White lines and white suits - 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 27. White lines and white suits

In England it was all hash and dope and pills, but when we headlined the Los Angeles Forum in the autumn of 1971 I was introduced to cocaine. I said to one of our roadies: ‘I feel really tired.’

He said: ‘Why don’t you have a little line of coke?’

‘No, I don’t want to do any of that.’

He was American, so he was familiar with it. He said: ‘You’ll be fine. Just have a little toot before you go on.’

I had a toot and I thought, ah, this is wonderful! Let’s get on stage and play! And that was it. Bloody hell! I felt great on stage and of course the next time I had a little bit of that stuff before going on again. And then I started doing it more and more. As you do.

To do something special around that gig we also performed at the Whisky a Go Go on Sunset Strip. Patrick Meehan said: ‘Why don’t we wear something different? White suits and top hats and canes!’

We hired all these white suits and they were absolutely covered in dirt after no time at all. Most people take these things back all nice on hangers, but the people at the rental place must have thought, who’s had these?

The Beach Boys came to see us that night and I didn’t know what they looked like. I was coming out of the dressing room and somebody walked up to me and said: ‘Can I come in and see the rest of the guys?’

‘No, no, there’s nobody allowed in the dressing room.’

It was a little bit embarrassing afterwards, when I found out he was a Beach Boy.

LA and movie stars and sunshine - it made quite an impression on us. We ended up at these well-to-do parties where we saw lots of movie stars, like Tony Curtis and Olivia Newton-John. We’d be coked out anyway, as a lot of them were as well. Floating around there …

I think it was at the end of that third tour of America that we played the Hollywood Bowl for the first time. My memory is not crystal-clear about that show, because I collapsed at the end of it. I passed out because of exhaustion. I just remember going to the last song and then urrrggh, boing, and gone. The doctor who examined me said: ‘You’ve got to go on the next plane back to England, go straight home and just take it easy.’

I was about to have a nervous breakdown, so they prescribed Valium in high doses. I was a fucking zombie all day. I really had to just rest. It had been too much with the lifestyle we were living, all the touring and not getting a lot of sleep. And the drugs, I suppose. Bill was diagnosed with hepatitis and ended up in hospital. He carried this rusty knife with him all the time and he opened some clams with it and cut his hand. He claims he got it either from his knife or from a shell. Being a vegan, Geezer couldn’t get half the food he wanted, so a combination of that and drugs made him awfully thin. He got these kidney stones and ended up in hospital as well. We were all falling to bits. Ozzy probably had the most unhealthy lifestyle of all of us, but he was the only one still standing.

We were all out for the count, but Ozzy? He was right as rain.