Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi remembers writing Paranoid riff: “The producer said, ‘Can you put another song together?’ I went, ‘Well, no.’”

Tony Iommi sat and holding a microphone in 2023
(Image credit: Ollie Millington/Getty Images)

Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi has reflected on writing the riff to Paranoid in a new interview.

The title track of the Birmingham metal band’s second album has become their most listened-to song, boasting more than 920 million Spotify streams. However – as Iommi, 75, has told BBC Radio 4 – it was written out of necessity, due to the album not being long enough.

“We were in the studio doing the Paranoid album,” Iommi remembered (transcribed by Blabbermouth).

“The other guys went out for something to eat, and I sat in the studio, and [the album’s producer, Rodger Bain] said, ‘We need another song. We haven’t got enough songs on the album. Can you put one together?’ I went, ‘Well, no.’

“We were only in there for a couple of days, you see,” the guitarist continued. “And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. I’ve never written a three-minute song.’ Sabbath’s always [written songs that were] five minutes or six minutes [long]. So I came up with this idea and waited till the others came back from the pub. And then I played them the idea. And, basically, we’d done it there and then.”

Iommi co-founded Black Sabbath with singer Ozzy Osbourne, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward in 1968. The band’s self-titled debut album was released on February 13, 1970, and, although lambasted by contemporary critics, reached number eight in the UK album charts and is nowadays considered the first heavy metal album.

Paranoid, released seven months after the debut, was Black Sabbath’s first number one album, and spawned the hits Paranoid and Iron Man. The band didn’t release another UK number one album until their swan song, 13, in 2013.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet recently performed Black Sabbath – The Ballet to commemorate the iconic heavy metal band, with Iommi appearing onstage. Metal Hammer’s Rich Hobson attended a show and gave it a four-star review.

Hobson wrote: “A resounding success in melding worlds together, Black Sabbath – The Ballet is a stunning spectacle well worth watching for fans of metal and ballet alike. And who knows – by its end maybe those camps aren’t so disparate as they might have first seemed.”

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.