Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)
Chapter 62. Twinkle twinkle Seventh Star
I was now the only guy left in Black Sabbath. Without a band, I got the idea of doing a solo album with all different singers. I made a list of people I wanted, like Robert Plant, Rob Halford, David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, but it opened a huge can of worms trying to get somebody to sing. I ran into all sorts of contractual stuff, the record companies didn’t let them, so it was: ‘Oh no, we are doing an album, I can’t sing on yours.’
Eventually the idea was dropped. We then tried this guy called Jeff Fenholt. He was another one who had played the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar, in the Broadway version of that musical. So we had had Ian Gillan, who was the original Jesus Christ Superstar, and here we had the Broadway Jesus wanting to join Black Sabbath. We tried Jeff out and he had a good voice. I cut a couple of demos with him in Los Angeles. One of the tracks was ‘Star Of India’, which later turned into ‘Seventh Star’. Another one was ‘Eye Of The Storm’, which ended up on the album as ‘Turn To Stone’. And we had a track that eventually turned into ‘Danger Zone’. Of course these demos got out and found their way on to a bootleg album. Again. They called it Eighth Star or something like that.
Jeff seemed a nice enough guy. It might have worked with him, even though I wasn’t 100 per cent convinced that he’d be able to do our older stuff. But then Jeff Glixman came in to produce the album and he didn’t think Fenholt was working out, recording-wise. And that was that.
A little later Jeff Fenholt suddenly became this big TV evangelist. I couldn’t believe it, because when we met him he was saying things like: ‘Oh yeah, I fucked that chick.’
The New York Times did a thing about him being with Black Sabbath and they wrote that he saw the light, rejected evil and all this bollocks. We were right back in the satanism thing because Fenholt was going on about it. I was getting phone calls to do Larry King Live about him. I thought, I’m not getting involved in that! You try and talk religion on TV in America and you have no chance. Especially him being an evangelist now; they’re all going to side with him and I won’t have a leg to stand on!
Around the time we did some demos I thought Geezer was going to return. His wife and manager, Gloria, said he wanted to come back as well. But the next thing I knew, he had joined Ozzy.
‘Bloody hell, what happened!?’
Glenn Hughes was, as I’ve said, one of the singers on my wish list. He came in and sang, and I thought, bloody hell, he’s good! He was so impressive that I thought it would be great to use Glenn on all the songs of what was to become the Seventh Star album. But it was difficult to work with him. Fucking hell, he did ten times more coke than me!
It just turned into a nightmare. He’d go: ‘I’ve got this idea, I’ve got this idea!’
He’d snort a big line and say, all hyper: ‘Listen to this, listen to this!’
‘Yeah, okay. Good.’
‘Yeah, but I’ve got this other one, listen to this!’
He drove you up the wall. Even he himself now says: ‘I don’t know how you put up with it.’
What made it even worse was that he had all these hangers-on coming down to the studio as well. I tried to get rid of them, because I could see that they were just leeches. I guess he could afford this big entourage at the time, as he’d just come off the Deep Purple thing, but it didn’t last. He lost a lot of money and ended up selling all his stuff.
When we were doing Seventh Star, we recorded the album with Glenn Hughes and Eric Singer, and we had Dave Spitz on bass, a good player we’d found through Jeff Glixman. It was a first for me to play with musicians that young. I was thirty-seven at the time, and Dave and Eric were about ten years younger than me. It felt funny because, when I talked about old times, they didn’t know what I was on about. They would ask me stuff and I’d start talking away and then I’d find out, hang on, they haven’t got a clue, I can’t go back that far because they can’t relate to that.
‘No, we don’t.’
‘Oh … you forgot.’
And then I’d realise, bloody hell, they weren’t even born then!
We started recording in LA, but we finalised the album in Atlanta, Georgia, because Jeff Glixman could get a good deal on a studio there. The basic tracks had been done already, so only me and Glenn went down there. I had taken this big stereo to Atlanta with me. Glenn had nothing to play his stuff on, so I lent it to him. I had just bought it and he swapped it for some coke. I said to Glenn: ‘What happened to my stereo?’
‘I lent it to somebody.’
Then I saw this coke dealer with my stereo and put two and two together. Glenn was uncontrollable, but he sang like a dream and absolutely effortlessly. He’d sit in the studio, slouching, with a mic, and … sing! Just incredible, a God-given voice.
We didn’t take a long time recording the album: some tracks were actually done in the first or second take. We also tried to finish quickly because I paid for it all. The record company came up with a good advance later, but I fronted everything myself.
We finished Seventh Star in August 1985. Gordon Copley’s original bass playing is on ‘No Stranger To Love’. We kept that from the very first sessions. It just seemed to go well with that track. I thought it was a great song, but what I didn’t like was doing the video for it. The first day they took some footage of me and Glenn playing away. The next day I had to be there at something like 5.30 a.m. to do this shoot with the girl from Star Trek, Denise Crosby, Bing’s granddaughter. I’m not very good at videos anyway, but I had to do this love scene with her, which was very embarrassing. They put this black eyeliner on me and everything else. It wasn’t what we were all about at all, and I hated it. To make matters even worse, they had me walk into Los Angeles canals at seven o’clock in the morning, in the freezing cold with mist rising. I had just bought these new boots so they were well and truly knackered after that.
Seventh Star was released in January 1986. It was supposed to be a solo album. I certainly didn’t want to release it as a Black Sabbath album, because I hadn’t written it as a Black Sabbath album. I wanted the freedom for it to sound as it did and tour without calling the band Black Sabbath, also because Glenn was uncomfortable about that. But when the question of the name came up, Don said to me: ‘The record company says that you owe them a Black Sabbath album, so they want this one.’
In the end it was billed as ‘Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi’. Neither I nor Glenn was pleased with it, because we felt we weren’t doing the record justice presenting it this way. And to go out and play ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Iron Man’ - it just wasn’t right.
Seventh Star reached No. 27 in May 1986 and it dropped off the charts after five weeks. Not really a big seller. I don’t think I even noticed it, because of all the aggro we had within the band.
We had a tour coming up, but somebody was about to choke on it.