"Ozzy Osbourne - Metal’s Heavy is the patron saint of rock guitar"
The biggest battle I had with Sabbath was that I don’t play an instrument so I have to hum my musical ideas. They never had the patience to try and listen to where I was coming from. Randy Rhoads was the first guy who ever sat down with me and listened to my humming and worked with it. For instance, with suicide solution I was walking past Randy’s dressing room and he was just knocking around. I said, "What a great riff!’ He said, "What riff?’ I said, ‘What you just played.’ So we worked it out and had a song.
Before Randy came along I was at the point of giving up hope. As the ex-singer for Black Sabbath, people who auditioned were trying to lay this number on me. But I say if you’ve got the looks and the attitude the rest will follow. I mean, if they were crap guitar players it was - get on your bike and don’t waste my time.
Randy came along and he was such a gentle person. He would offer his seat to a lady. He also had a style as a guitarist, and you don’t have to sit there for three hours to realize a man’s got class and style. Randy was one of the classiest individuals I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. He was also very deeply into music. I would say, ‘Randy I’m stumped on this section and we’re gonna need a track for the album and it’s driving me nuts.’ He’d say, ‘Don’t worry we’ll get one.’
I think Randy’s high point on the Blizzard album was the guitar solo on Revelation (Mother Earth). It was a step forward for him. You know when you’ve got something in the studio, and Randy knew straight down the line. He knew what he wanted. On our first British tour he wasn’t getting the sound that made him feel good and he would scream and go nuts until he got that sound. We had a pedal board custom designed to his specifications. He talked to the guy for hours until it was exactly what he wanted. Where a lot of guitarists know what they want but not how to get there, he knew everything about how he wanted to sound. He was a very professional artistic man. Randy was as much of an artist as a painter. He was pictorial in his playing
Diary was recorded soon after Blizzard because of what the record company wanted. When you’re going out on the road there is never enough time to record and you end up making big mistakes. You put things down just because you’re going out. We recorded Diary quickly. I hate being in a recording studio to begin with, but working with Randy and Bob Daisley was a new and refreshing experience for me. I was working with guys that didn’t have to do it, they wanted to do it. I got that old spark again. Diary was the better of the two albums as songs go. The mix wasn’t too clever but we weren’t there for the mix, we were back out on the road.
Randy said that he wasn’t happy with his solos on Diary, but every guitar player that you’ve ever met will be critical of his solos. I’ve yet to meet a guitarist who has said, I’m great on this track. They always put themselves down. I said to Randy, for God’s sake you’ve got the greatest a person can have; you can play an instrument. Play it and love what you play. But it’s like any recording artist is never 100% happy. When they give me a platinum album I say yeah, it works. Whether I like it or not because it’s beside the point.
When we did Crazy Train Randy spent three days and nights in the studio. It was driving me nuts. I walked in and said, "Randy just play as your heart tells you to play. Play as if you’re in front of an audience." Guitar players want to impress other guitar players. I said, "Listen we’re not out there to sell records to other guitar players. We’re out there to sell records to people. If you have to bang your guitar with a stick and it makes a funny noise which turns into a song, then do it."
I remember Randy couldn’t stand to work with headphones because he couldn’t get the feel. It was like playing with a bucket on your head. He would take a straight line to a live speaker and play as if he were performing live. The backing track was playing full up and slamming him against the wall. There was one track, S.A.T.O., which was a rush job. That’s the only tune on Diary where I jump the needle. It was a case of you’ve got two days to finish and if you ain’t, it’s going out as is. We did what we could to salvage it.
I’ll never forget when we first got Goodbye to Romance together. As it happens, I was walking in my house humming the melody. I used to be McCartney mad. I loved the Beatles and Romance is kind of Beatlesque. So Tired on the Bark at the Moon album also has that kind of thing about it. Anyway, Randy phoned his mom and tried to play it for her over the phone. Obviously she couldn’t hear it well, but she did pick up on Randy’s excitement. Many of the songs on Blizzard were put together in an old mill house by a river in Wales. When Crazy Train was ready we went down to the local pub and played it for the people who were there. When they started moving about we knew it worked for other people. We knew it sounded good to us, but until then we didn’t know how it would really go over. One eerie thing was that on Over the Mountain Randy played the riff to Black Sabbath. I said, "Do you know what that is? It’s the first riff we ever wrote together in Sabbath!" He didn’t know it at all. I thought, what a weird coincidence. It made me think that what I had done was to take Sabbath from 1970 to 1980 and carried on.
Some nights Randy would give me a spine chill. His playing was so unpredictable live. He wouldn't think about it, he would just go for it. He wouldn't wonder if it would fit the song structure, he would just play his ideas as if they were there anyway.
I still have that live album we were going to put out. I own it and right now I don't feel it has to come out. There's still a lot of bad feeling with Randy's parents. The original idea was to put out a double live album with one disc being material from the two Ozzy albums and the other having Black Sabbath material. The contract said we had to do a double live album and we never had enough material of our own to deliver, so we needed to include the Sabbath stuff . When Randy was killed I was still obligated to that contract. That is why we did Speak of the Devil. I hate that album and have never heard it. I don't want to. The record company said they wanted half the album with Randy and the other half with Brad Gillis. I said no way. I never wanted to do that Sabbath album, Why would I get out of the band and then do that! The record company had me by the balls. If they pick up the dough, you've got to deliver. There was no way I was going to let the record company make a whore out of Randy.
Eventually that live album with Randy will come out. I will not release it without the consent of his parents. If Randy's parents want it out we'll work it out. It's not a question of whether his playing is good enough. It's Randy Rhoads and there is very little stuff he did, be it good, bad or indifferent. I wouldn't put it out for some guy to say, featuring the late great Randy Rhoads. That's selling him up the river.
A lot of people ask what was Randy really like. A lot of people don't know. Kevin DuBrow knows one side of Randy and I know another. We both may know him together, but I don't know Kevin and he doesn't know me. But we've both had the privilege of knowing Randy. No two people can look at or think of one guy the same way. We may have both loved him but it's two different people in love with one situation.
The day he died it was like a Fellini movie. It was craziness and he was dead. When someone dies of cancer you know he wasn't well. At the end of his life Elvis looked like he was on the way out. But Randy was at the beginning of his life and bursting forward. If he had left my band I would have given him my blessing. I've heard a lot of bad raps that Randy was going to leave me and join Quiet Riot. If he had, I'd have said fair enough. I don't have the right to anybody. But he never mentioned it to me. Kevin DuBrow says that Randy was doing this and that. Maybe that's what Randy told him, but he told me a totally different thing. The thing is, whatever anybody says about Randy, he is not here to defend himself. I'll never put him down. I loved him as a man and he died far too early. He was just maturing. You should have heard him playing classical guitar at the end of his days. He said to me once that he wanted to quit the rock business. I said, 'Why on earth do you want to do that? You're just getting a taste of success.' He said that didn't bother him and he wanted to get a degree in classical guitar. He bought a Spanish classical guitar for $2,000 and spent his days and nights with it. He lived for guitar. In every town he'd have tutors. He didn't have a big head, he just wanted to learn. He would have a classical tutor come to his room every single day and work out these new structures. In fact the track Diary of a Madman was based on a classical theme he was working on with a tutor. I thought, what a fantastic thing, and we developed it into this riff. We stole a lot of things. We didn't really steal, we'd pick a lot of things which are out there just looking at you.
After Randy's death, Bernie Torme filled in. He used to be Ian Gillan's guitar player. Gillan joined Sabbath and Bernie joined me for the tour. He couldn't cut the gig. Moving from night clubs to 20,000 seaters freaked him out. But it was necessary for me to get out there. At that point I was so distraught over the loss of Randy that I thought if I didn't get back on the boards I'd never get up there again. I was desperate. I said even if we don't have a guitar player I've got to do a gig. I didn't care because everybody was walking around in shock. It took a year for it to fully take its impact on me. When I see the pictures in your magazine (GUITAR June '84) I remember when Randy bought those bracelet never forget when I met his mother for the first time after the accident. I felt like it was my fault, yet it wasn't. I think to myself if I'd been awake I could have done something.
Randy was so funny sometimes. I remember one occasion in Canada where the guy at the bar was playing My Way all night. Randy went to his room, picked up his Pignose amp, and brought it down to this bar with all these old farts and started wailing along with the piano player. I was on the floor.
I can tell you that there are no songs we did in the studio that haven't already come out. Just before he died he started to work on new sounds. He had his pedal board set up for an echo thing. He was bouncing chords off of the echo. He was consistently writing. If he wanted to do a solo album, he could have done one in a week. On the last night before he died, he was working on classical modes. He would work on his playing day and night and do the gigs at the same time.