“Action may not always bring happiness; 

but there is no happiness without action.”

Benjamin Disraeli

When The Clash, as I knew it, was finally over, I had a conversation with Joe about my future. At that time I voiced the idea that I might leave the music industry completely. He was deeply shocked at the very thought of this and told me I was crazy. He expounded his idea that the skills I had were like those of a highly specialised industrial fitter: only a few people in the world have that skill and I would enjoy a great deal of income and privilege by selling it. If I left the music business I would be no different from anyone else and I would regret it. I tried arguing with him that being in a band is no different from any other role in life. It has its good side and bad side. The grass may or may not be greener on the other side but it would definitely be different. 

Then I remembered Joe once telling me that he couldn’t understand why Topper started taking hard drugs when he was playing in a successful band and even writing songs. That statement genuinely shocked me. As if being in a successful band meant you would never need to look elsewhere for comfort or pleasure. Fame can bring many benefits but it can also be a terrible trap for the ego, especially if you start believing your own press and your own fans. You can’t really buy fame so people tend to over-value it. Having fame is useful only inasmuch as it shows you profoundly that it is a mirage – it’s not real. That’s why famous musicians rarely turn up to the after show party – they know it’s all nonsense. Andy Warhol’s idea of everyone having 15 minutes of fame wouldn’t work – it would be like giving everyone just enough heroin to get them addicted. Reality TV shows feed off this lie that fame brings happiness, which is why I can’t watch them.

After The Clash, I felt like I’d been around the block and got the t-shirt. However, as it turned out I still had a few more years of music left in me, before building up the courage to make the jump. 

One night, I was sitting at home, watching the Oscars on TV. There were people like Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor saying, “Thank you, I love you all”, as they always do. Then suddenly on walks my old producer, Keith Forsey, to pick up an Oscar, I nearly fell off my chair. It turned out that he co-wrote the song, ‘What a Feeling’ with Irene Cara that was used in the movie, Flashdance, and won the Oscar for the best film music that year.

Not long after that, I talked to my old friend, the late, great Johnny Thunders. He asked me to join him on a UK tour alongside another band called Hanoi Rocks, from Finland. During the UK tour, the two bands shared top billing. This is unusual, but the two sets of musicians had great respect for each other. Thunders and myself would finish a performance with half of Hanoi Rocks on the stage playing some crazy improvised extravaganza. Johnny was a truly great musician who never really reaped the rewards of his work. My personal opinion is that, at some deep level, he was afraid of success. Whenever record companies came calling, which they frequently did, he would screw things up by taking drugs and vomiting everywhere, which would always frighten them off. I then toured Scandinavia with Thunders. Upon my return I received the shocking news that Razzle, the English drummer in Hanoi Rocks, had been killed in California. He had gone out to a liquor store with Vince Neil from Motley Crue. Driving drunk and speeding, Neil crashed the car. Razzle was taken to hospital and pronounced dead on arrival. He was 24 years old. 

Whilst digesting that terrible news, I had to have my wisdom teeth taken out. There was a long waiting list but was told I could jump the queue if I were willing to have it done during the Christmas holidays, to which I agreed. I was sitting in the hospital when I received a call from Richard Bishop who was co-managing Hanoi Rocks. The band had agreed to play a live TV show that was part of a Europe-wide festival called Europe-a-Go-Go and was to go out live to 200 million people. It was felt that it should go ahead as a tribute to Razzle. They needed someone to step in and play the drums, but he’d have only five days to learn the songs. I said I’d be delighted to step in and do the job and that five days was plenty of time. Unsurprisingly, this gave me a strange feeling of déjà vu. They undertook to send some tapes over by messenger so I could get started the next day. Two hours later I went down for my operation. 

In the early hours of the next morning, I woke from my general anaesthetic with the feeling that all the surgeons had taken turns at kicking me in the head. I staggered to the bathroom and turned on the light. There followed probably the biggest shock I have ever had. Staring back at me from the mirror was a guy I had never seen before. He looked like an orang-utan, with grossly inflated cheeks. It took me quite a while to assure myself I wasn't dreaming. When I was sure that this was in fact my face, I thought, “ Great! I'll be playing live on stage to 200 million people, looking like a giant demented hamster on steroids.” Worse than that, the music Hanoi Rocks plays makes Guns’n’Roses’ stuff sound like a lullaby. Just what you want to listen to when your head feels like it’s going to split open any minute. 

When I got to the first rehearsal I had gone from looking like a giant hamster to just an orangutan. The rest of the band thought it was hilarious. Hanoi Rocks rehearsed at a louder volume than any other band I had seen – perfect when you have a throbbing headache and aching jaws. Apart from the pain, I found playing with these guys quite enjoyable. I had a reasonable grasp of the songs by the time we went to Finland a couple of days later. I had never been to Finland before and no one warned me about the temperature. It was January and Helsinki was at -30 degrees C. When I complained about the cold they told me how lucky I was – in the North of the country it was -50, a temperature that my brain could scarcely comprehend. 

When it came to the live concert, before 200 million people, there was a minor inconvenience. We were going to play a set lasting just under an hour but they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) tell us which two songs would be broadcast. Once again it was my destiny to memorise a lot of songs in a very short space of time. I really didn’t want to screw up the two songs that were going to be broadcast and it would have been really handy to know which two they were going to be. I was told they wouldn’t know until the time came. As it was I had to make sure that all of the songs were learned perfectly. I was grateful for the invention of the Walkman at that time. 

I got through learning the songs by sheer determination. By applying ice packs to my face, I managed on the night to look almost normal. When these little problems arise, the best course of action is to look beyond the obstacle to the goal ahead and just get there. You can watch those songs now on YouTube. 


Sam Yaffa, the bass player, left the band after a disagreement with the guitarist, Andy McCoy. It seems they were both in love with the same girl – never a good idea when you’re in a band together.

After we got through the chaos of Europe A-Go-Go, they asked me to join the band, which is the rock and roll equivalent of going steady after the first couple of dates. I agreed to join and we started rehearsing the new set. We decided to try out the live show in Poland, which was still under the iron fist of Soviet rule – if we screwed up there no one would really know about it. We auditioned bass players and found Rene Berg, a very creative man, if not a little eccentric. With Rene on bass, Hanoi Rocks toured Poland. We went all over the country in a large coach with the road crew and a Polish hard rock band that supported us. This was in the days of communism, which seemed very strange to us. For instance, if you ate in a restaurant there would be as many waiters as customers. None of them, however, moved very fast. If you went to a shop, there would be no more than twenty or thirty items for sale and they all seemed ridiculously cheap.

There was a strange man in the Polish crew with whom I never had a conversation because he didn’t speak any English. He was there to provide pyrotechnics. This was before the tedium of health and safety regulations had reached Poland. His fireworks were home-made – by a lunatic. The problem was that we had no idea when these bombs would go off in performance, and every now and then there would be a huge explosion. We would look over to where the sound had come from and he would be sitting there with a huge satisfied smile on his face. A part of me misses those days when you could do virtually anything you wanted – that guy would not last ten seconds in England today! 

During that Polish tour I was in a bar and noticed that they had alcohol-free beer and veggie burgers. I ordered one of each and when my band mates joined me they were horrified to see me drinking beer and eating a burger! These were the same people who had made fun of me for ages as a health nut. They immediately set about trying to persuade me to go back to non-drinking vegetarianism! I let them suffer for 20 minutes or so and then revealed the truth. It struck me then that most people don’t care what you do or don’t do, but are genuinely horrified if you make big changes. 

The guitarist’s name was Nasty Suicide. He and I became great friends. Once in Poland we stopped at a level crossing and were advised that we would be waiting here for 20 minutes so those who wanted to could stretch their legs. There was a party going on in a garden right next to the coach, with a band playing. Our two guitarists, Andy McCoy and Nasty Suicide, went over and played guitar with the band and we all joined the party. They were both very skilled at flamenco guitar and impressed the locals. Eventually the driver gave us a call and we all got back on the bus. 

There were about 50 people on the bus, as there were several bands on this tour, with several road-crew members. About two hours later, the photographer who was travelling with us, Justin Focus, woke me up. He begged me to believe what he was telling me, which was that Nasty was not on the bus. I replied, “He must be”. Justin said, “You’re the only sober person on this bus so you have to check, because I’m sure he is not on here.” I checked and sure enough Nasty was missing. He obviously didn’t get back on the bus with the rest of us. I told the driver, which took some considerable time as he didn’t speak English. We were only half an hour away from our destination and turning back was not really an option. When we arrived at the hotel, I immediately sent a cab back for Nasty and we all tucked into breakfast. About 8 hours later, Nasty arrived, looking somewhat bedraggled. He had been wandering around in the Polish countryside with no idea where he was going, where he had come from and totally unable to speak the language. God only knows how the cab driver found him.

During that tour we came within an hour’s drive of Auschwitz, the German Concentration Camp. I was always fascinated by history and thought it would be a wasted opportunity not to go and see the place whilst I was there. A very nice Polish lady offered to drive me there but it would mean getting up at some crazy early hour and rushing back to get on the bus for the next show. When that proposition was put to us, I accepted and everyone else declined. I’m glad I went to Auschwitz. You couldn’t describe it as a pleasurable trip because of the nature of what was there but it is something special to see and experience a place rather than just read about it.

Walking around Auschwitz is a very sobering experience. Every single item that you see was used by one group of people to torture or kill another group. I think it’s right that the place is open to the public as it can be easy for young people to forget just how horrible human beings can be to each other. Lots of people walking around were continually crying. It didn’t affect me that way. I ended up in a sort of stupor. Perhaps the most awful sight there was a room full of children’s shoes. There can be a tendency to put all of that horror into a box, shut the lid, and assert that it is all in the past now and won’t ever happen again. For me there are two significant points here. Firstly, of course it can happen again. There always have been and always will be cruel tyrants in the world. Secondly, the negative spiritual force or energy from which Auschwitz arose is alive and well and can be found in every human being at some point. There will never be any room for complacency in this regard. 

By the end of the Polish tour, the singer Mike Munroe had decided to leave Hanoi Rocks. This would mean starting a completely new band but we were all ready for that challenge. There are some bootleg copies of the music on that tour. When we did the last concert, which was to be Mike’s last ever with Hanoi Rocks, I had to smile as we played one of the band’s biggest ever hits, ‘Don’t you ever leave me’! 

By the end of that tour, it was also clear that Rene didn’t really fit in. He always seemed to be incredibly stressed despite his gift for humour. Rene was like so many rock musicians – he always seemed to be just on the edge of big success but never actually got there. He died in 2003. It wasn’t the typical overdose/hanging/car crash for him – those close to him feel that he died from a broken heart because he could never consummate his love affair with Rock’n’Roll. 

Rene is a good example of how fame can be an extremely cruel mistress – the more you desire fame the more it will eat you up and spit you out. However, if you walk away from it, which I have done several times, it comes running after you to try and entice you back. I see a strange parallel here with gambling. When the gambler is desperate for one more win, he never wins. Whereas the beginner, who is just flirting with gambling with no real concern for the outcome, will often score. 

I was lecturing in Las Vegas recently (more about that later) and I expounded my theory that you win if you don’t care and you lose if you desperately want to win. That day in the casino a woman collapsed and was carried off in an ambulance. She had been sitting at the one-arm bandits for 30 hours straight. Before bed, I was challenged by one of the seminar attendees to bet one dollar before retiring, saying, “You’re in Las Vegas, you have to gamble once!” I agreed and put one dollar into a slot machine. I didn’t expect to win, I didn’t care if I won, I was just going to go to bed. With one pull of the lever I won 36 dollars and promptly went to bed. My friends said, “Surely you’re going to carry on now that you’re on a winning streak?” I tried to explain that the whole reason why I had won was that I didn’t care and I was happy to walk away with the net increase of 35 dollars. As soon as you reinvest some of that 35 dollars you start to care whether you win and then you start to lose. Lots of people lust after fame – you can see it in so many reality TV shows. Others lust after money, perhaps a lottery win. It’s so easy to waste your life wanting something you can’t have rather than appreciating what you do have.


Upon our return from Poland, we set about forming a new band with a nucleus of Andy McCoy, Nasty Suicide and myself. We needed a bass player and a singer. Timo had been Hanoi’s roadie for a long time and people often remarked that he looked like he should be a member of the band and so we decided to give him a chance as the bass player – after all, it had worked well with Paul Simonon in The Clash (on the principle that it’s better to find the right person and teach them to play bass rather than recruit the wrong person who happens to be able to play). 

Andy called up a lady he had met called Anita Chellamah, Anita had trained as a dancer working with Legs & Co who used to perform on the TV show, Top of the Pops. She had also sung with Toto Coelo – who had a number one hit with the song, ‘I eat cannibals’. With Anita on board we just needed a new name and a bunch of new songs. We called ourselves Cherrybomz. We inherited quite a few followers from the Hanoi fans and played numerous packed houses at the legendery Marquee Club in London. We then set off on a USA tour. At some point, Dave Tregunna came in on bass. He had worked with Sham 69 and would go on to form the Lords of the New Church with Stiv Bators. Stiv is no longer with us. He died (some say was murdered) in a hit and run in 1990.

In 1984 I was walking down the street in New York with Stiv and noticed a Rastafarian guy trying to sell drugs. He kept repeating, “Loose joints, loose joints.” Stiv said to him, “Well, you’d better see a chiropractor then.” I had never heard the word chiropractor before, so I asked Stiv what it was. He replied, “Someone who fixes joints.” Then his joke made sense. Funny how these seeds get planted when you least expect it.

Shortly before my 30th birthday I was touring with Cherrybomz across the USA. The manager called me up with an idea for a publicity stunt. The idea was to get a model from Playboy, or some other girly magazine, to pose naked all over my drum kit. I didn’t like that idea at all so I told him to forget the whole thing, as it seemed cheap and tasteless. Sometimes in the music business when you say no they go ahead and do it anyway. This was something I was always wary of. When my 30th birthday came, I walked onto the stage at the theatre we were due to play that night. As I approached the drum riser, a mini-stage for the drumkit, I noticed from far off that there were flowers, champagne and balloons all over it. I immediately thought that they’d ignored my decision and gone ahead with this photo shoot idea. I flew into a rage, telling the road crew, “You can get this lot out of here right now!” Everyone’s mouth dropped. No sooner did I finish the sentence when I noticed there were birthday cards amongst the balloons: It dawned on me that the display was nothing to do with the Playboy model but simply there to celebrate my birthday. I immediately changed my tone and turned to the shocked bystanders saying, “Only joking!” They all breathed a sigh of relief, laughed and said, “You really had us going there!” Just think how embarrassed I would have been if I hadn’t noticed those birthday cards just in time. 

After a year of extensive touring and recording the band split up. It felt a bit like The Clash break up in that we were all pushed a bit too hard. Anita and I have been close friends ever since. It did, however, get me started on doing drum solos.

Only a fool thinks that he has it all covered and doesn’t need to improve. I fell into that trap in the eighties. I was playing to large audiences and I was also playing at a lot of drum clinics. This is where a well-known drummer performs for an audience of other drummers, showing them techniques, answering questions and explaining how to improve. I felt good about this since it’s a hundred times harder to impress an audience of fellow drummers than it is to impress an audience of rock fans. I had fallen into the trap of thinking I knew it all. The realisation came quickly. Here is how it happened. 

Motley Crue were playing in London. Tommy Lee was the drummer. He had a great reputation as a live performer, so I arranged to go down and check them out. I met Tommy before the show and he seemed like a nice guy, although it’s difficult not to hate a man who’s married to Pamela Anderson. I sat back to watch the show, not dreaming for a minute that he would surprise me in any way. When it came to the drum solo, there was an atmosphere of excitement and expectation from the audience as the other band members walked off the stage. He astounded me (but nobody else!) by playing a simple drum pattern incredibly slowly. He asked the audience through his headset mike, “Do you want it faster?” I said to myself, “If he goes any slower he’ll be going backwards!” The audience reacted with great enthusiasm and yelled for more. He slowly speeded up, each time asking the audience the same question. By the time he reached a respectable speed the audience was ecstatic. After that the whole drum riser turned upside down while he carried on playing. Both he and the drums were somehow strapped in. The painful part for me was that by now the audience were cheering much louder than they ever did for my solos. A friend who was with me put it very cleverly; “I realise that you can play faster and cleverer drum patterns than this guy. There are probably about a dozen other people here tonight who also realise that. There are 10,000 others who think he’s much better than you.” Words can never hurt you so much as when they are true.

I went to bed with my delicate ego thoroughly bruised, but I woke up with a great idea. If he can get such great reactions by using a bit of showmanship then why shouldn’t I? I decided to make some drastic changes to my stage act. I decided that rather than trying to appeal to other drummers (0.1% of the audience) I would aim at impressing the rock fans (99.9% of the audience). My drum solo would start with some interesting sounds and rhythms; I would introduce some electronic effects to surprise people. I brought in Latin style percussion, the sort of thing you might hear on the beach in Brazil. Then I would move into some very heavy Afro rhythms using large tom-toms and two bass drums. This would make the floor shake and get people in the crowd dancing and wiggling their hips. Then I would move into a close snare drum roll, the kind you might hear at a circus when acrobats are balancing 100 feet above ground. The lights would change at this point and build the tension until the final onslaught occurred. I would unleash everything I had at a furious speed, thrashing every drum and cymbal in sight. There would be massive echoes coming in and we would use strobe lighting so that it looked to the crowd as though I had at least four arms. This stuff would not go down well at a drum clinic but it always got me a standing ovation from a rock audience. Just because you are doing well doesn’t mean that you can’t do it better.

In 1985 Billy Idol asked me to come out to New York to work on his new album, which they had already recorded with a drum machine. They wanted me to put the drums on last with more feel than the drum machine. Unfortunately this really is the wrong way around. The only way to do it is to record the drums first with feel and have the other instruments play along. After a few days of bashing away in vain I suggested we start again from scratch but the prevailing view from Billy and Keith Forsey, the producer, was that they had gone too far and spent too much money to start again from scratch. That journey to New York turned out to be a waste of time although bizarrely I actually bumped into Joe Strummer in a bar and we had a good time catching up.


After the break up of the CherryBombz, I needed to find another band. I got a call out of the blue from Richard Bishop, my then manager, saying that Black Sabbath needed a drummer and was I interested? I had listened to Sabbath as a teenager and regarded them as the fathers of what is now commonly known as Heavy Metal. In particular, Tony Iommi was one of the most influential guitar players in rock. I was excited at the prospect of working with them – it would give me the chance to go absolutely bonkers with big drum kits and drum solos in front of audiences who loved that type of thing. Having decided that this was the right step for me and I had to make sure that I would be the next drummer in Black Sabbath. This brings me to the subject of auditions.

When I worked with Billy Idol and Generation X we had to audition a new guitarist. I think we must have auditioned every guitarist in the Northern hemisphere. As a person who always approaches any project with huge enthusiasm and careful preparation, the high proportion of those guitarists who showed no enthusiasm amazed me. Nor had they done any preparation. When asked, “Do you want to be successful?” very few will say no. However, very few will exhibit behaviour that says yes. When I heard that Black Sabbath needed a new drummer I asked my manager to get in touch with them. The reply came back, “Yes, we’d like you to come down and audition with us and here are the names of three of our songs that we’d like you to learn in preparation.” Now I really wanted that job. Firstly, this was a band that I had listened to as a teenager and really liked. Secondly, it was a rare opportunity to join a huge band that had then sold about 50 million albums. So the sensible, professional thing to do would have been to learn those three songs. But as well as that, I decided to apply massive enthusiasm. 

I got hold of their live album and learned all the songs on that. I also learned the studio versions of the same songs, just in case. When I went along to play with the band, they asked me if I’d learned those three songs. They’d probably had the same experience as I’d had, of people coming along without the necessary enthusiasm. I replied that yes I knew the three songs and did they want me to play the studio or the live versions of them. After I’d played those three songs they asked whether I happened to know any others, to which I replied that I knew all the songs on the live album. You see, I knew how it felt to audition someone who hadn't bothered to learn the stuff and I wanted to make sure of getting this job by giving these guys the opposite feeling. The idea that someone knows the stuff already and you haven't got to sit down and teach them always makes the band members really happy. After a few other songs, the band’s leader, Tony Iommi, took me to one side and asked me if I really wanted to play in this band. “Yes,” I said, “I most certainly do.” He then went out and told the manager to cancel all of the other drummers who were due to audition. If there’s something you really want I recommend this method of applying massive enthusiasm. It will take you a long way. 

My first gig with Black Sabbath was to be Sun City, South Africa, in 1987. This was quite controversial at the time and proved to be a real eye-opener for me. There was lots of pressure in the music business and in other fields such as sport, to completely boycott South Africa, in an attempt to put pressure on them to end the Apartheid system. Some people were of the opinion that this was the opposite of what needed to be done. Such people would say that to go there and to engage with the South Africans is the only way to drag them into the 20th Century and a complete boycott would stop that happening. Paul Simon had gone there a year before and found some black South African musicians to work with. The result of that was the album, Gracelands, which was a big hit. At the time, I was stunned by the vicious criticism that Paul Simon had to endure when all he had done was to take some talented musicians and give them a chance to enhance their careers. 

Black Sabbath also received some abuse. I read a newspaper article accusing Black Sabbath of playing to an all-white audience at Sun City. I talked to the journalist concerned and told him that not only was the audience of mixed races, but the place was also actually run by a black man. Rather than apologising for lying in his article, his answer was, “You shouldn’t have gone there and you have to suffer the consequences.” In other words he felt that because Apartheid was wrong, anyone who went to the country was wrong. Therefore any criticism of such people was justified, even if it were not true. I was shocked at the time but I have later come to realise that you have to be very careful around what I call anti-people. People who are anti-this or anti-that are remarkably similar to the people they are criticising. My view is that if the cause you are championing is based on hatred and involves lies, then you are on the wrong track. Years later I read a quote from Mother Theresa who very wisely said, “I won’t join an anti-war movement, but I will join a peace movement.” Clearly she too had met her share of anti-people.

Talking of Africa, about 26 years ago, whilst travelling through the Sahara desert, I was bitten by a lion. I managed to survive. When I tell people that story they are shocked and start looking for the scars, missing limbs, etc. It is only later that I tell them that the lion was about eight weeks old. Somebody put the lion on my lap to pose for a photograph and it bit my thumb. I shrieked, as it really hurt. My friends all laughed, telling me it was only a little cub, so I invited them to put their hands in its mouth and tell me what they thought. Its jaws were larger than a pit bull terrier’s. 

My first public performance with Black Sabbath soon arrived. I was to meet the band downstairs in the hotel lobby in about half an hour. I was totally prepared, had rehearsed hard and knew exactly what to do. There is always some trepidation with a first ever performance. I knew that the audience would include management, record company people, journalists and die-hard fans, all of whom would expect a knock-out performance. However, there was a problem. A week earlier I had been to the dentist to have a new bridge fitted. At that time I was very vain, so I told the dentist to fit the bridge in a temporary way, and after I was satisfied that it looked and felt just right we would fix it permanently in place. The dentist agreed and after a couple of days I went back and told him yes, I was satisfied with it and he could fix it in my mouth permanently. The problem was that the temporary glue had stuck so hard that it just wouldn't come out. The dentist hammered away for a long time with all sorts of gadgets but it just wouldn't move. With some relief, I heard the dentist say, "If I can't get that bridge out with all this equipment, then it will never come out, so let's just leave it where it is." 

With half an hour to spare before my performance, I decided to floss my teeth. To my utter horror the bridge not only came out but bounced on the sink and hit the stone floor, smashing to pieces. On this occasion I managed to focus on the solution rather than the problem. There was a pharmacy button on my hotel room telephone. I rang the pharmacist and explained the problem. She said she would be there in ten minutes. She came in with a bag containing all sorts of bottles. I had managed to find all the pieces of ceramic material that made up the outer part of the bridge. She took a tube of super glue and glued them all back in place, just like a jigsaw. She then produced a tube of cement with which we fixed it back into my mouth. I managed to arrive on time and put on a performance that didn't disappoint anybody. It is amazing how often these mini-disasters happen just before you perform. How often in our lives do we exclaim, "Of all times for this to happen?" Perhaps upsets have to happen at a bad time if they are really going to teach you anything. 

That first performance on stage with Black Sabbath was an interesting occasion. Here I was in a foreign country playing different songs, with a different band, in a different style, with a different mix of sounds on the stage, and added to all of that there was the drama with my tooth bridge just minutes before. Despite all this I was determined to keep my head clear of any distractions and have the highest possible level of present-time consciousness. Halfway through the first song it felt good. I could hear all the instruments, I was feeling comfortable and it seemed this was going to be a good performance. Then Tony Iommi, the guitar legend, turned around to look at me, pulling the most ridiculous face and balancing a pink guitar plectrum (pick) on the end of his nose. The thought occurred to me that out of all the thousands of people in the room, I was the only one who could actually see this. This was a peculiar thing to do but it made me feel good. It was a reminder that, with thousands of watts of sound and lights and a huge audience full of excitement, we could still enjoy some down to earth humour. 

After finishing my first show with Black Sabbath we were getting changed when something odd happened. Tony Iommi amazed me as he calmly removed the tips of his fingers, put them into a box and packed it away. I learned that he’d had an accident as a young man, in which a machine in a sheet metal factory sliced off the tips of two fingers of his right hand. He thought his playing days were over until he found out that gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt had lost the use of two fingers and still managed to become a virtuoso musician. There is probably not a rock guitarist in the world that has not been influenced on some level by Tony Iommi. He later assured me that the rest of his body was original and authentic.

Sun City is a playground full of leisure pursuits. Since we were stuck there for about two weeks I saw all the shows and tried all the rides, but the thing I liked most was the ten-pin bowling, which I had never played before. I foolishly got the heaviest ball I could find and threw it down those lanes as hard as I could in order to better the score of my opponents. After three hours of this I discovered to my alarm that I had damaged my shoulder and I was quite unable to raise my arm. This might be okay if you were a singer but was a disaster for a drummer. I told Tony Iommi who seemed to be very nonchalant about it. He said, “No problem – we’ll get a chiropractor in.” I asked what this person was going to do and Tony said, “He’ll fix you, of course.” 

Sure enough the chiropractor arrived and examined my shoulder and neck and then started treating me. He cracked my neck, which made an incredibly loud sound in my head, so loud that I thought he’d broken my neck. Before I could even consider the implications he cracked the other side. I thought to myself, “He’s done it again!” But just as I was thinking this I realised I could now move my neck and my arm and I actually felt marvellous. I was instantly able to move my shoulder through its full range. I performed that night and was very grateful to the chiropractor whose name, regrettably, I cannot now call to mind. Hopefully he is still somewhere in South Africa saving rock drummers from disaster. I did not at that point leap up and decide to have an immediate career change but it did plant a further seed that was to germinate over the next year or so. Looking back on these little signposts on the way, I can’t help feeling that a clear path was mapped out for me from the beginning.

After Sun City, the band went off on tour around Europe. Obviously I met a huge number of Black Sabbath fans who were an interesting bunch. Lots of them would say something like, “You’ve played with the boys but now you’re playing with the men.” It seems rock fans are a bit like football fans, whose loyalty is to the team regardless of who is playing in it. We were due to play in a theatre in Rome. The Pope himself had been hosting an event in that theatre the night before. For some reason, they were unable to remove some of the equipment the Pope had been using in time for us to put our equipment in there. However big a band you are, you can’t pull rank on the Pope in Rome! The promoter said that it wouldn’t be a problem as they had another theatre they could shift our concert to. 

What they didn’t tell us was that there were 2,000 fewer seats in the new venue. The concert had sold out, which meant there were 2,000 people outside who had purchased a ticked but were denied entry. The crowd was not impressed. The ticket holders were told, “You can’t come in. There is no room.” To which they replied, “But I have a ticket.” “Yes, you have a ticket but it is full up,” was the response. A riot ensued, lots of local shops were smashed up and one person was shot (but fortunately not killed). We had two generators outside, one for the sound and one for the lights. The angry crowd proceeded to wreck one of the generators. We were given a stark choice – you can have either sound or lights but not both. A concert without any sound would be utterly ridiculous so we chose sound without light. We performed an entire concert in the dark with five roadies each with a torch shining on one of our faces. Actually the audience, those able to gain entry at least, seemed to really enjoy it! 

When you put on a show it is usual to have a dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal is a performance as near as possible to the exact conditions under which the real performance happens. There are very good reasons for doing this. I have rehearsed a song with a band until we have it perfect. We have then performed it on stage, where, because of the lights shining in our eyes, we’ve not been able to see each other properly and the nods and winks that we relied upon during rehearsals were simply not visible. The result is a poor performance. The dress rehearsal should take care of these unexpected problems, solving them before exposure to your audience. 

A friend of mine called Russell was very interested in making costumes. He used to make his own fancy dress outfits that were unbelievably ambitious and achieved with great craftsmanship. Russell offered to make me an outfit to wear onstage for the upcoming European tour. I accepted his offer and he produced an amazing garment for me to wear – a leather sleeveless jacket with incredibly intricate metalwork embedded in the leather. I decided to wear it at my next concert with Black Sabbath. However, I made the mistake of not having a dress rehearsal. 

The first number we played that night was the longest song I can ever remember playing. In fact it lasted only three minutes. It seemed like a long time because, as I was vigorously thrashing those drums, my arms were moving up and down in a rapid sequence, as per normal. The problem was that the garment was lined with an extremely rough material. When the song ended, I yelled to the roadie to give me some duct tape. He gave me the duct tape with a somewhat bewildered expression, as I was normally very calm on stage. I tore off two pieces and promptly slapped one on each of my nipples, which were feeling as if they had been sandpapered for the last three minutes. I learned the lesson well that you must have a thorough dress rehearsal before going on stage in front of people. I doubt very much whether your job will ever involve sandpapering your nipples. However, the principle of thorough preparation can be useful in any work situation. 

Tony Iommi was always fond of Rottweilers. He had a great big one called Bolo, after the character in the Bruce Lee movie, Enter the Dragon. The dog was well named, as he was all muscle, just like the character in the movie. I had met Bolo many times and he seemed to be quite a peaceful dog, even though he looked like he could eat you alive! I drove over to Tony’s house and the gates were shut so I parked outside and walked through the small gate. It would have been about a 25-yard walk to his front porch. As I started walking, Bolo appeared at the side of the house. I told myself that this was fine as I had met him before and dogs tend to remember those they have met. 

As I carried on walking calmly and confidently towards the porch two other Rottweilers appeared by Bolo’s side. Clearly, it was too late to go back so I carried on walking. After all, I reasoned, the postman must do this every day. All three dogs then started to growl, that deep growl that only big, angry dogs can manage. They also started to edge slowly towards me whilst growling. At this point I was about seven yards from the porch and they were about 12 yards away. If I simply carried on walking they were going to get to me before I got into the house. I had visions of one dog biting each leg, with another one biting my arm with only my left arm to defend myself. I didn’t much like that scenario. It had occurred to me that if I took the initiative and sprinted to the porch, I would definitely be able to reach there before them. 

With very little time to ponder the choice I broke into a dash for the porch door. Immediately the three dogs went crazy – barking and hurtling towards me. At this point I suddenly found myself asking the question, “Will the porch door be open? Because if it’s not, I am literally dog meat.” I grabbed the door handle and found it open. To say I was relieved would be an understatement. I got into the porch and shut the door with about one second to spare. Then, just like a scene in a horror movie, all I could see were teeth and dog saliva on the other side of the glass. With a great sigh of relief, I rang the doorbell. There was no answer. I determined that even if I had to stay there for a week I was not going outside that door. Tony arrived five minutes later and cheerfully said, “Oh! They won’t hurt you!”

“No, of course not,” I thought to myself...

I remembered again that old saying, “Only the good die young!”

It had been a real privilege to tour the world with a band I had admired as a kid. Furthermore, Black Sabbath at that time had realised that if you were going to tour you had to ditch the drugs and the drink and get the job done properly. As such they were perfectly in sync with what I wanted to do at that time. I remember the five of us entering a bar together. I walked up to the barman to order a round of drinks. He said, “I know who you guys are and I’m ready for anything – what can I get you?” I said, “Five Perriers please.” His face dropped. He was sure I was joking, but that’s what we wanted.

In 1998 I heard the news that yet another drummer had died – Cozy Powell, who was then playing in Black Sabbath. He crashed his car at 104 mph without wearing a seatbelt whilst being over the limit for alcohol and talking to his girlfriend on his mobile phone. It seems he hadn’t adopted the Five Perriers approach.

It would have been entirely possible at that time just to carry on playing drums for various well-known bands and have a lucrative and interesting career. In fact that is what most musicians would have done at that stage. However, I felt the part of me that needed to heal people was wanting to have his turn in my life and the part of me that longed for just one more tour had by now been indulged enough. It was time for a change. There was one more thing that was starting to bother me – the death of so many of my drummer colleagues. It seems I was in the shortest-lived profession in the world…


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