Black Sabbath primary composer Tony Iommi looks back on the accident that cost him two fingertips — and inadvertently helped birth heavy metal — in an interview with VH1.
Tony Iommi Relives His Horrific Injury in an Animated Interview Video
Iommi’s memories of the incident are accompanied by the above animated clip, which is titled The Complete History of Heavy Metal: Fingers Bloody Fingers and seems to be the first in a planned series of graphic recreations of crucial chapters from the heavy metal history books. Whatever comes next, it’ll have to be pretty incredible to match Iommi’s tale, which begins in a factory in England’s Birmingham and concludes with the young guitarist using some words of encouragement from his former boss as inspiration for his eventual triumph over adversity.
Even in cartoon form, the accident that sent Iommi to the hospital is tough to watch. Recalling that he told his mother he was planning on walking out on his job to pursue his musical dreams, he remembers that she ordered him back to the factory — and that very afternoon, he nearly lost the ability to play guitar. “They put me on a huge machine, a massive thing, and I didn’t know how to work it,” says Iommi in the video. “As I was pushing the metal into the machine, it came down with such a force and bang, it just chopped my fingers. There was blood going all over the place.”
Naturally, he was “depressed and very down” after his injury, but something clicked after a visit from his boss. “The manager of the factory came to visit me at home,” continues Iommi. “He told me the story about Django Reinhardt, who had lost his fingers.”
His motivation rekindled, Iommi tried a number of options to get around his disability, including fashioning fake fingertips, improvising lighter-gauge strings and dropping his tuning, all in an attempt to get more sound out of less physical effort. The rest is history.
“Of course, losing my fingertips was devastating, but in hindsight it created something,” he points out toward the end of the video. “It made me invent a new sound and a different style of playing, and a different sort of music. Really, it turned out to be a good thing off a bad thing.”