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The curious connection between John Lennon and Black Sabbath


It has to be said that John Lennon and Black Sabbath aren’t the most obviously comparable artists in the world. Still, the pair of musical innovators do have one important thing in common: they both recorded music at Tittenhurst Park, the Grade II listed early Georgian country house where Lennon made the video for ‘Imagine’ and where Sabbath recorded ‘Mob Rules’

During a conversation with Spin, Tommy Iommi opened up about recording in John and Yoko’s dream house. Describing how ‘E 5150’ was put together, the guitarist said: “Yeah, that was just basically a bass intro; Geez [Geezer Butler] was responsible for that. I just put a bit of a guitar on it. It was for the Heavy Metal movie. They wanted this effect thing, where all these monsters were walking, were changing. They wanted some music to go with that. That’s why that was recorded.”

Iommi continued: “We recorded that actually at John Lennon’s house. In his studio, it was 5150. We put that together there. We went there to record [the song] ‘Mob Rules’ and to use the studio and use Lennon’s engineer, too. To put the soundtrack down for the movie… So we’d done ‘The Mob Rules’ in there, but then they wanted this intro.”

By the time Iommi and company arrived, Lennon had been dead a while. Although apparently, the house was exactly the same – as though Lennon had only just left. “I don’t if you have ever seen the ‘Imagine’ video where you’ve got the white piano. That’s actually where we wrote ‘The Mob Rules,’ in that room. We set the gear up and it was all Lennon’s gear as well; we didn’t have any of our equipment. I used a Vox AC 30, which was there and Geezer used a bass amp which was there.”

Iommi added: “We actually had two versions, ‘The Mob Rules’ version for the movie, and then when we did the album, Martin Birch, who produced it, wanted to have it all more in sequence, so we needed to record it all again. We were like ‘oh, no,’ because we liked the original version. It sort of has the energy, you know, we have a different vibe there. But we had to do it again. But we did put the other version out as well.”

When Black Sabbath arrived in Tittenhurst Park, it was the property of Ringo Starr, to whom Lennon had sold it in 1973 after deciding to live long-term in the United States. Starr kept Lennon’s original studio but renamed it Startling Studios. Judas Preist arrived at Tittenhurst with the intention of recording British Steel in Starr’s studio but found the house to be more suitable and decided to record the album there. Around the same time, T.Rex recorded parts of their Born To Boogie film at Tittenhurst. Today, it’s the property of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan – President of the United Arab Emirates and former ruler of Abu Dhabi, who purchased Tittenhurst Park from Ringo Starr for £5 million in 1988.