Tony Iommi trades guitars with Brian May and faces the struggle of all left-handers, as he wields the Red Special upside down

Brian May (left) and Tony Iommi swap guitars
(Image credit: Brian May / Instagram)

Brian May has shared footage and images of an afternoon he spent with Black Sabbath icon Tony Iommi and – as is the law among friendly guitarists in any spontaneous six-string scenario – it seems the two players swapped guitars in the process.

Iommi is one of rock’s famous lefties and therefore is forced to play Brian May’s iconic electric guitar, the Red Special, upside down. 

May, meanwhile, appears to reciprocate the gesture with the Iron Man’s JayDee Custom SG-style build, denoted by its famed crucifix inlays.

Iommi also has on hand a red SG-style build, which appears to be the St Moritz replica of his famous left-handed 1965 Cherry ‘Monkey’ Gibson SG Special, so called for its monkey sticker. 

The original was used all over ’Sabbath’s early-’70s records – including Paranoid, Master Of Reality and Vol. 4. – and now resides on the wall of the New York City Hard Rock Cafe.

“Joy!” says May, writing about the meet-up on Instagram. “A rare and special afternoon with my dear pal Tony Iommi making a documentary on…. riffs! Rock on, folks."

Somewhat excruciatingly, there is no audio for the short clip that May has shared and no further information on the riffs documentary he alludes to, but suffice to say, our appetite is well and truly whetted. 

The two guitarists are firm friends and have previously spoken about their admiration for each other. Iommi has described May as one of his "rock gods." In May’s 2020 interview with Total Guitar, meanwhile, the latter repaid the favor.

“He is really my dearest friend in the business,” said May. “He’s a luminous human being is Tony, with a wonderful, kind nature and an incredibly baffling sense of humor. 

“And, of course, he is the father of heavy metal. He did that. He made that happen. And it’s from his fingers and his mind... he forever wears that medal, I think.”

The two guitarists have previously recorded together, too, and rumors have long circulated of unreleased collaborative recordings. 

Perhaps there might be more time for that after the release of Iommi’s in-the-works solo album...

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar,, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.