Random Intersections

My recent recurring dream:

I am at a Black Sabbath concert somewhere / sometime in the 1970's. There are 100,000 shaggy, scary looking fans. Everyone is shitfaced, and the music is incredibly loud. A beefy roadie appears from backstage with a rad looking electric guitar, walks up to me and says, "Jamie! We need you to get up on stage and play guitar! Now!" 

The first few times I had this dream, it totally baffled me. Now that it has recurred several times, I think it's probably because Sabbath's lead guitarist Tony Iommi and I have many similarities: 

1. We are both left handed. 
2. His moustache is exactly the moustache I would have if I could actually grow one.

Ok that's about where the similarities stop. But there is an interesting story about Tony Iommi's mangled fingers that relates to creativity.


At 17, Iommi lost the tips of two of his fingers while working in a sheet metal factory. Dejected, and figuring that his guitar playing days were over, "a friend connected him with guitarist Django Reinhardt who lost use of two fingers in a gypsy caravan campfire accident, inspiring Iommi to give the six-string another go, with soft plastic tips attached to the ends of his fingers."

Iommi continued to play left handed, but was forced to use thinner strings and detune his guitar. This necessary compensation is credited as the birth of Iommi's dark, heavy, doomy sound, which eventually became Black Sabbath's signature. Some would say it was the sound that gave birth to metal.   

Ozzy & Tony, 1969 © Ellen Poppinga

The best kind of creativity and innovation seems to take place at the random intersection of two unexpected elements -- in this case, an errant piece of sheet metal and a left handed guitar player with an awesome moustache.

So there I am, standing at the Sabbath show, deciding whether or not to get onstage and attempt to play along with Ozzy and crew. And I'm thinking to myself that there are two possible outcomes here:

1. Pass. Spend remainder of life wondering what if.
2. Get up there. Fail spectacularly. Have story. Sleep well.

There are few intersections more random and unexpected than that of a fingerless metal guitarist from 1974 and a Jewish, musically deficient photographer from Toledo, Ohio.

So I grab the guitar and head toward the stage. As the crowd amplifies its roar, and I get my first glimpse of the sea of sweaty, longhaired faces, I wake up.

Jamie KripkeComment