Why Tony Iommi Let Black Sabbath Choose Which Riffs to Use
The guitarist also explained why he related more to “Iron Man” than to “Paranoid,” even though the latter song made their name.
In a recent interview with Songfacts, Iommi said the leading bending-note riff for “Iron Man” was inspired by drummer Bill Ward. “Bill started playing this boom, boom, boom," he recalled. "He started doing it, and I just … came up with this thing and thought, ‘That's cool.’ Bill kept playing it, and I just went to this riff. ... I just saw this thing in my mind of someone creeping up on you. … I could hear it as a monster, so I came up with that riff there and then.”
He noted that most of his riffs were invented “on the spot” in a similar manner. “That's how we always went about the Sabbath stuff – I always played something and the others would have to go, ‘Oh, I like that,’” he said. “If nobody said anything about it, we'd just carry on and do something else. It always had to be somebody going, ‘Oh, I really like that,’ because I can keep playing riffs.
“You don't always know yourself, because you think, Is that a good one?" he continued. "I like it, but does everybody like it? And then when they say, ‘Yeah, I like that,’ then you know that’s it. All these songs came about that same way.”
Asked about his favorite early-era Sabbath songs, Iommi replied: “I always relate to ‘Black Sabbath.’ And ‘Iron Man.’ A lot of people say ‘Paranoid,’ but the song was written as a filler for the album – it was never intended on being anything else. … It became a single because it was a short song, and because it became what it did, most people knew us because of ‘Paranoid’ in them days.”