Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)
Chapter 90. A good place
I would very much like to do something again with Geezer and Vinnie and another singer, but, of course, if we do start something new it would be under a different name. Heaven & Hell was very popular and it took up all of our time, but even after it ended I stayed very busy writing and getting involved with all sorts of projects. One thing that was a lot of fun to do was the ‘Out Of My Mind’ charity single with Ian Gillan. It was a quarter of a century ago that we recorded our first charity single, ‘Smoke On The Water’, in aid of Armenian earthquake victims. It was a big thing with just about everybody involved, like Brian May, Bryan Adams, Ritchie Blackmore and David Gilmour. We did a video of it and raised a lot of money. And then, in 2009, twenty-five years later, President Serzh Sargsian of Armenia got in touch. He wanted to give an award for what we’d done back then to Ian Gillan, myself and keyboard player Geoff Downes.
We went to Armenia and they showed us what they had built with the money from ‘Smoke On The Water’. We had dinner with Prime Minister Tigran Sargsian and the British Ambassador Charles Lonsdale and they were all really nice. We were there for a few days and did a couple of press conferences. At one of those we started talking about maybe doing something else to raise more money, because, when they showed us around, we saw this music school which was just awful. It was like a tin shed, all cold and damp, so we thought, we’ve got to do something about this. On the flight back Ian and I discussed writing a single to raise more money. The first thing we did when we got back home was send them a lot of guitars and drums and whatever. We also wrote and released a couple of songs to help build a new school, that’s what ‘Out Of My Mind’ was all about.
First Ian and myself got together at my house. I wrote the music and he did the lyrics. We wanted some other people to play on it, and Ian mentioned Jon Lord. I said: ‘Yeah, that would be great!’
I suggested Nicko McBrain, and then we also got Jason Newsted on the bass and Linde Lindström on guitar. It worked out great, and we had a fantastic time recording it. The song turned out really well and we did raise a fair amount of money once again. And we had such a good time doing this that we’ve actually talked about making it into a proper band.
But whatever I do, Black Sabbath will always be there one way or another. On the day of Ronnie’s funeral me and Maria had dinner with Eddie Van Halen and his wife. The phone rang. I picked it up to answer it without looking at the display first, and it was Sharon Osbourne.
I hadn’t spoken to her for over a year. She said: ‘Oh, I’ve got the wrong number. I thought it was another Tony.’
When she realised it was me, she said she was sorry to hear about Ronnie. Then she went: ‘Will you call Ozzy? You must speak to Ozzy!’
I called him a few days later. He said: ‘I’d like to get together and have a chat.’
I said: ‘Well, I’ll be back in England in a couple of days.’
‘Good. I’m coming over to England as well, let’s see each other then.’
We didn’t actually get together then, but we’ve called each other quite a lot. The idea for a new Black Sabbath album had been floating around between our different managements for a while, and we’ve been talking about it more and more. It’s still not set in stone, but I talked to Ozzy towards the end of 2010, and he went: ‘I’m really looking forward to doing something!’
I actually wrote one or two songs for Sabbath, and there’s a lot more coming up. But you never know. By the time you read this we might be in a studio recording, or we might even have an album in the shops already. Or maybe nothing will have come of it and it’ll never happen. And we might be planning another tour, or we might never share a stage again.
Writing all this, my story, has obviously given me a lot of time to reflect on my life. It has been a bit like everybody else’s I suppose: up and down. I’ve loved the different turns over the years, good and bad. You learn from them. I’ve got no real complaints, although it would have been nice to have had no hassles with the business side of things, such as with management and band members. You’ve got to have those as well, I suppose. These things are sent to try us. But when I look around the world now and see all the things that are happening to people, I’ve had a good life in comparison to most everybody out there.
I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved. We spawned a whole new generation of music, of players. You can even say that our music has saved a few lives. Judging by the letters we’ve had from people writing: ‘Without you …’, people who might have wanted to commit suicide or do whatever were it not for the music, there’s always somebody you’ve helped out there. It’s extremely rewarding.
There was a time when all of the Brummie bands felt the city didn’t really care much about us so it was great when all of a sudden the people that run Broad Street decided to honour the city’s famous residents. So it came to be that in November 2008 while recording ‘The Devil You Know’ we all took time out so I could receive my star on the city’s Walk of Fame! It was bitterly cold, snowing, but even so a great crowd turned up and Mike Olley and his team did a great job with bands playing and Kerrang Radio hosting the event. It was good to join Ozzy and other famous friends like Jasper Carrott, and recently I got involved in Bev Bevan’s induction as well. The latest event in this change of heart from the establishment is the Home Of Metal exhibition, specifically honouring all of the heavy bands that came from the West Midlands, including Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin. I never thought that would happen!
And now I don’t have to go out to prove anything any more, to anybody. Years ago I was trying to prove to people that I could do this and do that, but nowadays I really enjoy what I do, and I only need to prove to myself that I can do things.
Of course, I have regrets - a lot of them. But I think without that I wouldn’t have learned anything. You can’t have it all your own way all the time; you’ve got to have the bad side of life as well, the bad things that happen to you. But you deal with them.
I probably upset some people along the way, what with all the marriages and all the things that have happened over the years. It’s all part of life. Hopefully, the people I’ve upset have gone on to better things.
My daughter Toni amazes me. After what she’s been through, she’s so out front now! Toni lives in Finland. She moved in with her boyfriend, Linde. He’s the guitar player in a band called HIM and they are madly in love. He’s a lovely lad and a very good player. He’s very quiet and she just won’t shut up, but they’re very happy together. Thankfully, they come over often, so Maria and me get to see them a lot.
All I’m hoping for these days is that I’m still here in a few years. I enjoy where I’m at now, I really do. It’s a good place. I’ve got a good home life and a good family. And I’m fortunate because I’m still able to create and to go out and play music, and have some of the best friends on the planet.
But whatever happens, there’s one thing I’m absolutely sure about.
I will never set fire to Bill Ward again.