Ian Gillan basically drank his way into Black Sabbath: ‘Did that happen? What happened?’

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The memorable intersection of Ian Gillan and Black Sabbath didn’t start at some high-level strategy meeting featuring label execs and stalwart member Tony Iommi. Instead, it all began with a bender at the Bear Inn, one of Oxford’s oldest bars.

“We’re all sitting in the pub,” Iommi tells Hard Music TV, “because Ian wanted to meet at the Bear. We’re sitting there, having a few drinks, and Ian walks in with a scarf around his head, and what not.” Turns out, Ian Gillan’s luggage had been lost on the plane ride in. With nowhere to go, and nothing to wear there anyway, it seems Gillan and Iommi settled in for a lengthy drinking session.

“We were there all day, and we got absolutely legless,” Tony Iommi says, chuckling. “They closed the pub, and opened it again, and we were still there. So, we came out of there and we got bound together. It was very peculiar, this thing. Ian didn’t even know, either. ‘Did that happen? What happened?’ ‘I don’t know. I think we arranged to have a play together.’ And that’s what happened. That’s how silly it was. That’s how we started.”

Ian Gillan was announced as the late Ronnie James Dio’s replacement in Black Sabbath in April of 1983. Born Again, their first and only studio collaboration, was recorded at Richard Branson’s Manor Studios in Oxfordshire and then released on Aug. 7, 1983. “We got together and started writing, and it was good,” Iommi adds. “We had plenty of laughs, I tell you. If nothing else, we had a laugh. I mean, he was funny.”

Appropriately enough, Born Again begins with an original titled “Trashed.” A tour followed, with Bev Bevan of ELO fame filling in on drums. But Born Again subsequently became the first-ever Black Sabbath album not to go at least gold in the U.S. and, by 1984, Ian Gillan had returned to Deep Purple. That said, Tony Iommi and Gillan emerged as friends, and collaborated more recently on the WhoCares benefit project.

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