Tony Iommi Isn’t Happy Rare Black Sabbath Song “Slapback” Was Released


A week ago today, a demo of a previously unreleased Black Sabbath song called “Slapback” made its way online. The recording, which features Ronnie James Dio on vocals, was published by the estate of live band member and frequent collaborator Geoff Nicholls, also the source of some 1979 rehearsal footage that surfaced earlier in the winter.

Bassist Geezer Butler chimed in with his thoughts on the recording earlier this week, saying the song “didn’t make the grade” for the final album (Heaven and Hell) but he enjoyed hearing it, calling it “incredible” that these tapes have been made public.

Now guitarist Tony Iommi has piped up as well… and he’s not nearly as happy about it, to put it mildly. What’s more, he contradicted Butler’s claim about who played bass on the track, saying Ronnie had volunteered to lay down the low end on that one.

In an interview with SiriusXM’s Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk on Thursday, March 11, the same show on which Butler spoke about the recordings earlier in the week, Iommi said:

“I’m not at all happy with [Nicholls’s estate releasing the song] — at all. And it’s left a really bad taste in my mouth. At that point, when we did that, Geoff wasn’t even involved in the band; I hadn’t even got Geoff over at that time. That is actually Ronnie playing bass on that… And that was just in the lounge recorded on a cassette.”

The issue of who played bass is contentious because around that time Butler had taken a brief hiatus from the band to deal with a divorce. It’s not clear whether Butler and Iommi have communicated directly about this issue since the track’s release, but I’m inclined to believe Butler: I think he’d know best if he were the one to play bass on the track, ya know? And unfortunately we can’t ask Ronnie. Iommi’s claims that Nicholls hadn’t been around also likely contradicts the very fact of Nicholls having the tape, although I suppose it’s possible he just ended up with it somehow, perhaps to learn the songs.

Butler and Iommi, at least, were on the same page about why the song never saw the light of day:

“We had one or two things that we’d jam around on and play on and stuff, but it [wasn’t] right for the album, so we didn’t put it into shape; we didn’t record it [properly] or anything.”

Have a gander at the tune below. It’s a fun song, but it’s immediately obvious why it didn’t “make the grade,” as Butler said.

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