As we went to press for this issue, we realized it had been a year since Black Sabbath played its final concert in Birmingham, England, on February 4, 2017. In September of that year, that last goodbye was premiered as a theatrical documentary, The End of the End. Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi reflected on his “retirement” during a late 2017 promo run for the DVD release of the film, and now it seems like a good time to share his thoughts on the one-year anniversary of “The End.”
First, I’d like to thank you for all the knowledge you’ve shared with GP readers throughout the years.
Thanks. Hopefully, I’ll be here a lot longer.
What was it like doing such a massive tour in your late 60s?
Even though we had the best hotels, our own plane, and assistants to do everything for us, it was like we were constantly onstage. Meet-and-greets and audiences at sound-checks didn’t exist many years ago, and it takes a toll on you. You do all this stuff before a show, and then you try to eat, and maybe get a hour to relax before you go onstage. It’s bloody tiring. After you’ve done a year of that, you feel it.
Gear-wise, did you do anything differently for that last tour?
I did speak with Laney before the tour, and I said I wanted to go back to the beginning with the amplifiers—get rid of the preamps and all that stuff. I just wanted a basic amp like I had in the early days. It was quite funny, really, because that request instigated a special department in the Laney factory, and half of the workers hadn’t been born when the amps first came out. They had to get an old amp, study it, and copy it, but with better components. I was really pleased with the outcome. For the tour, I also had my signature Gibson SG, some Jaydee guitars, a preamp booster, a wah pedal, and a chorus pedal. I think that was it. Basic.
Did you have any favorite songs to play during the tour?
I enjoy playing all of them, really. But I do like the songs where I get a chance to play a bit free form, rather than stick to a set solo. It’s always good to be able to go off a bit.
Looking back, do you feel the film represented the band at that moment in time?
Yeah. There’s always something, though. We had to cut some songs for the film, because the set was too long. Also, we had to be sensible and play what Ozzy could sing comfortably. That’s why we went into a studio and played songs on a one-off basis for the film that we hadn’t done for years, like “Wicked World,” “Changes,” and “Sweet Leaf.” Those songs have some high melodies, and it would be bloody difficult—impossible, actually—for him to sing them constantly on tour.
What are your next steps?
I’m still playing, of course, and I still want to write and record. That’s what I do, and I love it. It’s nice to have the time now to consider things carefully and thoughtfully.