Randy Rhoads - A Tribute
-Randy Rhoads - A hard act to follow
-Sharon Osbourne - The truth about the tragedy
-Randy’s music teacher on the child prodigy
-A few good gigs with Ozzy
-Randy to the Max
-Grover makes a guitar
-From Obscurity to Eternity
-The mouth sheds a tear
-Goodnight Sweet Prince
-Randy’s last photo shoot
RANDY RHOADS - A TRIBUTE
RANDY RHOADS - A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW
If he had lived, the young virtuoso would be pushing the limits of guitar playing as we know it. Randy Rhoads: what a hard act to follow. That’s the thought that kept going through my mind as we gathered the pieces of the document you are about to read. As we sifted through these shards from the shattered history of a guitar pioneer who left his brief cosmic mark in the sands of time, the shadowy figure from the grave took on a larger-than-real presence. We interviewed his mother and his music teacher, his playing mates and his boss/ buddy Ozzy and others who were in some way instrumental in bringing home this gifted player's glowing moments. And though we recorded the feelings of players who played with and succeeded Randy, we never did get Jake to testify, since Jake E. Lee, who is currently playing lead guitar in Ozzy Osbourne's band, and who has a style of his own quite distinct from that of Randy, is very aware of the fact that Randy Rhoads was a hard act to follow. Though usually quite eager to discuss his playing with this magazine, Jake is, understandably, reticent about the forthcoming Ozzy Osbourne - Randy Rhoads live TRIBUTE lp. You may recall that in his last interview with us (GW Nov. '86), Jake described vividly a recent stageside scene at an Ozzy concert: a gaggle of Randy freaks was assembled there who insisted on wearing signs that said, "Randy Rules" as Jake played his set. A sensitive guy, Jake commented afterwards, "Wearing a Randy Rhoads tee-shirt only reminds Ozzy that he's lost a friend and nobody else in the band knew the guy- Randy is not around to appreciate it, I don't appreciate it. I'm glad you liked Randy but you don't have to shove him in my face." No wonder he had little more to say in comment about our Randy Rhoads Tribute than that Randy was great but he didn't think it fair to be compared to him. Which brings us back to our original point-that Randy Rhoads was a hard act to follow because he believed most firmly in the very same thing that Jake is practicing today by playing it his way: To thine own playing self be true, Randy would say - bending Shakespear a little - if he were alive today. To thine own playing self and thine own playing style be outrageous, and you'll be an outrageous player.
This special section was a labor of love by our entire staff, but especially Executive Editor Joe Bosso, who edited it. We'd like to thank him here, and to tip our hats to Delores Rhoads, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, Kelly Garni, Billy Cioffi, John Livzey, Ann Summa, Brad Gillis, Rudy Sarzo, Scott Shelly, Susan Blond and the thousands of fans who still believe.
Ozzy Osbourne’s relationship with his friend and partner was so close that he still finds it hard to believe that the young genius is gone.
Even though Ozzy Osbourne is a strong man, he couldn't do it alone. When he met Randy Rhoads and tapped him to be in his band, there was no real reason to think that it would amount to much. Metal, in 1980, was a dead issue, and Ozzy himself was generally perceived to be over, a flake, incapable of showing up at his own concerts and, in short, just another rock star who believed his own image and wrecked it. It takes a strong man to know what he needs and go after it. The ironic thing about it all is that the one person who is credited with saving Ozzy both personally and professionally is, of course, no longer with us. Life does take cruel twists. And now, after what some might consider a more than decent interval, Ozzy is paying his respects to Randy Rhoads in the form of the recently released lp, Tribute, a live concert album that chronicles the very apex of Randy's performing ability on-stage with Ozzy. "I wouldn't put this live album out for the longest time," Ozzy states emphatically, speaking on the telephone from the California home he shares with his wife/manager, Sharon, and their three small children, Aimee, Kelly and Jack (who could be heard playing and crying in the background as we spoke). "I wanted to hold on to the material. It was locked away in a vault. I didn't want to hear it, I didn't want to even know about it, You know, there are lots of bootlegs around, these tapes made by kids who go to a concert with a tape recorder tucked away in their socks. Usually the sound is awful, you can't make out a thing. We weren't in much for recording live shows back then anyway. No great reason why, really, we just weren't. But this record is an official recording; it's actually the only official recording of us live with Randy. That's why it's special, and that's why it's so marvelous. We did that live record, Speak of The Devil, but that was Sabbath stuff. I did that one for a lot of reasons, people wanted a live record, all that stuff, but I was dead set that nobody else would touch Randy's stuff live on a record. I just couldn't bear to do that. "So, for many years, I guess, I had the tape tucked away, in a vault. It was recorded in 1981, in Canada somewhere, we really aren't sure of the date and the place, but we're pretty sure of that much, really. But like I said, I just couldn't put it out, I wasn't sure of a reason, other than a tribute. Then Randy's mom, a great lady, who we're really close to, approved the whole thing, so the time seemed right to put it out. "The thing is, and I sincerely hope that people will realize this, I'm not cashing in on Randy. You know, I might be many things, but that's not the way I am. I loved Randy. I loved him like a brother, so in no way could I do a thing like that. So, after the thought process and all, we had to locate the tape, right? Well, we put it on, unsure of what we'd be getting, and we just couldn't believe our ears. The thing is, there are so very few recordings of Randy, and this is the only good quality live recording of him, and we went so many years without hearing it, hearing the quality of his playing. "We were devastated. You know, the tape was on for only a minute or so and all I could say was, 'My God!' It's that good. Any initial fears or worries about putting the record out were put to rest that fast. People just had to hear it, hear Randy play, that's all I could think. Live, Randy would just come into his own. I don't know if he was ever entirely comfortable in a recording studio, we had to work pretty fast at the time. But on a stage, that's where Randy was supposed to be. He could play things entirely different, like you've never heard them, and they'd be great, and the next night it would be even better. He was that good. "The whole thing feels like an era in my life, and you know, I'll never get it back again. When I left Sabbath, I was in bad shape, and I thought it was over. It was a terrible situation. And then I met Randy. It's difficult to be in the music business, to be a singer and not be able to play an instrument. You know, when I write a song I can hum it or sing it, but I have to be able to get my ideas across to someone. Randy could just take an idea and run with it and make it so fantastic. When he came up with the parts to 'I Don't Know,' well, I just couldn't believe it. It was like somebody was finally playing the guitar in a way that you always knew it could be played. "He was an exceptional musician, a dedicated guitarist, but he was always fun to be around. He just made every day a pleasure. He was always a gentleman, but very funny. That could fool people, because he could be so shy, but then they'd hear him play, and he'd blow people off the face of the earth. If he were still here with us he'd be at the forefront of what people are playing. He'd be the leader. "Shortly before his death he got heavily into classical guitar. He was so obsessed with practicing and becoming better, it was incredible. He could read the stuff real well, and he'd study on the road whenever he could. The material that he was studying and writing was so intricate, so complicated, that nobody else could understand it. He was advancing that quickly. I think of what he'd be capable of if he were still around, and I just know that it's miles away from anybody else.
"There are so many things about his death that are unfair. I was very angry about it after it happened. For about two years I just had this rage about me. I was mad at anyone and everyone. Randy wasn't a crazy person, he wasn't any of those things - he was just a young musician with this incredible talent. That's what's so unfair. He was just plucked away from all of us before he could realize his full potential. I look around at what's going on in music now, and there's so much that he'd love - he'd go out of his mind with CD's, you know. He'd probably have a field day with them. "The thing about Randy, the bottom line truth of it is that he was my dear, dear friend, and not a day goes by when I don't think about him. He made everything new again, he made things fun again, and I miss him a lot. He gave me so much, he gave everybody so much, and he didn't get a chance to see it all come back to him. He did not reap what he sowed."
SHARON OSBOURNE - The truth about the tragedy
Sharon Osboume is the wife and manager of Ozzy Osboume. The daughter of Jet Records President Don Arden, she first met Ozzy in 1971 when he was a member of Black Sabbath, Later, after Osboume signed with her father’s label, Sharon witnessed one of the new band's first concerts, which she describes as "simply wonderful - I fell in love with the band right off." Sharon subsequently began to work for the band, eventually becoming Osbourne’s manager, and ultimately, his wife. Tough-minded and dedicated, Sharon is also one of the sweetest people in the business. She, was at the scene of the plane crash that killed Randy Rhoads, an artist she worked closely with, and whom she remembers fondly.
The shame of it all is that few people really got the chance to see Ozzy and Randy play together. Right as things were starting to happen, Randy was killed. It was on the first major arena tour of America. Before that, they were working terribly hard, up and down the country, playing anywhere, just to be seen, living on a bus. "Lots of times, before the breaks happened, we'd just show up to find that not enough tickets were sold, and the promoters would threaten to pull the plug and not let the band play. Well, we'd say that we'd play for nothing, just let the kids see the band. Major cities were no problem - Boston, L.A., New York and so on, but the little places in America, that's where we had to work like mad. Randy wasn't pampered at all on the road. He saw a lot of hard times.
"So finally things were breaking and we got the big tour, and Randy's whole thing, his big dream, was to play at Madison Square Garden. Two weeks before we were set to play there, he got killed. It was unbelievable how the two of them got along. Ozzy had toured quite a bit with Black Sabbath, and Randy was new to everything. Ozzy didn't feel like anything would work anymore; but then Randy came along, and it was a brand new lease on life for Ozzy. Randy made everything fun. We'd turn up for gigs and the ticket sales would be bad, but it didn't matter, it was always fun times with Randy along. He had such a great sense of humor, everybody was attracted to him, and then of course, Ozzy is renowned for his sense of humor, so the two clicked like mad. "Randy would love to go out sightseeing. Wherever he was, there was something new to see. The first place he would hit would be the shopping malls, and then he'd go wherever he'd end up. Most of the times, with rock stars, they'd get up at six o'clock, go to the soundcheck, and back to the hotel or whatever. Randy wasn't like that. Whatever town we'd be in, he'd be up in the morning and out, seeing what he could. He'd live life to its fullest, 24 hours a day. "Ozzy and Randy shared an apartment in England at first, in Kensington, and Randy would go out and walk and walk and walk, just to see what was going on. He had a penchant for trains, too, so wherever there was a train, you'd find Randy. "He was also one of the most dedicated musicians I've ever met. It was unreal. Up until the day he was killed, he'd be working on the guitar, on new scales. Randy and Ozzy were, at the time, discussing the possibility of Randy taking time off from the band to further his studies on the Classical guitar, and Ozzy was tremendously supportive of this. They'd constantly be working together, of course. After all the shows, they'd be on the bus, and they'd get the guitar and work on riffs and new songs. Lots of times, it'd be four or five in the morning on the bus, and Ozzy would maybe be a bit loaded, and he'd wake up and go, 'Randy, get the guitar, I've got an idea!' "You know, nowadays things are so nuts, the way Ozzy is being treated by the press, everything. Randy would just go into fits of laughter about it if he were alive today. He'd be on the floor if he knew about the PMRC [Parents' Music Resource Committee, which tries to "clean up" rock lyrics]. Everything was a joke to him, though he was far more mature than his years. He was a calm inside the storm.
There's so much about the crash that is misunderstood, that needs clearing up. This is what really happened: the guys were going to Florida, we were doing an outdoor festival with Foreigner. We were broke, and they were offering great money, so it was like, 'Why not?' It was an overnight drive to Florida, and the bus we were using actually came from there. We had to go past the driver's home - he lived on this compound where the buses were kept, and he needed a couple of spare parts. We pulled in to this area and there was this small landing strip with these small aircraft. So it was a big green field, three houses and a landing strip. "Ozzy and I were asleep in the bus. There was also [bassist] Rudy Sarzo, [drummer] Tommy Aldridge, Randy, Ozzy, a tour manager, a keyboard player named Don Airey, myself and Rachel, who was a 56-year-old lady, who took care of all the band's clothes and cooked for them. She died on the plane also. "Now, on this particular haul, the bus driver picked up his ex-wife at a gig. He actually had the nerve to ask me to drop her off in Florida. Usually, I wouldn't permit this, but he put me in an embarrassing situation, so I had to allow it. We stopped at the driver's place. "It's seven in the morning, and Don Airey and the bus driver are awake, and they see the planes. The bus driver turns out to be a pilot! Don asks the driver to take him up for a ride. So they go up for a while and land. Don then comes back in the bus and wakes everybody else up to go on the plane. Well, nobody else would go except Rachel and Randy. They went up, and they were taking photos of the bus. The bus driver's ex-wife was outside the bus, watching. And then before you knew it, the plane came down and went right through the bus and into one of the houses. "Ozzy and I woke up, the back of the bus crushed down on us, and we had no idea what was happening. There was nothing left - the pilot died, Rachel died, and Randy died. Instantly. "You know, when it happened, there were all these stories about fun and games. It wasn't like that at all, and the whole thing will always be a mystery to us. Randy was afraid of flying! He was terrified of it whenever he had to fly. What would make him go up there? Ozzy and I will wonder about it 'til the day we die. In my opinion, there was more going on. In the autopsy report, they found cocaine in the bus driver's system, a considerable amount, and of course he had been fighting with his ex-wife. I think for that one instant, while flying, he looked down at his ex-wife and said, 'Forget this.' Why Randy and Rachel had to be on that plane though ... it was a horrific day. "Usually, when musicians die, it's the same old story. With Randy, it was different. It wasn't a silly stunt, it Was a tragedy. "Ozzy wanted to call the live album Tribute, because that's what the album is, it's Ozzy's tribute to Randy. It's not like one of those typical live albums - it's not geared for the radio, it's not for this format of this thing. It's for the kids, it's for the fans, and it'll show 'em all what Randy could do. "There's so many sides to a guy like Randy, so much that people probably didn't realize. Even though he played hard rock music with Ozzy and loved classical guitar so much, his favorite album at the time of his death was the Phil Collins' record, Face Value. That was his big fave, and he played it all the time. "Ozzy feels many things about the situation. He had such a thing for Randy. I know they were the best times of his life, they were the best times of mine, too. It was like one of those classic things from the movies, like The Three Musketeers and all that. I know Ozzy would do anything, give anything to get that back again. "I feel fortunate to have worked for the both of them at the same time. Through the years, I've worked for some of the biggest stars, and I'll tell you, I've never seen a magic like those two together."
On The Blizzard Of Ozz lp there is a track that seems somewhat out of context with the of the furious rest album's shredding. The piece, entitled "Dee," is a solo acoustic guitar composition with lyrical passages and a lovely harmonic structure. The song gives the listener an uncanny glimpse of Randy Rhoads. His past and, sadly, what might have been, had not the guitarist's life been cut so short. To understand this last statement, one has to meet the inspiration for "Dee," Randy Rhoads’ mother, Delores Rhoads. For someone who died so young, Randy Rhoads was a very fortunate man. Few parents would have recognized Randy's potential and encouraged his development as did Delores Rhoads. She is a very special lady. Delores is a musician herself - a flautist - who owns and operates a music school in Burbank, California. She was graduated from UCLA, taught in the L.A. school system on the junior and high school levels, then left to play professionally. Eventually, she began her own private music school. Through it all, she raised three children (Kelly, Kathy and Randy) as a single parent. One of the things that Randy apparently inherited from his mother was determination, along with the idea that a person has to work hard for what he wants. Mrs. Rhoads is a diminutive, grey-haired lady with a glorious smile and articulate eyes. A vibrant, intelligent woman, who seems to want nothing more than a clear image of her son portrayed for his fans, she graciously consented to this interview in her Burbank home. In talking to Mrs. Rhoads, it's easy to understand how Randy became the mature musician he did in the short, nova-like burst of energy that was his life. "Randy actually grew up musically in my school," she says, "and as I probably mentioned in other articles, I am sure he was influenced by this in many ways. He started when he was so young, he was somewhere between six-and-a-half and seven when he started lessons. In those days, way back then, we started them with the folk guitar where they learned the chords and a few pop songs. Of course, that wasn't enough for Randy, so he came to me and said, 'Mom, I really want to play electric guitar.' I had an old Harmony down there and the guitar was almost larger than he was; it was a semi-acoustic, and he started on that. I, fortunately, had a very good electric guitar teacher at that time-Scott Shelly. I have recently seen his name in the musician's paper that he does work now composing and playing in the movie studios. He was very good, and that was fortunate because he was a good teacher and gave Randy a very good start. He made him play a lot of scales, made him use violin books for scale material. It was only about a year when Scott came to me and said, 'Well, I've taught Randy everything I can, he knows everything I can teach him.' I said, 'Oh, come on, you're just putting me on.' I thought he was teasing me, but he really meant it, that's the truth. So I said, 'Well, if you really mean it, then we'll stop his lessons.' Randy actually took it on his own from there and he always said that he developed his own style in a lot of things he did. We were not fortunate to have a lot of hi-fi equipment, or whatever they called it in those days. He didn't listen to other people that much, and he always felt that was good because that gave him a chance to do his own thing, so to speak, and actually Randy always recommended that to his students so highly. He said, 'Be yourself, develop your own style, don't copy anyone.' He stressed that.
"From the very beginning when he picked up that guitar, his whole life centered around it. Later, I believe Randy was about 16 and he was already quite good. He started to teach for me in my school and taught for me until he went with Ozzy. At the same time, of course, that was during the Quiet Riot days. He was teaching, running to rehearsals, playing gigs. Usually, they played every weekend or sometimes a couple of gigs on the weekend depending, you know how that goes, but because of all that he did play a great number of hours each day.
"He had to read music. To play in my little group that I had even way back then, he read the charts when he played. They called them charts; I just called it music in those days. But he had to read, because he couldn't play in the group unless he read. And then I worked with him when he was very young. I gave him some piano lessons, so he had to learn to read. I always make my students count very accurately and read properly and do everything the right way, so he had some help in that."
Because Mrs. Rhoads was a musician herself, Randy was spared some of the distance of the generation gap. The age-old traditional chasm wasn't quite as wide or deep as, in "civilian" households. "Well, I like all music, I really do, and I could relate to their side of it. it made them happy. It had a unity for the young people. When they went to their gigs or concerts with their friends, there was a warmth among them - it was, I don't 'know the right word, comradeship or relating to each other, understanding each other and overlooking faults and just really enjoying their friendship with each other. They all got into it so much and they loved it, you know. I could see that part of it, and it was a happy situation when you would go to the gigs. Of course, I always went and listened to Randy. I always followed his playing and enjoyed it so much. I appreciated the young people and I appreciated the situation, and I think a lot of parents today don't take the time, they just say, Is too loud, I don't like that.' and, 'Turn it off.' But I can see the other side, especially, I guess, because I was in music - I could understand it and it's very creative. They have to create their own songs, and there are a lot of points to it that probably a lot of parents just don't understand - they just miss it completely. "I can remember when I was young, that's when boogie came in, and my parents thought that was terrible, you know. If it came on the radio (we didn't have television), then they just said, 'Oh, no, don't play that; turn it off.' But you know, I liked it then, I thought it was great." As with any artist whose life is cut short, it's fascinating to speculate on what might have been. Even at 25, Randy had a pretty good idea of where he was headed. A lot of those ideas were the result of Mrs. Rhoads' influence, no matter how unplanned it might have been. "Well, I'm strictly strong on the classical music and Randy was, too He had gone into classical guitar; it was probably eight months to a year before he went with Ozzy. He had become very interested in classical guitar, and when he was working with Ozzy in England he studied guitar with one of the professors at the University of London. He enjoyed those lessons so very much and intended to pursue that vein. He wanted to, go back and get his degree. As a matter of fact, I had already started inquiring At UCLA and USC so that he could go back, get his degree in music and then perhaps get his Masters in classical guitar in Europe. That was his aim. Then I think he would have combined the two fields - classical and rock - and that would have been especially unique. I think that would have been a super sound. When he came off the road and had a little break, he would always listen to classical music.
"He really favored what we call string orchestras, chamber music, which is very strong classical music. I still practice regularly, I love to play the flute. A very special time which will be a special memory for me is the last time that Randy was home for a break. He was only home for about seven or eight days, and we so seldom had time when we could both just have a morning, and he said, 'Mom, let's play together. You get your flute.' He played classical guitar. He had music that I could transcribe and play a second part on the flute, and we just played the whole morning; we just got lost in ourselves and enjoyed that so much. That will always be a treasure to me; we just enjoyed that so very much. "If he were doing what he outlined for himself, by this time he should have had his degree in music and probably would be getting his Masters now in Europe. But, knowing Randy, playing opportunities would have been coming along all the way. Who knows?" Less speculative, and certainly more meaningful than conjecture, is what Delores Rhoads thinks her son's legacy both musically and spiritually is to his fans and peers. "Well, it has been a great reward to me, the response from all these young people, I just have letters that would go to the ceiling. I've read every letter and saved every letter, and they all tell me how Randy has influenced them, how much they love Randy. Not only his playing but as a person, because I think his real person shows through even to these young people who have never seen him. A lot has been written and it's all certainly true. Randy was a very, very kind and humble person, and he wasn't into anything like some of these young people who get into drinking or drugs and all that. Oh no, Randy wouldn't do that. "I was very cooperative to help him in every way that I could. Being a musician, I could tell in the early years that Randy had something special, music - wise. I could tell that he was exceptional, and so I was always most cooperative and I had enough experience in the field that I felt I could help him in many ways and I know that I did. He relied a lot on me. He called regularly, and if he had any questions about anything, he would always ask me. I think we had an exceptionally close relationship because of the music.
"He always had his own direction, that's for sure. I think the reason young people relate to him so fantastically is they sense that if you put yourself into a really determined mind about doing something and foIlow through, you can do it. Keep in that direct line and keep going. Don't ease up, don't give up."
Randy’s music teacher on the child prodigy
Scott Shelly's multi-faceted career began at age 18, when be replaced Randy California as the lead guitarist in Spirit. Through the years he has worked with Dan Fogelberg, Boz Scaggs and may, others. In addition to performing, Shelly has been a producer and music teacher.
I first met Randy in 1972. 1 was I7 or I 8 years old and I was teaching one day a week at one school and one day a week at Musonia, the school Randy's mother owns. I approached Delores about teaching there. We talked and I played and she told me about her needs and then said that she was looking for a teacher for her son, She told me he was 12 years old. "Randy was always very balanced. He was someone who was aware of himself, but not cocky, just real self-assured. Not too shy but not in your face. He was real inquisitive, as I remember. Being a teacher, you always want to make sure that someone knows a certain amount of theory, and fundamentals. You want to make sure your students know how to read and so on. Randy was good for about 15 minutes of that stuff each lesson and then he’d say, 'let's play!' Every other lesson or so he'd say, 'can we just play? I know I gotta learn my scales and all this stuff, but can we just play today!'
"I did go to Delores and tell her at one point that I had taught him all I could. Absolutely, the first time I played with him you could tell that he had the guitar heart. You know the look. He loved the instrument. He was patient enough to learn, and you gotta make sure when a guy is young that you teach the stuff he has to learn. "I remember there was a girl guitarist whom I was teaching who had a terrible crush on Randy and she would wait for Randy and she would interrupt our Iessons, and Randy would get angry and say, 'Excuse me, we're in the middle of a Iesson.' Most of us would get up but Randy would not be distracted from his lesson. He felt that he had time for girls later.
"It's almost a Zen thing. Surfers know it, dancers know it, it's like the hurrier I go the behinder I get - from 'Alice In Wonderland.' There is a point where you let it happen and you're still controlling it, you don't get that inspired energy by forcing it or bearing down, you just allow it to flow, and Randy was there at 12 years old!"
A few good gigs with Ozzy
Brad Gillis took the guitar spot in Ozzy Osbourne's band immediately after Bernie Torme had left. After Randy passed away, Torme (a friend of Ozzy's who had his own band and record deal in England at the time) played guitar while Ozzy was looking for a permanent replacement for Randy. Gillis came on board to enable Ozzy to complete the rest of the tour He can be beard on Speak Of The Devil, Ozzy's 1982 live album. It was weird how I got into the band. At the time I was playing in Ranger; it was before we had changed the name to Night Ranger. We were trying to get a record deal, so there was a lull. A friend of mine, Preston Thrall [Pat Thrall's brother], had been watching me play in a local band called the Alameda All-Stars. We played the Ozzy tune 'Flying High Again' in our set. Preston Iiked the way I played it and recommended me for the Ozzy gig. After word got to Sharon [Osbourne], she called and said that Ozzy was looking for a guitar player and asked if I would fly to New York to audition. Since I wasn't doing much with Ranger, I said, 'Sure.' I was given a set list and had to learn the songs within two days. When I got to New York I went to the Ozzy show at Madison Square Garden. Bernie was on guitar that night. After the show, I went to the party and that's when I met Ozzy. He said, 'I want to hear you play.' I went to my room and got my guitar, but I didn't have an amp. So I sat and played while Ozzy sang along. He liked what I was playing, so he hired me. I traveled with the band while Bernie was still on guitar. I had a live tape that Randy was on, which I used to learn all the segues between songs. When Bernie had to go back to London, Ozzy wanted me to take over. I did a three-hour soundcheck, to go over all the songs with the band. That was the only rehearsal I had. The first show in Binghamton, New York, was - gee, I can't even explain it, quite a trip. I played one of the changes wrong and started to go into a different section of the song. It was quite embarrassing. I managed to pull the song back together and every night after that went smoother. Filling Randy's shoes was the toughest thing I've ever had to accomplish. It was a do or die situation. If I couldn't cut the gig, they'd bring in somebody else. What amazed me, though, was there weren't any other guitar players in the wings to take my place. I thought they would have flown about 10 or 15 guitarists to New York to audition, but it was just me. While on tour, I had to put up with lots of banners that said 'Randy Lives On' and things like that. But there was nothing really bad or downcast towards me. When I first joined the band, everyone was very gloomy because of the tragedy. After a few months, though things perked up a bit - my energy added to the band. I toured with the band for about five or six months. "I tried to play the guitar solos like Randy played them. But since Randy and I come from a different school of learning, I had a bit of trouble playing some of his classical-type runs. The only guideline that Ozzy gave me was not to get into his stage space - he never told me to try to play the guitar parts the same way Randy played them. I did that anyway, pretty much. "While we were in Europe during the last set of shows, I found out that my band had got a record deal back home. Since I was with the guys in my band for about three or four years before I hooked up with Ozzy, I felt an obligation to stay with the band. Although I got a solid offer to stay with Ozzy, I took a chance and went back to Ranger. If we hadn't gotten a record deal, I would probably be in Ozzy’s band now."
Randy to the Max
Producer Max Norman engineered and produced Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary of A Madman albums. Here he discusses sculpting the sounds the guitar colossus of Rhoads. This interview took place during the remixing stage of the album Max also worked on - Ozzy Osbourne's current 'Tribute to Randy Rhoads.
I met Randy at Ridge Farm Studios in England, where I was a resident engineer. The first Ozzy album was going to be produced by Chris Tsangarides, but Ozzy fired him after a week. One day Ozzy called me over and said, 'It's not happening with this guy. I want you to do the album.' I was probably the only guy who could sit in while Randy was playing and actually know what was going on. Although I was only credited for engineering the album, myself and Randy were the only guys doing the production. Randy would say to me, 'Max, I want this kind of sound,' and I would try to capture it for him. "When I first started working on the album, it was a mess, because I had to pick up where Chris had left off. But once we got the backing tracks down, the rest of the work went smoothly. We did that album in about four-and-a-half weeks. "After we did the rhythm tracks, Randy would say to me, 'I want something outrageous and really strange sounding for the solo.' And I'd say, 'What exactly do you want?' And he'd say, 'Do anything, just go crazy.' I'd go outside and smoke a little bit of hash. When I went back into the studio, I'd crank up the AMS digital delay and all these different ideas would start to pop into my head [laughs]. I was one of the first guys to use the AMS on guitar. A lot of people use it more for triggering these days. "in the studio, Randy used a single 100-watt Marshall with two cabinets. We used Shure 57's on the cabinet itself, and two Shure 87's - one about six feet from the amp and another about 12 feet away. Randy had a pedalboard, which Ozzy called the Chip Pan, because it made so much noise when it was on. It sounded like you could fry French fries on it. It was an old pedalboard, built by some guy in England. It had some MXR stuff and a Vox wah-wah in it. "Randy didn't use too many effects. For solos, he'd just kick in the chip pan. I added some stuff at the control room, like an old Lexicon reverb unit. "Most of Randy's solos were, in fact, triple-tracked - if you put on a pair of headphones, you'll hear it. The main solo is in the middle, and then there are two double tracks, one on the left and one the right - pulled back in the mix. That's why Randy's solos always Sounded so big. And it wasn't electronic double tracking - Randy did it all himself. "Since Randy was such a perfectionist, it would take him a while to come up with a solo that he was happy with. After he'd finally get it, he'd say, 'let’s double it now.' And I'd say, 'Are you sure, Randy It's quite an intense solo.' And he'd say, 'Yeah, I want to - it'll sound a lot bigger." At first, I didn't think he'd be able to do it, but I was wrong. (laughs.) "After he'd double it, he'd say, 'Okay, let's triple it now.' And Ozzy Would say, ‘Oh no, not again.' Ozzy would bring me over to the side and tell me, 'Don't let him do it.’ And I’d say, ‘let him do what he wants - he’s doing a great job at it.' The only parts that weren't overdubbed were most of the solos at the very end of the song. They were pretty much part of the backing track. "Randy had a vast knowledge of so many different scales. It was amazing. Not only were his chord series really intense, but the notes he picked were so weird. Most guitarists who play through a loud Marshall aren't able to get the weird inversions to come across properly - it doesn't ring right - but no matter what Randy played, it always sounded good. Technically, he wasn't as polished as people thought he was at the time of the first Ozzy album. He improved so much by the time we did the second album [Diary of A Madman]. I got more great guitar sounds on those two records than I ever got before. "I felt really bad for Jake E. Lee I when we went to do Ozzy's third studio album [Bark At The Moon]. Jake's a good guitarist, but he was a bit ignorant of studio techniques, since he never had much recording experience. And he was intimidated by the fact that he was replacing Randy, so it took a while to get a performance out of him. "Most of Randy's solos were prepared in his mind before he went into the studio. He didn't say much - he just sat there playing guitar and chain-smoking cigarettes. If you'd talk to him while he was playing, you’d get an answer after 30 seconds or so. "Van Halen was one of the few guitarists Randy would talk about. One day I asked him, 'What guitar players do you like, Randy?' And he said, 'I like Eddie Van Halen.' I had never seen Eddie play, so when Randy started doing all that finger tapping stuff, it was all new to me. But Randy didn't cop Eddie's licks, he just picked up on some of his ideas and methods of playing. It's only natural to get something from someone else - all guitarists do it. "Randy was at about 80 percent of where he was gonna get to at the time of his death. That's the tragedy - he never peaked. At least Hendrix had time to develop before he passed away."
Grover makes a guitar
Grover Jackson's name is synonymous with the making of special guitars. But one name that stands out among the others as particularly identified with Jackson’s instruments is Randy Rhoads. Aside from the white Les Paul that Randy is often pictured with in the earliest stages of his playing career, Rhoads is generally seen in his later days playing the Arrow-like design he and Grover made in Jackson's workshop. Grover recently recreated the scene and the time of his guitar desinging days with Randy.
"In December of 1980 Randy came home for Christmas. He had been in England with Ozzy. They'd been playing throughout Europe. They had recorded the Blizzard of Ozz record. It was not released in the United States. It was released in Europe and was doing pretty good over there, and there was some anticipation of it here. Weirdly enough, at the time Ozzy was deader than a doornail - metal wasn't that big of a deal then. This was before the rebirth of Ozzy Osbourne, because as far as I'm concerned, Ozzy was way bigger than he ever was in Black Sabbath. Randy had been a local guitar player around town, so at the time he wasn't any big deal. He was a big star at the Starwood - he was a king, but he wasn't known in Orange County, San Francisco, Denver. He didn't have a national reputation. He was just a local kid who came home for Christmas to see his mom. He had left six or eight months before. He had sort of disappeared from the local scene, because I guess he had auditioned with Ozzy in the spring and got the gig, and him and Ozzy went off to England to build a career. I guess Randy was in sort of a low spot at the time; I think that incarnation of Quiet Riot had fallen apart. So he went off and made this record. He called up out of the blue around a week before Christmas and said, 'I'd like to make a guitar.' "I told him I'd heard of him and said, 'Why don't you come out?' I also asked him if he knew what he wanted. He told me he had a pretty good idea. He came out about three o'clock in the afternoon and we talked until after midnight. We sat there and talked about everything from guitars to music in general, to just about everything in the world. We just sort of hit it off."
"He had sort of a crude line-drawing scribbled on a piece of paper, and that was the Rhoads guitar, We worked on it that evening. had a head design I had in a mind that I wanted to put on, and we had never made any neck-through-body guitars before. The company was really young at the time, and we had only made bolt-on guitars up until then. I felt this was a special project, so I told him I wanted to do something special. He was real keen for the idea, and I also said that since Charvel was my bread and butter at the time, and the company had theretofore been known for its bolt-on necks, I'd rather put another name on the guitar. So, t wound up putting Jackson on the guitar and that was fine with him. I talked to him one more time before he went back to England. We made the guitar. It took about two months, and we sent it to him. He liked it and that's how the original guitar was made. "They came over sometime in early spring and Ozzy and him just tore it up. Somewhere in the late summer or early fall he called me up and said he wanted to make another one. He said, 'So many people think that this is a Flying V, I want something more radical,' and so we went out to the template in the wood shop and drew it the wood. I got the guitar made in a couple of weeks, and he and Kevin DuBrow looked at the guitar in the wooden state, unpainted. We were drawing on it about an hour and finally decided on a design. I was just going to rough-cut it, just to see what it looked like.
"That was the first time I noticed Randy was kind of suspicious about guitars. He didn't want to watch it being cut. He didn't want to know how they were made. Yet they had sort of a special magic to him. He couldn't look at it because he had to leave, so he waited in my office. So I brought it to him and he thought it was great, and that was the black guitar. We sent it to him and he started playing that guitar in '81. He took that guitar on the road with him. He was mainly playing the white guitar because, once again, he was particular about the guitar he played. He would get a new guitar and he would have to get used to it. Only when he was really used to it would he play with it. He would just hang onto it and look at it, really live with it before he'd play it. That's why he used that white Les Paul for such a long time. He formed a real relationship with his guitar.
"Actually, there were three guitars being made for him at the time. He got one, and we were working to get them done when he died. I accidentally sold one of them. I didn't realize what it was at the time. I sold it at a NAMM show to a guy who was demonstrating Dean Markley, and Randy wanted one so bad. The guy got me at a weak moment, so I didn't realize what I had done. About three months later someone said, 'Well, you know you sold that guitar of Randy's,' and I of course said, 'Oh, no I didn't!' and they said, 'Oh, yes you did!' It was only at that second that I put it all together. I guess the kid doesn't know what he's got.
"There's a word that comes to my mind whenever I think of Randy, and that word is gentle. He was a genuinely nice guy. He never raised his voice. He didn't get mad. He took everything in stride, but when he played the guitar, he just blistered. It's funny that a guy would be able to channel that much aggression and outgoingness of his personality into one specific facet of his life. Generally, I don't know anyone who would have a bad thing to say about him. Everyone liked him and he was genuinely embarrassed about all the attention he was getting. A lot of the rock-god guitar players can't wait to tell you how great they are, and Randy wouldn't do that for a trillion dollars. It just wasn't his style. He was a unique person; you don't run into many like him.
I know that Ozzy really loved Randy. He was destroyed by his death. A year later when Jake joined the band, he had a very rough time. It wasn't that he was playing anything wrong, it's just that they couldn't communicate. Ozzy was just emotionally damaged by losing Randy. He told me that the Music he was doing with Ozzy wasn't enough, he wanted to do more. I think it was inevitable that he would have come home and maybe gone back to school, or studied privately."
Nobody knew Randy like the people who played with him. Kelly Garni, Rudy Sarzo and Kevin DuBrow recall a master who could wrap his technique around the most complicated arrangements.
Kelly Garni was Randy Rhoads' best friend in the guitarist’s formative years. In any band there is always a guy like Kelly. The bass player is a compulsive record-keeper and scrapbook-paster who keeps an ongoing correspondence with many of Randy's fans. The day of this interview he had just received some new videotapes in the mail that contained rare, hitherto-unknown footage of some of the very earliest Quiet Riot performances. In his own way, Kelly is a keeper of the flame of Rhoads' early career, having worked with him for nearly nine years from the first few backyard party gigs, right through and including the two Japanese Quiet Riot albums. It's a peculiar rite of passage, this rock 'n' roll band experience. It's more or less like being in a gang. You get to be with your peers, dress outside" and fight a lot; but nobody generally gets hurt, and best of all, you play music and the friendships that grow out of that time are deep and long lasting, and even when there is some enmity, as there always is in any social-artistic group, it's more sibling bickering than anything else. There is too much water gone under the bridge and too much sympatico, good memories of young times.
"We met in school in the seventh grade," says Kelly, going back, "John Muir junior High in Burbank. We both kind of stood apart from the rest of the school. We really didn't go with the flow around there, so we kind of got together because of that. We just became friends and started hanging out together and I used to always go over to his house. His house was always very musical. His mom plays, his sister and brother play and he played. At the time he had just learned how to play rhythm, chords and stuff, he didn't know his leads yet. Then he started to learn his leads and I got kind of interested in all this music stuff and I said, 'I want to play something.' He said, 'Well, what do you want to play?' I said I thought I would like to be a keyboard player. He told me I didn't want to play keyboards because they are real expensive and they're heavy to haul around and everything, so I said, 'So what?' He suggested I play bass, and I said, 'What's a bass?' He said, 'It's like a guitar, except it's lower and has four strings.' So I said, 'Okay, I'll play the bass.' So we got a bass and he started teaching me.
"He was taking lessons at the time from a guy named Scott Shelly who was a great teacher. Randy thought a lot of him. He'd go take his lesson from Scott, then he would come home and teach me something. We played through a little Gretsch amp. We just started jamming, got better and better at working together, and pretty soon we bought bigger amps. We always did a lot of odd jobs for Mrs. Rhoads and stuff. We would work down at the music school, clean up or something, to earn money. Finally, we felt that we had the kind of equipment where we could go out and play. We started playing at parties in Burbank. Some guy would have a party, put out flyers all over town and before you knew it he would have 800 or 900 kids at his house. We played at those parties every Friday and Saturday night, every week for years. We actually even had a couple of originals we did, but we never had a singer. It was always me and Randy and whatever drummer we could get. We had probably four or five different guys that played drums. We never rehearsed with them, or anything. We would just call up and say, ‘Do you want to jam at a party tonight?' They'd show up and we would just do it we’d just jam. We had lights and everything. We had a hell of a show that we were able to put on. The biggest problem we had, since we were so young, was being able to get our equipment there. We would nave to get on the phone and find someone with a van or a truck. We could always find someone to do that and we would just go play at these parties. The parties always got busted by the cops for being too loud and out of hand, so usually we didn't get to play too long, but usually we would get 45 minutes to an hour in before they got busted. Then they started having these parties at what they call Stough Park, which is the Starlight Bowl. We started playing up there in the picnic area and that was like the big hangout for everybody in Burbank. Usually on Friday or Saturday night there would easily be 700 to 900 kids up there.
The cops were okay about it for a while, then it got out of hand. They had a couple of riots up there and they closed it down. We played up there every Friday and Saturday night for about two years. There were other bands that played up there, too. It kind of worked out that whoever got there first, got to play that night, or we would jam with them. It was pretty neat just to be able to play like that. We were playing for free, but we didn't care, because for us playing was everything. I wish I had pictures of that, but as far as I know there aren't any.
In Burbank we were intimidating to the older musicians. Burbank had a really neat, close music community. All the musicians in Burbank knew each other. And Randy's brother - he's a few years older and a hell of a drummer, I might add, played with some of the older guys, so they were always around and they kind of saw me and Randy progressing. It seemed like overnight that we got as good as them, if not better. Randy as a 15-year-old kid could easily blow away some guy who was 20 years old that had been playing for years, and it really made them kind of mad, these older guys. They kind of resented it. We all got along real good, and we all jammed with each other a lot. That was our big thing; we just wanted to jam all the time. That was in 1972 to 1973."
Even in the trendy world of pop music, it’s impossible, or at best a rarity, to find any band that would qualify as an "overnight success." What would later become a multi-platinum success labored anonymously in the hills of Burbank the same way their Pasadena counterparts, Van Halen, mined for gold in the foothills and fraternities of the L.A. area. While the "Quiet" part was taken care of with Randy's low-key demeanor, the "Riot" in the band soon entered the picture in the guise of Kevin DuBrow.
"We found Kevin," Garni testifies. "We found him because there is Kevin's version and then there is the real version. The real version is that we were looking for a singer and me and Randy were at some girl's house in Hollywood and this girt was talking on the phone to some other girl and they were talking about this guy that was a singer. I said, 'Singer?' She said, 'Yes, his name is Kevin DuBrow. He looks like Rod Stewart or something, and he says he's a singer, but I've never heard of him. So she gave me his number and we called up Kevin and said we found this girl talking about you and we're a band, sort of, and want to come out and check you out. We went out to his house. He had super-8 films of himself playing in a band with a guy named Stan Sobel. Stan is famous for being in the Dickies.
"Anyway, he showed us these films of him in the band, and we went, 'Gee, what a fool.’ We didn't really want to have anything to do with him. We heard him sing and then we left and said, 'Oh well.' He had our number and he called us and called us and wouldn't leave us alone. So we finally said, 'Okay, come over and we'll jam.' He'd come over and try to sing and the guy just couldn't sing. We started working with him, trying to get him to have a voice that would be acceptable. He finally got it and then we started looking for drummers."
In the same way Van Halen I found a home at Gazzarri's on the Sunset Strip, Quiet Riot staked out the now-legendary (and currently a parking lot) Starwood. For those who might not be familiar with the club, the Starwood is to Los Angeles metal what the Whiskey was to Anglo imports a la Led Zeppelin (their first L.A. appearance), or better yet, and not really an exaggeration, The Cavern Club during the early Beatles history. The sixties club scene had dried up considerably. The Starwood, with booker Michelle Meyer, became an Alamo for those starved for loud, proud and showy. All of which was a perfect description of Quiet Riot. The X-factor was, of course, the blistering sonic assaults of Randy Rhoads. Quiet Riot was L.A.'s best kept and unsigned secret. At least the band were stars on their own turf, broke but buoyed.
"There was no place to play so you played at the Starwood, and if you were really good, you made it to the Whiskey, but you started out at the Starwood. We started there on a Sunday night, and it was great. The only thing that was which back then had something like an amateur night where they'd have about six bands there on a Sunday night. What you made was a case of beer, that was your pay. So we did that a couple of times and finally, they said, 'Well, you guys aren't bad.' After we were starting to draw a bit, they said, 'We'll move you up to Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights,' and we were bottom bill. Eventually, we worked our way up to being top bill. "We were there for four years. Every other week we played there, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Yeah, we'd do two sets a night and we got $1,500 for three days, which for back then was pretty darn good., Although we never saw it, somebody else-the management or roadies somebody-got it. That's what we did. In between playing the Starwood we did a few other shows, played at the Santa Monica Civic with Angel, and by then we had gotten new management, Warren Entner and David Joseph."
Quiet Riot was one of the first bands to capitalize on the Japanese’s growing fixation with hard rock 'n' roll. The group made two albums for CBS-Sony, but was unable to obtain a distribution deal in the United States.
"Warren would bring record company people down to the Starwood to see us, or we would do what they called a showcase, where they would rent a room at SIR, have food there and all that, and they would bring one or two people in from the record company. We would be all dressed up and do our whole show for them. They'd sit there on the couch and say, 'Wow, sounds really great, sounds fantastic, we got a deal, call me tomorrow.' Then they would leave and we would think we had a record deal. Next day - pass, That happened 32 times. The management finally got this bright idea to get a deal with the Japanese. We thought, well that sounds like a weird thing to do. They won't be able to understand what we're singing, and they said, 'Just trust us,' so we did. They started flying over to Japan trying to put these deals together and they finally succeeded. The Japanese came over and saw us and loved us, signed us, didn't give us too bad a deal, $30,000 an album, two-plus-one option, and it was great. The only thing that was bad about it was that the records were never out here. So, it kind of made feet like you really never had a record deal. You got the record and you were able to look at it, but you sure as hell couldn't go in some record store and buy it because, back then, imports weren't re ally that big of a thing.
By that time, I had been playing music for nine years. I never went to school. All I did was play music, and I wanted to do something else. So, for me it was kind of opening new doors. I wanted to go out and see the other side of life, which I did. I became a paramedic and worked in an ambulance for a couple of years. Randy, all he did was play, so we split as friends. We were always friends. Three months after I left, Randy went on to Ozzy. I have always kind of thought that one way to get famous is to die. I mean, that's pretty true about a lot of people who have died and gotten really famous. I'm kind of pleased to see that Randy has such devoted fans, because it's like he is still alive, and to me they kind of keep him alive. They are really into him. I have gone out with Mrs. Rhoads on Randy's birthday to where Randy is buried, and they show up out there, which is kind of neat. I've never gone to the grave of anyone who's famous on any kind of an anniversary, so I don't know who shows up out there, but where Randy is, they show up. They look like Randy, they have his hair, they ask us questions about him and we talk about him. Like I say, I still get mail from people o are fans of his. I certainly do miss him, that's for sure, because I think we would have even gotten together again and done something musically. We talked about it when he came up to Vegas. I never stopped playing. I've been playing 18 years, which is a while, and he would have been playing 25 years. The thing that was neat about him is that you looked at him and you said, 'This guy is going to grow up and be a rock star.' It was obvious even when he was a little kid, because that is all he did. Every time you saw him, he had a guitar. He would sit on the phone and talk, watch TV, all the time playing a guitar. He practically ate his meals playing the guitar. He was always playing the guitar."
From Obscurity to Eternity
Rudy Sarzo played bass in both the pre- and post-Randy Rhoads-era Quiet Riot, in addition to having toured with Randy in Ozzy Osbourne's band, making him the only musician to have worked with Randy during both his formative years and at the peak of his playing. Although Rudy was with Randy at the time of his death, he was hesitant to reflect upon that tragic day for this special tribute. Like many people, he is still touched by it deeply. Rudy's bass playing can be beard on the new Ozzy Osbourne - Randy Rhoads live album Tribute.
"I replaced Quiet Riot's original Kelly Garni, in 1978. That was when I first met Randy. Since we were searching for an American record deal at the time, everyone in the band was very business oriented. When ever record-industry people would come to our showcases, they would always tell us the type of music they were interested in. As a result, the band's songwriting and direction became aimed towards pleasing the industry.
It wasn't until I started playing with Randy in Ozzy's band that he really came into his own as a great guitar player. I remember Ozzy once said to him, 'Just be the best Randy Rhoads that you can be. It will open up a world of possibilities for you. And it did. Randy finally had the freedom to do exactly what he wanted, instead of being in a band where he could only go so far. Ozzy gave him no boundaries.
Randy was more than just a great guitar player. He was a great composer, a great performer and, as a person, I've never met someone so level-headed. What usually happens after rock musicians become successful is they lose the desire to become more musical. After they make it, all they want to do is party. I've met lots of successful musicians, and that's what I've noticed. Randy wasn’t like that at all.
There was a time in his career when he wanted to put aside touring and go back to school for his Masters degree in music, which is something that most successful musicians would never do. He was in total control of his life and knew exactly what he wanted from his music.
Whenever Randy would compose a guitar solo, he would first write the back ground music in such a way that it would weave within the song. He wouldn't just riff over the verse or the chorus during the solo, like many guitarists do. Since his writing structure was very orchestrated, Randy was perfect for a band with a three-piece format. He was able to fill the holes without relying on another guitarist or a keyboardist to do it.
Randy is the only guitarist I've worked with who could play a totally incredible solo and then double it note-for-note. He would double wah-wah inflections, everything. And even when he used a small Fender Champ amp, like he used in Quiet Riot, he still managed to get the most incredible sound in the studio. When I was listening to a tape of the new Ozzy live album, it brought back a lot of wonderful memories of Randy. The album was recorded about three weeks after we started touring, so it was only the starting point of his career. Although his playing on it still sounds great, Randy improved so much since that album was recorded.
His playing may not sound as ground-breaking today, but Randy started a new breed of playing. Many people compared him to Eddie Van Halen, but to me their styles are totally different: Eddie's more bluesy and American-sounding, whereas Randy's more classically-structured. In fact, the tonality of some of the stuff that Yngwie does isn't much different from what Randy was doing back in 1981. Unfortunately, it's mostly in the memory of the people who have seen him play and those who were fortunate enough to have worked with him."
The mouth sheds a tear
Kevin DuBrow was the vocalist in Quiet Riot with both Randy Rhoads and (later) Carlos Cavazo in the guitar slot. As soon as be got word that this magazine was doing a special tribute on the late, great guitar hero, DuBrow immediately contacted us and did what be does best-talk, talk and talk. Fortunately, a tape recorder got it all down. Here, then, is Randy's co-writer and vocalist being most vocal.
"The first time I met Randy was on the phone. I had just come back from a Rod Stewart concert, and Randy had called and said that he was looking for a singer. The first thing we talked about was the type of music we liked. We were both really crazy about the first Montrose album, so we talked about forming a band with that type of sound. When we met in person, I was amazed by how long his hair was. He looked so effeminate, but his voice was so low. We got along really well from the get-go and started playing together soon after we had met. "Randy was definitely the high point of Quiet Riot, there's no doubt about that. He was light-years ahead of the rest of us. Although we were just playing clubs, Randy would always make our shows into an event. He’d run around the stage with his polk-a-dot outfits. No matter how much he'd run around, it would never interfere with his playing. He was so good that people would always tell him to dump the rest of the band. Randy was the type of guitar player that all the girls wanted to see and all the guys wanted to be like.
Randy wrote the songs and I wrote the lyrics. He taught me how to write words to music. Randy was so easy to work with; he didn't have an ego problem like many musicians have. Although the original Quiet Riot had a very commercial sound, Randy managed to throw in every guitar part and technique that he could. He cut loose more live than in the studio, and he played everything very articulately. Randy didn't rely strictly on the left hand to just slide up and down the neck while the right hand stayed in one place. He picked every note individually, whereas a lot of guitarists will slur everything they play. I have about six hours worth of live shows on video tape, and it's amazing to watch the way he plays.
In the studio, he was just as amazing. He would be able to play something real fast, with all this incredible vibrato in his is left hand, and then double it and sometimes even triple it! I could never figure out how he was able to do it. After he did it, everyone in the studio would stand up and start clapping. Randy was embarrassed by all the attention. Everyone knew how great he was; it was just a matter of time before he would make it.
Randy was more influenced by himself than anybody else. Although he listened to other guitarists, he listened mainly for enjoyment. His early influences were guys like Johnny Winter, Leslie West and the guitarists in Alice Cooper's band. Then he started to listen to Bill Nelson's stuff with Be Bop Deluxe and he also liked Jeff Beck. And then, as he got more into guitar, he got heavily into classical music. Randy was definitely a world-class player.
As a guitarist, Randy was a lot different than Carlos Cavazo. When we got Carlos in the band, we weren't looking for another Randy Rhoads, because no one else is like him. Randy was more of a super-hot player, whereas Carlos is a good guitarist who knows how to play his parts within the context of a band. The world needs both types of players.
To get a lick in with Randy in the band was really tough for me, so I'd just lay back and listen to him wail. Sometimes he'd play these amazing licks and I'd go, 'Whoa! What the heck was that?' And he'd say, laughing, 'It's that lick you liked at rehearsal.' The original Quiet Riot was based around Randy, whereas the second Quiet Riot was based around myself.
During a break from Randy's tour with Ozzy Osbourne, Randy and I got to play together at the Starwood. I remember saying to him that night, 'I never took you for granted, Randy, but one thing I did take for granted was how much of a great human being you are. Some of the musicians I've had to deal with are jerks.' He thought that was hilarious.
I was at my apartment in L.A. when I found out about Randy's death. Somebody called me from Florida and told me what happened. I didn't believe it at first, so I went back to sleep. But about three minutes later, I got up. I put on the radio and 'Crazy Train' was on. Then I turned to another station and 'Slick Black Cadillac’ was on. So I said, 'Oh no, it probably did happen,' because whenever somebody dies they play their music on the radio. Randy was my best friend and the greatest guitar player I've ever heard. Whenever I think of him, those are the first things that pop into my mind."
Good night, Sweet Prince
Magazine issues usually run early, so when the May, 1982 issue of Guitar World hit the stands during the first few weeks of March of that year, it wasn't thought to be anything more than Standard Operating Procedure. It certainly wasn't in anybody's minds that the issue would turn into a collector's item - the first sold-out GW issue, and the rarest single copy. That it did, for the very reason of the article you're about to read. Conducted by John Stix (when the author was a freelancer writing regularly for this magazine), this is the last known interview with Randy Rhoads that was on the news stands during his lifetime. The portrait sitting that John Livzey conducted of Randy for this interview was, in fact the last one that the young guitarist ever did.
It's impossible to predict what the spotlight will do to a person once he sees it coming his way. In the early seventies, Roy Buchanan went from being a revered bar band player to "the finest unknown guitarist in the world." Under the spot light, his star refused to shine. The hype had been ours, the media's - not his. America's back porch proved to be too big for this easy going blues picker. It's too early to tell how guitarist Randy Rhoads will fare, but so far his reaction to center-stage is quite relaxed. The hype is mine, not his, but still it's a far cry from giving guitar lessons at eight dollars a half-hour, which is what Rhoads was doing before ex-Sabbath vocalist Ozzy Osbourne tapped him to join the Blizzard Of Ozz.
A sincere and altogether amiable person off-stage, Randy's head is still swimming about what people are saying about his stage performance. Debuting in huge arenas hasn't boosted his ego so much as made him "frightened and humble". It's totally strange," says this 24-year-old native of Burbank, California, who has been practically adopted by the British music press. "I've still got my past in me. I'm trying to mature into all this, but I don't have my feet on the ground at all." Randy's reaction to all this hoopla seems strange until you realize he fell into it by accident. And in true People magazine style, he says he owes it all to his mother, "She was the one who pushed me all the time," he says with affection. "She even helped me with my equipment." Like Eddie Van Halen, Randy is fueled by his love for the instrument more than any great desire to be a rock star. In fact, Randy admits to not having rock 'n' roll dreams as a youngster. "I loved the guitar right from the beginning," he says with a gleam in his eyes. "But when I started liking rock, Elvis Presley was my only idol. I was seven and too young to know anything about lead guitar. To this day, I still don't have a guitar idol!"
It might have been different if he had a record player at his disposal, but he didn't. The absence of any sustained contact with the gift licks of John Mayall and Yardbirds alumni make Randy a rare bird in the hard-rock jungle. "That must be a frustrating way to learn," he says in retrospect. "What are you gonna do if you learn a lick. How are you gonna use it in your own songs?" Randy Rhoads didn't drop by from another planet. The blues jams so common to all of us are also part of his history. The difference is, he didn't use Clapton and family as a reference. Instead, he says, "As a teenager I went back to taking guitar lessons and studied classical guitar."
As his playing progressed, Randy's Les Paul could be heard teaching in his mom's music store in Burbank, and on the local stages with his group, Quiet Riot. Randy's style emerged by combining these two parallel paths. As best evidenced by "Mr. Crowley" from the Blizzard Of Ozz collection. Randy's gifts include an awesome technique coupled with a composer's disciplined approach to soloing. He just may be the Allan Holdsworth of hard rock. Hammered notes pour from Randy's instrument, as he abandons the barrage of spitfire riffs embraced by most hard rockers. "Crowley" also displays his ability to construct a classically - influenced solo from long lines while maintaining a lava-like heat.
Incongruous as it may sound to fans of Beethoven and Brahms, the classical approach is a heavy metal tradition. From their earliest recordings jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Leslie West and Ritchie Blackmore have all given more than a casual tip of the hat to western classical music. (Remember "Beck's Bolero"?) "There's an answer to that," explains Rhoads. "Most heavy metal is not very melodic in nature. It's often minor in tone so you can use a lot of minor thirds in your lead breaks. That automatically sounds classical. Leslie West was one of my favorites because he used classical ideas with feeling. He was melodic but mean. My solos are more like rolling scales than the call-and-response of blues riffs. Quiet Riot played songs with a lot of changes. I used to analyze the progression and look over my possibilities. If I didn't like what was available, I'd play as weird as possible."
His ability to focus, dissect and share information made Randy a popular and busy teacher. Through his students he was finally exposed to the classic electric guitarists of the sixties and seventies. "I learned more by teaching the guitar than by doing anything else. Students would come up with chord progressions and ask what kind of lead they could play over them. More often they wanted to learn note-for-note solos from their favorite players. That's when I started to learn other people's licks."
On the technical side Randy had his students practice hammering up and down the neck, going through all the frets with four fingers, by hitting each string once. For the right hand he advised a lot of double-picking. "The main thing, though, myself is to take it as it comes. Don't try to do too much too soon. You've got to get to know your own style."
Randy feels uncomfortable with all the praise that's been coming his way. including my own. After sharing my astonishment that he didn't go through the imitation/innovation stage common to most players, he responds unpretentiously. "I wish I could agree with you," he says. "Everything happens so fast that I haven't had enough time to think about what I want to do. I have my own personality on guitar but as of yet I don't think I have my own style. For instance, I do a solo guitar thing in concert, and I do a lot of the same licks as Eddie Van Halen. Eddie is a great player, but it kills me that I do that. For me it's just flash that impresses the kids. I'm trying to make a name for myself as fast as I can. I wish I could take time and come up with something that nobody else has done. But that's gonna take a few years yet."
The release of Ozzy Osbourne's Diary of A Madman is something of an enigma for Randy. Coming out at the end of '81, Diary was already in the can before their first American tour to support Blizzard. So Randy's newest recording is really old, and from his standpoint, not the best he has to offer. He explains: "On the first album none of us had played together, so it the was everything at once. We were putting the bond together, writing the songs and being in the studio all at the same time. There was an exciting energy on Blizzard Of Ozz. We turned everything up to 10 and if it felt good we'd play it. Directly after making Blizzard, we did a European tour, came back and did Diary. There was no break. I didn't have time to sit back and think about 'What do I want to do? What do I want to accomplish?'
On Diary we put a lot more energy into the songwriting. So the songs are happening but my guitar playing isn't. We were in a hurry to get over to the States and tour behind Blizzard, so Diary was rushed. We only had time to get a song's basic form before we had to record it. Some parts of this record make me cringe from a guitar standpoint. In fact, on "Little Dolls" I never got to take a real solo. What you hear on there is actually the guitar track. It's a dummy solo I laid down where I was later supposed to put a real one. But I never got time to do it. A lot of my things on Diary lack feeling. It sounds a bit ordinary to me, like just sort of play anything you can think of." Not without some bright moments, Randy points with pride to his work on "Over The Mountain," "You Can't Kill Rock And Roll" and the title track.
His current concern, however, is learning how to grow under the spotlight. He's suddenly found himself at or near the top of popularity polls. When he looks over his shoulder to see who's watching, he's aware that it's getting damned crowded. Randy is genuinely surprised. "I'm totally shocked that it happened. It changes the whole thing. Now I've got to get it together. It's a pressure where you've always got to be better than yourself, which is a difficult thing to be. The main thing I'm going through right now is figuring out how to get back to being a musician, more than being in a popular band."
An incessant learner, Randy is devising a way to do just that. To help him formulate new source material, he is thinking of bringing a classical guitar tutor on the road. "I feel that a lot of my style is leaning toward more melodic playing. When I was taking classical lessons it gave me a lot of ideas to turn into leads. Everything is totally different for me now. I was used to taking lessons and teaching all day long. I had constant musical input."
Session and guest recording is another avenue that Randy would like to explore. "I was thinking that one of the great things for me would be to play on other peoples' records. It would be nice to be known for playing in different areas. Ozzy Osbourne is about as heavy metal as you can get, and a lot of people don't know me for that reason. But I would like to play some light jazz things. I was never into heavy fusion music, I'm thinking more on the acoustic melodic side. At this point my weakness is my sound. I rely on it one hundred percent. I don't go on stage with a lot of confidence. If the sound isn't right I'll get paranoid. I'm still learning what to feel on stage. It's totally different than playing in a club. If my sound isn't right it would totally blow me away."
Randy's stage sound is shaped by three Marshall 100-watt heads powering six 4 x 12 cabinets with Altec high-powered speakers. Starting with the clean sound of the Altecs, Randy's thick tone is produced by adding heavy mid-range e.q. and an MXR Distortion Plus. Other outboard devices include the MXR Equalizer, Chorus and Flanger, a Cry Baby wah-wah and Korg Echo Unit.
One person he blew away in the positive sense was Ozzy Osbourne. Randy's is a Cinderella story. It seems that about two and a half years ago Ozzy Osbourne was auditioning guitar players in the L.A. area, looking for a centerpiece for his new band. Alerted to the situation by a bass player who had already made the rounds, local guitar teacher Randy Rhoads balked at the idea. "I had never looked for auditions or gigs outside of what I was doing," he recalls. Besides, I thought I would hurt my band. When I did go down, there were all these guys with Marshall stacks. I brought along a tiny practice amp. I started tuning up and Ozzy said, 'You've got the gig,' I didn't even get to play! I had the weirdest feeling because I thought, 'He didn't even hear me yet."'
With the success of Blizzard and Diary, hearing Randy Rhoads should no longer be a problem for anyone.
Randy’s last photo shoot
When New York called and told me they wanted to set up a cover shoot with a rocker by the name of Randy Rhoads, I was naturally excited at the prospect. Rock stars usually arrive at my place with a variety of ego and flamboyance, so I'm usually prepared for just about anything. Randy, though, was immediately warm and gracious, and apparently without any star trappings. In short, a nice guy.
The first shot was, of course, with a cover in mind, so I chose a red back ground to complement his blond hair and black stage outfit - and besides, red is a passionate color. He was delighted at the polaroids I shot first (he took at least one with him after the session) and was enthusiastic from that point forward.
The second shot was a bit crazier, with colored gels on both sides and a mustard-colored background. This is the shot that ran in the magazine the very month he died. Much to the consternation of the publicist, Randy and I agreed to do yet one more set-up, this one a bit softer. We joked about the young girls loving this one, because Randy definitely had a "Cute" side to him, the heavy metal scene notwithstanding. So we chose blue background for this one. He wore just a plain white shirt. At this point, Randy remarked that my studio was quite familiar to him, that maybe he had been there before. But a few minutes later, when I got out my guitar, a Garcia acoustic, he said, "I've definitely been here; I recognize this guitar," Then we put it all together. My friend, photographer Dan Raabe, had photographed Randy with Quiet Riot in my studio a few years before. He had played my guitar then when wandering around my living area during a break.
One Saturday morning in March, I was picking up on newspapers that I had from a few days earlier when I chanced upon a small piece about a Florida plane accident, When I read his full name Randall Rhoads in the paper, at first it didn't sink in. Then I must have read it at least 10 more times, hoping the letters would somehow change, or maybe I was somehow misreading it. But no, it had to be Randy because of the later reference to the Ozzy Osbourne band. Ironically, the Guitar World issue with
Randy's story had only arrived one or two days earlier at my studio. Not only had the music world lost a brilliant guitarist, it had also lost a very nice person.