Vinny Appice recalled the challenging moment in 1980 when he joined Black Sabbath with four days to learn their set.
He’d replaced original drummer Bill Ward, who’d quit suddenly during a tour. It put the new drummer in a difficult position – and some of the band members weren’t as much help as they could have been.
“I had to listen to those songs a lot,” Appice told Vinyl Writer Music. “I tried to play like Bill in some spots, but in other areas, I just played like me, because that’s what I felt.
“Bill has a very unique style and approach to the songs. Luckily, I listened to him when I was young, as he was one of my heroes. But it was hard, and we didn’t have a lot of time for me to sit there, and try to get the parts down exactly right for every song.
“It was too much to ask when I had to learn like 15 songs in four days. And the first day of rehearsal was very short because they were so happy that they found a drummer, so everybody went to the pub to have some drinks!”
He was left in the studio with keyboardist Geoff Nicholls to guide him, and eventually came up with the idea of mimicking Ward’s parts in the most recognisable sections of songs, while doing his own thing elsewhere.
“I had cheat sheets too,” he added. “I wrote out these cheat sheets for each song and I had a book with them all in it, and I managed to pull it off.”
Appice had to concentrate on supporting guitarist Tony Iommi’s performance. “With those Sabbath songs, a lot of them are slow – they’re right in the pocket, and then they slow down sometimes,” the drummer said.
“I was aware of that, and I honed it by keeping my ears open. That’s one great piece of advice I can give: always keep your ears open. When you’re playing with a new band or a new musician, check out what they’re doing, check out how you can fit in.
“So that’s what I did. And then we became a real band from being on the road together.”
Appice can be found online on Tuesdays offering drum chat and lessons, then doing a similar show on Thursdays with brother Carmine.