We delve this week into the sound of one of the key guitarists in the history of our favourite instrument, a guy who led the way for an entire generation and laid the foundations to what would be the new way to play hard rock in the 70s; an artist who became a vending machine of riffs, each more ingenious than the other, which were played not through his amps but live in the deepest of our minds. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time we speak about Tony Iommi.
Perhaps the first relevant performance that we can see Tony Iommi in isn’t exactly with the band that would make him a legend but rather by playing a white Fender Stratocaster pre-CBS with Jethro Tull at the legendary Rock and Roll Circus of the Rolling Stones.
But we all know that it wasn’t his band nor this guitar with which he would make history. It was in 1970 when the whole world would was dazzled by the first riffs he delivered to the planet Earth on a record named exactly the same as his band: Black Sabbath. And the guitar we hear the most on this album was his mythic Gibson SG ‘Monkey’ Special, an SG he would start modifying to his liking the minute he got it, and especially after his recent injury to his right hand (we remind the readers that Iommi was left-handed, and cut off 2 of the fingers on his right hand in a working accident that was about to end his career but it managed to convert him, on a level of recovery comparable to Django Reinhardt, a guitarist with a technique and original styles due to his handicap in playing).
Soon after he would start to get guitars from two associates in his early days. At first he would use the SG Custom that John Birch made him, now that he was in charge of the modifications of his SG Special and later on would stay as his main guitar for the rest of the 70s, the Jaydee SG by John Diggens, who worked in Birch’s shop, built it in his spare time just before becoming Iommi’s personal technician on tours of what was then one of the most acclaimed bands in the world.
Of course these wouldn’t be his only guitars throughout the years, but they were the main ones. In the 80s and 90s we can see him with a SG with a floating bridge and we cannot fail to mention his pointed guitars, from the brand B.C. Rich, using the Ironbird Pro model mostly, although we can also see him playing a Mockingbird.
In the late 90s Gibson would finally make him a model of the SG customized with crosses in the inlays on the fretboard and an added 24th fret.
Regarding his acoustic guitars, which are also present in his discography, his main guitar, or at least the one he always mentioned as one of his first acquisitions and has always been with him, is a Gibson J-45, although over the past few years we see him with various Taylor models.
Another feature of his sound is the use of Laney amps on the first records by the band, and therefore the ones that marked his sound forever. Models such as the LA 100 BL, on his first 2 records, and the Laney Supergroup, his main amp until the 80s, are fundamental pieces to his sweeping sound.
From just one song by Black Sabbath you can take 3 or 4 riffs that could be the best riff by many of today’s rock bands. Mr. Tony Iommi, and the gear we told you about in this article, put those riffs on the table, and that is why we praise him here.
To wrap up, we don’t want to miss the opportunity to give thanks to the boss he had at the factory where he had his accident nearly cost him his whole hand. That man told Iommi about a gypsy called Django Reinhardt who had just 3 working fingers on his left hand and it didn’t stop him from becoming the undisputed best guitarist of his time.
He did not quit, he decided to accept the challenge life had given him and ended up changing many of our lives.