TONY IOMMI Names BLACK SABBATH Riffs He Immediately Knew Were Special

June 3, 2024

During an appearance on the latest episode of Loudwire Nights, BLACK SABBATH guitarist Tony Iommi was asked to name a riff that, when he wrote it, he just knew it was special. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Well, without sounding big-headed, [there were] a few. [Laughs] When we'd first done the 'Black Sabbath' riff, straight away I knew — it just had this vibe and a feeling and it was something so different in them days that you'd never heard that sort of thing before. And I don't know how it all happened. It'd just sort of come out. And that was the benchmark for that album. Once we'd done 'Wicked World' and 'Black Sabbath', then the rest of them flowed along. And the same with 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath'. And also 'Into The Void'. That was a riff that I really liked, and that was Eddie Van Halen's favorite, to be honest, 'Into The Void'. He'd always say, 'Oh, play 'Into The Void'.' So it was great to hear that. So there's a few that sort of — for me, 'Iron Man'. Oh, there's a lot that really meant something. Well, they've all meant something, but they're the ones that sort of stood out initially."

When interviewer Chuck Armstrong noted that "it all goes back" to the first three notes of the first song on BLACK SABBATH's debut album, a tritone that's become known as "The Devil's interval," Iommi concurred. "Yes, it does, which opened a complete can of worms for us, of course," he said. "You name it, they'd come to the show and, oh, dear. We got so much from the church and Satanists and God knows what else in the early days."

Asked if he has any regrets tied to some of those things, such as the inclusion of religion, Iommi said: "It certainly brought everybody's attention to it. So I think it was great. We did that. It was something very different. I didn't even realize — I didn't even think of it as anything like that. It just appealed to me when I played it. And it's all. And we liked it. And then Ozzy [Osbourne, SABBATH singer] came up with this melody line, and Geezer [Butler, SABBATH bassist] wrote the lyrics for it, so everything just fitted in and it just sounded right. And that was our launch, really. But, of course, in them days, there was no MTV and all that sort of stuff, and no Internet. It was word of mouth, so you really did have to go and play at these places and build up a reputation — either a good reputation or a bad one, whichever way it went — but you had to physically… If it had been Internet in them days, who knows what would have happened? Or MTV."

Back in 2021, Iommi spoke about the creation of the song "Black Sabbath" during an appearance on the "Backstaged: The Devil In Metal" podcast. Tony recalled: "Just one day we were in the rehearsal room and I started playing, as I did, ideas and this riff came out and I thought, 'God.' I really liked it and the other guys said, 'Ah, that's really good. We really like that.' So, I put more to it and that was it, it became 'Black Sabbath'. We built it up, but that was immediate — once we'd done that song, that was the direction and we knew where we were going then from that first riff. It just gave us a certain feeling."

He added: "I remember when I first played that riff, all the hairs stood up on my arm and I knew that was it. 'That's it, this is where we're at, this is what we're doing.' It was just like being told, 'This is what you're doing and this is where you're going.'"

In February 2017, SABBATH finished "The End" tour in Birmingham, closing out the quartet's groundbreaking 49-year career.

"The End" was SABBATH's last tour because Iommi — who was diagnosed with lymphoma in late 2011 — can no longer travel for extended amounts of time.

Iommi revealed his cancer diagnosis in early 2012, shortly after SABBATH announced a reunion tour and album. He underwent treatment throughout the recording of the disc, titled "13", and the subsequent tour to promote it.

The BLACK SABBATH guitarist successfully underwent an operation in January 2017 to remove a noncancerous lump from his throat.

"13" was the first album in 35 years to feature Iommi, Osbourne and Butler all playing together.

Bill Ward was on board for the SABBATH reunion when it was first announced 11 years ago, but backed out soon after. The drummer later claimed that he sat out the recording and touring sessions because of unfair contractual terms, although the members of SABBATH have hinted in other interviews that he wasn't physically up to the task.

All four original members of SABBATH were present when the band announced its final reunion in late 2011. But Ward split from the group in 2012, citing an "unsignable" contract, and Osbourne, Iommi and Butler carried on with their Rick Rubin–produced "13" LP and extensive international touring without him.

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