Kevin DuBrow remembers Randy Rhoads
I’ve always known that musicians were just people who happened to play music. But as a journalist, I've rarely met the person behind the player. Even if I met a guitarist informally beforehand, there was always a distinct change in our relationship when we got down to the interview. Randy Rhoads was an exception. He was always himself and never "The Musician." His joy and love for his family and his girl friend were not separate from his love of the guitar. They were one and the same. Randy never held back his thoughts and feelings, which is probably why he made such an immediate impact as a player. His joys, doubts, hopes, aspirations and his appreciation for life made him an extraordinary person to know. That he was willing to share this with the world mode him an extraordinary guitarist.
- John Stix
I met Randy in 1975 when he was 19 years old. He had played with this gay singer in Hollywood named Smokey, but Quiet Riot was the first band he had done originals with. We had very high hopes and very high standards at the beginning. Our standards almost killed us a couple of times because we said we weren't going to do what everybody was doing. We would start with originals and go straight into recording, without playing the Top 40 clubs. As cocky as we were, we were in for a very fast and very rude awakening. The first year together we went through some big changes. At the beginning we would all chip in some money and get a place to rehearse. Then the money ran out and nobody had day jobs. Randy didn't start teaching guitar until the middle of 1976. We only had so much original material, so we had to do cover tunes to fill out the set. Randy was into Alice Cooper. You can hear it in Diary of a Madman. A lot of his weird stuff, oddly enough, was derived from Alice Cooper as well as classical influences. We had this thing where, if we were going to cover a tune, we wanted to make it a Quiet Riot arrangement. The first one we did was TALK TALK, by the Music Machine. That was Randy's idea. I have a rehearsal tape of it at home somewhere. He did a great solo on that one. Then we got to the point where our management didn't think we could write songs and told us to do cover tunes. The crowd used to go wild over GLAD ALL OVER and we recorded it on Quiet Riot l.
Randy didn't always sound the way he did with Ozzy. When I first heard him play, he reminded me a lot of Mick Ronson. There was some melody with a lot of noises, toggle switch and pick sliding things. The scale oriented lines he didn't get into at all until he got the Sunburst Finish album by Bebop Deluxe. That album immediately changed his style. He liked Bill Nelson a lot. I've never seen him mention it in any interviews. There was a song on that album, Strangers in the Night, and Randy really liked the lead on that one. Bill Nelson's influence was so heavy and immediate that I remember we got into an argument about it, because I thought his playing was becoming overly melodic without the nasty side. With Ozzy he put it all together.
Randy was dedicated, but as far as being a guitar player, he got more and more dedicated when he started teaching. He used to say that the great thing about teaching for him was that kids would come to him with questions and sometimes he didn't know the answers. He didn't want to ever feel that he didn't know what to tell them, so he wanted to be completely prepared. That kept him on his toes at all times. Another interesting thing is if he didn't know the answer he would find out within a day. I remember he started to take classical lessons in Los Angeles and only got three or four months into it before he quit. He felt he wanted to learn the theory behind it before he started taking a lot of lessons.
Randy was never particularly a guitar fanatic. When we first started playing together he was using a black Les Paul S.G. that would never stay in tune and was constantly breaking strings. I remember hearing him saying that he didn't want to use Marshall amps, Les Paul guitars or an Echo Plex. He thought the Marshalls were a headache and the Les Pauls too heavy. It was also hard to get up high on the neck compared to the cutaways on the S.G. One time he went to the Guitar Center in L.A. and saw that white Les Paul. He said it was nice but not for him. Rehearsals went on for a week longer and he was still breaking strings every day on the S.G. I got our manager to go out and buy that damn guitar. We put it on the bed in our manager's bedroom and brought Randy in. It was my idea for him to put his name on it." He did it at a trophy shop about a year after we got him the guitar. He also put on a different plate around the toggle switch and a bell shaped plate above the nut.
Originally, Randy was playing with light, gauge strings and he had such a heavy left hand vibrato that the strings wouldn't stay in tune for love or money. And whenever a guitar player goes out of tune, it's up to the singer to talk to the crowd while they're tuning up. I finally said to Randy, 'Get some heavier strings. I can't keep talking like this!' He went to .010's and that solved the problem.
That white Les Paul became his favorite to play. It's funny because he was so against it originally. At first he didn't like it because it was so heavy. Then when he had those guitars made, they had to go to a lot of trouble to get that heavy wood. The polka dot guitar was an idea that he used in Quiet Riot. He used to wear a polka dot vest on stage along with a matching tie. If you notice, the inlays on the fretboards were bowties. Right after he got that guitar he left with Ozzy. Ozzy didn't like the polka dot outfit. But I think on the back of the live Crowley single he is still wearing the polka dot vest.
One of Randy's last guitars was the Gibson Black Beauty. He was having trouble on the tour getting used to the middle pickup. It was in the way of where his pick hit. Because he liked Glen Buxton of Alice Cooper so much, he picked up a white three pickup S.G. as well. Randy never used Marshalls throughout all of Quiet Riot. He had a Peavy standard head with an Ampeg ported bottom with four Altecs in it. As a matter of fact he liked the sound of that Ampeg cabinet better than the sound of the Marshalls he used with Ozzy, because it was ported. The Ampeg was one and a half times the size of a Marshall cabinet and that sucker was loud. Randy's mom still has it. We used that cabinet of Randy's on Love is a Bitch from the Metal Health album.
Randy was quoted as saying that he band he left wouldn't have made it. He's right, that band wouldn't have made it. It was not the right combination. The drummer was Wrong, and because of the drummer or any one person in a band, that will hold you back.. We had slagged together in one direction for so long that we needed a break. Randy had gotten a call about Ozzy's auditions right before the last Quiet Riot gig. He figured that Ozzy was a flake and nothing would come of it. Then after a particularly bad rehearsal, he got called again and went down to some recording studio. I think it was in Malibu. He played through a Fender Princeton amp and the next day he told me he got the gig. To be honest he waited for two months to hear from Ozzy. He got the call just before Thanksgiving and went off to England. To this day, he never quit Quiet Riot. He was so non-committal. I said, 'So is the band broken up?' He said, 'No, I have to talk to you about it.' Obviously the band was broken up, but he was talking to me and he had a way of saying things the way people wanted to hear them, depending on who he was talking to. It's not that he was two faced, but he wanted everybody to be happy. He would come off to me that it was not a happening thing to be with Ozzy. If he raved about how good it was he knew that he would make me feel bad and left behind. Here we had worked together for five years and I felt that a lot of my work was going down the toilet, and he didn't want to rub it in. We'd been friends too long. He would say Ozzy is flaky and that he didn't know about the album. He told me I probably wouldn't like it and that he didn't know how it would do.
Of the two albums, Blizzard and Diary, he much preferred Blizzard. The thing about that album you have to keep in mind is that all those rifts were things that had accumulated in Quiet Riot that we never used. So when it came time to throw out jam licks in rehearsal, he had a backlog of stuff. It was easy for him to play things that had been thought out for years, even though they were parts and not songs. When it came time to do Diary of a Madman he had pretty much used up his backlog of riffs. I can hear four things on Diary and know where they came from. You Can't Kill Rock and Roll was part of a song called Drive Me Crazy on Quiet Riot 11. Part of S.A.T.0. was called We've Got Magic which was also on that album. The beginning of Believer came from Randy hearing a live tape of Quiet Riot doing Slick Black Cadillac. We used to have this long intro on it which we don’t do anymore. Part of that became the opening to Believer. He may have used up his backlog of jam stuff but I know he was proud of the song Diary of a Madman. He also thought Over the Mountain was a great heavy metal song. I never agreed with him. But we didn’t agree on a lot of things. That’s why we were good friends.
This might sound pompous of me to say, but he once told me when he was doing the Blizzard album, that I was his best critic for his guitar playing, because I was the one who listened the closest and probably influenced the rock side of him more than anybody else. But this was because I loved his playing so much. One reason Randy didn't like his playing that much on Diary was because he didn't like recording where he did the lead solos in the control room. On Blizzard he liked it because they set up speakers for him and he did the dubs listening to the tracks. He felt that Diary was too much of a studio-type album and didn't have the live feel that Blizzard did. My favorite playing of Randy's with Ozzy is on the live King Biscuit radio show, in particular the live version of I Don't Know. The playing on the two Ozzy albums leaves me as dry as the playing on the two Quiet Riot albums. I'd heard him do all that stuff before. He was always so much better live. I remember one morning taking him to a car stereo place. On the way I played him the live tape from King Biscuit. I told him his best solo was on the song Children of the Grave, the Black Sabbath song. He said it was just Chuck Berry riffs. I said no, you don't remember. I played it for him and he said I was right, it was good. He didn't remember playing that well.
Randy used to say it was fun to play the big stadiums but touring was not as great as you may think it is. I used to come back with, 'But you get to play every night!' He would still hem and haw about it. He said it would be a lot more fun if it was his own band. He used to call Ozzy's stuff "Doom Music." One thing he used to say about Ozzy, which I thought was ridiculous, was that he felt it was like playing in Kiss. A lot of times when he did a solo guitar segment, he would just play as fast as he could because that's all he thought the kids would appreciate. I've got four to five hours of Quiet Riot on videotape, and I've got a Randy Rhoads solo spot which is phenomenal it's so much better than anything he did with Ozzy. The funny thing about the solo he did with Quiet Riot was that the song he did it on, Laughing Gas, was the closest thing to what Ozzy and Quiet Riot would do today. It's a real heavy metal song. The solo had parts of Goodbye to Romance in it. He had taken so much of his guitar solo from Quiet Riot and made it into songs for Ozzy, that he didn't have a lot of his solo left. He just went out and did flash.
Randy never liked to be a poser. You had to drag him by the arm to get him to Hollywood. I don't think he liked dealing with those kinds of people because they dealt more with his image than with him as a guitar player. He was conscious of that. But if you did get a couple of drinks into him, he was crazy. His attitude changed after winning the Best New Guitarist Award in Guitar Player Magazine. He started to rethink that flashpot-type guitar playing. He started to think that maybe they are listening. He talked to you, and you changed his mind on a lot of things. You made him realize that other musicians were not as dedicated as he was. He stopped drinking and started bearing down on his practice even more. On that last tour, he was practicing constantly on the road. I heard it from both him and Rudy. He would go into every city they stopped at, looking for a classical guitar teacher. One time he was better than the teacher and wound up giving her a lesson. He paid for it too!
The Monday of the week he was killed, we spoke on the phone about a lot of things. He was having problems with Ozzy wanting him to play the Black Sabbath stuff. Ozzy never mentioned to the press about Randy not wanting to do that album. Randy was saying that after the Diary tour he was going to quit rock-n-roll for a year and go back to school. He wanted to get his degree in music. I told him he was a total idiot. You're the best guitar player I've heard in my life, but rock'n'roll is a funny thing and you'd better strike while it's hot because they'll forget you. He said, ‘I've gotta do what I've got to do.' I thought he was a moron for taking a year off, because I thought that the two of us could be playing together again during that time. I was very self centered when it came to Randy. I always did everything centered around him playing with me again.
We did a reunion in April 1980 at the Starwood in Los Angeles. He came back the day before the gig and we rehearsed. He was supposed to come back for a few days, but Ozzy had to cut a B-side for the single. It turned out to be- No Bone Movies. What they recorded that didn't make it on the record was a song called- Looking at You Looking at Me, which was a Quiet Riot song called Kiss of Death. But he came back and did that reunion. That's what I mean, he never said he quit. He was very wide-eyed about a lot of things. That was one of his beauties. I look back on a lot of his attitudes for my own inspiration and discipline. I got into this business seriously only because he wanted me to play with him. I don't think Randy's playing ever peaked. Every time it seemed it did, he went further. He had a love/hate affair with his guitar. Sometimes he would play it all the time, saying it s the greatest in the world. Other times it would look at him as if it had eyes and he didn't want to get near it, because he didn't feel he was getting out of it what he wanted.
"There's no reason for a guitarist to have a big ego. You should love the Instrument more than wanting to be a rock star." -Randy Rhoads