Tony Iommi Recalls Black Sabbath’s ‘Dying Cat’ Studio Session
Tony Iommi recalled how Black Sabbath tried to add their own string tracks to a song on their 1972 album Vol. 4 – but succeeded only in making noises like a “dying cat.”
The moment took place while they were working on “Laguna Sunrise,” inspired by a visit to the Orange County, Calif., landmark Laguna Beach during a break from recording.
Some of guitarist Iommi’s early musical sketches can be heard on the new extended edition of Vol. 4. While he played, he came up with the idea of adding a string section and arranged for a violin and cello to be delivered to the studio, believing that he could play one and bassist Geezer Butler could play the other.
“That was absolutely disastrous,” Iommi told Rolling Stone in a recent interview. “It sounded like a dying cat. It was absolutely awful. I bought this violin, which I have no idea how to play the bloody thing. I don’t know what I was thinking, really.”
Butler added: “You see symphony orchestras and things, and you think, ‘Oh, I can play bass, or I can play guitar. How hard can cello be? And then I got this cello. I couldn’t make head nor tail out of it. You have to be a real musician to be able to play that.”
They soon abandoned the idea and hired session musicians to perform the parts instead. The result, said singer Ozzy Osbourne, felt complete as an instrumental. “‘Laguna Sunrise’ was a beautiful piece of music,” he noted. “I would have loved to try and put melodies to it, but that one, I couldn’t beat what he’d already done with guitar, so we left it.”
The guitarist pointed out that the track gave Vol. 4 another dramatic element. “We always put something in, like an acoustic bit, to give the album a bit of light and shade," Iommi said. "So when you come in with everything, it sounds [even] heavier."