Inspirations (2)

(2) Tony Iommi

The story of Tony Iommi – a young man who’d lost several of his fingertips and subsequently became a game changer metal guitarist and inventor of the heaviest riffs in the Universe – is a truly inspiring one: together with Django Reinhardt he showed the world that talent knows no limits. Still, it’s not just the way he built up himself following his terrible accident that alway fascinated me, but also the musical vision he brought into life. I never went into the debate whether Ozzy or Dio (or anyone else) is/was the “real” Black Sabbath singer – simply because for me Black Sabbath had always been Tony Iommi himself, right until the band’s very last day in 2018. It may well be that he invented the down-tuned, slow, and thundering riffs just to keep the pain in the stubs of his fingers endurable, but he did it – and by doing so, he changed the history of rock music.

I was around 10, when I first heard a Black Sabbath song in the radio. It was still during the Communist regime, when the chances to catch a rock/metal song in the public broadcasting were extremely low: and when I first heard the brutal, depressive and unique sound of the opening riff of Electric Funeral, it was like a revelation to me. It was… let’s say, different. It was melancholic and sad, and at the same time, brutal and heavy – and it made me think, which is a quality that I value the most in any piece of art. I wanted to listen to that riff over and over again, until my overly annoyed mother rushed into my room and switched off nervously the tape recorder. Later I discovered other Sabbath songs and the entire Volume 4 album, too (I don’t even remember anymore, who gave it to me, but I’ll praise his name until my very last day). Then sometime around ‘83 or ‘84 I’ve recorded the first four songs of the Born Again album from the radio, and got lost.

To be absolutely honest, while I could never 100% enjoy Iommi’s solos (they were always excellent, but not exactly for my taste), I do admire his riffs and songwriting skills. The dark, monumental and epic atmosphere of his music is something that I can’t get enough of – even now, 40 years later. Besides the weight of his monumental musical skyscrapers (check When Death Calls on the Headless Cross album in 1989), there is also immense beauty in Iommi’s darkness: if you listen to Dying for Love (Cross Purposes 1994) you’ll see what I mean. I, however, could only see Tony Iommi twice in my entire life: once in 1998 and then in 2018 (the latter being the farewell tour of Black Sabbath). I will never deny the substantial effect of the characteristically elegant English gentleman with his Gibson SG guitars on the way I listen to and write music (once I even bought a Gibson SG – very probably due to his influence on my taste). Although I never became an SG fan (years later I sold that guitar), I’ve always been and will always remain Tony Iommi’s dedicated admirer.

Next time I’ll write about the Sherman/Denner guitar duo.

Inspirations (1)

(1) Jon Lord

Whenever music comes into the picture, Jon Lord is the person, whom I immediately start to talk about, with (probably slighly ridiculous, but) flaming zeal. Most of you may find it strange that a thrash metal guitarist considers the keyboard player of an old school rock band his biggest musical inspiration, but let me share with you guys a couple of insights and stories to enlighten this (pseudo-)discrepancy.

First of all, the late Jon Douglas Lord (9. June, 1941 – 16 July 2012) – founder, keyboard player, composer and music mastermind of the hard rock pioneer Deep Purple – was never just a “simple musician”. I always thought of him as someone far more than a rock organist: he was a real musical visionary with the primary aim to build bridges between “old” and “new”, traditional and modern. If you give a quick listen to one of his earliest classical compositions incorporated in the song “Anthem” (Deep Purple: The Book of Taliesyn, 1968), you may catch a glimpse from his early genius that peaked in Purple’s giant collaboration with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969 (Concerto For Group And Orchestra). At that time it was considered an artistic abomination or even blasphemy to marry the “sacred” classical instrumentation with the “immaturity and impurity” of rock music. With his constant efforts to synthesize guitar-based and symphonic approaches, Jon Lord was one of those few revolutioners, who directed the development of rock music towards constant maturation to become comparable in its structural complexity to its so-called “classical” counterpart. His creative genius was evident not only in his rock-based or fully orchestrated musical creations, but also in those deeply intimate, meditative and elegantly melancholic albums that he released after a sixteen year-long break in his solo career and the loss of his parents. Pictured Within, the first of these wonderful albums (1997) is one of the world’s most interesting and beautiful classical music-driven artistic experiments synthesizing traditional and modern tunes with a slightly different orchestration that was presented on Concerto, Gemini Suite, Sarabande or Windows.

I – like many others – became a rocker by listening to Deep Purple’s well-known hits, and only later became more familiar with the immense role that Lord played in the formation of the synthesis between classical and modern music. I literally learned playing the guitar by listening to and copying the guitar tracks of several Purple songs – and the more I learned of them, the more courious I became about the musical legacy that this awesome band left to the world. I was around 17 or 18, when I first saw the movie in the local cinema of my home town about the first (recorded and released) Concerto – and I must admit that my mind was literally blown away. That could be the moment when I realized the non-existence of any substantive differences between the artificially divided classical and modern music genres: to me, they appear as only different expressions on Art’s beautiful face. Thus, Jon Lord was the one who taught me to avoid any sharp (and very widespread) distinctions between “classical” and “modern” musical approaches: there are no unbreakable walls between them, as he demonstrated in so many magnificent ways. I saw him live four times: first in Budapest in 1998 with Deep Purple, then in London, in 2002; the latter occasion being a station of the tour when he left the band. While the first part of the show was played by his successor Don Airey, at one point the lights went down, and the crowd at Hammersmith Apollo (including me) realized that Lord himself stood behind his old Hammond organ, playing the intro of Perfect Strangers. It was one of the most magnificent concert experiences in my entire life. Later I was fortunate enough to see him two more times performing his solo projects: unfortunately I couldn’t catch him in München with Sam Brown performing Pictured Within, but I saw two of his performances in Budapest before he finally died in 2012.

I’ll always be grateful for the huge impact that he exerted on my musical taste – and through that, on my whole personality.

Next time I’ll write about Tony Iommi, the legendary master of heavy riffs.