Tony Iommi: Iron Man – as told to TJ Lammers

The legendary guitarist, and the man often cited as the creator of the heavy metal sound, tells his tale in this flawed but fascinating autobiography or sorts.

As a fan of Black Sabbath’s earlier work, as well as that with Dio and Heaven & Hell, I was always going to be interested in what the life story of Tony Iommi contained, especially considering I already knew going it hadn’t been a smooth ride.

For a fan, the circumstances of Black Sabbath’s formation are now part of the oral history of rock ‘n’ roll, Tony looses his fingertips, finds Bill and Geezer and they find a bloke called Ozzy Zig who “wants a gig” and start making the sort of sounds previously never heard in rock.

Though this story has fallen into legend and the exact details are surely lost to time, Tony does a good job of backing up the myth with some great facts about his bands and musical experiences pre-Sabbath which are the same as most aspiring musicians, including the usual list of uninspired cover bands and semi-cabaret acts set in the grinding poverty of post-war working class Birmingham.

Once Sabbath is formed the story becomes one of the usual rock ‘n’ roll excess and cliché of drugs, groupies and rip-off merchant managers and the highlight of this part of the tale is the occasional ignition of Sabbath drummer, Bill Ward’s, beard.

This is where the book starts to lose it a bit as not only does the story become repetitive but the delivery of it is hit and miss at best with some things glossed over and a lack of emotional connection to them from Iommi making them seem inconsequential despite how much they clearly effected the band. I can only speculate and wonder that this might down to the effect of Ozzy and his erstwhile manager and wife Sharon seem to have on all items marked with name Black Sabbath.

These problems are compounded by the fact that the original documents were clearly not very well proofread or the writer was literally writing down Tony’s story word for word as he was told it and didn’t change any of the bad grammar that comes out in casual speech and doesn’t work in written form.

That said once the story picks up again in Sabbath’s 1980s days (and at this point the book really becomes more Tony’s version of the Sabbath story than his life story, though the two are clearly so close as to be one and the same) the book becomes more interesting as the ‘lost years’ of the band are well documented through umpteen line up changes and many more albums (of what Iommi admits to be varying quality) than I was aware of.

Again, here, for a fan of metal, the book is an interesting read because of the information it is giving but when Iommi comes to talk of more personal matters there seems to be a reluctance in letting the reader know how he was feeling and, while I’m not one for over blown melodrama in things like this, a hint that he had some emotions would be nice.

The most emotional part comes near the end with the story of the Heaven & Hell work and Ronnie James Dio and Iommi talking about the possible reformation of the original Sabbath which shows what the rest of the book demonstrates – that Iommi’s life is undeniably fused to Black Sabbath for evermore, for better or worse.

This is certainly a book worth reading if you want an in-depth history of the band and don’t mind quite a few typos, but to anyone expecting a fascinating insight into the mind of the man behind the sound that still influences bands so much today, you might be a bit disappointed.

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