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Ozzy Osbourne 


Lock up your daughters, lock up your booze cabinet or just lock up your city gates, that was formerly the case many “moons” ago when outrageous Ozzy was in the neighbourhood. From his fiery and frantic days as lead singer with BLACK SABBATH (until he was sacked in ‘77 and ‘79), to his blistering Blizzard Of Ozz/solo escapades in the 80s, this was one “crazy train” of a wreck. But for the intervention of his good lady/wife/manager Sharon, his life would’ve went off the rails decades ago. From `Paranoid’, through `Changes’, and a bit of `Mr. Crowley’ in between, the loveable rogue that is OZZY OSBOURNE has captured the hearts of the globe through TV appearances, mainly hilarious post-millennium reality show, The Osbournes.
Born John Michael Osbourne, 3rd December 1948, Aston, Birmingham, England (and nicknamed “Ozzy” while he was at primary school), a series of apprenticeships, factory jobs and a brief stint at Her Majesty’s pleasure led to the man trying his hand at fronting a band. Influenced by The BEATLES from the age of 14, Ozzy and best friend/bassist Geezer Butler formed the short-lived Rare Breed. Things progressed somewhat with the arrival of guitarist Tony Iommi and drummer Bill Ward into the fold; by August 1969, group titles The Polka Tulk Blues Band and Earth had given way to the more profound BLACK SABBATH. The rest was history – and lots of it!
After a decade as frontman for the Sabs, Ozzy was given his marching orders, forming his own Blizzard Of Ozz in 1980 alongside seasoned campaigners Lee Kerslake (drums, ex-URIAH HEEP), Bob Daisley (bass, ex-RAINBOW, ex-CHICKEN SHACK), Don Avery (keyboards) and Randy Rhoads (guitar, ex-QUIET RIOT). Boss of Jet Records, Don Arden (father of Sharon) took Ozzy and his gang under his wing, released their self-titled debut BLIZZARD OF OZZ (1980) {*8}, rewarded when it hit the UK Top 10 and narrowly missed the US Top 20. Hailed as Ozzy’s best work since `Sabbath’s heyday, the unholy alliance of Rhoads’ (and Daisley’s) music and his own lyrics, which, if anything, lent more to the “dark side” than Iommi’s “metal”, it produced such wonderfully grim fare as `Crazy Train’, `Suicide Solution’ (later the subject of much JUDAS PRIEST-style courtroom controversy) and the epic `Mr. Crowley’.
Inspiring multitudes of school-kids to raise their pinkie and forefinger in cod-satanic salutation, the record went double platinum in the States, as did the equally raucous follow-up, DIARY OF A MADMAN (1981) {*7}, a cross-Atlantic Top 20 breaker. Comprising eight eerie and almost mystical songs (including non-hits `Over The Mountain’ and `Flying High Again’), the record was another indication that the Ozzy/Rhoads combination was spiralling upwards. Proving once and for all that the music industry is peopled by hard-bitten control freaks, Ozzy proceeded to chomp on a live dove at a record company meeting with Epic Records later that year (was ALICE COOPER playing golf that day?). Another infamous incident occurred only a few months later when the singer (thinking it was a prop!?) gnashed the head off a bat thrown onstage by a fan at a concert in Des Moines, cementing his reputation as heavy metal monster extraordinaire and public enemy No.1. Toward the close of the year, another QUIET RIOT affiliate Rudy Sarzo (bass) was brought in to replace URIAH HEEP-bound Daisley, while Tommy Aldridge (ex-BLACK OAK ARKANSAS, et al) was preferred to Kerslake.
1982 proved to be an eventful year for the Ozz, tragedy striking when his close friend and right-hand man, Randy Rhoads, died in a bizarre light aircraft crash on March 19th. Consolation and a modicum of much needed stability came with his subsequent marriage to the boss’s daughter Sharon on July 4th – a brave lass indeed. Brad Gilles (of NIGHT RANGER) was duly enlisted to help out Ozzy on his “challenging” live contractual double-set of ‘Sabbath covers TALK/SPEAK OF THE DEVIL (1982) {*5}. Therapeutic rather than necessary, it helped rid the singer of his demons, from the past and the present.
With Jake E. Lee (of RATT) brought in as a more permanent fixture – Aldridge and the returning Daisley were back as his rhythm section, BARK AT THE MOON (1983) {*5} was another double platinum smash. Heavy-metal posturing and NWOBHM pop-riffs were the order of the day for Ozzy’s newfound teenage fanclub; MTV-sponsored singles such as the title track and the orchestrated ballad `So Tired’ reached Top 30 status. Par for the course (although extremely over any US tour limits), Oz unwittingly relieved himself on a wall of the Alamo monument in San Antonio, consequently being charged and banned from subsequently playing there; the singer had always been a hard drinker and drug user, Sharon finally forcing him to attend the first of many unsuccessful sessions at the Betty Ford Clinic in 1984.
OSBOURNE’s albums continued to sell consistently, particularly in America, despite constant line-up changes: namely Phil Soussan for Daisley and Randy Castillo (ex-LITA FORD BAND) for Aldridge on the singer’s fourth studio album, THE ULTIMATE SIN (1986) {*5}. Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic, slick production and screeching metal-on-metal licks, the record still fell short of the mark in critical terms, the exceptions being `Shot In The Dark’, `Lightning Strikes’ and the opening title track.
August 1988 saw the arrival of axeman Zakk Wylde, heralded as a true successor to the revered Rhoads (Jake formed BADLANDS), while Daisley once again returned (Soussan joined BILLY IDOL) with the added attraction of a keyboard player, John Sinclair. Settling a feud with wayward TV preachers (Jimmy Swaggart, et al) – who’d targeted Ozzy as a Satanist – `Miracle Man’ opened up NO REST FOR THE WICKED (1988) {*6} in fine fettle. The devilish theme was apparent throughout as a rejuvenated Ozzy prevailed on the rebellious `Devil’s Daughter’, `Bloodbath In Paradise’ and MTV hit `Crazy Babies’; his hard-rock association stretched further early ’89 when he duetted on LITA FORD’s hit `Close Your Eyes Forever’.
OSBOURNE duly retired to his Buckinghamshire mansion with Sharon and his three kids, eventually kicking the booze and all its afflictions; marking this teetotal time (and reuniting with Geezer on Sab material), live mini-set JUST SAY OZZY (1990) {*4} was somewhat of a souvenir to an end-of-80s Brixton gig.
Re-emerging in 1991 after being cleared of causing the death of three fans (in three separate, well documented cases, parents claimed Ozzy’s `Suicide Solution’ had driven their offspring to kill themselves), NO MORE TEARS (1991) {*7} was a triumphant comeback; OSBOURNE claimed the record would be his last as he subsequently embarked on a farewell tour. Together with Duane Baron and John Purdell on production and joint collaborations with MOTORHEAD man LEMMY (namely `I Don’t Want To Change The World’, `Desire’, `Hellraiser’ and gentle ballad/hit `Mama, I’m Coming Home’), Ozzy and Co kow-towed for no-one on the confrontational `Mr. Tinkertrain’ (about child abuse) and the grungy title track (about serial murder). The almost obligatory concert piece, the double-set LIVE & LOUD (1993) {*6} formally marked time for a man constantly in transition.
Talks of a `Sabbath reunion came to nothing although Ozzy couldn’t resist another tour and eventually an album, the Michael Beinhorn-produced OZZMOSIS (1995) {*5}. Almost cinematic in its opening chords of `Perry Mason’ – and worthy of admission price alone for Wylde’s chunky guitar licks and Mike Inez’s bass – the set was rather flawed and OTT. The record made the Top 5 in America where he was still regarded as something of a metal godfather – maybe it’s the Brummie accent. Ozzy subsequently stunned the metal world by re-joining BLACK SABBATH for concerts and a “Reunion” album in 1998.
A true granddaddy of the metal scene and one of its most enduring celebrities, Ozzy was nearing double figures with the release of his eighth studio set, DOWN TO EARTH (2001) {*7}. Backed up a by a band of sterling metal pedigree (Zakk, of course, Robert Trujillo from SUICIDAL TENDENCIES on bass and drummer Mike Bordin from FAITH NO MORE), OSBOURNE barked out another helping of, well, Ozzy. Spiced up by a few contemporary production/co-writing touches by Tim Palmer, there are more than a few morsels of meat here by way of `Gets Me Through’, `Facing Hell’, `Junkie’ and even soft-ballad `Dreamer’. How many other 70s metal gods can be assured of a Top 5 US chart placing with a new record (Top 20 UK). As a testament to his Ozzfest connections, LIVE AT BUDOKAN (2002) {*5} followed the path of previous big concert sets. In fact, such an icon is our Ozzy that, in a kind of Big Brother in leather keks-kinda-stylee, a fly on the wall TV documentary, The Osbournes, was about to give American viewers an often hilarious insight into the man’s (and his family’s) domestic life. The Osbourne’s in fact – well, youngest daughter Kelly and her dad – scored a UK No.1 in 2003/4 with a version of BLACK SABBATH’s `Changes’ – the resurrection of Ozzy was complete. Other family members, Jack Osbourne (his youngest) was given his own adventure TV programme (Adrenaline Junkie), while mother-hen Sharon became a judge on X Factor; oldest daughter Aimee preferred to shun the limelight.
PRINCE OF DARKNESS (2005) {*6}, was the appropriately-titled boxed set that included all his greats and even a few weird and wonderful failures; this Prince certainly wore his heart on his sleeve. The last disc in the box was utilised for his subsequent UNDER COVER (2005) {*5} set, Ozzy (and ALICE IN CHAINS’ Jerry Cantrell) breaking out the karaoke machine for all his favourite rock tunes including a hit version of The BEATLES’ `In My Life’; others on parade were `Rocky Mountain Way’ (JOE WALSH), `21st Century Schizoid Man’ (KING CRIMSON), `Mississippi Queen’ (MOUNTAIN), `Go Now’ (THE MOODY BLUES), `Woman’ + `Working Class Hero’ (JOHN LENNON), `For What It’s Worth’ (BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD), `Good Times’ (ERIC BURDON & THE ANIMALS), `Sunshine Of Your Love’ (CREAM), `Fire’ (The Crazy World Of ARTHUR BROWN) and `Sympathy For The Devil’ (THE ROLLING STONES).
Celebrity aside and back to his day job, BLACK RAIN (2007) {*6} regained some ground, credibility-wise, hitting Top 10 on both sides of the Big Pond. `Not Going Away’ was something a introspective salute to his detractors, while addiction songs (the very ALICE COOPER-esque `I Don’t Wanna Stop’) were here to keep things ticking along nicely. 2010’s SCREAM {*6} – also produced by Kevin Churko – was his tenth in three decades, not prolific, yes, but effective nonetheless. From `Let It Die’ to the doom-laden `Latimer’s Mercy’ (`Diggin’ Me Down’ was another gem), the mind-blowing antics of the Ozzman was still up there with the new kids on the metal block. To catch-up on the man’s intense career, the singer published his autobiography, I Am Ozzy.
When Ozzy’s deputy-chief RONNIE JAMES DIO sadly died of cancer in May 2010 (Dio, Iommi, Butler and Vinny Appice had been part of the fruitful HEAVEN & HELL off-shoot), all four BLACK SABBATH originals were touting a grand comeback for 2012, the trouble was no one told Bill, who refused at this stage to commit himself to studio and a forthcoming Lollapalooza concert – an album, `13’ (2013), would hit No.1 on both sides of the Atlantic.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD-BG/MCS // rev-up MCS Apr2012-Oct2014

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