Ozzy and Randy: The Early Days
When Ozzy Osbourne made his break from Black Sabbath at the start of this decade, the prevailing thought at the time was that he would fade out of the picture and that Black Sabbath would rise from the ashes and put some more power into their machine. Not very many people gave Ozzy Osbourne a chance to surpass Black Sabbath as a potent force on the metal scene. The one variable that set up the whole Ozzy Osbourne superstar structure was the guitar playing of Randy Rhoads. There had been talk of Ozzy teaming up with other name guitar players at the time in an attempt to form a ‘supergroup’. Instead he took advice from his soon to be wife Sharon Arden and came out to Los Angeles to inspect a crop of guitar players, hoping to find a diamond in the rough. After several pale imitations of Tony Iommi, including one player who went to the extreme wearing plastic tips on his fretting hand ala Tony. Ozzy was about to give up. He had sat through seemingly endless auditions and retired to a hotel room with a half-fried brain. Literally, a day before Ozzy was scheduled to return to England he received a call from a talent scout who insisted he listen to one more player saying, "you have to listen to this guy, you’re insane not to". Randy Rhoads walked into Ozzy’s hotel room at almost four o’clock in the morning with a small amp and just started playing. The first words out of Ozzy’s mouth were "you want a gig man?" Randy hadn’t been a part of the Rainbow scene. He had spent his time practicing and teaching guitar to a new generation of guitar players that he touched forever. He had recorded the first two Quiet Riot albums and a rare 7" single that were only released in Japan but to most everyone outside the LA scene he was still an unknown. Ozzy took Randy to England where they started putting together the first two albums, "Blizzard of Ozz" and "Diary of a Madman". From the beginning Ozzy was careful to give Randy the space he needed to grow as a musician and was quoted many times as to how happy he was with Randy’s playing. "He’s been such a gift I can’t tell you, not only is he a great player, he’s a great person to work with." Ozzy even mentioned that he would never trap Randy in any band instead of saying, "whether he wants to play for me or on his own, good luck to the guy." The first album, "Blizzard of Ozz" was released well ahead of the domestic version and sold much better than anticipated, and also forced Columbia to take the bank seriously. Ozzy Osbourne was far from a washed up old rocker. He had a new band that killed and a guitar played that was slowly becoming a legend. At that time all the attention was focused on Eddie Van Halen and Randy drew some criticism probably more out of petty jealousy of the fans faithful to Eddie Van Halen. The majority of metal fans delighted in Randy’s incredibly fluid playing, his unique chording and seemingly impossible to throw in fills that were his trademark. Seeing Randy live on the first tour it was evident then that he had grown incredibly as a player just from the recording of the record! He threw in fills that were impossible and played his ass off as Ozzy loaded him up on his shoulders as if to show Randy off to the world. Randy’s constant search for musical knowledge was insatiable. According to Ozzy, "When we were on the road Randy would look in the yellow pages of each city and find a classical guitar teacher so he could take guitar lessons. Just before our last concert in Nashville, Randy was practicing guitar in the dressing room and I couldn’t believe how much he had improved in eight weeks." On that last tour with Ozzy, the band was in the process of recording a live record that would feature Randy Rhoads. "We had a contractual obligation," Ozzy said, "one album was going to be my stuff with Randy and the other album was going to be old Black Sabbath stuff. When Randy was killed I refused to let the live album be released. I felt it was in bad taste. Ever since then I have been getting bags of mail as has Mrs. Rhoads. My wife and Mrs. Rhoads got together on the phone just before Christmas 1986 and the possibility of releasing a live record was brought up. I said I would listen to it and if it was any good I’d put it out. I didn’t want to put out a record that sounded like a bootleg, it’s come out real good." "I don’t think that if Randy was alive today that he would be all that happy with the record, because like most guitar players he was a perfectionist. I have heard him play better than this and I have heard him play worse than this but this is the best of what I have to offer. I can honestly say that this is the end of it. I have no more live recordings with Randy." Most knowledgeable rock fans knew that the last tour was being recorded, and in fact a lot of us have
tapes from radio broadcasts made during that tour. Ozzy had said in the past that he felt Randy Rhoads would become a cult legend much in the Jimi Hendrix’s aura had grown after his death. There are a couple of basic distinctions between the two legends, Hendrix and Rhoads. As great a guitar player and as important as he was, Jimi Hendrix may not have taken his talent and vision as seriously as he had to. His experiments with drugs and his threatening lifestyle made his loss more understandable even though artistically it was incredibly tragic. Randy’s death was so senseless. He was a brightly burning star that was influencing the entire musical world by his romance with his instrument. He took his Gift seriously by practicing, constantly growing, and keeping in contact with other musicians. Ozzy always raved about how polite Randy was, how easy to deal with Randy was when working or just passing the time. Now for the record and on vinyl Ozzy has made the right decision by letting all those who loved Randy have a final moment we can treasure as well. It is sad that Ozzy says this is all that’s left from Randy’s legacy. This writer I’m sure is in accordance with most people who have read this far in saying the we will never forget Randy Rhoads and the "Tribute" album is something very special and definitely worth the wait.