Geezer Butler Recalls Tony Iommi’s ’Glorious Moment’ as a Guitarist and Praises His ’Uncanny Ability to Conjure a Monster Riff’

Legendary Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler praised Tony Iommi’s “uncanny ability” to come up with some of the best riffs of all time. Iommi, who remained the only constant original member throughout all of Sabbath’s periods, received praise from his bandmate in a newly published excerpt of the autobiographical book “Into the Void: From Birth to Black Sabbath – and Beyond.”

The brief portion of Geezer’s new book, shared by Planet Rock, goes back to a very sensitive time for Black Sabbath. But although the band felt like they were drained, with four successful albums behind them, Tony Iommi unleashed a riff never before heard. Geezer wrote:

“I remember Tony walking into the studio and saying, ‘Well, I’ve got one thing’ before launching into the riff for ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.'”

Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath Remastered

“It was a glorious moment. Relief washed over me because that riff — one of the best I’ve ever heard — meant we had a present and a future. We weren’t done yet. Sabbath would live!”

For this occasion, the band was situated in Clearwell Castle, located in Gloucestershire, England, where they were preparing what would become the 1973 album “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.” The title track’s main riff that Geezer mentioned is often considered to be that one riff that saved the band.

Going more into Tony’s work, Geezer also praised his playing and writing skills, even calling him an underrated guitar player:

“While I’m on the subject of Tony’s uncanny ability to conjure a monster riff, I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves as a guitarist.”

Lord of this World (2009 - Remaster)

He then looked back on one of those odd guitar player lists:

“I recently saw one of those Best Rock Guitarists of All Time lists, and Tony was down in the 30s. Meanwhile, Eddie Van Halen wasn’t in the top 10 and Keith Richards was at number two.”

“Whoever wrote that list needs their head testing! Anyway, there’s no such thing as the best guitarist or the best drummer or the best anything. It all depends on the genre and it’s totally subjective.”

Tony Iommi - Miranha

After Tony, Geezer is the second longest-running member of Black Sabbath if we look at all of the band’s eras. According to the bassist, he had the opportunity to be next to one of the greatest guitarists in modern music:

“I know how great Tony is because I had a ringside seat for almost 50 years, we’d be jamming away and he’d be coming up with riffs left, right, and centre. And I defy anyone to name three better rock riffs than ‘Iron Man,’ ‘Supernaut,’ and ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.'”

However, after “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” things started getting more complicated for the band. As Butler recalled in a recent interview, the band got into legal battles and was handed legal writs even during studio sessions for “Sabotage,” their 1975 album.

Hole in the Sky (2009 - Remaster)

After that, they just felt drained. In addition, there were all these other bands that were blowing up and doing some completely new things. He said:

“I think we were running out of ideas. I think what caused it was when we found out we were being ripped off so badly. We’ve done all these massive tours, sold millions and millions of albums, and we had nothing in the bank to show, for it was all gone.”

“The lowest point came when the taxman sent us a bill for all this money that we’ve never seen, then we had to put everything into paying back taxes for money that we’ve never seen. So I think it just wore the band down. And trying to get away from the management we had to go through…”

The Writ (2021 Remaster)

Going back to “Sabotage,” he said:

“When we were doing the ‘Sabotage’ the album, which is why we call it sabotage, because lawyers coming into the studio every day, and we’ve been subpoenaed for this, and subpoenaed for that, and sued for this, and sued for that. It’s just destroyed us, and I think the music started to suffer.”

And, as time went on, things started shifting and not in their favor. For instance, Geezer gave Van Halen as an example of how their label began promoting other bands:

“And a lot of the bands that were supporting us were a lot more melodic, like Boston, known for like selling loads of albums. Warner Brothers sort of lost interest in us, they were promoting Van Halen.”

Back Street Kids (2021 Remaster)

All of this, of course, affected them so much that they felt confused as to what they were supposed to do:

“We were just sort of confused about what direction to go in. I think when punk came along, it brought back the rawness and the hard-hitting lyrics that we were sort of losing.”

“There was nobody in the band to say ‘Right, this is the direction we’re gonna go in. Let’s do that.’ And it was like we were all confused. Each one of us was like ‘Well, what direction do we go in now?’ That’s what led to the breakup.”

Photos: Stefan Brending (2019 RiP Deadland Ritual – Geezer Butler – by 2eight – 8SC9785), Guy Evans (Tony Iommi HomeofMetal Fox 0659)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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