Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi misses playing pranks on Bill Ward

Black Sabbath, featuring Bill Ward, in 2006
Ward, second left, with Black Sabbath in 2006 (Image credit: Getty)

Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi says one of the thing he misses about original drummer Bill Ward is the chance to play practical jokes on him.

And he’s recalled the time he painted his colleague gold, and another time he set him on fire.

Ward was originally set to take part in the band’s reunion with Ozzy Osbourne, leading up to their final world tour, but failed to reach a contractual agreement.

Iommi tells the Guardian: “We were staying at John DuPont’s house in Los Angeles, the bloke who owned DuPont paint products. We found all this paint in the garage, and we were all pissed, so we thought it would be fun to pain Bill gold from head to toe.

“He started having convulsions. The ambulance people gave us a right bollocking – ‘You idiots, you could have killed him!’

“They gave him adrenalin and we had to use paint stripper to get it off. He looked like a beetroot by the end.”

In another incident, Ward encouraged Iommi to set him on fire in order to scare producer Martin Birch, who was apprehensive about working with Black Sabbath.

“It was our party piece, which always worked until the last time we did it,” Iommi says.

“Martin heard all these stories about satanism and was a bit nervous. Bill says, in front of Martin, ‘Are you going to set fire to me, then, Tony?’

“I tipped rubbing alcohol over him. Normally it just burned off, but this time it soaked into his clothes, so when I lit it he went up like a bomb.

“He was rolling on the floor, shouting and screaming. I thought it was part of the joke so I poured more stuff on him.”

After another experience with emergency services, Iommi admits: “I felt bloody awful.”

He says of his current relationship with Ward: “I still speak to him, but we tend to email. I can’t paint him gold by email. We had some great fun.”

The guitarist was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, which is one of the reasons Black Sabbath are coming to an end. He reports: “It could come back at any time. Long flights, arriving at a hotel at 4am, affects the blood cells.

“I love playing with the band – it’s sad to think this is the last tour. It particularly hit me in Australia. I thought, ‘This is it. We’re never going back.’ It was very emotional.”

Black Sabbath’s The End tour includes a headline appearance at this year’s Download festival on June 11. They’re the cover stars of the current edition of Classic Rock, on sale now in print, digital and via TeamRock+.

Black Sabbath – the final interview

Black Sabbath The End tour 2016

Jun 08: Berlin Waldebuhne, Germany
Jun 11: Download Festival, UK
Jun 13:Verona Arena, Italy
Jun 15: Zurich Hallenstadion, Switzerland
Jun 17: Dessel Graspop Metal Meeting, Belgium
Jun 19: Hellfest, France
Jun 23: Halden Tons of Rock, Norway
Jun 25: Copenhagen Copenhell, Denmark
Jun 28: Vienna Stadthalle, Austria
Jun 30: Prague 02 Arena, Czech Republic
Jul 02: Krakow Tauron Arena, Poland
Jul 05: Riga Arena, Latvia
Jul 07: Helsinki Monsters of Rock, Finland
Jul 09: Stockholm Monsters of Rock, Sweden
Jul 12: Moscow Olympisky Arena, Russia
Aug 17: Wantagh Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, NY
Aug 19: Philadelphia Susquehanna Bank Center, PA
Aug 21: Washington Jiffy Lube Live, DC
Aug 23: Holmdel PNC Bank Arts Center, NJ
Aug 25: Boston Xfinity Center, MA
Aug 27: Uncasville Mohegan Sun Arena, CT
Aug 29: Toronto Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, ON
Aug 31: Detroit DTE Energy Music Theater, MI
Sep 02: Indianapolis Klipsch Music Center, IN
Sep 04: Chicago Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, IL
Sep 07: Dallas Gexa Energy Pavilion, TX
Sep 09: Albuquerque Isleta Amphitheater, NM
Sep 11: Salt Lake City USANA Amphitheater, UT
Sep 13: Portland Sunlight Supply Arena, OR
Sep 15: Oakland Oracle Arena, CA
Sep 17: Las Vegas MGM Grand Garden Arena, NV
Sep 19: Hollywood Hollywood Bowl, CA
Sep 21: Phoenix AK-Chin Pavilion, AZ

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Not only is one-time online news editor Martin an established rock journalist and drummer, but he’s also penned several books on music history, including SAHB Story: The Tale of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, a band he once managed, and the best-selling Apollo Memories about the history of the legendary and infamous Glasgow Apollo. Martin has written for Classic Rock and Prog and at one time had written more articles for Louder than anyone else (we think he's second now). He’s appeared on TV and when not delving intro all things music, can be found travelling along the UK’s vast canal network.