Tony Iommi on Firing Ozzy Osbourne: ‘We Had to Do Something’
Tony Iommi recalled Black Sabbath’s decision to fire original singer Ozzy Osbourne in 1979, saying it was the only way for the band to continue in any form.
The lineup change brought Ronnie James Dio into the fold for a new era and set Osbourne on course for a successful solo career, before a 21st-century reunion was followed by the band's retirement in 2017.
“I think the major problem started from drugs,” Iommi told Raised on Radio in a recent interview. “We'd been about for a while at that point and done a lot of touring. … And off we go to Los Angeles to do another album. And we had a house in L.A. … We were there for 11 months to rehearse in the house. We'd never done anything, basically. We came up with a lot of riffs and stuff, but we'd never actually done much as far as putting songs together.”
He said the band was “falling apart” at that time, noting that the four members spent most of their time in their “own individual rooms” and that he found himself lying to the record label about how much work had been done.
“I can say Ozzy was the first one to have to go, but it was hard,” he said. “We had to do something. … Everything was coming to a head, and we had to say, ‘Well, what are we gonna do? We're either gonna call it a day or break up, or we've gotta try and find another singer.’ We'd already had this problem slightly before. ... And Ozzy left for a short while and came back. But in L.A., it just came to a crunch and it all came to an end.”
You can listen to the interview below.
Iommi argued that "it certainly wouldn't have continued at that point. It was getting worse and worse. We were all so down then. We needed something to really boost us up. And so when we replaced Ozzy with Dio, it really did start us off again. … He would sing to the riffs we’d got. ... It’s a bit disappointing when you come up with all these riffs and nothing is done with them.”
The guitarist recalled that an unexpected bonus was that he discovered a new approach to writing. “Here you are with a singer that you don't know where he's gonna go,” he said. “And it's quite exciting, because you can play something and you can hear him go into a place that you wouldn't ordinarily recognize. … I think ‘Children of the Sea’ was the first one he sang. And we had that riff for a bit, and he just sort of sang it. And it was really good -- the first things he did.”