Tony Iommi Recalls What Black Sabbath Was Really Like Before Ozzy Left, Talks Major Creative Changes When Dio Joined

During a recent interview with Kerrang, Black Sabbath mastermind and guitar player Tony Iommi looked back on the time when the band parted ways with Ozzy Osbourne and brought in Ronnie James Dio. Two new albums, “Heaven and Hell” and “Mob Rules,” saw the band going into new territories, even following the changes in hard rock and metal music that were happening in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. When asked about the Ozzy-to-Ronnie shift and how they had to change the approach to writing, Iommi replied:

“Well, I mean, the whole thing was different for us. Because obviously, when Ronnie got involved, the writing became different because of the different sort of way he’s approached.

“And it was a really exciting period for us, because it was a nine-year challenge because we were doing something new for us, a different thing. It sort of boosted us up. It was a bit of a challenge, but we enjoyed it.”

Black Sabbath - Die Young (Official Music Video)

The very end of the 1970s was very turbulent for Black Sabbath and Iommi wasn’t sure whether the band will continue at all. Nonetheless, they managed to keep three original members and bring in Ronnie on vocals.

Of course, Ronnie was completely different compared to Ozzy, so an obvious question here was whether they were already looking for someone specific or whether they were stuck not knowing what to do. Iommi offered:

“To be honest, the way things were in the band at that point was fairly dismal, you know. Things weren’t happening, and Ozzy really wasn’t into it anymore. He was going through a lot of stuff at the time. And we had to either break up or replace him, which we didn’t want to do. But it got to that.

Children of the Sea

“I met Ronnie a party probably a few weeks before that, and it was Sharon [Osbourne, then Arden], who introduced me to Ronnie. I actually talked to him about doing a side-project ourselves, something a bit different with the both of us. And he was into that. And then when Ozzy went, the first person I got in touch with was Ronnie. I said to the other guys, ‘Why don’t we try Ronnie, and see what you think?’

“This was when we lived in LA, so we got him over to the rehearsal room in the house. We had this one riff idea that we’d come up with, which was ‘Children Of The Sea,‘ and Ronnie started singing something, and I just thought, ‘That’s great!’ It was just such a different approach.”


At the moment, Tony is promoting “Heaven and Hell” and “Mob Rules” reissues which are out now through BMG. These albums were released in 1980 and 1981 respectively, with the latter featuring Vinny Appice on drums instead of Bill Ward. Although it wasn’t the original lineup and although it was in a completely different style compared to the original Sabbath, “Heaven and Hell” holds a cult status in the world of metal music. Both records were also produced by Martin Birch who later became famous for his work with Iron Maiden.

Photos: Carl Lender (Tony Iommi at the New Haven Coliseum), Ted Van Pelt (Ozzy Osbourne 1982), Photobra|Adam Bielawski (Ronnie-James-Dio Heaven-N-Hell 2009-06-11 Chicago Photo by Adam-Bielawski)

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, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.

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