Tony Iommi is an undisputed legend. A multi-instrumentalist, guitar god and founding father of heavy metal, it seems as if everything that Iommi touches turns to gold. A complex being with an extensive back catalogue, his colourful life is laid out in his 2011 autobiography, Iron Man, which chronicles his life in the most balanced and objective of ways.
Iommi didn’t always have the Midas touch though. The most well-known anecdote of his life is the accident he suffered whilst working in a sheet metal factory, one which cost him the tips of his fingers on his right hand. This led the ingenious Iommi to create thimbles for the tips of his fingers that allowed him to carry on playing the guitar.
However, as a young man, Iommi had another accident that could have been the end of him – and Black Sabbath – before it had even started. The implications of this are massive. At points over his career, Iommi has spoken about the car accident he had as a teenager where he was “saved” by “angels”.
This admission of coming into contact with the helpers of God shouldn’t come as a surprise either, as Iommi has spoken at length about his faith in God, and “whatever” that may be. In a 2019 interview with Classic Rock, he recalled being saved by angels: “Three of them saved my life when I was in my late teens. I’d just passed my driving test and was in my sports car driving on a dual carriageway. I had just overtaken another car when two tyres blew out”.
Iommi explained with his native Brummy panache: “So I went off the road, the MG flipped over and I hit a tree. I passed out, and when I awoke I smelled petrol, but I managed to get out. As I did so, I saw those angels. To this day, I really believe they were there; I wasn’t stoned. It’s been said that they saved me for a purpose, because I went on to invent heavy metal. And you know what? I quite like that idea”.
In Iron Man, Iommi explained that he was 18 or 19 when bought the MGB sports car and, crucially, how his mother never wanted him to buy it due to his erratic driving. It was on a busy dual carriageway where the accident happened. Iommi went flying into some trees and “saw the wings coming off the car as I was sitting there. As I remember it, it all happened in slow motion. It sounds mad, but I saw three figures come down, one to the left and two to the right, like angels. And I thought, this is it”.
Flustered and in a daze, Iommi was helped by an onlooker as he regained consciousness and managed to get him out of the car. He recalled saying to the man: “‘Don’t tell my parents, don’t tell them!'”.
His cover-up didn’t work. Iommi found himself in hospital with his mother screaming: “‘You barmy bastard, fancy doing that. You should have never bought that car! Bloody hell'”.
Iommi looks back on the accident as a pivotal turning point in his life and that there was a reason for him being saved: “Seeing those three figures, it was so vivid. It made me think, Christ, I’ve been saved here. And saved for a purpose: to do something. Someone once suggested it was to invent heavy metal. What a great purpose. The angels must have said to each other: ‘Oops, that went wrong!'”
He humorously concluded: “It took me a while to get back into a car after that. But I had to drive the band’s transit van. So I didn’t have all that much time to get over it. And I did have sports cars again later. But I don’t look at women now when I overtake them”.
It’s hard to imagine a musical world without Tony Iommi, as he has so tactfully put it, he invented heavy metal. Iommi inspired countless guitarists, and without him, the world of music would look very different. The more karma-tuned people will claim ‘everything happens for a reason’, whether it be angels, people or otherwise who saved him.