certainly ‘War Pigs’ was. That wasn’t because of any negative reactions to the supposed ‘occult’ first album, because we never ever regretted what we’ve done. It just happened that way. But not all of Black Sabbath was, for lack of a better word, occult, and not all of Paranoid was political. ‘War Pigs’ actually started off as a song called ‘Walpurgis’, which suggests it might have been a supernatural song. This is not necessarily the case. Maybe it was just a working title, with no lyrics written for it whatsoever. I don’t know why Geezer changed it from ‘Walpurgis’ to ‘War Pigs’. The lyrics were definitely his department. I always liked what he did, so I never questioned him.
Rodger Bain and Tom Allom speeded up the ending of ‘War Pigs’. When we first heard that, we thought, that’s strange, why would they do that? But we had no say in it in those days.
We smoked a lot of dope, so that might be why some of the lyrics are a bit unusual. Like ‘Iron Man’, which came from a comic about a robot which became alive. I suppose there was a serious thought behind that, really, that somebody living couldn’t get out of that body, couldn’t get out of this thing. And look at ‘Fairies Wear Boots’. What a lyric! But nobody questioned it, people accepted it.
After we recorded all the tracks, Rodger said: ‘We don’t have enough. Can you come up with another song? Just a short track?’
‘Oh? Yeah, I suppose.’
The others popped out for lunch, and I started playing DadaDadaDadaDada DadaDadaDadaDadada, dudududududu-dudu, Dada da: Paranoid. When the others came back I played it to them and they liked it. Geezer came up with the lyrics, I can’t remember if Ozzy had any input in that one. When we’d start playing a new song, Ozzy would improvise and just sing anything, ‘Flying out the window’ or whatever, and probably wouldn’t even know what he was singing. And then Geezer would go: ‘Oh yeah, I can use that!’
Geezer would do the lyrics before we started recording or, in some cases, even in the studio. And then it would be up to Ozzy to get it right. He would come up with the melody, and he’d follow the riff in a lot of cases. I don’t know how Geezer came up with the idea for the ‘Paranoid’ lyrics, but he had quite a wide imagination. He would sit and listen to the music for a bit, and sometimes he’d want it to be quiet. He’d write a few things down, cross some out and write something else. And then he’d give it to Ozzy, and of course Ozzy would go: ‘What the fuck does this mean, Geez!’
Paranoid: I doubt we even knew what the word meant at the time. Ozzy and me went to the same lousy school, where we certainly wouldn’t be around words like that. We knew what ‘fuck’ meant, and ‘piss off’, but ‘paranoid’? That’s why we left it to Geezer, because we considered him to be the intelligent one.
All our tracks were five minutes-plus. We had never done a three-minute track, so ‘Paranoid’ was like a throwaway: ‘This will fill the gap.’
We never thought that it was going to be the hit. Out of all our stuff, that’s always the one that people put on compilations, use in TV themes and in films. And it took probably four minutes to write. It’s that basic, simple thing, that catchy theme, that seems to appeal to people. ‘Paranoid’ even brought us to Top of the Pops. We were very nervous doing that, because it was such a prestigious thing in Britain to be on that show. We were probably the loudest band they’d ever had on. I didn’t like the atmosphere there at all, with the BBC people telling you what to do and all this rubbish. Things came to a head when I said: ‘Get that light off of me, it’s driving me mad.’
‘We can’t turn that off.’
I was like: ‘Well, get it off!’
Of course I played in the dark then. We never did it again after that. We weren’t really a Top of the Pops band anyway.
If the Black Sabbath album with the inverted cross on its sleeve caused some controversy, Paranoid did its best to top that. At first we were going to call the album War Pigs and they’d done the album cover up with a guy with a shield and a sword: the ‘war pig’. But then they wouldn’t accept that title and changed it to Paranoid. We asked: ‘What’s that got to do with that cover?!’
But it was too late to change it, because they needed a title quick.
‘No, we can’t use War Pigs. What are we going to call it?’
‘It’s got to be Paranoid!’
And that was it.