Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)
Chapter 72. The one that should’ve been Forbidden
The record company suggested we should use a more hip producer. They were going on about the guy who produced Ice T, the guitar player in his band, Body Count, Ernie Cunnigan, better known as Ernie C. They said it would give us a bit more street cred, because they thought we’d lost that. You know what it’s like: you get these whiz-kids at the company who come up with these great brainwaves that don’t work. And that was one of them, but I half-heartedly went along with it. Cozy wasn’t mad on the idea either and now I can see why. The production was dreadful. Here I was working with someone from a hip hop background. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I just wasn’t familiar with it and it opened up a whole new can of worms for me.
The first thing Ernie C did was to get Cozy to play this ta-ta-ta-ta bass drum stuff. It’s a different style of playing altogether that these hip hop guys do as opposed to what we do, and it caused all sorts of ruckuses. Cozy was a respected drummer in his own field, and here was somebody coming along, going: ‘Play this.’
It really offended him. And the more Cozy tried, the more he got pissed off because he didn’t want to play it. It made it very difficult for everybody, because we all felt that bad vibe. To make things worse, all this was coming from a producer who didn’t know anything about us. Ernie claimed he did, but it was a total shambles. The sound wasn’t very good on anything and I wasn’t happy at all with that album. None of us was.
I thought, well, maybe it’s me that’s wrong. Maybe they can do a better job than us. So we gave them the benefit of the doubt and just kept out of it. Also, if we’d have started throwing our oar in, saying, ‘We want that to sound like this’, we would’ve been back to where we started again. What would have been the point of having somebody come in then?
Since the days of Rodger Bain I’ve always been involved in the production and the mixing somewhere along the line, but not at all with this album. If it had gone down a storm I would really have been worried: blimey, it must have been me all along!
It was a bad experience from start to finish. Forbidden was released in June 1995. I thought it was crap, even down to the cartoon cover art, so it didn’t surprise me that it didn’t sell. However, we did tour with it. We started the Forbidden tour off with two big festival gigs in Sweden and Denmark and then went to the States, again with Motörhead supporting us. Cozy and me got up to a lot of silly pranks; he was as bad as me. Setting people’s beds up and taking the legs off things and removing the TV from the hotel room and throwing it out of the window - it was back to the old days again. I got one of those blow-up dolls and I put clothes on it and I hung it from the balcony of our hotel in Los Angeles. People were looking up and we were screaming and shouting, pretending there was an argument going on. More and more people were looking up and then I threw the doll off the balcony. Mad it was.
I’ve always been one for playing jokes on people in every line-up of Black Sabbath, but, of course, they got back at me as well. In the early days I was once taking a shower when there was a knock on the hotel room door. I opened it and it was Ozzy with a full bucket of water. As I put my head out, he threw the water over me, dropped the bucket and ran. I started after him, but I had no clothes on and the door shut behind me. I thought, ah, for Christ’s sake!
I knocked on the other guys’ doors because I wanted to phone down to reception to get help, but of course they wouldn’t let me in. I stood there in the hallway naked and, ding!, the lift door opened and all these people came out. They were all dressed up from their night out and there was me with no clothes on at all. We all stood there, staring at each other, not knowing what to do. They must have thought I was a right pervert. Eventually security came up, because someone had phoned down saying: ‘There’s a naked man running around in the hallway!’
I had to explain what had happened and they let me in my room again. The guys got me good that time.
My most embarrassing moment was when we came back from America after a big tour. We got to Heathrow and one of the guys said to me: ‘I can’t get all my suitcases on the trolley. You couldn’t put one on your trolley, could you?’
I said: ‘Sure.’
And so I did. We went through ‘nothing to declare’, and of course they stopped me.
‘Excuse me, sir, are these your suitcases?’
‘Can we look in them?’
They opened my suitcases and they were fine. Then they got to this other case and opened that up. I could’ve dropped dead on the spot, because this suitcase was full of sex toys. There were blow-up dolls, dildos, handcuffs, all the paraphernalia. I couldn’t believe it and didn’t know what to say. There was a queue behind me, other people waiting to have their suitcases searched. They were pulling all this stuff out and I heard all this giggling going on behind me. I was so embarrassed, especially because they knew who I was. And, of course, I couldn’t suddenly go: ‘It’s not my suitcase.’
They really set me up and I have to say it was a great one. Of course, after I’d gone through customs there they all were, in stitches. They thought it was hilarious. That’s what happens when you play jokes on people. They get you back!
We finished in the first week of August with three dates in California, carefully avoiding the city of Modesto. They were Cozy’s last gigs with us. I had seen it coming as the tour progressed. He wasn’t happy at all, because the situation had changed. He wasn’t involved as much in the writing as before; it was down to me again. He wasn’t the co-captain of the ship any more either and he didn’t feel at all comfortable with that. And bloody Ernie C telling him what to play obviously turned the tables on him. So he decided to quit the band and left.
Bobby Rondinelli came back and off we went again, on a tour that was scheduled to go on until well into December. But my arm was going numb. It started to get really bad in America, so I went to a doctor there who also happened to be a surgeon. He said: ‘Your problem is in your neck and it’s really dangerous. You need it operated on as soon as you can. And it just so happens I can do the operation tomorrow.’
I went: ‘Hang on. No!’
I thought, Christ, I’ve got to get home to England and get it properly seen to. I flew home and went to see two specialists. They said: ‘No, the problem is in there, in your wrist.’
Thank God I didn’t go with this bloke in America, or I would’ve had an operation on my neck. I had a carpal tunnel operation instead. They cut into my inside arm, just above the wrist, and it’s almost like a plastic band that goes around there. I was awake while they operated on me and I could actually hear it go ‘crack!’. It made me feel sick because I could hear the noise and it felt all cold as the blood came out. Here I was, getting nauseous, and the two surgeons were merrily talking away: ‘Oh, did you see that thing on TV the other day …’
They were trying to involve me in the conversation as well, going: ‘Oh, look how lovely this is cut away’, but there was no way I could look at it. Bloody hell, I was doing my utmost not to vomit while I was being operated on.
Then they stitched it up and that was it. After a while I could play again. It cured it and I was never bothered by that again. Nowadays it’s everything else that’s playing up!
Carpal tunnel did cut the Forbidden tour short, as we had to cancel a couple of weeks’ worth of dates. Just as well, really. I financed the tour and paying for the bus, the crew, the hotels, the musicians, this and that, and it was actually costing me money to go out and play. We just couldn’t keep on doing that.
I was sitting back home with my arm all bandaged up. When the tour stopped the band broke up and it would be many years before I’d see Tony Martin again. And I had no idea that Forbidden was Black Sabbath’s last studio album ever. Or at least for a very, very long time.