Randy Rhoads: The legend grows
In the three years that have now passed since his death, the legacy of Randy Rhoads continues to grow. From his first performances with the original Quiet Riot in the late ‘70s, to his incredible stint with Ozzy Osbourne, few guitarists in rock history have made as profound and lasting an impact on rock and roll as this lean, blond California native. Heavy Metal Heroes is proud to present fond remembrances of Randy by those who worked with him and knew him best. We also present the last interview Rhoads ever gave, which originally appeared in the November 1983 issue of Hit Parader.
"The first time I met Randy Rhoads was one of the strangest moments of my life. I had left Black Sabbath and was trying to put a band together in Los Angeles. I was reaching the end of my rope. In one day I had seen 20 guitarists, and all of them looked and sounded like Tony Iommi. They didn’t understand that the last thing I wanted at that point was a second version of Sabbath; I was looking for something totally different. Then, a friend of mine came by with the thinnest guy I had ever seen in my life. It was Randy. He didn’t say much, but when he plugged in his guitar it was extraordinary. He was the best guitarist I had ever heard. He was an incredible human being as well; the sweetest, kindest person I ever met. His music was his whole life. Even when we were on tour, he made sure to go and find a school where he could study classical guitar. He was more than just a rock guitarist - he loved the instrument, and wanted to play as many different types of music as he could. I assume he would have eventually left my group. His talent needed a bigger stage than I could give him. But I wouldn’t have cared. I’m just happy I had that short period of time with him!"
"Randy Rhoads was my best friend in the entire world. We went through so many good things and bad things together, so we had a bond that was very special. When we first met we didn’t really know what to make of one another. I knew the guy that Randy used to work with, but I had never met Randy. One day, he called me. We decided to get together and see if we could get a band going. When he came to my house, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here was this guy who looked like a reject from Alice Cooper. He had long blond hair to his waist, and the thumbnail on his right hand was about six inches long. We looked at each other suspiciously for a few minutes, and talked very casually. We began to find out that we both liked the same groups - Led Zeppelin and Montrose - and we began to loosen up. Then he plugged his guitar into this tiny amp he had brought along, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Every great guitar sound in the world was coming out of that little amp. I said to myself, "Wow, I’m the only person in the world who knows about this guy." He was the best. We made two albums together, and I cherish the memory of his company. Over the years, we had our differences but then any friends do. He was the best guitarist in the world, and one of the best people too. What more can I say about anyone?"
"I first met Randy during the last days of the original Quiet Riot. I had joined the band after they recorded their second album, and while my picture is on the album jacket, I didn’t play a note on the record. I was so impressed by Randy’s playing from the moment I heard it - he was just incredible. Unfortunately, things with that version of Quiet Riot weren’t going very well, and I left the group a few months after joining, when Randy left to get together with Ozzy Osbourne. A short time later, I got a call from Randy asking me if I wanted to audition for Ozzy’s group. I had been into different types of music for a few months, but I decided to it was time to get back into playing rock - especially if it meant working with Randy again. Needless to say, the time we spent together with Ozzy was great. We received the recognition that we missed with Quiet Riot the first time around - Randy was the reason for that. People discovered what the rest of us knew all along - Randy was an exceptional talent."
Now, Heavy Metal Heroes is proud to present the last interview ever granted by the late, great Randy Rhoads.
Heavy Metal Heroes: How did you first hook up with Ozzy Osbourne?
Randy Rhoads: I was in Los Angeles and had been working in a band called Quiet Riot. I heard through the music grapevine that Ozzy was in town and looking for a guitarist. Quite honestly, I wasn’t that interested, but a friend of mine told me I should go down Ozzy’s hotel and play for him anyhow. I wandered into Ozzy’s hotel room at about 2 o’clock in the morning. Ozzy was exhausted - he’d been listening to guys play all day long. He just said, ‘Go ahead, play something,’ and he stretched out on a couch. When I started to play, he perked up. I could tell he liked what I was doing.
HMH: What did he say to you at that time?
RR: Basically, he said al he’d heard al day were guys trying to play like Tony Iommi. He appreciated that I was playing my own style and not trying to copy someone else. I really didn’t know if I had the job or not at that time, but Ozzy did seem quite pleased.
HMH: You have a very distinctive style. How long have you been playing guitar?
RR: I started when I was just a kid. I got a very inexpensive acoustic guitar when I was seven, and I studied on and off for the next five years. Most of the lessons I took were either classical or folk guitar. I wasn’t really into that at the time. I’ve come to appreciate classical guitar more now - in fact I’ve started taking classical guitar lessons again - but back then I just wanted to rock.
HMH: Who were you listening to in those days? Who influenced you?
RR: I loved Mountain - I thought Leslie West was one of the greatest guitar players I’d ever heard. Some of the things he played were really exceptional. My tastes kept changing when I was a kid. I listened to a lot of Ritchie Blackmore with Deep Purple, and some Jeff Beck, but I loved a lot of different people.
HMH: You said that you’ve begun taking classical lessons again. When do you have the time?
RR: When were on the road I try to take a few hours each day and practice. I’ve also started looking up classical guitar teachers in various cities, and I go take lessons whenever I can afford the time. It’s difficult to study while you’re on the road, but you do have a lot of time to practice.
HMH: Does that mean you want to give up rock and roll?
RR: No, not at all. I still love playing rock and roll, but I want to become the best guitarist I can. I see no reason to be satisfied with just playing one type of music. If you love the guitar, you want to learn as many different styles as possible. Who knows, years from now I may end up playing classical guitar for a living.
HMH: Earlier you mentioned Quiet Riot. How many albums did you record with them?
RR: We recorded two albums - the problem is that they were only released overseas. The second one was released in Japan in 1980. They’re pretty good records. They’re real rock and roll albums. There are some good songs, and the playing is pretty hot. I’d like to see those albums get released over here, because, after all, we were an American band.
HMH: When you were first getting into music was your family supportive?
RR: Yes. My whole family is very musical, and when I was young there were always a lot of different
instruments lying around the house. In fact, my first guitar, a very old Gibson, was something I found in the house.
HMH: How has the touring affected you? It must be fun being a rock and roll start?
RR: Well, it is in a way. But Ozzy keeps reminding me to keep everything in perspective. All his
experiences have helped me. I’m a pretty conservative guy, so I have no desire to indulge in the rock and roll lifestyle. I’m into the music more than anything else.
HMH: But it must be fun to be recognized on the street?
RR: Yes, at this point it’s still fun. Actually, it doesn’t happen that often. Most of the time it’s right after a
show where some fans are hanging around the hotel. The first few times people come up and ask you for an autograph it’s a lot of fun. But if you’re eating dinner, or having a conversation with someone, it can get a little annoying. I know that they’re reacting because they like you, and I love them for that. But I’m a very private person, and sometimes it becomes hard to deal with.
HMH: How do you feel when someone calls you a rock and roll star?
RR: A little strange. I’ve always viewed myself as a musician. I never thought of myself as a star. Ozzy’s a star - I’m just part of the band.
HMH: Do you find it annoying that your talents aren’t recognized as much as they should be because you’re playing heavy metal?
RR: No. I enjoy the music we’re playing. As long as I’m satisfied with my work, I’m not too concerned with what any critics think. Our type of music will never be a critical favorite, but when I can stand on a stage and see a lot of smiling faces in the crowd, it makes it all worthwhile. That’s the most important thing.
HMH: How is Ozzy to work with?
RR: He’s a jewel. He gets a lot of heat for the stunts he pulls, but he ‘s a kind and sensitive human being. He’s always giving me advise and pep talks. He’s so full of energy - it’s contagious. He just makes you want to play rock and roll for the rest of your life.