The California Jam - 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 36. The California Jam

We rounded off 1973 with a couple of UK dates in December. After the Christmas break we did a few European gigs before flying to America for a lot of shows in February. We often got stuck with the same bands when we went to the States. We always seemed to have Edgar Winter, Johnny Winter, Brownsville Station or Black Oak Arkansas opening for us. It was like: ‘What, Black Oak Arkansas? Oh dear, not again!’

After America we went home to take some time off. Next up was the California Jam on 6 April 1974 at the Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario, near Los Angeles. We were going to be rehearsing out there prior to the gig and we sent Spock and the rest of the crew over there first. But then this almighty row broke out between Deep Purple and ELP about who was going to close the show. They were trying to involve us in it as well. We thought, we better hang on, this whole thing is blowing up. Purple wanted to close it, and then ELP as well, so Patrick Meehan at some point said: ‘We’re not going out, it’s off.’

We agreed: ‘We don’t want to get involved in it, we’ll pull out.’

Then Spock phoned me at something like four in the morning: ‘You’ve got to come! Everybody wants to see you! It’s going to be an almighty ruckus if you don’t show!’

I phoned the other guys, going: ‘We got to get out there, get on a flight!’

They thought I was joking: ‘Oh, hahaha!’

‘Seriously. We’ve got to get out there. I’ve heard from Spock …’

We got on a flight at the last minute. We got out there and we just said: ‘Look, we don’t care. We’ll just go on, whenever.’

And that’s what we did. We went on and ELP closed the show. It was strange: one moment you’re home in bed and the next you’re flying to a gig. We hadn’t played for five or six weeks, we didn’t rehearse; it was a one-off, so it was a bit hairy.

We all get stage fright on certain occasions. It depends. The first gig of a tour usually makes you go: ‘Ooooh!’ The second gig is much more relaxed. And that’s the one where everything goes wrong. You also have the gigs where everybody you know comes to see you, like the Hammersmith Odeon in London, the Forum in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden in New York. All your friends and the press are there and you get worried: ‘Oh fuck, everybody’s coming down tonight. If anything goes wrong … I’ll be glad when this one’s over!’

It’s like when you’re recording a show. Nine times out of ten when you think about being recorded you make a mistake. It’s that edgy feeling you have. At regular shows you don’t care, you just get on and do it, and it becomes second nature. But the California Jam, what with the weird lead up to it and hundreds of thousands of people there, was nerve-wracking. And it was televised, which made it even more terrifying. But stagefright never lasts. We got on stage, played, and it was okay.

But the gig was good. It was just the shock of it all. But I think it worked.

After the California Jam we toured the UK in May and June, taking a break from the road until November, when we rounded off our Sabbath Bloody Sabbath tour with about eight shows in Australia. AC/DC were supporting us. I didn’t really meet them then, but we certainly got acquainted a couple of years later when they opened for us during our European tour in the spring of 1977. We got on all right with Bon Scott, but there just seemed to be a little bit of friction between the two bands as that tour went on. There was something going down quite heavy between Geezer and Malcolm Young. They were in the bar, got paralytic, got into an argument and somebody pulled a knife. I think it was Malcolm who drew that knife. I don’t think it was Geezer, but it could have been.

We were in Sydney to start the tour and the promoter took us to this really flash restaurant. They closed it especially for us, so we were the only ones there. We were eating this exquisite food using all this nice silverware and everything, and then somebody flicked a pea at somebody else.

He then flicked one back.

Then it was something else, a potato …

At the end it was just ridiculous. The dinner was flying everywhere. Everybody was ordering: ‘Can I have another salad, please, with loads of oil and vinegar?’

Kggg, on somebody’s head.

Bill, of course, him being the one who always gets it, was absolutely covered: cake, olive oil, sauce and chocolate all over his face and all down his clothes. He was an absolute mess. We all looked pretty bad. Ozzy had yellow trousers on, we got hold of them and, kggg, ripped the legs all the way up past the hip. The owner of the restaurant was absolutely in bits. One of our guys went over to him and said: ‘They’re going to take care of it.’

He gave him a bundle of money. The owner was suddenly all right then, going: ‘Ah, carry on, carry on!’

We then got the waiters involved even more: ‘Go on, give me a big cream cake under the table!’

And then: ‘Whoa!’ Kggg!

We walked back to the hotel afterwards. We looked awful. Such a picture. With all the drink and everything as well, I actually thought they wouldn’t let us back into the hotel. We walked into reception and the doors opened and there was a ball going on. We walked in on a whole crowd of people in suits and bow ties and ballroom dresses and their mouths dropped. Of course security came rushing in and we were going: ‘It’s all right, we’re guests!’

I bet that promoter hasn’t invited many people out since. He certainly didn’t invite us again.