Brian May joins Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi to play 'Paranoid'

4 January 2024, 13:56

Black Sabbath – The End DVD trailer

By Mayer Nissim

Two guitar heroes. One massive riff.

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It's hard to think of two British rock guitarists who are better regarded than Queen's Brian May and Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi.

And it turns out that the axeman are great friends going way back when, and have enjoyed many a jam together over the years.

Brian May and Tony Iommi play Black Sabbath's Paranoid

The pair recently shared a sofa for Sky Arts doc Greatest Guitar Riffs, where they reminisced about Sabbath's monumental guitar line for 'Paranoid'.

"We first met in the early ’70s and we’ve been best friends ever since," Iommi explained of his relationship with May, before going on to tell the story of Queen's guitarist joining in during a Black Sabbath rehearsal.

"Brian come down to one of our rehearsals once, we were jamming away, and gradually as we were playing, all the gear’s getting taken away apart from our two amps.

Black Sabbath's Paranoid album
Black Sabbath's Paranoid album. Picture: Alamy

May joked: "Everyone got bored and left.... we're still jamming!"

Of the story behind 'Paranoid', maybe Sabbath's best-known song, Iommi said: We didn’t have enough songs to fill the album, so the producer said, 'We need another song'.

What's more, the producer insisted that the song not be longer than two and a half minutes, with Iommi moaning: "We've never written anything less than bloody five minutes!"

Tony Iommi and Brian May out and about in 2009
Tony Iommi and Brian May out and about in 2009. Picture: Getty Images

Iommi continued: "The others had gone to have something to eat, I came up with this riff. So when they got back I played them this idea of 'Paranoid'."

He went on to talk about the riff – "it's basic, it's not technical by any means" – before kicking into it.

"I'm gonna commit sacrilege by joining in," says May, before soloing over the top.