Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)
Chapter 67. Oh no, not caviar again!
When it was time to do some shows, we approached a bass player Cozy knew. He said: ‘Shall we get a meeting together with Neil Murray and see how you get on with him?’
Neil turned out to be a great player. Finally, we had a real, credible and very good band together.
We toured America in June 1989, me and Cozy, Tony Martin, Neil Murray and Geoff Nicholls, but we went home after about two weeks. There was a stark lack of promotion, not only for the album but for the shows as well. We were meeting people in town: ‘What are you doing here?’
‘Oh . . . We’re playing here tonight.’
It was all very Spinal Tap-ish.
At the end of August we started our UK tour. We ended the old-fashioned way, with two Hammersmith shows. Brian May came up and did ‘Heaven And Hell’, ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Children Of The Grave’. He hadn’t played that last one with us before and so he shouted: ‘What key is it in?’
‘It’s just in E!’
It went very well. At another gig on that tour I brought Ian Gillan up to do ‘Smoke On The Water’ and ‘Paranoid’, which was great for the fans. It went down a storm. We could never do things like get Brian or Ian up with the original line-up, because that was too set.
We had a good time on these tours because there wasn’t much pressure, apart from the usual financial worries. We stayed in lesser hotels, travelled all together on the bus and cut down in all sorts of ways, but we had a great time together. We did what we were supposed to be doing: play.
We’d had a lot of trouble in the early years with religious nutcases but it came as quite a surprise when in 1989 it started again. We were in Mexico having just toured Japan, and the visit began well in a lovely hotel supplied by the promoter. We were told that there had been a bit of a campaign against us orchestrated by the Catholic Church and backed by the local mayor but were assured it was all OK. We didn’t realise how big a deal it was; all we’d come to do was play a show. We also subsequently learnt that the football stadium we were due to play in was the third choice after the promoter was refused permission in other towns – not sure we’d have gone if we’d known that!
Anyway we tried to relax for a couple of days but the crew were nervous as there were a lot of heavy security guys hanging around with guns and the facilities at the stadium were extremely basic. And as the crew went to set the gear up they were suddenly arrested at the site. These security guys wouldn’t allow the show to go on purely because the police were worried about riots and God knows what else.
We were told that fans were coming from all over Mexico by train, it was really a big deal, so we thought maybe if we went down and had a look at the stadium for ourselves it would help.
But before we could get going instructions came through to us saying ‘pack-up, we’re leaving’, as the mayor had now banned the show and thousands of disappointed kids were likely to blame us. You don’t argue with a man with a machine gun and by then the first of the trains had arrived and the fans were pouring out. The station was right next door to our hotel so we had to lie-down on the floor of a minibus while the driver abandoned the road and nearly turned us over trying a short cut through a huge drainage ditch! Escape made, we sped on to Mexico City where we made sure we were on the next plane back to the UK!
We did go back to Mexico with Heaven & Hell in 2007. Maybe they’ve forgiven us or simply not associated the band with Black Sabbath.
After Mexico, we went on to Russia, another exotic country. We did ten nights in Moscow at the Olympic Stadium, a massive place, and it was sold out. On Saturdays we did an afternoon show as well. The audience would go out after that show and then they’d all come back in again for the evening one.
We were supported by Girlschool. The first night at the hotel in Moscow we went to the bar and one of the girls was there as well. Then their bass player came in and, just like that, punched her in the face. We went: ‘Bloody hell! What was all that about? Christ, we haven’t even started the tour yet and they are fighting already!’
Really peculiar. But they turned out to be all right. They could drink a bit as well. And Cozy had a little romance with their singer and guitar player, Kim McAuliffe, that went on for a short while after the tour. She was a really nice girl.
Playing in Russia was weird because in the hall in Moscow the first rows of seats were set back, away from the stage, and all of them were taken up by officials, with all these men dressed up in suits and women in ballroom-type dresses. They obviously had something to do with the government, and looked so out of place, as if they should have been at a different gig altogether. The rowdy kids were behind them, except that they couldn’t be rowdy. The security guys wouldn’t stand for that. They were pretty heavy with the kids.
It was winter and freezing cold. Every day they’d pick us up in a van and drive us to the gig, together with this big metal container in the back full of soup. We took all our own catering with us. The food was locked up in one of the rooms and we had a guard on it, but it still went missing. It was just at the time when they were pulling down all the statues of Lenin. The country hadn’t opened up yet; there wasn’t a McDonald’s or anything at that point. Our caterers went down to the market to buy fresh food and often they’d be in trouble. If they bought up all the chickens and vegetables and whatever else, the locals would be up in arms. It was bloody hard for them.
We stayed at this hotel called the Ukraine. It was a bit like Grand Central Station, because it had a big open lobby and it was really cold in there. We had two KGB people travelling with us all the time and we were very aware of them keeping an eye on us. I wondered if our rooms were bugged. It was so behind the times that if you wanted to make a phone call you had to book it well in advance. My room was very depressing. It was big but it only had a bed and a china cabinet in it, with pieces of the china going missing every other day. It was obviously the maids taking cups and saucers and whatnot, but I got the blame.
The hotel was very dodgy as well. When you looked under the balcony, you saw all these credit cards lying there. People had obviously been robbed and the thieves had thrown out the stuff they couldn’t use. Some of our crew actually did get robbed. Two of them were sharing a room and one of them took his clothes off and went to bed. He heard somebody come in and he thought it was the other bloke. It wasn’t. It was a thief, who nicked all his clothes, his wallet and everything.
After Moscow we did another ten days in Leningrad. The crowd was different there, much more like a regular crowd and right up the front as well. It was really good.
But we came back with loads of caviar, especially Cozy, who was a big wheeler-dealer. He got in with the manager of the Olympic Stadium. We went up to his office and this bloke had all these tins of caviar and hand-painted lacquered boxes and so on lying about. We gave him a couple of T-shirts for this, a pair of sneakers or whatever for that. They loved the T-shirts with the band’s name on them, so Cozy ended up with a suitcase full of Beluga caviar. God knows what that would be worth.
I came back with bloody uniforms, military hats and all sorts of shit, which seemed like a great idea at the time. But as soon as I got them home it was, well, what do I do with them? And now they are in the loft. But I also brought caviar back and that lasted for quite a while.
We ate a lot of it out there, because there was nothing else. The first time we went to the restaurant in the hotel we sat down and it was: ‘What would you like?’
‘Would you have some of . . .?’
‘Have you got . . .?’
‘What about . . .?’
‘Or . . .?’
‘Well, what have you got?’
‘Well, we’ll have that then!’
Everybody would be dying to get out to the gig so that they could get something from our catering. But we had so much caviar to the point where we went: ‘Oh no, not caviar again!’
Europe had been great, Germany was sensational and Russia was good for us as well. The album was doing good and the gigs were sold out. To me it felt as if we had turned a corner.
It felt real again.