TONY IOMMI Names The BLACK SABBATH Riffs He Immediately Knew Were Exceptional

In a recent interview on Loudwire Nights, Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi reflected on the riffs that he instinctively knew were exceptional from the moment he created them. “Well, without sounding big-headed, there were a few,” he admitted, chuckling. 

Iommi recounted the experience of writing the “Black Sabbath” riff, describing it as instantly special due to its unique vibe and feeling, which set it apart from anything heard at the time: “When we’d first done the ‘Black Sabbath’ riff, straight away I knew — it just had this vibe and a feeling and it was something so different in them days that you’d never heard that sort of thing before. And I don’t know how it all happened. It’d just sort of come out. And that was the benchmark for that album. Once we’d done ‘Wicked World’ and ‘Black Sabbath’, then the rest of them flowed along.”

Iommi also mentioned other riffs that held significant meaning for him. “Into The Void” stood out, partly because it was a favorite of Eddie Van Halen, who frequently requested it: “The same with ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’. And also ‘Into The Void’. That was a riff that I really liked, and that was Eddie Van Halen‘s favorite, to be honest, ‘Into The Void’. He’d always say, ‘Oh, play ‘Into The Void’.’ So it was great to hear that. So there’s a few that sort of — for me, ‘Iron Man’. Oh, there’s a lot that really meant something. Well, they’ve all meant something, but they’re the ones that sort of stood out initially.”

Interviewer Chuck Armstrong highlighted the significance of the first three notes of “Black Sabbath,” known as “The Devil’s interval.” Iommi agreed, noting that this distinctive sound sparked a great deal of attention, particularly from religious groups and Satanists in the early days.

“It opened a complete can of worms for us, of course. You name it, they’d come to the show and, oh, dear. We got so much from the church and Satanists and God knows what else in the early days.”

When asked about any regrets concerning the religious implications of their music, Iommi stated that it drew considerable attention, which he viewed positively. He didn’t initially associate the music with religious connotations but was drawn to the sound, which naturally led to Ozzy Osbourne’s melody and Geezer Butler‘s lyrics, culminating in a sound that felt right for the band.

“It certainly brought everybody’s attention to it. So I think it was great. We did that. It was something very different. I didn’t even realize — I didn’t even think of it as anything like that. It just appealed to me when I played it. And that’s all. And we liked it. And then Ozzy came up with this melody line, and Geezer wrote the lyrics for it, so everything just fitted in and it just sounded right. And that was our launch, really. 

Reflecting on the era before MTV and the Internet, Iommi remarked on the importance of live performances and word of mouth for building their reputation. He speculated on how different things might have been with modern technology but acknowledged that in their time, physically performing and gaining recognition through live shows was crucial.

“Of course, in them days, there was no MTV and all that sort of stuff, and no Internet. It was word of mouth, so you really did have to go and play at these places and build up a reputation — either a good reputation or a bad one, whichever way it went — but you had to physically… If it had been Internet in them days, who knows what would have happened? Or MTV.”

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