Whose Strings Are You Wearing
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Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath is frequently referred to as the inventor of heavy metal, but that's not all. We've rounded up some fun facts:
- He grew a mustache because of spiders and fireworks.
He lost his fingertips on his last day of work.
Most know that Iommi lost the tips of two fretting fingers in an industrial accident. But it was actually in the final hours of his final day working. The young Tony was a welder, joining together components that a fellow woman worker bent into shape. But the woman wasn’t in work that day, so Iommi had to take over the pressing machine. He’d never done it before, and this was last afternoon at the factory. He didn’t even want to return after lunch, but his mother insisted. An afternoon accident then ripped the tips off his middle and ring finger: “The bones were sticking out of them. There was blood everywhere. I was so much in shock it didn’t even hurt at first.”
Iommi “Invented” Ultra-Light Gauge Strings.
After Iommi lost his fingertips he had to apply thimbles to extend his two damaged fingers. Originally, he self-made the thimbles with the plastic bottle caps of Fairy dishwashing liquid (think Dawn, in the U.S.) His thimbles are now leather. But regular strings were still too painful too play. He bought banjo strings and used the lightest for B and high E. “This way, I managed to get rid of the low E string, using an A string instead.” Iommi tried to persuade string manufacturers to make such a “complete” set but most told him, “Nobody’s ever going to buy them.” He wasn’t successful until the U.K’s Picato company agreed in 1970.
Iommi blew up Richard Branson’s fish!
Ozzy Osbourne is always known as Black Sabbath’s crazy one. But Iommi has had his moments. With new vocalist Ian Gillan, Sabbath recorded 1983’s Born Again album at The Manor Studios in Oxfordshire, owned by record-mogul Richard Branson. For reasons only known to the ex-Deep Purple singer, Gillan wanted to stay in a marquee outside the residential studios. Seeking fun, Iommi and the rest of Sabbath got together spare pyrotechnics from their band’s last tour and put them around the singer’s canvas abode. On detonation, they successfully destroyed Gillan’s garden hideout, but his tent was pitched near Branson’s private lake – Iommi’s firebomb stunt also killed / maimed many of Branson’s prize carp. “He was not happy at all,” Iommi remembers, with typical dryness.
Iommi Has Recorded With Over 20 Singers.
In Jethro Tull, it was Ian Anderson. In Black Sabbath, it’s been Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, Ian Gillan, Ray Gillen, Glenn Hughes and Tony Martin. On his 2000 “solo” album Iommi, he wrote and recorded with Henry Rollins, Skunk Anansie’s Skin, Dave Grohl, Pantera’s Phil Anselmo, System Of A Down’s Serj Tankian, Billy Corgan, The Cult’s Ian Astbury, Type O Negative’s Peter Steele, Billy Idol and Ozzy. For Rock Aid Armenia’s version of “Smoke on the Water,” Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson and Free’s Paul Rodgers sang. You can add quite a few others, such as Cathedral’s Lee Dorian – Iommi guested on their 1995 album The Carnival Bizarre. Iommi still reportedly still has unreleased Iommi tracks with Corgan, Idol and Anselmo. Weirdest singer? Iommi once auditioned Michael Bolton to front Black Sabbath, after Dio had finally left.
The bracelets and pendants from strings donated by Tony Iommi raise money and awareness for Nordoff Robbins Foundation. Nordoff Robbins is a national music therapy charity dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable children and adults across the UK. They use music therapy and other music services to help a range of people with a range of challenges such as autism, dementia, mental health problems, stroke, brain injury, depression and life-threatening or terminal illnesses, such as cancer. All of the people they help have one uniting factor - music dramatically improves their quality of life.