Part 9. Black Sabbath

When Tony Iommi was a widdle boy he ate rock and roll, slept rock and roll, breathed 100% enriched premium grade rock and roll. There was nothing he wanted more than to strut across a stage thrashing out power chords on his wailing axe; nothing he yearned for greater than to be revered by a baying crowd sent into paroxysm of ecstasy by the sheer awesomeness of his legendary technique.

So it came as something as a disappointment to him when he left school and went to work on the night shift in a West Midlands pudding factory.

Flan pumps

Minding the flan pumps and overseeing the syrup deliveries were about as far away from music as you could get, and so Iommi would often slope off to some deserted part of the factory to practice his fingering technique on a Swiss roll. Often he would just sit behind the cream silos in the fudge packing room and dream of the big time as he watched the night sky pass through midnight phases of blue and purple and jet black.

Here he would hear the hypnotic hooting of barn owls and catch glimpses of their shining eyes through the grubby factory window as their dark silhouettes hopped from tree to tree. But there was always one that sounded different. It seemed bigger, louder and curiously more rock and roll.

A fleeting glimpse

Then finally one night he caught a fleeting glimpse as it swept past the window, dressed in just its underpants and with its hair on fire. Shaped like a man, it moved like an owl and smelt like a tractor, and over successive nights Iommi managed to tempt it closer with handfuls of pilfered chocolate sprinkles.

Over time he struck up a rapport with the shambling, wide-eyed creature, which he nicknamed 'Ozzy'. Abandoned as a child, Ozzy had been raised by a wise old owl called Hooty Mange Feather and now had a fear of the colour blue and was allergic to Smurfs. Like Iommi he also had a complete set of Topps football cards except for Charlie George of Derby County, and so Iommi asked Ozzy to join his new band, Black Sabbath.

Cake lathe

But then tragedy struck one night when Iommi was working on the cake lathe - an unstable ingot of suet exploded and took off the ends of his fingers. The talented guitarist thought that he would never weld a Belgian bun again until, in a moment of sheer genius, he managed to fashion replacement finger tips from some trifle sponges.

He was back in the game. Or at least he was until his kneecaps were crushed a few days later as he was unloading a length of profiterole from a flatbed truck. Ever resourceful, Iommi made himself a pair of jelly knees, and it was perhaps no surprise that an increase in what doctors call 'wobbliness' subsequently caused him to topple over and get dragged into the custard press.

He managed to struggle free, but not without losing a foot, although he was competent enough by now to improvise a replacement with half a chocolate éclair and some liquorice bootlaces.

70% cake

By the end of the month Iommi's run of bad luck meant that he was almost 70% cake and as he was rapidly approaching his sell-by date his employers had no option but to let him go. Fortunately, Iommi's long nights of planning and practicing were about to pay off with the release of Black Sabbath's first album. It was an instant hit with music lovers and ornithologists alike and since that time most of the band have never looked back, with the exception of Ozzy who can rotate his head 270° and so consequently tends to do that kind of thing rather a lot.

None of this is true, by the way.

Ricky Stratocaster would like to thank well-wishers for the fruit and is confident that the rash will clear up in the next few days.

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