Vocals: Instrumental / Page
Original Artist: Black Sabbath
Original Album: Paranoid (1970)
Historian: Phil Nazzaro
Last Update: 2013-01-22
"Iron Man" is an anthem of sorts for people of a certain generation. It’s one of the first heavy metal songs many of us heard, and it sticks with you, occasionally hiding in your subconscious for a while, then jumping up to bite you in the ass when you least expect it. Next to “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple, this song just might have the most infectious power chords ever written.
Black Sabbath “Iron Man”
While longer then the quick jam-by-request from 6/19/88 and Mike’s tease of it during the 2/20/93 “Wilson,” Phish’s 12/31/03 version (the first to constitute a “song” in the phish.net setlists) tracks at only one minute and twenty five seconds. Compare that to the six-minute original version that became an FM and 8-track tape staple in the early ‘70s. The Black Sabbath tribute can indeed seem hastily played. Or is it a band caught up in the moment? Either way, the tune is sped up and, as further proof of a spur of the moment cover, it is impossible to hear Page’s chops on the LivePhish.com version. It seems almost like he sat this one out. However, it was perhaps most unfortunate that being performed as an instrumental, the growling, slowed-down intro vocals of “I...Am...Iron Man” had been omitted. Still, how many bands can say that they welcomed a New Year with the combo of “Auld Lang Syne” > “Iron Man”? Truly an original thought.
None of this was in effect in the early hours of 1/1/13 when Page took center stage at Madison Square Garden with golf club in hand like the scepter of a reigning Heavy Metal monarch to declare himself “Iron Man.” The resulting, full band rendition shook the newly renovated Garden up to its rafters, and down to the undulating floor. Heads were banged, fists pumped, full length guitar solos ripped through the air and “I...Am...Iron Man!” was finally exclaimed. All was right with the world again as Page’s assertion rang true and loud throughout the land.
All in all, Iron Man is classic from a golden era, when a young Ozzy Osbourne didn’t need a music studio to process his voice to an extreme. The song continues to stand up historically with “Stairway to Heaven”, “Free Bird” and their ilk. And it is now yet another hair-raising Phish moment for the pages of the Rock and Roll history books…
”Iron Man” 12/31/12 New York, NY