Ozzy Osbourne & Randy Rhoads - The inside story
Ozzy Osbourne and strange activities have always gone hand in hand. But in light of the recent twists of fate surrounding the Oz, metal's master of the macabre seems to have reached new heights of weirdness. Consider the facts: 1) he was supposed to re-enter the Betty Ford rehabilitation clinic last December then suddenly "disappeared" for three weeks before emerging in Los Angeles, 2) he has once again shaved off all his hair, something he promised never to do again "unless I totally lose my mind," 3) he released five-year-old live recordings featuring the late, great Randy Rhoads on guitar after previously stating that he would wait for "the right time to release these tapes, possibly after I retire" and 4) he headed off to Tibet and China to reflect on his career away from the public spotlight.
Has Osbourne finally gone over the edge? Has fifteen years of outrageous behavior finally forced rock's lovable loon to cast aside the glamour and glitz of fame for a more sedate lifestyle? At the moment, the answers still aren't available. No one, including Ozzy's wife and manager Sharon, seems sure of what his next move might be. "Ozzy needs a bit of time off right now," she said. "I don't know how long that will be for. He wants to do other things and get away from music for a while. He needs that at the moment. There is a lot of pressure being in the public eye all the time, and sometimes that gets to him. He was acting quite strange a few months ago, and we both knew he needed some time off perhaps to go back into the clinic. But he decided he just needed time away from music. We'll all have to wait to see what happens." What appears certain is that when, and if, Osbourne returns to the rock world, his popularity will be at an all-time high. The success of the live album, Tribute, following as it does on the heels of Ozzy's most successful LP ever, The Ultimate Sin, once again cements his position atop the metal world. The live LP's release caught many longtime Oz watchers off guard. In fact, many had predicted that the tapes, which were originally to be released in 1982, would never see the light of day the light of day. "The tracks were originally supposed to be released on an album during the summer of 1982," Osbourne explained a short while ago. "But then, of course, Randy died, and I didn't think it was the proper way to remember him by releasing that album then. It would have' seemed like we were just capitalizing on his name, and that's the last thing I ever wanted to do. Randy was an angel - one of the nicest, most talented people I ever met. I would never do anything to tarnish his memory. That's why we scrapped the idea of releasing his live album at that time and recorded Speak Of The Devil instead.
"I’ve wanted everyone to hear these tracks with Randy for a long time, but only when the time was right," he added. "Randy plays so wonderfully on them. People have begun to appreciate his talent over the last few years. But until you hear what he's done on this album, you really can't appreciate him fully. He was so creative, so full of brilliant ideas. It was a true privilege to work with him, even if it was for a tragically short time."
As Osbourne stated, the legacy of Randy Rhoads has grown by leaps and bounds since the day of March 19, 1982, when the small plane Rhoads was riding in while on tour with Ozzy crashed. As is often the case in the macabre world of rock and roll, Rhoads' death catapulted him from being an immensely talented, though critically under appreciated instrumentalist into one of the most influential guitarists - along with Edward Van Halen - of his generation. "The guitar is such an incredible thing," Rhoads said only a few months before his death. "It seems that every time you learn something, you find three or four new things you still have to learn. I love all types of playing. In fact, I've started taking classical lessons. It's tough to keep them up when we're on tour, but I try to find a good classical instructor in the cities we travel to and learn something new. My goal is to try to incorporate all styles of playing into what I do on stage."
As shown by his work on Tribute, Rhoads was beginning to achieve his goal. From the fast fingered fretwork on I Don't Know to the burning solo on Mr. Crowley, Rhoads guitar stylings possessed a unique quality that has since been "borrowed" by an endless assortment of six-string stingers. Still, his style remains as inventive as ever even five years after his death. "Randy was an incredible guy to play with," said bassist Rudy Sarzo, who worked with Rhoads both in an early version of Quiet Riot and in the Blizzard Of Ozz. "There are some guitarists who hit upon a solo or a sound that they like and they stick to it night in and night out. With Randy, every night was a unique experience. He made going on-stage even more fun than it usually is because he would be so exciting to listen to and watch. There have been a lot of players who've tried to pick up on his style, but he was really unique. There will never be another like him."
According to many close to Osbourne, Rhoads' death left a large scar on Ozzy's psyche and served as a major catalyst for his retreat into the dark world of drugs and alcohol. That's not to say that Osbourne was living a clean life prior to Rhoads' accident (his drug experimentation, as a member of Black Sabbath has been well documented), but it may have been the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. After all, it was shortly after the accident that he shaved his hair off for the first time and landed in the Betty Ford rehabilitation clinic. But what might have triggered Ozzy's bizarre actions this time? He was coming off his most successful tour ever - one that had grossed an estimated $10 million - and had seen The Ultimate Sin reach #6 in the album sales charts. His family - which in addition to Sharon now features three young children under the age of five - was healthy and happy, and his position as the "patron saint" of heavy metal was secure. So what was the problem? It would seem to the casual observer that everything was all right in the land of Oz. Evidently, underneath the happy surface, a boiling cauldron of self doubt and unhappiness had begun to erupt. Quite simply, Ozzy Osbourne had grown tired of being Ozzy Osbourne. At the age of 38, the bat-biting, blood-spurting insanity had lost much of its kick. The ever-friendly bottle of booze once again loomed as Ozzy's best friend. "I'm an alcoholic and I always will be," Ozzy explained. "Sometimes I get so mad at myself for getting drunk out of my mind. I turn into somebody I don't really like. I try my hardest not to have happen, but it does. At those times, being a rock and roll star is far from being the great thing some people think."
Ozzy had a number of choices to make to relieve the demon that had begun to invade his life. He could follow Sharon's recommendation and return to the rehab clinic, to once again "dry under trained supervision." Or he could follow his own instincts and attempt to escape the full-time job of being Ozzy Osbourne. In the end Ozzy chose the latter course - shaving his head in an attempt - like the Biblical Samson - to be relieved of his rock powers. He wandered off to exotic Iocales where the name "Ozzy Osbourne" wasn't even known.
Now we can only wait to see what happens next in the always unpredictable world of Ozzy. Will he quickly recover, as he has in the past, hungry to resume his resume his recording and touring career? Or decide that he's had enough of the rigors of rock and roll? Only time will tell.