Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)
Chapter 3. The shop on Park Lane
When I was about ten we moved to Park Lane in Aston. It was an awful, gang-infested, rough part of Birmingham. My parents bought a sweet shop there, but soon they also sold fruit and vegetables, firewood, canned foods, all sorts of stuff. We’d get people knocking on our door in the middle of the night: ‘Can we buy some cigarettes?’
With a shop like that, you basically never closed.
The shop had everything people needed, but it also turned into a meeting place. Some of the neighbours would always be on the step, gossiping away: ‘Have you seen so-and-so down the road, ooh, she’s wearing a new …’
Et cetera. Sometimes they wouldn’t even buy anything and stand there for hours, talking. And Mum would be behind the counter, listening.
My mother ran the shop, because Dad worked at the Midlands County Dairy, loading the trucks with milk. He needed to do that to supplement the family income, but I also think he did it because there he was around people he liked. Later on he bought a second shop in Victoria Road, also in Aston, where he started selling fruit and vegetables.
My parents liked Aston, but I didn’t. I hated living in the shop because it was damp and cold. It was only a two-bedroom house, with the lounge downstairs, a kitchen and then, outside in the backyard, the toilet. You couldn’t bring friends there, because our living room doubled as the stockroom: it was filled with beans and peas and all the tinned stuff. That’s how we lived. You were surrounded by bloody boxes and shit all the time.
In our neighbourhood we were the first to have a telephone, a great luxury in those days, but where the thing was all depended on whether we’d had a delivery. It was either down here on top of a box, or if we’d had a lot of supplies it would be up there somewhere.
‘Where’s the phone?’
‘Oh, it’s up there.’
It was just a very small room. We had a couch and a telly, and behind this it was all beans and tins of fruit and everything.
And the phone.
I did have my own room until I was forced to share it with Frankie. He was a lodger, but my parents treated him like a son. It was very strange to me when he first came into the house, because they said: ‘Well, this is going to be your new … brother. Frankie is going to be like a brother to you.’
It was really peculiar. It was like somebody was coming in and taking over, because they gave him more attention than me and I resented that. I must have been about eleven at the time and he was about three or four years older. I liked him because he used to buy me stuff, but at the same time I didn’t because I had to share my room with him. He lived with us for years and years. And it was me who finally got rid of him.
At the time I was maybe seventeen, but I knew more about girls than Frankie did, because he just stayed at home all the time. When he came with me to one of my gigs, I introduced him to this girl. I didn’t expect him to get carried away like he did, but he was completely taken over with her. To him, finally meeting somebody was like … ‘Ahhh!’
Dad wasn’t pleased. He said: ‘She’s the wrong type of woman!’
But Frankie started staying over at her house and then, of course, Dad would really get the needle about him. As I basically stirred it all up by introducing them to each other, I got the blame. Half of me thought, great, we’ll be able to get rid of him now, and the other half felt sorry for him.
Eventually he moved in with her. Maybe Dad went a little too far and Frankie left on bad terms. He didn’t stay in touch with my family. He went and that was it.
Never seen him since.