Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)
Chapter 40. Me on Ecstasy
When we wrote the songs for what was to become Technical Ecstasy, Gerald Woodroffe was a great help to me because I now had somebody I could try out ideas with. The band didn’t get up until something like 2 p.m., so I often went into our rehearsal room earlier to run over some ideas with Gerald. It was good to have somebody along who could play the chords as I was playing the solos.
Again a pub was not far away, so quite often everybody would go down there, including me. We still managed to write Technical Ecstasy in six weeks and get it all rehearsed and ready to go. Off we went to the Criteria Studios in Miami. We’d heard that The Bee Gees, Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles used it. In fact, The Eagles were recording Hotel California while we were there. They sometimes had to stop because of us, because we were too loud and it was leaking through into their studio: ‘Wrrooaarr!’
But it was a great place. Again, I was in the studio full time, being very much involved in the production. I was in there night and day, to the point that Ozzy even said: ‘It’s a Tony album.’
We stayed in West Palm Beach and everybody else was always on the beach. I know it sounds like I’m blowing my own trumpet, but that’s what happened. They wanted to leave it to me, they trusted me to do it and so I was left to do it.
We also had some bloody laughs there, especially when we played jokes on Bill. He would never allow the maids in to clean his room. One day we got a big load of this really horrible, smelly Gorgonzola cheese, and while somebody kept him talking I sneaked into his room and piled it up under his bed. Many days later I came in again and the smell was atrocious. I went: ‘Phew, Bill, what’s that smell?’
‘I don’t know what it is, it must be my clothes.’
Bill is a dirty bugger; he’d pile his filthy clothes up in a corner.
‘When are you going to clean them?’
‘I will, yeah.’
He never sussed out the cheese under the bed. It smelled absolutely vile. He actually started smelling like cheese himself. When the maids eventually went into his room, they must have died.
One night in the studio, we dressed Bill up as Hitler. He’d had a few drinks, so it was easy. We got some gaffer tape, really strong tape that sticks to most things, and we put it on his head, making his hairstyle like Hitler’s. We made him a skinny moustache as well. We gave him this uniform and whatnot, and he was enjoying it all until we tried to take this stuff off him. We couldn’t get it off his head, because pulling the tape off would mean ripping his hair out. So we basically cut all his hair off. By this time he was well sloshed and he didn’t even realise what we’d done until the next day. He wasn’t very pleased. He looked even scruffier than he usually did.
Andy Gibb was recording in the studio next to us. He had a doll out at the time, all immaculate with the blond hair and the nice clothes. We decided to buy one of them and transform it into a Bill Ward doll. One of the guys who worked for us was a real artist, and he messed up the hair, put a beard on it and ruined the clothes. It really looked like Bill. We set it up on the recording desk. One day Andy Gibb came in to have a listen to what we’d been doing. He saw this doll and went: ‘Who’s that?’
We said: ‘It’s Bill Ward.’
Andy was all taken aback, going: ‘Bill’s got a doll out as well?’
One time we all came out of a club in Birmingham at some ridiculous hour. We’d had a few drinks and we went down to a nearby lake. Bill was completely rat-arsed and we put him on this boat and shoved him out on this lake.
And left him.
Another time we carried a very drunk Bill into a park, put him on a bench and covered him with newspapers so that he looked like an old tramp.
And abandoned him again.
Once when he got sloshed we put him to bed and tried to take his trousers off. As we pulled at them, one of the trouser legs just ripped off. The next day he came down still wearing the same trousers, one leg on and one leg gone. He just didn’t care.
One time at the Sunset Marquis hotel in Los Angeles we made a big banner saying: ‘I am gay, come and visit me.’ We climbed up on his balcony on the third floor and hung this banner from it. One of those stupid things you do. The manager of the hotel saw it and wanted him to take it down, but Bill didn’t know anything about it and didn’t know what he was going on about. The manager said: ‘There’s this big banner I want you to take down.’
And Bill went: ‘Banner? What banner!’
Of course he went out on the balcony and saw it.
He used to put his shoes out to air on the balcony. He would get up so late, I’d have been up for hours already, so I’d climb over to his balcony, fill his shoes up with soil and put plants in them. And he’d fall for it every time.
It’s a wonder we didn’t drive him loony. It was always Bill who got it. And if you didn’t do anything to him for a while, he’d actually say: ‘Is something wrong?’
‘Well, you haven’t done anything to me today.’
He’s different now. The last tours at least he was actually up for breakfast. He’s changed his lifestyle and he’s a lot more healthy now. Since his heart attack he had to stop smoking and, well, he had to stop everything.
‘It’s Alright’ was Bill Ward’s song. Although he used to be the singer with The Rest all those years ago, this was the first song Bill ever sang on a Sabbath album. We encouraged him to put it on because we thought it was a good song and Ozzy liked it as well.
‘Dirty Woman’ was a song about prostitutes, because we were in Florida and Geezer had seen all these hookers around there so he wrote about that. It’s not like we were into prostitutes. Well, we did have one or two in the early days. One night back then we were in the Amsterdam red-light district and I went into one of these places. I was sloshed and I fell asleep. Soundly snoring away, I went into extra time and the next thing I knew this guy was screaming at me: ‘Where’s the money!’
And then he threw me out. I hadn’t done anything, except pass out in there.
There were keyboards on all of the tracks, which was a bit different for us. I liked it, but Technical Ecstasy didn’t sell as many as the previous albums. Sabotage hadn’t broken any sales records either, but with this one the decline really started. It was especially disappointing for me, because I was really involved with the album from start to finish. But it was just one of those things. It was 1976, it was the time of punk, and there was a whole new generation of kids.