Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)
Chapter 8. Meeting Bill Ward and The Rest
After chopping my fingers off, it took at least six months for the worst of the pain to wear off and to get going again. I always felt uncomfortable about it and I always hid my hand. The same with playing: I used to hate anybody seeing it.
‘What is that on your fingers?’
I later heard that some people actually thought it looked cool. There was a guitar teacher in New York who taught people how to play my things, and he had a pair of thimbles made. There was nothing wrong with his fingers, but he was convinced that these helped you to play.
My return to playing in a band came when I met Bill Ward. He was in The Rest and they all came around to our shop. They were trying to talk to me about joining them while people were coming in to be served. I said: ‘Yeah, we’ll have a go.’
They sounded really professional because they had two Vox AC 30 amplifiers. I also had an AC 30, so when you looked at it, three AC 30s, three Fenders - bloody hell, it must be a great band!
This was around 1966 or 1967. We had Bill Ward on drums, Vic Radford on guitar and Michael Pountney on bass. Singer Chris Smith came later because Bill used to sing in the early days of The Rest and he did a good job of it, too.
At that time we had no money. Bill used to go around picking up all these bits of drumsticks that the drummers of other bands had played with and broken. He couldn’t afford to buy any new ones, so he got used to playing with these half-sticks. Vic Radford had also chopped his finger off. I think he caught his middle index finger in a door and topped it off. Him losing his finger was a great help to me, because I had never met anybody else who had done that. I thought, bloody hell, both in the same band! He even tried one of my thimbles, but it’s something you really have to get used to. It’s just another world, it’s a totally different style of playing, and you’ve just got to change all the rules. And that’s what I did.
I didn’t follow any rules at all. I made my own.
We did a lot of covers: some Shadows, some Beatles, maybe some Stones, more or less Top 20 stuff. You had to play that poppy stuff, or else you wouldn’t get a gig. The Rest was quite popular; we started making a bit of a name, just locally. We’d play at the Midland Red Club, which was in the Midland Red Bus Depot. It was a social club where all the people who worked there would go. They had a band there every week. We used to play alternate weeks, and John Bonham was usually in the other band that played there. He’d last about five minutes in this band because he was too loud and they’d fire him. Then he’d sneak back in with another band and before long they would get rid of him for the same reason. He had this drum case with all the names of the bands he’d been with on it, and they were all crossed out. And the names would get smaller and smaller so that he could get them all on. All this was before bands had PA systems and drums were amplified. He just played them acoustically. But he hit those skins so hard, blimey, it was incredible. He was just so bloody loud!
The Rockin’ Chevrolets had long since broken up, but I was still with Alan Meredith’s sister, Margareth.
I was very jealous back then and I was very protective of Margareth. One night I was on stage playing away with The Rest when I saw somebody bothering her. I put my guitar down, jumped off stage, went around, punched this bloke out, got back on stage and carried on playing.
The stuff you do …
One time we were walking around Aston. I went to the loo and she waited outside for me. When I came out there was a gang of guys hassling her. I saw red. I went straight to the guy closest to her, grabbed him, and bang! Luckily, the others backed off. I used to do that a lot in those days. Always in a fight somewhere. But I’ve calmed down now. At last.
My relationship with Margareth even outlasted The Rest. They fizzled out because the bass player got married and decided to quit. The Rest was just a little band that had done all right for a while playing pubs. Little did we know it was the stuff Mythology was made of …
Later on in early Sabbath days I went out with Margareth’s younger sister, Linda. It was very strange going around to the same house, but then to pick somebody else up. There’d be me, sitting outside in my car waiting for Linda, and another guy would pull up in his car to pick up Margareth.
Linda and I broke up when I went off to tour Europe for the first time. I came back and told her that I wanted to end it, because for me Europe had opened my eyes to a different life altogether, something I had never seen before, living in Birmingham.