Rock chronicles: Rock Chronicles. 1990s: Glenn Hughes

This is an exclusive interview with Glenn Hughes, that Steven Rosen conducted in 1995.

Rock chronicles: Rock Chronicles. 1990s: Glenn Hughes
When: August 25, 1995 Where: This may have been conducted at the singer's home in Southbay (a beach area south of Los Angeles down the Pacific coast). The memory is really hazy. What: I first encountered Glenn back in 1974 when I accompanied Deep Purple. They were on the road in support of the Burn record, and I'd been sent out to uncover a story for Creem magazine. I didn't interview the singer/bassist at that time, though I'm pretty certain we may have exchanged greetings in the hotel or backstage at the concert somewhere. What I did uncover almost was a story about me. And ripping off Purple. The band had convened in the hotel bar (this was in St. Paul or somewhere around there) prior to a show. Jon Lord was there, David Coverdale and Glenn were floating around; Ian Paice may have been there though I'm pretty certain Blackmore was not around. Cameron Crowe was traveling with the band; he knew them pretty well and had already made his bones as the Golden Boy for Rolling Stone. We knew each other, peripherally, from back in Los Angeles. I was just standing around without a drink and he suggested I order one and put it on Purple's tab. I questioned him with my eyes and he said it was OK. I ordered up an oj since I really didn't drink much. I'm sucking on an ice cube when Jon Lord approaches me. And he seems to be in a bit of a fit of pique. He asked me where I found the drink and I told him I'd just gotten it from the bartender. "Did you pay for it?" he asked. "No, Jon, I put it on the band's tab. I was told it was OK and " And that's about all I got out. He tore into me with stories of how people were always running up bills and charging them on Purple's tab. I finally explained that Cameron had said it was alright and that I apologized and I'd be more than happy paying for the drink. He felt badly. He was apologetic and tried to explain how all kinds of things got charged to the band. I could only imagine. We smoothed things over and he was very understanding. In fact, Jon's admission that he'd jumped the gun was in direct proportion to Ritchie Blackmore's inability to admit to ever making a mistake. As I mentioned briefly in Ritchie's interview from the 1970s-era influenced stories, the guitarist was one seriously dysfunctional human being. Later, during this chat with Hughes, the bassist describes him as "having a hard time expressing himself." Glenn, ever the diplomat, was being kind. Blackmore has a cold heart and suffers from a terminal case of schadenfreude (that's just a big word for an asshole who laughs at the misfortunes of others and now you can use it whenever you want to describe the temperamental English guitarist). _______________________________________________________________________________ (Note: I was writing a book on Black Sabbath that would be published in 1996. So this interview, for the most part, dealt with Hughes' work with Tony Iommi). Let's just start at the beginning; it's 1970. Trapeze was formed and Sabbath had just released Paranoid, I believe. And Trapeze had just started to make their first record, Medusa, and we'd toured America and were starting to get a following in England. A major venue in England in the 70s was a place called Mothers in Erdington, Birmingham. And I do remember on occasion, we'd play there about three times a year, that I'd see Tony (Iommi) and Geez (Butler) in the audience checking out Trapeze. And we actually did a gig with Sabbath in Birmingham at the Top Rank Ballroom for some Christmas holiday; I think it was in '71 or something. Anyway, I didn't see Tony and Bill and Geezer and Ozzy again until Cal Jam, April 1974. They opened up for us (Deep Purple) and they were great and at this time, I became friendly with Ozzy and Tony. More with Ozzy; Ozzy was staying at the Beverly Wilshire where we met. I was staying there for about a month in August of '74 and Ozzy was staying there and we hung out a lot. I remember at the time Sabbath was going through a management problem with Patrick Meehan and Ozzy would come down and tell me of his distress with that problem.

"The album, Seventh Star, wasn't Black Sabbath-sounding really, so after two songs Tony asked me if I would sing the whole album."

I would call Ozzy, John Osbourne, that's his real name he lived in Staffordshire where I was born and he lived on a farm with his first wife, Thelma. And they'd invite me to come over and I went over a few times. And, in fact a funny story, I was gonna buy a car from Ozzy, a Jaguar, and I pulled in the driveway and as I was pulling in he was pulling the car out. And he smashed it into another one of his cars. Which I thought was hilarious. He's a character; he's a great guy, and I really do like Ozzy a lot. And with Tony, he's more of a shy, quiet. But yes, I do have fond memories of the time when I was in Purple and we spent some time with Sabbath. The Cal Jam show was pretty remarkable. Well, it was a great show for Glenn Hughes and Deep Purple. A lot of people play that bloody thing and they go, What a great gig for Glenn Hughes that was.' It is a great showcase for me so I'm glad people remember it. And in fact the whole time with Purple for me was great. So the Cal Jam was a big one for us, Sabbath and Purple together. And Ozzy and I hung out at the Beverly Wilshire together for quite a while that year (1974). And over the years, Bill, Tony, Geezer, and Ozzy have been friends of mine because we all grew up in the Midlands together. And I do have a lot of time for guys from the Birmingham area; I love them. I saw Tony more than the rest of the guys in the late 70s; he'd pop up at places. But it was Ozzy I started hanging out with in 1981 when he was first with Sharon. Sharon was managing me when I was working with Gary Moore for a short period. So I was up at Sharon's house a lot and Ozzy was living up there and we had some fun together. If fact, going back to '77 when Ozzy had left Sabbath the first time, he wanted me to form a group with him. And I had to decline because, as you know, I'm a singer and Ozzy's a singer, and it really wouldn't have worked. I thought were too good of friends to form the group together anyway. I got a call from Tony in June of '85. And he said that he had started a solo album and it was his intention to have three different singers on this album. I think he wanted myself, Halford, Rob Halford, and Ronnie to do the vocals. And Tony asked me if I would come down and help write lyrics and help participate in the writing; and sing three songs. So it was myself and Tony Iommi, Dave Spitz on bass, Eric Singer on drums, Geoff Nichols on keyboards, and the producer was Jeff Glixman. The studio was Cherokee and I think in July of '85 I went down there. I remember the very first evening I was there, I wrote two right away No Stranger To Love' and Danger Zone' and it became apparent to Tony and the rest of the guys that I was really doin' a good job. But you must remember, Steve, that this was a Tony Iommi solo project; it wasn't for Black Sabbath. The idea of me being in Black Sabbath didn't appeal to me whatsoever. If I can relate Glenn Hughes singing in Black Sabbath, it's like James Brown singing in Metallica. That's what I considered it to be; it wasn't going to work. Tony had asked me in the late 70s to do a record with him and I said, Of course.' So, Tony presented me with No Stranger To Love' which I thought was a great ballad and Danger Zone' which I thought was a great mid-tempo song, a great rock song. So I thought, Well, this is good; it's not like Black Sabbath.' The album, Seventh Star, wasn't Black Sabbath-sounding really, so after two songs Tony asked me if I would sing the whole album. I must say, I happen to like Tony a lot, and I want to say this and I don't want you to print this, but in the 80s I was trying to get away from the heavy metal tag. I want you to make it clear in my portion of the book, that before Deep Purple and before Sabbath, I was in Trapeze, and I was a very funk/hard rock/soulful singer. And I wanted to get away from the stereotype heavy metal image that I had in Purple so I wasn't really interested in anything metal or dark. I'm a Christian, I've always been a Christian; we know about the alcohol and the drugs but that's another story. And I didn't really feel comfortable singing dark stuff. I never have done. So, once again Tony told me this was going to be a Tony Iommi solo project and it was. We recorded the album under the Tony Iommi name and I was the guest vocalist and I participated in writing lyrics and melodies and working with Tony Iommi quite closely. I do remember very clearly there were problems making the record. Tony was going through a divorce at the time and he was dealing with that. They gave me a lot of room to write and sing on the record. I was working with Jeff Glixman, an old comrade of mine. After half of the record was done then we moved to Atlanta, Georgia on August 24, 1985. I remember that clearly because on the 25th I met Christine, a girl I had a 10-year relationship with up until this year. Overall, was the experience of working on the Seventh Star album a positive one? I really enjoyed singing that record and a lot of my fans, a lot of Glenn Hughes fans, liked the record. But a lot of the Sabbath fans it's not a very dark album; it's Glenn Hughes singing Black Sabbath material. Getting back to the title of the album, the album was mastered, mixed, it was all done, artwork ready to go, and Don Arden (Sharon Osbourne's father and a very influential figure in the business) and Warner Bros. thought maybe we should call it Black Sabbath Featuring Tony Iommi which I really wasn't too happy with although I had no say in it. Then they asked me if I would actually be a part of touring with Black Sabbath. Getting back to the record, I totally enjoyed making the album, I liked working with Tony, it was a nice time; we spent about two months making the album and he was great, no problems. At this time in my life, I was still using drugs and alcohol but when I did go in the studio to sing, I never was under the influence. I would go in and not use. Was Tony getting high during the sessions? You know, Steve? Let's talk about that. For me, talking about my recovery and alcoholism and drug addiction is easy to do because there's been so much written on me about that. If you want to sugar things up, that's fine, but there were drugs being taken. I don't think it would be good for me to say he was doin' it; I was doin' it, it doesn't really matter. I've spoken with Tony before and he's been pretty honest about his past consumption of drugs. I only ask because I was wondering if it was actually a part of the process, the creative process. There were drugs, a lot of pot, and a lot of coke, and a lot of drinking. But I never used if I was actually going to be on the microphone. I don't think anybody can do that. But you must remember this once again, Steve, that this was a period in my life that wasn't really a happy period for me. In fact, the 80s were a bad time for Glenn Hughes spiritually and musically and whatever. But I got through the album, I really enjoyed it, and they asked me to participate in touring with them and I didn't really want to do it. In fact, I didn't want to do it at all. But at that time I just thought I'd better get a manager and the manager I chose was Noel Monk from Van Halen. Noel was my tour manager in Trapeze in '71; so I chose Noel and things got from bad to worse. Noel had just got off the thing with Roth and Van Halen and he was riding high and he was doing his deal and he wanted things his way and I wanted things my way and I do remember I had a very short relationship with Noel because we got into a fight over the phone and we parted company. I have a lot of respect for Noel, I haven't seen him in a long time, and I'm sure he'll be happy to know I'm in recovery. So there we have it; the album is done, it's called Seventh Star and it's a great album. For all rock fans, I think they will dig it but if you're looking for a Black Sabbath-sounding like an Ozzy record, it's not that kind of record. But if you're looking for something a bit more modern, that was probably the album to get.

"I wanted to get away from the stereotype heavy metal image that I had in Purple so I wasn't really interested in anything metal or dark."

How much different was it working with Tony as opposed to working with Ritchie? Well, Ritchie Blackmore, I think everybody in the industry and every fan that reads about Purple will understand that Ritchie Blackmore, bless him, is an incredibly talented guy who has a very hard time expressing himself to another human being on a musical level and especially on a personal level. The man is without love. Everything you've ever read about him and this is for the people who read, it's true. He's a pretty evil cat. He's never really happy unless things are going his way and if things are going very, very well like if I had a really good night in Purple like Cal Jam, he'd make a point of saying, You know, you can't have too many more nights like that.' He's notorious for like pulling the rug from under you and really being an asshole. I forgive and forget, that's the kind of person I am. I haven't spoken to Ritchie in a long time. The point of the story is two years ago I was working in my group in Sweden, sorry Oslo, and Purple were in town and my band were playing a gig after Purple. One of Purple's fans went up to Ritchie in the lobby and said, Oh, are you gonna see Glenn after?' And he said, Glenn? Glenn who?' (Chuckles). But Tony Iommi is I found very quiet, very shy; I think Tony is a very, very underrated writer. We all know about his guitar playing but he's a great writer. In fact, I saw Tony at the Kerrang! Awards in London two months ago and he asked me to do another album with him. Of course I wouldn't do that but I'd work with Tony again. Talk about the Black Sabbath tour. You've probably heard a few stories about this but let me tell you the story of what happened. January of '86, the Alley Rehearsal Studios on Lankershim (area of North Hollywood where a lot of rehearsal/production studios are located). Black Sabbath, the group, started rehearsals with the same guys who were on the record. Tony and I decided that I would put the bass down and I would be the lead singer for Black Sabbath which was a horrifying thought for me because here I am, trying to break away from this Deep Purple/heavy metal guy that people think is Glenn Hughes. And I'm breaking away into more of a contemporary funk/R&B/rock thing which is what I am now. I'm having to sing, I'd say 75% of the songs in the show, are Ozzy and Dio songs. Now, let's talk quickly about Ozzy and Dio: Ozzy Osbourne let's talk about the singing voices of Dio and Ozzy. It wasn't so hard singing the Dio stuff; it was fucking really, really hard singing Ozzy Osbourne songs because nobody sounds like Ozzy. And I've got a lot of character to my voice, and a lot of depth and soul, and Ozzy, bless him, is a very monotone singer. And it works for Ozzy Osbourne; Ozzy Osbourne is Ozzy Osbourne and it works for him. For Glenn Hughes to sing War Pigs' is an absolute crime. You couldn't fucking point a gun at gunpoint and make me sing that song again. And in fact, one night I forgot the bloody words to it in Detroit and the crowd went crazy and they never forgave me. But anyway we did a six-week run of rehearsals up until the end of February, five days a week, five, six hours a night. And my voice was fucking rockin'. It was kickin' ass. Great sound guys, great monitor guy, everything was just wonderful; we got along fantastic. Tony, in the back of his mind, doubts Glenn Hughes as the lead singer for Black Sabbath. I think we both knew it wasn't gonna work and Tony, bless him, wanted the best for me and he wanted the best for himself and Sabbath. Remember, Black Sabbath was then and still is, his baby; it's Tony's band. And he wanted Glenn Hughes to be the best I could be. Well, the best I could be at the time wasn't as good as Tony wanted him to be; I just wasn't into the project. I was into the Tony Iommi project but I wasn't into the Black Sabbath moniker. So we did a six-week rehearsal and I was really satisfied with it. We started to get some new songs ready and the old songs and we thought we had a pretty decent show. And then we had a few days free and we had the normal pre-production rehearsal for the press. And we had that at the Desilu Studios where they do videos now (Culver City, California). Christine, my girlfriend, was with me and her mother was in town and we went out to the Cat & Fiddle (English pub in Hollywood, California) with myself, Christine, and her mother, and John Downing, the production manager of the tour. I've known John since 1970 when he worked for The Move, Roy Wood, and John Downing has been a key figure in the Birmingham scene for years and years and years and I know him very well and we're friendly and blah blah blah blah. We're at the Cat & Fiddle and contrary to rumor, I'm not really a big drinker although I did drink some. I couldn't really hold my liquor very well and later that evening, around 4 in the morning, after numerous pints of beer had been consumed back at the hotel, I started getting a little agitated. And John Downing tried to intervene on myself and another person I was talking to. He started getting very heavy with me and I pushed him and he hit me and, this is very important he hit me so hard in the face with his fist will you find out for me, off the record, what is the name of the bone right here in the (eye) socket (orbital rim bones)? He knocked that, splintered it, and it went into my nose, the right side; it went straight through. OK? I went to the hospital and they said they couldn't do anything with it right then, they'd have to wait for the swelling to come down. This is four days before the fucking first gig. So, the night of the dress rehearsal this is the day before I've got a fucking shiner and the swelling, OK. So, the makeup girl comes down and she covers me up and the whole band is in stitches, thinks it's hilarious. I don't think it's good; I speak to Don Arden, the manager: Who in hell is gonna hit the lead singer of a group the day they go on tour?' Anyway, I don't think I deserve to be hit in the face; maybe I deserve another penance but not that. I've never actually been hit in the face and I hope I never am again because it's not very comfortable. So here we are with John Downing hitting me and he never did apologize for that. Now we have a singer who has blood dripping into his throat and I'm coughing this blood up. Now, if I remember correctly, that was a Friday evening at the dress rehearsal and the first gig was the next Thursday in Cleveland around March 21 of '86. I went to Cleveland and I was ready to go, I was pumped up, and we go on and do a soundcheck in Cleveland at the Music Hall and my voice was gone. My throat, my nose, my face was not in any shape to do this gig. Halfway through the very first gig of the Seventh Star tour, I knew that I wouldn't be doing many more shows. There was a show at the Meadowlands and I felt an unease backstage, I felt something was going on. And lo and behold, the Meadowlands was a very big gig for me and the band and for all those people who are reading the book who saw me on that tour, I want to apologize. I was really trying my best but I could barely talk. It wasn't the fact that I couldn't sing; it's the fact that I couldn't sing because I had a medical problem in my throat and nose. The next night was in Massachusetts; after the show, I noticed that the opening band Anthrax had this guy with them, this really good looking guy; long hair, like a younger Glenn Hughes if I may be so bold. After the gig, we had a bit of a thing in somebody's room and I was up there and a girl who was in a band playing in town that night came up to me and introduced me to Ray Gillen. And she said to me, Glenn, I'd like for you to meet your replacement, Ray Gillen.' And I went, What?' And Ray, unbeknownst to me, yes, he was my replacement and a massive Glenn Hughes fan. And of course what they'd been doing after the first gig in Cleveland, Tony and Don Arden knew I wouldn't be able to do the tour, they just knew it. They had called Dave Spitz and said, Well, I know a guy in New York who could probably jump in after the Worcester gig and maybe fill in the tour.' So they'd been rehearsing with Ray at soundchecks in the afternoon and on the bus and they were waiting for my voice to just fall apart. And I do remember, yes, I was introduced to my replacement, Ray Gillen, and I was very pissed off. So I stormed out of Tony's room, out of Geoff Nichols' room and Beast's room and Eric's room, and I banged on their doors. And I said, Would somebody come out and tell me what's goin' on?' And nobody told me. And to this day, nobody ever did tell me. There's one part we missed out, Steve; after the John Downing incident in the face, they hired me a bodyguard to protect myself from myself. And this guy was with me in the next room and everywhere in the hotel in LA and everywhere else. The guy's name was Doug Goldstein; of course Doug Goldstein now manages Guns N' Roses. But Doug Goldstein in the early and mid-80s was probably the very, very best bodyguard in the rock industry you could hire. Once I was with Doug Goldstein, I was behaving myself very well. You have to respect him; he was a very, very good bodyguard and he actually was very, very polite and a kind man and everybody respected Doug. When the incident with Downing happened, I actually hired Doug two days before that and it happened when Doug was asleep. He was great; I just want to mention him in the book. He's paramount in my recovery too because I respect Doug for his respect for people who get clean and sober. So there we have it: we have the problems with my throat, with my nose which no one really knew about. So people that heard that I couldn't sing, I want them to know why. For anybody who read into the rumors that I was using a lot of drugs on the tour, I never used any cocaine on those few gigs. I drank vodka and cranberry juice to ease my nerves before the show because as I said to you, the idea of Glenn Hughes fronting Sabbath is like James Brown in Metallica. In fact on the very first gig in Cleveland, while singing the song Seventh Star' while walking down the ramp behind Tony, I was making my usual R&B stabs in the song, ad libs, and Tony says, Don't you ever sing like that in Black Sabbath again.' Because I sing like Glenn Hughes; I don't sing like Dio or Ozzy. And I'm doing my R&B inflections; it just didn't work. It was nice to work with Tony and there is a possibility we'll do more work.

"I liked working with Tony, it was a nice time; we spent about two months making the album and he was great, no problems."

That's strange that Tony would act that way because back in the day, Tony was involved in blues bands and even bigger bands with horns. It's apparent to me that a lot of bands from the Panteras to a lot of bands, Metallica, Sepultura, owe a lot to Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath. And as I said to Tony last week, I said, I hope you can actually pull it together.' Here's my theory: Ozzy Osbourne isn't one of the great singers of our time but Ozzy Osbourne is a character who portrays his songs into his images very, very well. Ozzy is a fuckin' vaudeville entertainer; Ozzy is Ozzy Osbourne and you cannot replace Ozzy Osbourne. You can find better singers but you can't replace that man in that group. So anybody who tries to fill that position is gonna have a hard time especially with the fans. Because Ozzy is the heavy metal front man. You have guys like David Lee Roth who are more over the top than Ozzy but Ozzy was great and still is and I love him to death. So you have the Gillens and the Hughes's and the Dios coming in to fill these things, it's not gonna work. Especially someone like Glenn Hughes who has no business singing that kind of music at all. I have to say if there's one dark time in my career in the last 25 year that I'd like to erase, it would be the Black Sabbath period. But I would like to say on record that I did enjoy making Seventh Star with Tony Iommi but I'd like to erase that whole dark period on the road and the incident with the fight. The end of the matter was in Worcester was, the next day when I did go to the doctor about my nose, I spent the night in Worcester Hospital having surgery on my nose and my throat to take away all the excessive blood. These are the things that my friends or the readers of this book never knew; that I had to go through surgery to get my voice and my nose in my order again. I couldn't speak to anybody for three months; I had to write messages to people. So, for those people who had a problem dealing with that, that's the story of why I was replaced in Black Sabbath because it was a medical thing. And I must say that Ray Gillen probably did a fine job of replacing me. Of course, Ray is no longer with us, he passed away. One antidote to that story, Steve, is that when Ray did pass away in November of 93 (actual date: December 1, 1993), I was asked by family to help and I did a benefit concert for him in February of '94 in New York. He passed away from AIDS but when he died I was assured by his family that it wasn't AIDS. I spent a lot of time post-Sabbath with Ray in my home in LA here; I got clean and sober in '91, we'll talk about that, and I felt Ray was coming to me for spiritual guidance. He thought I was a spiritual god to him; we wouldn't really talk about music a lot, we just talked about spirituality. Unbeknownst to me, he was dying from AIDS; now Ray didn't disclose this to me or anybody else except obviously his mother and his uncle who also died apparently of AIDS. When I put the show together for the Ray Gillen tribute in New York last year, it was the worst snowstorm in the history of New York. We had about 500 people and it was great. It was an AIDS thing, we had an AIDS store set up there, but I was still in denial that Ray had passed away from AIDS. So I was on stage saying that Ray didn't die of AIDS and all the time, he did. And I made a comment to the press that Ray didn't die of AIDS and Tony Iommi said, Yes, he did' so I had to retract that cause I found out from a doctor actually and I got some reports that Ray had died of AIDS. And he was in denial of the disease. Yes it is awful that we've lost a lot of people like that but he was a great singer. His dream was to sing on a record with me which he did in 88 called Phenomena II. He did that with me; he sang on a song called Surrender.' I miss him dearly, he was a lovely, lovely man. Getting back to that theory I have about the Gillens and the Dios and the Hughes's, we all did reasonably well in Sabbath. But there's only one Sabbath and that's Geezer, Tony, Bill, and Ozzy. And I hope they can put that together; I think the fans deserve another big tour from them. I wish Tony all the best with any incarnation of Sabbath he does. But looking back for me, I really shouldn't have been in the group because I had no business being in the group. I did it more as a favor to Tony and a stepping block for me to do something else. Was there much money in a project like that? I was paid a pretty average sum to do it but I was paying off a lot of lawyers and managers and all that stuff. So there really wasn't much money to be made in the end. And I don't mind saying this, the publishing side of it was all fucked up; the people Tony Iommi were dealing with at the time made sure that nobody made any money but them and him. I wrote a lot of those lyrics; it says, Additional lyrics by Glenn Hughes.' Well you can say 90 per cent of those lyrics were written by Glenn Hughes. But I let it go, I've moved on with my life. Interview by Steven Rosen Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2010

8 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Never doubt that Blackmore is fully deserving of his own title, but the fact is that it was necessary to get what he wanted. Purple without him should prove that people loved what he was pushing the band to do, so I think that first comment is in poor taste.
    John Cherry
    As always, interviews with Glenn are honest and transparent - what a great guy. His autobiography is due to be published this year and is apparently a superb hard hitting, warts 'n' all account of his life through Trapeze and Purple to date. For those that have not kept up with Glenn's work since this interview in 1995, you have missed out big time. His voice, like a fine wine, has improved with age unlike many of his contemporaries. His new project "Black Country" could be the big thing of 2010.
    If you read Geoff Nicholes story on the 7th star album, he says he himself wrote 90% of the lyrics AND music. He came up with the theme of the 7th star alligning with the other 6. Interesting.
    Phil Collins
    I've always followed Glenn and whatever group he was in (Trapeze, Deep Purple, Solo, Hughes/Thrall, Sabbath..ect) ... this man has one of the most gifted voices I've ever heard.
    Interesting read. Always wondered how was his time with Sabbath, plus he said what was his point of view of Ritchie Blackmore.