Search Still Got The Fever

Friday, 26 November 2021

Black Sabbath icon Tony Iommi: Pandemic blues, new band, new single, and working with Ozzy again

 


WHEN Tony Iommi famously sliced off the tips of his right hand fingers in a metal press at the age of 17 he feared he would never play guitar again.


He defied the odds and conquered the world with Black Sabbath, of course. 


When he was diagnosed with blood cancer lymphoma in 2012, he started planning his own funeral. This time there was more at stake than music.


He battled back, took to the Sabbath swansong stage, and is now in remission.


Then along came Covid-19 and – just a few weeks ago – another accident, this time at his Cotswolds home, that left him fearing once more for his career.


Just as he returned with a new band, his first new music in eight years, and the launch of a signature scent, the horizon was clouded by concern.


The long-awaited new track - his first in eight years

“I snapped a tendon in my left arm – my one good arm,” he reveals. “A delivery man came with a a big box on a pallet – it contained 200 bottles of the perfume we’d just developed. I said I’d give him a hand but as we were walking through my hallway, I went flying.


“I grabbed to save the box because I didn’t want the bottles to smash, and – bang! – my tendon just snapped. I knew what it was because the pain was horrendous. I realised that I’d done some serious damage somewhere.


“I couldn’t move my arm at first. It was bruised from the wrist right up to the shoulder where it had snapped from.


“I went last week to have an MRI scan, then back to the Priory Hospital in Solihull for the results. They said I’d left it too late to repair. If the tendon shrinks, and you don’t get it done within the first week, it can be a big problem.


Tony Scent of Dark photoshoot. Pic: Ross Halfin


“They could take a tendon from my leg to fix the problem but the consultant said he wouldn’t like to guarantee that I’d be able to straighten my arm afterwards. Even if I could, he warned that it might take over a year.


“I thought ‘Forget it’. It’s OK. I can still move it round enough to play guitar – that was the main thing for me. That was what I was really concerned about.”


The injury means that Tony cannot pick up heavy objects but has not stopped him carrying on with this week’s big heavy metal comeback.


Tony and the new scent, filmed at Sudeley Castle

The 73-year-old guitar hero has recorded a four-minute rock single titled Scent of Dark, initially to promote the new scent of the same name he has designed with Sergio Momo, designer for Italian luxury perfume house Xerjoff.


Over the past 18 months he has been working secretly on the new scent, which recalls the heady patchouli days of rock festivals in the late 1960s and 70s, and hits stores ahead of Christmas.


“It’s mainly patchouli,” says Tony from his second home in Sandbanks, where Harry Redknapp is a near neighbour, on the South Coast. “I didn’t know this but apparently they used to use the smell of patchouli oil to get rid of the smell of people smoking dope back in the day.


Tony and Sergio comparing notes in the new video

“The main ingredient is patchouli but there’s a lot more to it than that. Sergio asked me to list my favourite smells – like the new car smell, leather, strawberries and raspberries – and added stuff that he thought was right until we were very pleased with it.”


It was the decision to record a heavy rock riff to promote the perfume that fuelled Tony’s hunger to return to the fray after a frustrating pandemic lockdown.


Still in remission from lymphoma, with which he was diagnosed in 2012, the Sabbath legend had to self-isolate at his house in Broadway because of his weakened immune system – and still wears a mask whenever shopping or at an indoor event.


“I was petrified, to be honest,” he admits. “I had to be really careful with everything. I really did cut myself off for quite a while. You start going a bit mental because you can’t do what you normally do. It stopped me from working so much musically because people couldn’t come in your home.


“When restrictions were eased, my friend and producer Mike Exeter came round again but we both had masks on and it was crap, sitting there with a mask on and trying to get into something. Oh blimey. It just seemed odd so we didn’t do that much in the end.


Tony soloing in the Scent of Dark video


“My wife Maria and I had just bought the house in Sandbanks when the pandemic hit, and we couldn’t travel down to sort it out because all but essential journeys were banned. That was very frustrating too. Then my daughter Toni and her partner got Covid and we couldn’t see them.


“As things eased off a bit, I did this thing with Robert Plant. We signed a guitar for charity. He came over to my house and we did it socially distanced in the garden while Maria took photos of us both with our masks on. We both had gloves on, too, sitting there drinking coffee.


“Eventually we were able to go down to Sandbanks and that has kept me busy, with work being done on the house. Now, when we’ve had all the jabs and everything, hopefully we’re all a bit safer – but I still wear a mask whenever I go shopping or to get petrol.


“I don’t like them but I’d rather feel safer wearing one – and you’re also protecting other people.”


Tony still has regular blood tests to monitor his condition. A private doctor visits him at home when required, and he has tests and check-ups back at the Spire Parkway Hospital in Solihull, where he was treated for his lymphoma.


Scent of Dark is Tony’s first new music to be released since Black Sabbath’s ’13’ album back in 2013,  four years before the band played their final farewell in hometown Birmingham.


Tony and Sergio Pic: Max Sticco


Joining him are Sergio Momo on guitar, bassist Jimmy Crutchley, drummer Ash Sheehan, Mike Exeter on keyboards, and strings players Rebecca Rose and Julianne Bourne. The track was 

mainly recorded at Gospel Oak studio in Rowington, Warwickshire.


Jimmy Crutchley


“It’s based on a riff I’ve had around for some years,” says Tony. “It wasn’t right for a Sabbath album but it just seemed to fit this project. I added some heavier, doomier bits so it’s part old and part new, but we’re all really happy with it.


Ash Sheehan


“I knew Jimmy, Mike and Sergio – he plays guitar as well as making magic with scent – but I hadn’t met the others before we went in to do the session. I developed a band overnight and it worked so well that I’m definitely going to make an album now.”


Rebecca Rose and Julianne Bourne


In the meantime he has also played on a charity track with fellow Brummie and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and appeared as guitar guest on a track by metallers Candlemass, earning him a Grammy Award nomination for best heavy metal performance.


Next up is a collaboration with old bandmate Ozzy Osbourne, for whose new album Tony has written, and played on, a track titled No Escape From Now. A stellar guitar line-up also includes Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Zakk Wylde.


“I don’t know what it sounds like, mind,” he smiles. “I haven’t heard it yet. I wrote the track for Ozzy, sent it to him and he really liked it. I recorded it at home, with Mike Exeter on bass and programmed drums. They’ve had Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers re-do the drums.


“I still talk to Ozzy a lot, and keep up with Geezer and Bill from time to time. I just wish Ozzy wouldn’t forget the time difference and call me from the States at two in the morning!”



Who is the ghost in the video? It's someone you won't expect, that's for sure. All is revealed in my sister blog paulcoletravels.com



Thursday, 25 November 2021

Black Sabbath legend Tony Iommi releases first new music in eight years

 

Picture: Ross Halfin

BLACK Sabbath legend Tony Iommi today releases his first new music in eight long years, complete with a new band, a single, plans for an album … and the sweet smell of success.


The 73-year-old heavy metal hero has recorded a four-minute rock single titled Scent of Dark, initially to promote the new SCENT he has designed with a leading Italian perfumer.


Picture: Max Sticca


Over the past 18 months of the pandemic, he has been working secretly with Sergio Momo, designer for Italian luxury perfume house Xerjoff, on a new project not to be sniffed at.


Or rather, it IS to be sniffed at.


The perfume is called Scent of Dark, recalls the heady patchouli days of rock festivals in the late 1960s and 70s, and hits stores ahead of Christmas, with a barnstorming instrumental track and video.




“It’s mainly patchouli,” says Iommi from his second home in Sandbanks on the South Coast. “I didn’t know this but apparently they used to use the smell of patchouli oil to get rid of the smell of people smoking dope back in the day.


“The main ingredient is patchouli but there’s a lot more to it than that. Sergio asked me to list my favourite smells – like the new car smell, leather, strawberries and raspberries – and added stuff that he thought was right until we were very pleased with it.”


But the decision to record a heavy rock riff of the same name has sparked Iommi’s hunger to return to the fray with an exciting new band.


Recording the track in the studio


Scent of Dark is his first new music to be released since Black Sabbath’s ’13’ album back in 2013,  four years before the band played their final farewell in hometown Birmingham.


Joining Iommi are Sergio Momo on guitar, bassist Jimmy Crutchley, drummer Ash Sheehan, Mike Exeter on keyboards, and strings players Rebecca Rose and Julianne Bourne.


It was recorded mainly at Gospel Oak studio in Rowington, Warwickshire with a spooky video shot at haunted Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds.




“It’s based on a riff I’ve had around for some years,” says Iommi. “It wasn’t right for a Sabbath album but it just seemed to fit this project. I added some heavier, doomier bits so it’s part old and part new, but we’re all really happy with it.


“I knew Jimmy, Mike and Sergio – he plays guitar as well as making magic with scent – but I hadn’t met the others before we went in to do the session. I developed a band overnight and it worked so well that I’m definitely going to make an album now.”


Still in remission from lymphoma, with which he was diagnosed in 2012, the Sabbath legend had to self-isolate at his house in Broadway because of his weakened immune system – and still wears a mask whenever shopping or at an indoor event.


“I was petrified, to be honest,” he admits. “I had to be really careful with everything. I really did cut myself off for quite a while. You start going a bit mental really because you can’t do what you normally do. I’m just so glad to be back making music again.”


Read about the haunted castle video shoot in my sister paulcoletravels blog 


Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Treasures from the Attic No 8: When Genesis were just the warm-up act for Lindisfarne



October 10, 1972 and folk/poppers Lindisfarne were huge, playing sell out theatres and festivals.

Here, at Manchester's Free Trade Hall,  they were supported by singer songwriter Rab Noakes ... and the opening act was a bunch of strange guys called Genesis.

It was the month Peter Gabriel & Co released fourth album Foxtrot and, much to the bemusement of Fog On The Tyne fans, Gabriel wore a fox’s head.



The only reason for such a mismatched bill was that they were all then on the Charisma record label. 

Wonder whatever happened to Genesis....

Friday, 12 March 2021

Treasures From The Attic No 7 : Pink Floyd's shortest gig


More than a year before the album came out, Pink Floyd were trialling Dark Side of the Moon with a quadraphonic PA.

What they hadn’t factored in was the miners’ strike which led to phased power outages across the nation.


We’d been warned before the gig at Manchester's Free Trade Hall started that there might be a power cut so the band ripped up the set list just in case.

They played One Of These Days and Careful With That Axe Eugene then the 10-minute warning came.


Floyd launched into a blues jam as the Free Trade Hall emptied and the lights went out in the Dark Side of Manchester.

They came back a month later to play the full mind-blowing show so we got two gigs for the £1.25 price of one!

From the attic came the gig ticket and the two photos I snapped with my Instamatic camera at the gig before the power cut.



Thursday, 14 January 2021

Treasures From The Attic No 6: The night Eric Clapton paid West Bromwich Albion to play

Another treasure from the keepsakes box.

It was September 27, 1978 the night Eric Clapton paid for a West Bromwich Albion football match.



I'd only been at the town's Sandwell Evening Mail for just over a month when the news editor asked if I'd do a colour piece on Albion's second round UEFA Cup tie against Galatasary.

And, by the way, could I see if I could get a chat with Eric Clapton, who was sponsoring the whole shebang?

I dutifully headed for the Hawthorns more in hope than expectation and came back with an exclusive.



I met Eric and other members of his family, headed by his 70-year-old gran Rose, who he'd brought up for the game in a minibus.

"It's a family tradition to support Albion," he told me before the kick-off. "Rose has been a fan as long as I can remember. No-one really knows what started it.

"I grew up in this Albion atmosphere and played a bit of soccer at school. My football never really took off but I've always really wanted to play for West Brom. Albion are simply the best..."



They certainly were on the night. Already leading Galatasary 3-1 from the first leg in Istanbul, the Baggies replicated that scoreline with goals from Bryan Robson, Laurie Cunningham and John Trewick.

Eric later presented gold discs of his Slowhand album to each member of the team.
There was a sting in the tale. Eric later played a 'secret' gig at West Bromwich Gala Baths for John Wile's testimonial year, and I organised tickets for the Mail.

My news editor pulled rank, took the tickets and got to see the show!


Monday, 11 January 2021

Treasures From The Attic No.5: The day I made the earth move for Britt Ekland




NOVEMBER 22, 1979. It was the day that I made the earth move, quite literally, for Scandi superstar Britt Ekland.

The Swedish movie star was out on the road to promote saucy single Do It To Me (Once More With Feeling), a pop picture disc bearing a photo of Britt in her birthday suit.


So what better, she decided, than to head out to the Wolves training ground to have a kickaround with the players?

It was a photo opportunity any tabloid would snap up. 

Except the Birmingham Evening Mail, for whom I was working.

At the time the Mail’s editor believed that no self-respecting Brummie would have any interest in Wolverhampton.

Hence anything happening over the border was out of bounds. 


But this was beautiful Britt, then a huge star. Almost on our patch.

Today you could snap a picture then photoshop it onto a more local background. But back in 1979 that was still the stuff of a picture editor’s dreams.

I decided to take drastic action. With a photographer, I popped in to the Sandwell Council sign writing depot somewhere down Great Bridge way.

I explained our predicament. Did they have, I enquired, a spare West Bromwich sign that I might borrow for a few hours? The man on the desk disappeared into a back room.

He emerged brandishing a huge metal West Bromwich sign which he said was surplus to requirements. He’d be happy for us to have it.

We bundled it into the back of my Marina estate, then drove up to the leafy training ground where I collared Britt for an interview and asked if she’d pose for pictures. 


And, by the way, would she mind holding a giant metal sign while she was at it?

Ever the professional, Britt did the deed and the next day’s Mail carried a front page picture under the headline ‘Britt visits Sandwell for kicks’ or some such. She autographed the sign for us too.


Fake news? No, not really. A chat with a A-lister who chose the West Midlands as the place to promote her record - just displaced by five miles or so.


So yes,  I'd made the earth move for Britt, for those five miles at least...


Friday, 8 January 2021

Treasures From The Attic No 4: The day I babysat for Meatloaf





August 20, 1983.

Birmingham Mail photographer Alan Tromans and I had backstage access at that year's Monsters of Rock Festival at Castle Donnington, and mopped up several interviews.

We were chatting with Meatloaf and his wife Leslie, also a backing singer in the band, outside their trailer just before they were due to go onstage.

We had earlier got the mighty Meat to square up to Twister Sister frontman Dee Snider for a fun photo, and we got on well.

As the couple got ready for their set, Alan and I looked after the children as they played and drew pictures of their rock star daddy.

Alan snapped this rare picture of the family that Meatloaf liked so much he later included it in his autobiography!