In 2016, Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi sat down with The Guardian in an interview that covered everything from setting friends on fire, auditioning Michael Bolton and why he would be playing his final tour.
We thought it would be best to reminisce on the most enjoyable recollections of that day, join us as we celebrate Some Of The Funniest Shit Black Sabbath Has Ever Done
Iommi was asked to reflect on how when Black Sabbath broke out, half the world insisted the band were all satanist:
“We did have an interest in the occult. Well, Geezer and myself watched horror films, but we’d get witches at the shows. One night we got back to the hotel and there was a whole row of them in black cloaks, sitting on the floor, chanting. We had to step over them to get in our rooms. In the end we blew their candles out and sang “Happy Birthday” to them. That really pissed them off.”
Hey Tony, did you really blow up Richard Branson’s fish?
We were staying at his house to do an album. Ian Gillan from Deep Purple was our singer at the time, but he erected a marquee outside to sleep. Gillan said: “I want the fresh air for my voice” and all that rubbish. Anyway, when we came back from the pub, we put all this pyro round his tent. It was so loud that his marquee just took off, with a mushroom cloud like an atomic bomb. The blast went right through the lake and all these prize fish came floating to the top. We were thinking: “Blimey, who’s gonna tell Branson?” Of course there was a church next door and they got a petition against us.
Why in the hell did you paint Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward gold?
We were staying at John DuPont’s house in Los Angeles, the bloke who owned DuPont paint products. We found all this paint in the garage, and were all pissed, so thought it would be fun to paint Bill gold from head to toe. He started having convulsions. The ambulance people gave us a right bollocking: “You idiots! You could have killed him.” They injected Bill with adrenalin and we had to use paint stripper to get it off. He looked like a beetroot by the end.
Tony, is it true that you once sent star footballer Trevor Francis to a Lamb Of God show?
He came to see us in Manchester and they were supporting. I said “Oh, you’ll like this band, Trevor, they’re like the Eagles.” He came back like he was in shock. The look on his face was absolutely priceless!
Did Black Sabbath really end up auditioning Michael Bolton?
When we were looking for a vocalist after Ronnie James Dio – or maybe after Ian Gillan. We had thousands of tapes sent in and Michael Bolton was one of them, before he was famous. He was good, to be honest, but we had so many it got confusing.
Did the members of Black Sabbath really set each other on fire, or is that bullshit?
Bill Ward and I had some really great times. I used to set him on fire.
It was our party piece, which always worked until the last time we did it. We had this new producer, Martin Birch, who’d heard all these stories about satanism and was a bit nervous. I made a wooden doll and wrapped it in a black cloth and the other guys wound him up that it was my voodoo doll of him. Anyway, Bill says – in front of Martin – “Are you going to set fire to me then, Tony?” I tipped rubbing alcohol over him. Normally it just burned off but this time it soaked into his clothes, so when I lit it he went up like a bomb. He was rolling on the floor, shouting and screaming. I thought it was part of the joke, so poured more stuff on him. Martin couldn’t believe it. We had to get an ambulance for Bill. He’d got third-degree burns. I felt bloody awful. We still play jokes on each other. Not quite as severe as that. I learned my lesson.