Friday, November 18, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide: Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell With Black Sabbath by Tony Iommi

When it comes to rocker biographies, the 2011 winner is former Black Sabbath lead guitarist, Tony Iommi’s Iron Man (Da Capo). This is the whole package: Iommi is candid, engaging and celebrated and that’s exactly the right combo for this sort of book.

Though it’s Iommi’s autobiography, this is also the story of Black Sabbath, one of the most celebrated and seminal rock outfits of all time. And on this journey we take with him we discover that our wildest imaginings about sixties and seventies rock n’ roller behavior were only scratching the service. The biggest mystery of Iron Man soon comes to be: how did these guys manage to even live through these adventures, let alone finally get inducted into the rock n’ roll hall of fame.

Early on Iommi tells a story of waking up in a hotel room in Adelaide in 1971 with producer/manager Patrick Meehan and a girl.
Meehan went: “She’s dead.”

Oh, fucking hell, I thought, Christ, she’s dead. She’s dead!

I could see the headlines: “Girl found dead in hotel room with two guys.” I just thought: they’ll think it’s us!

Meehan went: “We got to get rid of her! We got to get rid of her!”

His idea was to throw her off the balcony and say that she had fallen off it. We were really high up. The thought of it now is absolutely frightening, but in my panic I went along with it. We got her to the balcony, we were trying to pick her up and then… she came round.

“Bloody hell, she’s alive!”

She was probably high on drugs, but, we could quite easy have just tossed her off of there and I would have become a twenty-two-year-old murderer.

“But your honor, she was dead already!”

I bet that girl doesn’t even know what happened. I’ll probably be arrested now. She will read this book and come out of the woodwork: “Yes, there he is!”

“It was Meehan! It was Meehan!”
This pace and verve as well as the sense of reckless endangerment of self and anyone who crossed his path at a certain time in his life permeates Iron Man. And somehow, even the worst stories, like that one, are a lark: youthful high-spirited high jinks aided by the sort of luck one never recognizes at the time.

Trashed hotel rooms, dismembered sharks and Ozzy Osbourne mooning everyone all the time (“I’ve seen Ozzy’s are more times than I’ve seen my own!”) Iommi writes with a sort of breathless intensity (and an awful lot of exclamation marks!) and we end up panting on the sidelines, just reading to catch up.

Despite the near-murder described above, Iommi is a likable correspondent and you don’t mind spending time in his presence for the duration of the book. If you only buy one rock biography this season, for so many reasons, it should be this one. ◊

Lincoln Cho is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in the Chicago area, where he works in the high-tech industry. He is currently working on a his first novel, a science-fiction thriller set in the world of telecommunications.

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