52 guitarists, week 8—Tony Iommi

The first song I ever learned to play on guitar was Paranoid by Black Sabbath. To this day it’s still one of my favourite songs to play on the guitar and it remains one of the only songs I attempt to play lead guitar on.

Lead guitar is not my thing.

Having said that, this song that is almost as old as me, is as cool today as it was when I first heard it. Heck … It’s as cool today as the day it was recorded almost 46 years ago. Why? Simple … Tony Iommi.

The man is the God of Riffs. Pure and simple. As a rhythm guitarist, Tony Iommi started the guitar style that has continued to rule my world of guitars up until this day. He will continue to do so until the end of days I suspect.

If I was really lazy, I’d simply make this post a list of amazing riffs Tony Iommi has created. If I did that, the word count would still hit the 500 word count I’d say. As the guitar riff driver for Black Sabbath—that had many band members come and go—Tony Iommi managed to create riffs that not only suited the band at any given time, but that worked with vocalists with a varied style of singing and performing.

As I mentioned earlier though, for me that began with Paranoid. I know it’s not how the band Black Sabbath began, but honestly … the song is just amazing. Watching an audience in 2012 go nuts when the song is played live over 40 years after its creation is testament to the epicness of this song.

Here’s a related and true story … As I prepare these weekly blog posts, I of course watch and listen to the videos I embed here. While watching Paranoid, I found I was tapping my fingers quite loudly on my chair to the beat of the music. I know this because my wife yelled at me to stop. I did not. One does not stop recognising the riffs of Tony Iommi!

Tony Iommi is not just the creator of countless epic riffs though. As the guitar force that is Black Sabbath, he has also produced some seriously impressive lead guitar work. But in my opinion Tony Iommi has never really thrown out guitar solos that are a form of guitar wankery. No, his style has been masterful and a true testament to his song writing ability. For example, admire the brilliance that is War Pigs.

As you can see and hear, it’s not about speed. It’s about what is right for the song. Tony Iommi put more amazing riffs in some songs than most people will create in their entire lifetime. War Pigs is a great example of that. Most Black Sabbath songs are though.

For example, the following songs are all songs I imagine most guitarists wish they wrote. Black Sabbath, Paranoid, War Pigs, Iron Man, Sweet Leaf, Children of the Grave and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Those are all songs that featured Ozzy Osbourne on vocals. But Tony Iommi performed and wrote with other vocalists in Black Sabbath. Most notably with Ronnie James Dio and Ian Gillan. Personally, I loved the Ronnie James Dio eras—there were more than one—as much as the initial Ozzy era. The Ronnie James Dio eras gave us tracks such as Neon Knights, Children of the Sea, Heaven and Hell and TV Crimes. Yes, Tony Iommi was still pulling out awesome Black Sabbath riffs in 1992 with the Dehumanizer album.

Nobody. Riffs. Better.

It’s easy to look at the Black Sabbath catalogue and see everything Tony Iommi has done. But it’s not just Black Sabbath that we should be grateful for. I happen to also like the 2000 solo album Tony Iommi released titled Iommi. There were many collaborations worthy of mention, but I have one clear favourite. There is one track on that album that perfectly sumarrises everything I love about Tony Iommi’s contribution to guitar. That song is called Black Oblivion and it features Billy Corgan on vocals.

This song has some brutal guitar riffage on it as well as some seriously impressive lead guitar work. Most importantly, this song builds and builds and builds. It’s an eight minute masterpiece. It’s the perfect example of why Tony Iommi is the complete package. Plus … \m/

Look it up. It’s awesome.

This is not a top guitarists list and there is no significance in the order the guitarists are placed in the list. This is simply a collection of guitarists that have been influential to me.

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