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

Iommi says the track was written because the album it would go on to give its name to wasn’t long enough.

Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath.

Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. Credit: Dave Benett/Getty

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Black Sabbath‘s Tony Iommi has recalled the circumstances in which he wrote the iconic riff to the band’s hit Paranoid.

The title track from the band’s second album remains one of their most well-known hits and is their most listened-to song on Spotify. However, Iommi has now revealed that it was written to pad out the album because the producer had deemed it to not be long enough.

“We were in the studio doing the Paranoid album,” Iommi tells BBC Radio 4 [via Louder]. “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.’

He continued: ““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.”

In September, Iommi made a surprise appearance on stage at Black Sabbath – The Ballet during its opening show  in his home city of Birmingham, UK. He played guitar during Paranoid, which is the ballet’s final number, and received bows from the rest of the dancers at the end.

“Thanks to everyone who supported us at the Ballet, we had a great premiere last night. I’m honoured to be involved with these talented dancers,” he wrote online after the show. “I’m afraid I won’t be joining every performance.”

The ballet features seven classic Sabbath songs adapted for the stage – ParanoidIron ManWar PigsBlack SabbathSolitudeLaguna Sunrise and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

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