A Sunday sermon in deepest, darkest London with the Black Sabbath Miura
Children of the Sea
As a 24-year-old rock star, Tony Iommi clearly had his priorities in order. By 1972, he’d already owned two Lamborghinis, despite still calling his parents’ house in Birmingham ‘home’. As mentioned in his 2011 autobiography Iron Man, “the first big cheques always went on flash cars,” and Iommi considered one-upping his car-crazy band-mates to be of greater importance than addressing his domiciliary shortcomings. Consequently, it was the latest Lamborghini that he purchased with his first major windfall, which resulted from the global success of Black Sabbath’s first two albums.
Both multiplatinum albums were recorded at Regent Sound Studios on London’s famous Denmark Street. Now an independently owned guitar shop (one of several striving to keep the street’s rich musical heritage alive), it seems appropriate to make it the first port of call on our tour. Picking up the SV’s raspy tone long before the light-blue lozenge pulls up outside, the proprietor rushes out to greet us barely able to contain his excitement, carrying with him a white late-1960s Fender Stratocaster – Iommi’s other weapon of choice in the early years.
“When the dealer originally told me about this new SV Miura model coming out, he mentioned there would only be seven made for the UK market,” Iommi tells us, speaking on the phone from his dressing room on Black Sabbath’s farewell world tour, entitled The End. It was perhaps his ancestry of Italian vineyard owners that warmed Iommi to Lamborghinis, particularly as he could relate to Ferruccio’s rebellious background story. “He and I had a personal conversation about getting this specific one for me at the time. I still have a letter from him, which I have framed. We were mutual fans, so to say – he liked our music, and I liked his cars!”
One of only two SVs in this sky blue colour, named ‘Azzurro Cielo’ by Bertone, it was certainly a rare sight. “After the deal was done and before I got to pick it up, I was asked if it was ok to use it in the upcoming Birmingham motor show,” recalls Iommi. “I agreed, and ended up picking it up from there – right off the stand, surrounded by spectators and car fanatics. Within the first 24 hours, the air conditioning system literally blew up while I was driving and frightened the life out of me. I first thought the car was on fire, but it later turned out to just be the AC. Back then it was a new thing and it took me a minute to figure out what had happened. I definitely had a love-hate relationship with the Miura as it had a lot of teething problems, like any new model I suppose.”
Behind the Wall of Sleep
“It was quite exhilarating at the time, as there weren’t many cars around that would do the speed or looked quite the style” – particularly so, we imagine, when parked outside his parent’s modest semi-detached house in a quiet Birmingham suburb, where the car was worth five times more than the most expensive house on the street. While recording ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’, the band rented a neo-Gothic castle and used the dungeon for atmospheric rehearsal sessions. “I wasn’t very popular with my neighbours,” recalls Iommi. “I often came driving back to the house very late at night, and the Miura was quite loud.”
The Wizard of the West End
Four decades later, the SV is enjoying a much friendlier reception in London’s West End, providing flabbergasted onlookers with a refreshing alternative to the ten-a-penny Aventadors that angrily prowl the streets during the summer season. Even after all these years, the Miura is beautiful enough to be waved out of every sidestreet, yet still dramatic enough to spur porters to hurriedly clear the concourse of the Dorchester upon its arrival, relegating brash modern pretenders to the doldrums.
Never Say Die
Once Iommi parted ways with the Miura in the late 1970s, it lived an equally rock ’n’ roll lifestyle in the hands of a Scottish potato farmer who, before you laugh, also owned a Daytona, a 250 SWB and a helicopter. Its ownership discography would later also come to include former Virgin Records boss (and Aston Martin collector) Simon Draper. “I’m sure happy to see it’s still in such great shape,” says Iommi, “and I hope the current owner makes a lot of lifetime memories.” We can’t help imagine that the seven years it spent in his custody gave the Miura a lifetime of memories of its own – but since it’ll remain forever silent on that subject, our own remembrances of its V12 song reverberating around the twilit streets of London will, for us, make it The Eternal Idol.
Photos: Alex Lawrence / The White Wall for Classic Driver 2016 / Getty Images