Tony Iommi said he still didn’t know how Black Sabbath managed to escape from a “vicious” street fight that took place three days before the band started the recording sessions for their second album Paranoid.

The record that secured their success may never have been made if the battle in Weston-super-Mare, in southwest England, had turned out differently in June 1970. In a recent interview with Kerrang!, Iommi recalled that the band had just finished a show, but there was a dispute over their fee. When bassist Geezer Butler went outside to call their manager from a payphone, he found himself surrounded by skinheads who shouted, “Get the hippie!”

“Geezer’s normally Mr. Peaceful and not one to go looking for trouble,” the guitarist said. “He got out of the phone box and came running back in to tell us what was going on. It felt as if a member of our gang had been threatened, so we all headed out front to sort it out. That’s when Ozzy [Osbourne] grabbed the hammer but, to be fair, they had all sorts of weapons, too. They were yobs, and they were ready for a proper fight.”

Iommi said Osbourne swung the hammer effectively. “There was quite a lot of blood,” he remembered. “It was a pretty vicious fight. At first, there were about half a dozen of them, but all of a sudden a load more emerged from somewhere. We just thought, ‘Oh, God, we’ve had it!’ I’m not quite sure how we managed it, to be honest, but we just about got out of there in one piece.”

The Black Sabbath members jumped into their van and drove 120 miles back to Birmingham, where Iommi still lived with his parents. “I remember getting home and my mum shouting up the stairs saying, ‘How did it all go?’” he said. “I replied, ‘Oh, yeah, really good, thanks!’ as I was looking at myself in the mirror with a black eye and blood everywhere.”

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