Archive Anecdotage

12 Born Again

I did an album called Born Again with Black Sabbath in '83. The artwork for the cover was a startlingly tasteless imitation of a bright red, newborn baby with long yellow fingernails and two yellow horns on its head.

In preparation for the world tour we rehearsed in Birmingham, the Sabs' home town, and one day we visited the production company L.S.D. (Light & Sound Design). We were asked if anyone had ideas for a stage set.

"Stonehenge", said Geezer Butler.
"Yeah, that's great", said the set designer, "how do you visualise it?"
"Lifesize, of course", replied Geezer.

So, they made, from fibreglass, a full size replica of Stonehenge; the entire Stonehenge, which is pretty big.

This was all broken down into sections which sat inside each other, packed into containers and shipped to Canada where we were to open the tour at the Maple Leaf Gardens, an ice hockey arena in Toronto. Most of it stayed in the containers as, with great difficulty,we were only able to erect three of the monoliths, with two cross pieces, reaching some thirty feet in the air.

The day before the show, some of us were disconcerted to see a dwarf busying himself backstage. At the full production rehearsal the sound of a newborn baby screaming, with the voice flanged, came roaring out of the massive PA system. Simultaneously, the dwarf, dressed in a crimson leotard, long yellow fingernails and two horns on his head, edged his way in a grotesquely contorted fashion along the top of Stonehenge, miming to the baby's voice.

At a certain point the dwarf fell backwards off Stonehenge into the darkness behind the set, onto a pile of mattresses, strategically placed. The screaming faded and the intro tape segued to the sound of a tolling bell, at which point some of the roadies, dressed as druids with cowls pulled over their faces and Reeboks barely showing under their robes, trailed across the stage in deep pagan thought.

Then, the band started and I walked to the front of the stage, casually glanced at my cue book and off we went through the set. For some reason I'd been unable to absorb the words of the opening song, and for safety, had them taped to the floor by my microphone.

After the rehearsal Bev Bevan and I questioned the integrity of the whole dwarf thing but our manager, Don Arden, said "Don't worry, the kids will love it".

Showtime - the lights went down, the packed house roared. The tape started. The audience looked up and spotted the dwarf. Peering through the wings I saw ten thousand open mouths. The dwarf fell. The screaming faded. The bell tolled. The druids trailed. The screaming continued. Someone had moved the mattresses.

The band started. I made my move, just a fraction late. For some reason the one element missing from the production rehearsal was the dry ice; and now a chest high white cloud was billowing at a fearsome rate towards the front of the stage.

With a blank mind and a greek smile I set off on a hopeless race for my words. Overtaken by the cumulus a yard short and three bars to go I ducked into the cloud and started vailnly swatting the mist for a clue to the first line. At this point the footlights came on, increasing my difficulties. On cue, I stood up, not entirely, just my head above the dry ice and sang some lines of total gibberish. Then ducked down again - more frantic arm waving - I saw words, the first verse, but what the hell. As the dry ice was beginning to lower and thin so my flapping and crouching became more bizarre and I was reduced, along with the audience, to a hopeless giggling wreck.

We saw no more of the dwarf. I learned my words and the rest of the tour was just fine.

© Ian Gillan 1996

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