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Tony Iommi explains why Geezer Butler didn’t join him and Ozzy at Commonwealth Games closing ceremony

Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler
(Image credit: Brill/ullstein bild via Getty Image)

Tony Iommi has revealed why he and Ozzy Osbourne were not joined by their Black Sabbath colleague Geezer Butler for the pair’s performance at the closing ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Iommi and Osbourne performed a storming rendition of Paranoid, with Adam Wakeman, son of Rick Wakeman of Yes, playing bass guitar, and Tommy Clufetos on drums. Clufetos played on Black Sabbath’s The End Tour following original drummer Bill Ward’s contractual disputes.

Speaking to Birmingham Live (opens in new tab), Iommi admitted that it was the plan along along to have Butler play with the band, but the Black Sabbath bassist and chief lyricist – he, indeed, wrote the lyrics to Paranoid – had a couple of mishaps, with Covid and a boating accident ultimately ruling him out.

“I don’t think he wanted to come over as he hadn’t been well with Covid,” Iommi said. “He’d been on holiday to Kenya and to Italy and had had an accident on a boat, cracking or breaking a rib about three weeks ago, so he was not quite in fine fettle to come over to play. It’s a shame because we’d talked for a long time about the possibility of playing at the Commonwealth Games.”

If Butler being ruled out of action was a disappointment, Iommi was pleasantly surprised that Osbourne was declared fit for the show. Osbourne, too, recently had Covid, and was recovering from major surgery that his wife, Sharon, had described as “life-altering”.

“I never thought that Ozzy would be able to come and perform at the Commonwealth Games because of his operation,” Iommi said. “And then when he said he was coming over we were asked to keep it all a secret so that nobody would know."

Speaking to Talk TV, Sharon explained how Ozzy’s appearance was long mooted but ultimately arranged at the last minute. 

“They asked us six months ago and Ozzy coudn’t have possibly done it after his last operation,” she said. “The saw Ozzy was at Comic-Con and said, ‘All right, come on! Get him over!’ And we were like, ‘All right.’ And literally it was six days from their phone call to getting him there. And it was just incredible.” 

That didn’t leave much time for preparation. According to Birmingham Live, the pair arrived at the newly-redeveloped Alexander Stadium on the afternoon of the ceremony, and only got the chance to run through the track once before the show.

But with Paranoid ever-present on the Sabbath set-list since it was written in 1970, up until closing the band’s final ever show together on February 4 2017, it was not likely that they would forget how it went. 

Ozzy Osbourne recently shared Degradation Rules, the latest single from his forthcoming solo album, Patient Number 9, and a track which sees the Prince of Darkness welcome Iommi into the studio. 

Patient Number 9 is out September 9 and will feature an all-star cast of guitar players, with Iommi joined by the likes of Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and longtime Ozzy collaborator Zakk Wylde. 

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Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.