Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)
Chapter 37. Where did all the money go?
We said to each other: ‘Does anybody know what’s going on? Has anybody seen any accounts?’
None of us knew how much money we had, because it was always a case of anything you wanted, you got. We’d phone Meehan up and any money we wanted: ‘I’ll arrange it.’
Sometimes Meehan sent a cheque and the bloke at the bank would go: ‘It’s bounced.’
And I’d phone him up.
‘Oh, I’ll put it in again. Go and put it in again now, it’s all right.’
He was very careful. He always had a wad of cash in his pocket, never used a credit card, I think because that way he wouldn’t have any kind of record of what was being spent. That’s the way he worked. We thought, why can’t we just have a lump sum put into our bank so we know how much we have and work with that? We met these people in the office one day and Meehan said: ‘These are your accountants. They are going to look after all your stuff. You talk to them. Don’t talk to me, talk to them.’
And then all our money went to the accountants. We never had it coming to us direct. We’d have these meetings with them and they’d say: ‘You can’t just get everything you make and put it in the bank. We want to take some of your money and put it in a Jersey account, because of the tax.’
We just said: ‘Oh, well …’ We didn’t know anything about that side of it and it all seemed above board. When somebody from a big accountancy firm tells you what they’re going to do with your money, you go along with it. We found out later that they also worked for Meehan.
And then, when we found out that our management contracts with Meehan weren’t signed by him, they were only signed by us, that was even worse. He really caught us with that one, a trick from the early days.
We were so gullible about everything. All we wanted was to play and tour everywhere and go to America and all that. That’s why in the beginning we never questioned Meehan’s way of doing things. And, of course, most of the time we were on tour, so we didn’t require much. It’s only when we came out for another break that we went: ‘I want to buy a new house’ or whatever it might be. Or he’d go: ‘I’ll send another ten grand down’ and everything would be roses.
We started seeing things change a lot at the office. When we got involved with Patrick Meehan at first, it was just him. Then he got more money and bought companies like NEMS, the old Beatles thing, Brian Epstein’s label. He also got on board with David Hemmings, the actor famous for the movie Blow-Up, with a company called Hemdale. So then Meehan was also making movies. One day he said to me: ‘I’m auditioning today. I’ve got all these women coming around.’
I came downstairs and saw this whole queue of gorgeous women outside the office.
And he got into a building company, housing and all that stuff. Of course, when we bought houses, we bought them through this company. Meehan was involved with so much stuff I could never tell what it all was. He even bought a racehorse called Black Sabbath and a racing car as well. We were seeing him flying around in private jets and he’d always have the latest Rolls-Royce. And so would we if we wanted them, so we didn’t argue.
We were told that ‘All the money was put in the London & County Bank’, which went bust at the end of the day.
And apparently our money disappeared with it.
We really started to think when we saw what we thought was a bunch of pretty unsavoury characters getting involved with Meehan at NEMS. These people were nice enough with us, but it made us very nervous. I think David Frost, the very well-known TV personality, was a client and Dave Hemmings also.
Eventually, when we went on tour in Europe, one of them came with us. Willy his name was. Maybe he was there to make sure nothing happened to us, or maybe he was seeing what we were up to, spying for the mob or whoever they were. It was a bit frightening, certainly when one fan tried to approach us and Willy pulled his gun out. It was really heavy.
We hadn’t a clue about what was going on.
The fact that Meehan was gambling like there was no tomorrow didn’t help either. When we had Yes with us on our American tour, we played Las Vegas. It was a very involved situation. We thought, fucking hell, what’s going to happen? How are we going to fight this one?
We were unhappy with the situation, so we had to do something about it. We finally decided to leave Meehan. Somewhat surprisingly, he seemed all right about it at first. I think he’d got what he could out of us and was happy to let us go. So many things went on that we were just not aware of and I think that’s why we felt we were screwed over. We sued Meehan but when it came to it, for whatever reason which I never really understood, we didn’t have a leg to sue on. He sued us in turn and he won. It seems to me that from the moment we became successful we’ve been in court. Jim Simpson sued us after we left him and that case dragged on for ever. The Simpson case only got settled around the time we split up with Meehan and Simpson was awarded something like £35,000 that we had to pay him. He also sued Meehan, who had to give him a similar amount.
So much for the old management, but what about a new one? It was hard to trust anybody. We did have managements approaching us, but how do you know they are straight? In those days there were no music lawyers you could turn to for advice, people who knew about the business and who could look at the contracts. A lot of the things that were signed back then had loopholes galore. We decided that the only way to do it was to run it ourselves and have Mark Forster, who already worked for us, do the day-to-day stuff. We just got another accountant and all that rubbish and started again. We had band meetings, but it soon got to be too much for us. We said to each other: ‘Look, we’re not business people, how are we going to do this? We don’t know how this all runs and works. We’re musicians and what are we trying to do?’
We met with lawyers and accountants. That got boring because we weren’t into that stuff at all. Within five minutes Ozzy would be asleep or he’d stand up and walk around and then go out and come back in and go: ‘We’re going to get something to eat or what?’
‘Well, we’ll end this meeting then?’
‘Oh, uh …’
He’d sit down for a bit and you’d see him fidgeting and then he’d ask a few questions: ‘Is that it then? We’re finished?’
Mr Impatient. It was very hard. But we had no option. It was the only thing we could do.