5 Things You May Not Have Known About Tony Iommi
Today we celebrate the birthday of Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, one of the most legendary axe men in all of rock history. To commemorate the occasion, we’ve put together a list of five things about him which may have flown under your radar.
- He had a couple of good reasons for growing a mustache.
In his memoir, Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath, Iommi revealed that his reasons for favoring facial hair weren’t just a desire to look cool. “There was a guy up the road who used to collect great big spiders,” recalled Iommi. “I don’t’ mind them now, but I was very much afraid of them then. I was eight or nine at the time. This guy was called Bobby Nuisance, which is the right name for him, and he chased me with one of his spiders once. I was shitting myself and running down this gravel road when I tripped and along my lip. The scar is still there now. The kids even started calling me Scarface, so I got a terrible complex about that.” Adding insult to injury – or, rather, further injury to existing injury – Iommi revealed that it wasn’t long after that when someone threw a firework in his direction, and it left further scars. Thankfully, most of them left over time, but one lingered: the one on his lip. Thank heavens for mustaches, eh?
- His first gig was in a pub.
Not long after Iommi began to find his footing as a guitarist, he was invited to join with a piano player and drummer to play some gigs at a local pub. “I couldn’t really play very well, but they thought I was great,” wrote Iommi. “I only did that a couple of times. I was incredibly nervous sitting in with these guys, but it was just something I would do then. ‘Blimey, a gig! In a pub!’ I wasn’t even old enough to be in a pub!”
- He might have given up music if he hadn’t been introduced to Django Reinhardt.
Having discovered his love of music and his skill at playing it, Iommi was excited about what the future might hold. That briefly ended after a day at work at the metal shop, when he lost a portion of two of his fingers. Convinced that the end had come already for a life in music, the manager of the factory – seeing his despair – brought him an EP by Django Reinhardt, who played with only two fingers. “Once I heard that music,” wrote Iommi, “I was determined to do something about it instead of sitting there moping.”
- He did a brief stint in Jethro Tull.
Strange but true: you can see Iommi playing with the band in The Rolling Stones’ Rock & Roll Circus. The stint took place after Iommi’s pre-Sabbath band Earth broke up, and it was a very, very short stint, but it was one that had a profound effect on Iommi. “I learned quite a lot from [Anderson], I must say,” Iommi said in an interview on GuitarWorld.com. “I learned that you have got to work at it. You have to rehearse. When I came back and I got the [Earth] back together, I made sure everybody was up early in the morning and rehearsing. I used to go and pick them up. I was the only one at the time that could drive. I used to have to drive the bloody van and get them up at quarter to nine every morning; which was, believe me, early for us then. I said to them, ‘This is how we have got to do it because this is how Jethro Tull did it’.”
- He released a solo album in 2000, and it had a veritable plethora of guest vocalists.
Given Black Sabbath’s activity, it’s not as though Iommi had a whole lot of time to “go solo,” as it were, but he finally got around to it in 2000, and when he did so, he did it in a big way. Among those guesting on vocals were Ian Astbury, Skin, Henry Rollins, Serj Tankian, Dave Grohl, Billy Corgan, Phil Anselmo, Peter Steele and Ozzy Osbourne.