Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)
Chapter 26. No, really, it’s too much …
When we recorded Paranoid I still lived at home. My parents had bought another place in Kingstanding, near Birmingham. They planned to move there as soon as they got rid of the shop. Mum wanted to get out of it. It was just a burden. You’d wake up in the morning and the shop opened and after you closed you’d go to bed. They could never go away. We never went on a holiday as a family, they had never been abroad.
I was proud of that new place. Before they moved in I had a key and if I had met a girl I’d take her up there: ‘This is our new house!’
After all, I couldn’t take anybody back to the old house: ‘Here, come and sit on this box of beans, and I’ll get you a nice drink.’
Wouldn’t think of it.
But it was time for me to find my own place. At first I didn’t have the money to do that, and when the money came in I was out on tour all the time. The first big cheques went towards a flash car anyway. No sooner did I get my hands on some serious cash than I bought myself a Lamborghini. So here was this Lamborghini outside the house in Endhill Road, Kingstanding. The house cost £5,000 when they bought it; this thing was like five times more than that. That car outside, we were mad in those days.
We were all car crazy. Geezer always said: ‘When I pass my test, I’m going to buy a Rolls-Royce.’
One day I came home, and there was this Rolls parked outside our house on Endhill Road. I thought, oh hell, he’s done it! Geezer’s passed his driving test! Bill also bought a Rolls-Royce. In the ownership book there was Frank Mitchell, the famous Mad Axeman, who killed a lot of people, Sir Ralph Richardson, the well-known actor, and then Bill Ward! He’d have crates of cider in the back of it, like a travelling bar. Ozzy didn’t have a driving licence, but he still bought my Rolls off me. His wife drove him and he came over to my house with all his dogs on the back seat. It was an immaculate car when I sold it to him, and the state of it when he came over! Dogs shitting in there and everything.
Geezer didn’t manage to keep his car in mint condition either. It was the days of platform shoes, and Geezer’s were very, very big. How on earth he drove that car with them I just don’t know. He was driving around Devon, where the hills are quite steep, and he stopped off at a shop that was on top of one of these hills. He parked the car, went in on his platform shoes, and somebody in the shop suddenly said: ‘Look! There’s a car rolling down the hill. And it’s a Rolls-Royce!’
Geezer went: ‘Oh my God!’
He ran out, hobbling along on his platform shoes as fast as he could, trying to get next to his car so that he could open the door and stop it. Of course Geezer couldn’t keep up with it and the car went flying down the hill and crashed through a fence, straight into a tree. On his way home he drove past my house, and I heard his car go ‘kchh, kchh, kchh’, this scraping sound of the fan hitting the radiator. The front was completely smashed up, and Geezer said to me: ‘Now I see why they call it a Rolls …’
I bought my first house in 1972 in Stafford, north of Birmingham. It was a three-acre property with a swimming pool. I soon noticed that they were building this modern house right behind it and I thought, fuck, it’s right behind my swimming pool! Instead of allowing it to bother me, I bought it for my parents. They moved in there from their house in Kingstanding. It was a lovely place, brand new, all carpeted, modern bathrooms, the whole lot. I let Dad use some of the land where he could have his chickens, so he quite liked it there. But Mum felt like she was stuck in the middle of nowhere, too far away from the city. It was brilliant giving them that first house, but they didn’t like it, so that was a huge disappointment to me. I said: ‘Okay, you find yourselves a house you do like and I don’t want anything to do with it. You tell me about it and I’ll get it.’
So they did. They found this house that they liked at an auction. I was in America at the time, so I sent this guy along to bid for this place. And who was he bidding against? My aunt, who was trying to get it as well! I didn’t find out till afterwards. It was just the two of them bidding. I couldn’t believe it! But we got it in the end and they were absolutely thrilled to live there. Dad had horses and chickens there, so he was in his element. It was almost too late for him, because he was starting to get too ill to enjoy it, but he did have a few good years there.
I tried to look after them, but that wasn’t easy. Earlier, when we lived in Kingstanding, I saw my father outside with this old handle trying to crank-start his car and I thought, oh God, every morning he’s out there doing it, cigarette in his mouth, really horrible, we can’t have this. So I bought him a Roll-Royce. Mum said: ‘He’s not going to like that!’
‘Of course he will!’
I went to this dealership and bought him a Rolls-Royce for his birthday. They delivered it to the house with a crate of champagne in the back. Dad just went: ‘What’s that? I don’t want that! Can you imagine me going to work in that? What would all the people say, and the neighbours, what are they going to think? Me with a Roll-Royce!’
Bloody hell. I had to phone the Rolls-Royce people up and say: ‘He doesn’t want it.’
‘What do you mean he doesn’t want it? It’s a Rolls-Royce!’
‘Yes, but he won’t even get in it.’
So they came and picked it up. I said to Dad: ‘What do you want then?’
‘I don’t want anything.’
‘Wouldn’t you be better off with another car? What about a Jaguar?’
‘Well, it’s better than that thing.’
So I bought him this Jaguar 3.4, the classic one with all the nice wood and switches and stuff. He still didn’t want it, but I said: ‘Dad, you got to have it. I can’t get my money back now. I bought this car; they won’t just forget about it, I have to buy something off them.’
He used that for a while, but it was a struggle. I thought, blimey, I try and help him out and he says: ‘I don’t want that bloody thing.’
My father died in 1982, he was only about sixty-five years old. Mum survived him by nearly fifteen years. He was a stubborn man, very proud, and he never complained. He’d just plod on. He had worked hard all his life. That’s what he believed in, work and nothing but work. And he would never stop smoking. He smoked himself to death. He died of a collapsed lung and of emphysema.
One day I noticed he was looking ill. Because Sabbath had done some charity work for the hospital in Birmingham I had met these specialists. I told them about Dad and they said: ‘Well, get him to come in.’
Dad hated doctors, so I said: ‘There’s no way he’s coming to hospital. Would you come out and see him?’
They did and he went absolutely mad. He hit the roof, going: ‘Don’t you ever bring them around here again!’
They checked him over anyway and said: ‘Well, he’s in a bad way.’
But there was nothing you could do for him, he just wouldn’t have it.
Couldn’t buy him a house, couldn’t buy him a car … couldn’t buy him his health.