In love with a VOICE

Had one of those YouTube-evenings last night. THANK GOD for YouTube, it makes people discover and RE-discover things.

I fell in love with [Black Sabbath-] Tony Martin’s voice all over again. Made me remember the first time I saw him, or learned about his existence.

When Black Sabbath played in Copenhagen 1989, I was there to review it for Kvällsposten – the newspaper I was working for at the time. I remember being slightly reluctant at first, because I didn’t see myself as a Black Sabbath-fan at all. I didn’t like the Ozzy-era, was never much for the 70’s sound anyway, so I thought it was going to be an evening for the elderly.

Boy, was I wrong.

On stage was this guy I had never heard of before – Tony Martin. That voice just filled the whole arena with magic! Backed up by Tony Iommi’s legendary, heavy riffs, it totally blew me away. It was really like having one of those religious experiences. I was just filled with this “wow!” sort of feeling, jaw dropped, eyes wide open, heart beating faster from pure excitement – the music and that VOICE was out of this world!

He wasn’t exactly a hot dude by any means, but he could SING!

About a year later, Black Sabbath came back, and this time I made sure to catch their press conference. That was a classic one. If there had been cellphones back in those days, I would have taken a picture of it, but I’ll just settle for the picture in my head instead.

It was an oval table somewhere in the back of the KB-hall, looked like a catering -or a conference room, I’m not sure. Right next to me to the left was Cozy Powell, then right in front of me Tony Martin followed by Tony Iommi. I’m not sure if Neil Murray was there. I think he was but he didn’t say much.

The topic was the new album “Tyr“. Every journalist was asking about shit that had to do with the occult, devil-worshipping, satanism, religion…. It’s as if  Black Sabbath were there to represent some Satanist church or something, and I could tell that Tony Martin was kind of annoyed by the whole thing.
While the others are more old-school british rock stars who have learned not to get too upset about anything, and to be very diplomatic about those questions, mr Martin was more openly pissed off, although he tried to restain himself. :)

I didn’t say much at that press conference. I was kind of star struck I think. Well,I was young, so I was allowed to be. ;)

It’s a strange thing – being in love with SONGS or VOICES. It has very little to do with the PEOPLE, as strange as that may sound. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to quite explain it. But it’s that same kind of feeling that you get when you’ve got a crush on someone, it’s like a drug, it makes you high, it just fills you with this feeling that’s larger than life.

And eventhough Tony Martin was the least interesting person in Black Sabbath to most other people, he was the MAIN reason why I even started listening to Sabbath.

I wrote him a letter at some point. I don’t really remember much about that letter, other than that he actually wrote back and I was so happy about it. Couldn’t believe he took time to write. This was before the internet made its entrance in people’s lives. (Just noticed now that he wrote that Sabbath were bringing Bill Ward to do the South America-shows…. Those were the days, huh?)

When I met Tony and Cozy Powell for an interview in Karlshamn, Sweden, in 1995, Cozy started chuckling the minute he saw me cause he probably knew that I was “the fan“. He was teasing Tony about it every chance he got, which I guess was just a feather in the hat for Tony. :)

In 1995 I travelled around to see Black Sabbath everywhere I got the chance. Took me over to the UK, the Sweden shows, Denmark….

I had a good contact with the Sabbath-members at the time. Even Tony Iommi was smiling his mysterious smile every time he saw me, going: “Tony will be down in a minute!”

One of the best memories I think was when Black Sabbath played in Copenhagen and I ended up being mr Martin’s guide around town.

He went to HMV to see if they had the new Sabbath-album, went to a small shop that sold leather clothes, cause he needed a new jacket, went to the exchange-office as he needed Danish money… And after all that walking, he got hungry and we ended up at this little Italian restaurant.

I was slightly terrified, cause THAT hadn’t been in my plans and I didn’t have any money. So I got the cheapest food I could find on the menu, to fit my budget.

When I got my wine, it tasted like vinegar. Absolutely horrible. Tony saw my face and asked if I didn’t like the wine. “Noo, no it’s fine, it’s fine!” I tried to assure him, cause I couldn’t afford anything else.

The whole time I took for granted that I was paying for my own meal. I’m Swedish, we aren’t necessarily taking for granted that “the guy” pays. Especially when it’s not exactly a date.

Suddenly I see Tony waving for the waitress. Then he goes:

– The lady doesn’t like her wine. Do you have anything else?

“Holy fuck NOOO!” I thought. There wasn’t “anything else” I could afford, other than a glass of WATER… As it turned out, Tony paid for the whole thing, he looked at me like I was crazy when I took out my wallet to pay for my meal. “What are you doing? Put that away! I’ll take this!”

It was just a great dinner, Tony was nice and easy to talk to. At some point I said that I just loved “The Eternal Idol“. And he started singing the first few lines of it, right there.

I’ll never forget that. That VOICE, singing just for me, in a restaurant, I couldn’t have asked for a more memorable pasta-dinner…!

When I got a modem for my Mac and internet started getting more common, I stayed in close touch with Tony through e-mail. I had collected everything he had done, demos and projects, his solo- thing, the whole hoopla. Was active on message-boards and it felt like all I did was arguing with assholes who kept talking about Ozzy or Dio, sometimes Ian Gillan or even Ray Gillen who hadn’t even been in the band long enough to be called a Sabbath-member, being “the real Sabbath”.

It just pissed me off that Tony never got the credit he deserved. Even to this day, I think that he was being treated like shit by many fans and even by Sabbath at some point. He contributed with a lot and sang on a few of my favorite metal albums of all time.

His only problem was that he wasn’t Ozzy. Other than that – he was amazing.

If someone asked me today who my favorite metal singer is – the answer is simple – Tony Martin.

I have my heroes, Rob Halford, Coverdale, Dio – all the legends. But if we’re talking about JUST the VOICE, it’s, hands down, T Martin.

He’s got this massive, huge masculine, powerful metal voice with all the depth and grid that’s needed for a heavy metal tune, but he’s also got the range to reach the higher notes, and do if effortlessly, getting those crystal clear notes that you usually hear by singers in the melodic rock genre.

He had it all, he could do the dark, mysterious vocal parts and he could go flying through the stratosphere in “Lost Forever” or “Eternal Idol“, well – anything that Sabbath wrote during his 10 years in the band.

He became a friend in a sense during those few years. I built his first, own official website. That was back in 1997. I think he had gone solo by then.

But… Well, he is a pretty stubborn personality and so am I. Although I think that back in those days I was more difficult to deal with than I am today. Basically – I got pissed off at him at some point in this website-making process, and he, of course, got even more pissed off at ME right back.

We haven’t spoken since. I went to his solo-tour throughout Sweden maybe 10 years ago or so, cause to me that whole thing was old news. It wasn’t to him. He was STILL pissed off, and I’m guessing he still is today. I don’t know, haven’t tried to contact him ever since.

But I still love his voice, and I always will – it’s one of a kind, I spent all morning listening to the 1987-1995 Sabbath albums on repeat again. He is absolutely outstanding – and if you haven’t heard these albums, do yourself a BIG favor and go get them!

Guess you’ll gave to refer to YouTube or a friend as those seem to be out of print, but everything is available through the web nowadays:

Eternal Idol

Headless Cross


Cross Purposes

(Forbidden also had Tony singing on it but…not a fan of that particular album, eventhough it has its moments)


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