Jacob Zinn :: journalist + photographer

HEAVY Rotation: Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”

Posted in Heavy Metal, HEAVY Rotation, Music by Jacob Zinn on August 6, 2011

“Iron Man” is among Black Sabbath’s greatest hits and it has one of the most recognizable guitar riffs ever.

In fact, that’s how the writing of the song started. Tony Iommi wrote the riff in preparation for recording their second album, 1970’s Paranoid. Ozzy Osbourne heard the riff and his initial reaction was that “it sounded like a big, iron bloke walking about.” They named the song “Iron Bloke,” but later renamed it “Iron Man.”

Bassist Geezer Butler took the title and wrote the lyrics about a man who time travels into the future and witnesses the end of the world. He tries to go back in time to warn people, but a magnetic field turns him into steel.

Unable to speak and ignored by the masses, he grows angry and takes out his rage on mankind, which happens to be the destruction he saw in his vision of the apocalypse. (And in case you were wondering, steel does contain iron.)

Now the time is here
for Iron Man to spread fear
Vengeance from the grave
Kills the people he once saved

The band’s sixth single, “Iron Man” only peaked at #52 on the Billboard charts, though in 2008, it reached #5 on Billboard’s Hot Ringtones chart. It was ranked #1 on VH1’s 40 Greatest Metal Songs, #317 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and in 2000, a live version of the song won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance.

It’s been used in such films as Detroit Rock City, Dogtown & Z-Boys, and fittingly, Iron Man. It has also been covered by Metallica, NOFX and Marilyn Manson, and it’s been sampled by Sir Mix-A-Lot. (Yes, that Sir Mix-A-Lot.)


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  1. Top 5 Black Sabbath Covers « jacobzinn.com said, on September 10, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    […] HEAVY Rotation: Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” […]


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