Dio does but Don don’t - 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 45. Dio does but Don don’t

Ronnie was up for doing something together, but I didn’t get in touch with him for a while because we were still in a state of confusion about Ozzy. After he left I finally said to Bill and Geezer: ‘Why don’t we try Ronnie?’

I called him and said: ‘We’re having another type of situation; would you be interested in having a go?’

We invited him over to the house and played him ‘Children Of The Sea’. Just like that Ronnie came up with this vocal melody for it. We were really impressed, because within a day we’d gone from nothing happening for ages to being able to come up with a song immediately. We played a bit of ‘Lady Evil’, and Ronnie immediately sang to that as well. We thought, bloody hell, we’re on to a winner! It gave us a bit of a lift. We were still feeling sad about Ozzy going, but it had run its course. Now we were pleased that we were actually able to do something.

Ozzy had left the house by then, but Don Arden was trying desperately to get him back into the band. Don finally had this band that he had always wanted … and we broke up! He couldn’t accept that, he had to have the original line-up, so he insisted: ‘It’s never going to work with Ronnie.’

I said: ‘But it is working! We’ve got some good stuff and we are rolling. And Ozzy is not capable at the moment of doing this, he’s not into it at all.’

He kept going: ‘Give him another chance.’

We had lived all those ten months at the house and nothing was happening with Ozzy, so how come it would suddenly be happening in another couple of weeks? We also hadn’t forgotten the fact that Ozzy had already left once, before Never Say Die!. It cost us a fortune, we weren’t creating any more, everybody got depressed and pissed off with everything, so we didn’t see how we could go on with him any more. Don still carried on: ‘We’ve got to get Ozzy back, we’ve got to get Ozzy back!’

We said: ‘Don, he’s not into it. It’s not going to work.’

And Don, of course, came back with: ‘You can’t have a midget singing for Black Sabbath!’

As he would. But we had to draw the line. We were to go on with Ronnie.

Then Geezer left. He had marital problems, so he had to go home to sort it out and basically leave the band for a while. Ronnie played the bass for a bit, so suddenly we were a three-piece: Bill, Ronnie and me. We came up with a couple of things, but that’s when I flew Geoff Nicholls over. I said: ‘We’ll just get somebody in temporarily, who can help out while we are here.’

The first song the four of us came up with was ‘Heaven And Hell’. I played this riff and Ronnie just sang away to it. It was that instantaneous. And we said to each other: ‘Oh man, do we like this!’

Ronnie always drove up in his Cadillac. He had to raise the seat up, the car was that big. There were a lot of snakes where we lived. We found out that Ronnie was afraid of them, so I got this dead snake and I tied a piece of fishing line to its head and fixed it to the handle of the car door. I put the snake on the passenger’s side and closed the door, so when Ronnie opened the driver’s door he’d pull the snake towards him. It worked: he almost shat himself.

What an angel!


Out with Mum; I’m not amused


It’ll never catch on. Playing the accordion, like my dad before me, in our backyard in Park Lane


Spot the hooligans: me on the back row top right, and Albert Chapman at the left end of the middle row


My first Strat, before I painted it!


My first proper band, the Rockin’ Chevrolets, in 1964


The Rest, my first band with Bill Ward


Dad didn’t like the car I bought him but he loved his tractor


The Lamborghini is worth about five times more than my parents’ house


Photo shoot for a Rolls Royce calendar. Did it ever come out?


Inside the famous Kilworth conservatory with the first of my many dogs


My first wedding, with Best Man John Bonham (far right of picture), 1973


Kilworth House, where I lived with my first wife, Susan


Dodgy characters


We seem happy!


Love the beard, Ozzy. Circustheater Scheveningen, Holland, October 1975


Before I found black


My baby


US success for Paranoid with both Patrick Meehans


Brian May, me and Eddie Van Halen in 1978


Ronnie, Vinny, me and Geezer, somewhere strange. Buffalo, NY, December 1981


Geezer, Ronnie and me - Mob Rules! Toledo, Ohio, November 1981


Vinny, the first time round. Vinny followed Bill on drums, starting in Hawaii in 1980


Geezer, me and Brian May at Hammersmith Odeon, 1989


With long-time collaborator, Geoff Nicholls


Mum and I at Helford House


Outside the Manor Studios. Yes, it’s a black cat!


Cozy and Neil Murray in Mexico before we ran for our lives


Got ya! Hi-jinks with Vinny at Rockfield Studios while recording The Devil You Know in 2008


With Toni-Marie, my aunt Pauline and Maria


My Birmingham star on the city’s Walk of Fame


A press conference with Ian Gillan in Armenia, 2009. We received the Order Of Honour award for the charity single we made 25 years earlier


Grown up baby: Toni-Marie


Maria and I at the Classic Rock Awards


Nijmegen, Holland, June 2005


Man at work. Donington Festival, June 2005


It came back at me, because I went to the loo one day in my bedroom and lifted the lid up, and, bloody hell, there was a snake there. Dead one again. Shat myself before I could reach the toilet seat.

We played jokes on each other all the time. Joking around like that makes people get along better. It’s also a test I suppose, to see if somebody is going to be able to put up with it.

Things were going very well, but we still had Don going: ‘It’s never going to work. If you don’t get Ozzy back, that’s it.’

We were at work at the house and all of a sudden some guys turned up to take the furniture away that Sharon had rented for us. Gradually we were seeing things going missing. We warned each other: ‘Don’t let them in. They’ll take the couch!’

It was absolutely awful, so we decided to sever our relationship with Don completely. He had wanted to manage us for such a long time, and now he had looked after us for only a short while. Sandy Pearlman, an American guy who managed Blue Öyster Cult, then wanted to take us on. We kept that on the back burner, because we went back to doing it ourselves, just like we had done before Don took over. We still had Mark Forster working for us, who had helped out with the day-to-day stuff since the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath days. He was like an assistant, travelling around with us, organising the hotels and transportation and whatnot.

Mark had some physical problem, an elephantiasis-type of thing in his groin. The silly thing was, he’d be standing there and he’d have this big bulge and instead of trying to hide it, he’d put a stage pass on it, so the first place you’d look was down there.

I got a call one day after the Ronnie line-up had broken up, to be told that Mark had died. They couldn’t find any family, so they asked: ‘Do you want his belongings?’

I said: ‘No, I don’t want anything.’

I felt really bad. Mark was English, but he must have married an American, because I think he had a son somewhere. I told them this, but I didn’t know where he was.

Anyway, with Mark still being very much alive and assisting us at the time, we decided we had no option but to move out of the house. The Ardens had virtually emptied the place and the lease was up. We thought, let’s move away from LA altogether. It was the wrong place for us then.

So we shipped out to Miami.