'Here Lies Geezer Butler': How a falling out between ex-Black Sabbath bandmates Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler turned bitter, nasty and personal in the '90s

Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi
(Image credit: Ollie Millington/Getty Images)

Black Sabbath have been responsible for some of the greatest songs, albums, and defining moments in metal history, but it's well known that their career wasn't all peace, love and harmony: in terms of drama, the back-stabbing, shit-talking and self-serving power-plays within the group at various points could make the average Succession script resemble an episode of Peppa Pig.

Some of these tumultuous ups and downs are documented in Geezer Butler's recently-published, and highly-entertaining biography, Into The Void, including one fall-out between himself and Tony Iommi in the 1990s which got decidedly unpleasant, bitter and personal. 

This particular bust-up occurred after Butler walked away from Sabbath, again, after the band's 1994 album Cross Purposes, an album which failed to break the UK Top 40 (peaking at number 41) and stalled at number 122 on the Billboard 200 album chart. This wasn't the issue for Butler, but the chopping and changing within the band's ranks - the album saw the return of Tony Martin to the line-up following Ronnie James Dio's second departure - was a source of frustration for both the bassist and Sabbath fans: "My loyalty to Sabbath was being tested to its limits," Butler writes in Into The Void, "so I knew exactly how they felt."

Following Butler's latest exit, the bassist began work on a solo album, Plastic Planet, under the g/z/r name. One song on the album, Giving Up The Ghost, dealt with Sabbath, and what Butler describes as "the chaos" around the band.

"It wasn't about Tony," Geezer stresses, but the whole cast of characters from the beginning of Sabbath to the current day - the egos, the rip-offs, the press, the ins and outs of the band." But lyrics such as "You can't admit that you're wrong / The spirit is dead and gone / You don't bother me / You are history / A legend in your own mind" were on the nose, to put it mildly.

"Tony's response," Geezer writes, "was completely out of proportion."

"On Sabbath's Forbidden tour, they had a backdrop of a cemetery," the bassist explains. "One headstone said, 'Here Lies Geezer Butler', the other 'Here Lies Gloria Butler'. I went ballistic when I found out. It was one thing me and Tony falling out, but why did he have to drag my wife into it. That's when I decided to dedicate Giving Up The Ghost to Tony and his 'fake' Sabbath."

Obviously, the two old pals have kissed and made up since then, with Butler, Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne reuniting for the 1997 Ozzfest tour (featuring Mike Bordin on drums), before Bill Ward rejoined for two 'final' Sabbath shows in Birmingham in 1997.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.