This is America - 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 20. This is America?

Our first album was in the charts for quite a while in America, even though we had never been there. After we recorded Paranoid, we finally went. One of the stupidest things we ever did was take over our own PA. We took a Laney PA, Laney columns, and we had no flight cases or anything for them, so all the amps and cabinets suffered greatly from being thrown in and out of the plane’s cargo hold. We got to New York and our expectations were sky-high: ‘This is the real thing, ah, great, I can’t believe it!’

But our first gig was in a poxy little club called Ungano’s on West 70th Street in Manhattan. It was supposed to be the place to play, like when you’re in London you do the Marquee, but we didn’t think that when we saw what a shithole it was. I guess they booked us in there because agents and record company people were supposed to show up.

Our roadie, Luke, didn’t realise it was a different mains in America, so when he plugged the equipment in, it blew up.

‘Oh bloody hell, what are we going to do now?’

It was chaos, but they soon managed to get the fuses going again. We had two nights at this club and I thought, well, this is it? This is America? It was such a disappointment. But on the third night over there, we played the Fillmore East, which was fantastic. Bloody hell, monitors … what a difference! It was the first time we heard each other properly on stage, the first time I could actually hear Ozzy sing. It was brilliant and after that we never looked back.

We played the Fillmore with Rod Stewart and The Faces. We really went down well and Rod Stewart came on and he was practically booed off stage. We did two gigs with him and the same happened the second night. He was not a happy chap. But that’s when we realised we were grabbing them …

The Americans, they really liked us!

Us being not very well known yet, some people thought that Black Sabbath was a black band. That didn’t last very long, as they soon found out we weren’t much of a soul group. As the tour progressed, we used to hang around and see other bands, like the James Gang. We did the Fillmore West in San Francisco with them and Joe Walsh was smoking this bloody angel dust. Right before the gig Geezer said: ‘I’ll just have a puff of that.’

Ozzy joined him. They thought they were just smoking a joint. Geezer said he was hallucinating on stage. It frightened him to death. Most of us were pretty out of it half the bloody time. I didn’t partake as much. I was certainly no saint, but I thought it wise to try to maintain a clear head. Up to a certain point.