(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.