Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)
Chapter 58. Last man standing
Right after Ian Gillan left, we met up with Ozzy to talk about getting the old band back together again. We’ve had one or two times like that, where we discussed him coming back. If it had been up to us, it would have happened. But Don wouldn’t have anything to do with Sharon and Sharon wouldn’t have anything to do with Don. It was always these stupid managements beefing on about something that stopped us from doing what we wanted to do.
We still needed a new singer, so out in LA me and Geezer listened to tapes again, boxes and boxes of them, sent to us by all these young guys who were dreaming about joining Black Sabbath. This one guy called Ron Keel sent a tape in and I said to Geezer: ‘This lad’s pretty good. Have a listen to him.’
He played it and said: ‘Oh, yeah!’
We went out for dinner and drinks with him. In the course of the evening I said to Ron: ‘I really like the stuff you sent.’
I said: ‘I like that third track, so-and-so . . .’
And he went: ‘That’s not me.’
‘What do you mean it’s not you? It’s on your tape!’
He said: ‘I’m on the other side.’
He’d sent the tape with him on one side and another, different singer on the other. So we made a right boo-boo there. Ron actually did have a career later, because he’s a good singer as well. He just wasn’t what we were looking for at the time. We never figured out who the other guy was, but after this happened we’d had enough, so we got a producer to try out the singers who had sent in good tapes. It’s like doing The X Factor: you go through all these kids who sing in the bathroom and think they are great. Most of them were rubbish.
We wanted somebody who looked right, had a good voice and could sing the old songs, because that’s what people wanted to hear as well. When Ronnie James Dio came into it, he was so different from Ozzy, but he could still sing those old songs in his way and it sounded right. Most of the people we tried just didn’t sound right. A lot of them couldn’t reach the high notes. Come to think of it, that was one of the things Michael Bolton actually could do.
We gave the most promising ones we auditioned a little extra time. Like David Donato, who we allowed a couple of weeks to settle in. We also recorded a couple of tracks with him. One of the songs was ‘No Way Out’, which, after many changes, turned into ‘The Shining’ off the Eternal Idol album. Different vocals, different lyrics, different arrangement, but still the initial riff. Dave looked right and he was a nice enough lad, but he had a bit of a strange, high voice. Before we knew it, Don Arden already had Kerrang! magazine doing photos, even though we were going: ‘We don’t want to release these yet, he’s not a definite yet!’
And, sure enough, bang, he was out. After millions of tapes and countless auditions, we still hadn’t found ourselves a singer. But our drummer problem had been sorted, because Bill had come back. Or so we thought. In the summer of 1984 he left again. In and out like a yo-yo he was. Bill is one of those people who is difficult to understand sometimes. Even after all the years I’ve known him, I still never know what it is that makes him tick. And right after Bill, Geezer went as well.
But I didn’t leave. The only person left standing was me.