Randy’s last tape
I met Randy in 1979 and he died in 1982, Ozzy Osbourne recalled. It’s three years that seems like a lifetime. In the video to "Crazy Train" we used Randy’s guitar and when they took the guitar out of the case, it was closed as if it were yesterday. Everything was as it was.
Whenever Ozzy speaks of him, there’s an homage in his tone, tears of tribute never far away. But Ozzy’s wife, Sharon, his longtime manager and confidante, gives us another side of the story, in its own way nearly as moving and momentous. It was 1980 and Ozzy Osbourne was just another English bloke who couldn't get arrested in America. Winter was approaching and the Osbourne cupboard was bare. His band was hungry and restless, especially his new close friend, the diminutive American guitarist, Randy Rhoads. "Nobody wanted to know of Ozzy Osbourne in this country," Sharon said. " Blizzard was recorded and they had done a tour of Europe, but Ozzy still could not get an American deal for the album's release. There was nothing for the guys to do, They were hanging out. The only way we could physically keep the band together was to keep working. When they worked they got paid. If they didn't work there was no money. So I said to them, I'll go to America and try to get something together and you come up with another album. It was a way of keeping them all together as a unit. If they had done nothing they would have drifted apart. They sat and wrote it. Blizzard came out in England in September, 1980, and they were in the studio writing Diary by that Christmas. It was done in six weeks. When we toured America for the first time behind Blizzard, they were playing Diary songs as well, because it was already in the can. As a manager, I was scared these boys would leave. I knew at the time that Randy wasn't going to go anywhere, because apart from anything else, he had a great friendship with Ozzy. Still, how do you survive? It's amazing how things happened. If we hadn't been so desperate and if I hadn't said you have to go in and make this album, we wouldn't even have this much of Randy now."
Recorded three months into the North American tour of 1981, Tribute is an album Ozzy Osbourne most definitely wishes he'd never had the need to make. And for a long time he couldn't face its prospect, looming like a tombstone in his memory. But inevitably, the veil lifted, for Ozzy as well as for Delores Rhoads, Randy's mother. This is where we began our conversation with Ozzy, as much Randy I s student as his mentor.
How did you know when it was time to release this record?
For a long time after Randy's death, every time I'd think about Randy and his mom, there was so much emotion. I kept thinking, if I'd have been there, if I'd have done this, maybe it wouldn't have happened. You go through this emotional war in your head. We keep asking ourselves why? Anyway, Mrs. Rhoads and Sharon spoke on the phone and the next thing you know we're getting the album together. I suppose it's fate and time. Time is a great healer.
Is there more that will come out in the future?
No, this is the end. Believe me, if I had a suitcase full of Randy's playing I would gladly put it out. We have rehearsal tapes and goofing around, but nothing he would be proud of and we would be proud of. This is the finest I have on Randy Rhoads and knowing Randy like I did, if he were alive he wouldn't even want this album to be put out. He'd say it's rubbish. He wouldn't like this album, I know that, but this is the best I have.
Did you know the nights you were recording?
No, we took the mobile studio on the road and turned up and played. I'm one of these people where if I know I'm recording I get nervous and antsy. Randy was the same as well. If you realize you're recording you want to play better. It's not natural.
Do you like live albums?
I don't see the point. Speak of the Devil was crap. I have never played it and don't even recognize that album as a live album. I don't like live albums, but at the same time, every I time I hear Tribute something different hits me. Something about this album affected me. When I put the record on it was like I was playing the songs backwards for all these years. That's the way the songs should be played and nobody else has ever played them quite like it. That's not the' way I play anymore. The difference is his little fills And all the subtle playing. Listen to "Suicide Solution"-there’s some great fills on that song. In fact, I was even thinking of: stealing one of his licks out of "Paranoid" for a new song I'm writing. It's such a turnaround. The guy never stopped playing. It's only when you go back and listen to the way I used to play the song that you say, 'Wow I never heard that before.'
Of the songs on Tribute, are there any you enjoy singing the most?
"Suicide Solution." I remember when we wrote the song, it came about by sheer accident. I was drunk in John Henry's, a rehearsal facility in London. Randy was tuning up the Flying V and I' ran in there and said, That's a great riff. I had the lyric in my head for weeks, 'Wine is fine but whiskey's quicker. Suicide is slow with liquor.' It happened to give birth to itself. It's a special song for me. It sticks out in my mind and I think he plays it real well on Tribute. The unaccompanied solo is amazing. After not hearing it for five years and then hearing him play it, I got goosebumps, The very first song we wrote was "Goodbye to Romance." He was living at my house and I had that melody in my mind for a long while, even when I was in Sabbath. Randy asked, 'Is that somebody else's song? It sounds like a Beatles song.' These were the very early days. Another song we wrote early on was "You Looking at Me Looking at You." It was a B-side of the original "Crazy Train" and on the picture disc, It's never been heard since. We never played it live. "Believer" always reminded me of "Purple Haze." "I Don't Know" always brings back a memory of Monmouth. We rented a house there and we would jam for hours. I'd think of melodies and he'd work on them. It was an unusual combination for me, because up to that point in my life, with Sabbath, they'd get the riffs going and say, 'Ozzy, we want you to sing on that part and this part. Don't sing on that part and that's where the guitar solo goes.' Randy Rhoads comes along and says, 'Tell me what you want me to do?' He would get deep inside the feelings and bring it out of me. He was a teacher with patience forever. I'd be falling on my ass and he'd say, 'You're not talking to me; let's work this part out. It's a good idea, but how about this?' Randy was a very patient man. When he would do a guitar solo he would spend days and days in the studio. I'd think aren't we going to go to sleep yet? He would say, 'Hey man, I ain't got it right yet.' He was a perfectionist. You'd know when he gotten it because he would come out with this big golden grin on his face. What is the best overall band performance on Tribute? "Goodbye to Romance" and "No Bone Movies" are the highlights for me. They've got that edge. The original band that I had of Lee Kerslake (drums), Bob Daisley (bass), Randy and myself would have been a great band if it wasn't for the fact that they were always complaining and bitching about this and that, If I knew then what I know now, I'd have made five albums with them. Making Diary of a Madman was a real rush job, as Randy said. We wrote the album in about three weeks. But I think it is one of the greatest pieces I've ever had the pleasure of working on. Randy's guitar playing was phenomenal, no matter what he said He felt it wasn't as original as the first. He wanted to go further. I remember doing the original vocal line to "Flying High Again." Don't ask me to remember it. But I changed it. The 'Oh no' part was a total accident. I was trying to double track my voice but I came in one bar early. I kept it. When we Wrote "You Can't Kill Rock and Roll," we had a real big problem when it goes into the guitar solo. We couldn't get out of the vocal. We tried it every which way and couldn't get out, so we left it the way it t was. We thought, screw it, let's go. We were living together in this dingy little apartment when we did the album and I remember waking up hearing his guitar and thinking, What is that? He was getting a classical guitar lesson. So I hear this riff and say, that's mine. I'm stealing that, He said, 'What are you talking about? I'm having a guitar lesson. Get out of here.' But we adapted a riff from that guitar lesson for the beginning of "Diary of a Madman."
Let's talk a little about the present. When it came to Jake leaving the band, was it your decision or his?
It was kind of mutual. We're not at war. It was time for a change. He had gone as far as he could with me and I had gone as far as I could with him. The best thing that could happen to Jake is for him to get his own thing together. We knew that at the end of the Ultimate Sin tour. I don't want to sound like I'm bad rapping the guy. I know that person doesn't want to work with me anymore but both of us can't put our finger on the truth. When a partnership goes that way, you've got to call it a day, but you tend to put it off.
Did you think The Ultimate Sin was better than Bark at the Moon?
Maybe production-wise. I had a big battle because it was the first time I had an outside producer. I was very resentful for that reason. When I make a record I remember the period of time and how I felt when I was making that record. It wasn't a lot of fun for me to make that record. Maybe it was one of the best albums I did, but I don't get a good feeling from it. I wasn't putting in my best effort and neither was Jake.
What do you consider Randy's best work on Tribute?
"Suicide," "Romance," "No Bone Movies" and "Children of the Grave". We played "Romance" about five times. When you’re up there doing it live you want to keep on attacking. It was kind of like a Paul McCartney song. It holds a lot of memories for me. When we first got it he phoned his mother and played the tape over the phone. He was the only guitar player I’ve ever played with who was a guitar player. When he wasn’t in the limelight he was practicing. He never said, I’m Randy Rhoads! He would just find a quiet corner and practice. He was very much an individual. He could be standing next to Jimi Hendrix and he wouldn't even know. He wasn't one to climb up the social ladder. Just before he died, I remember going to a soundcheck at a gig and he Was working with echoes. It was the beginning of something incredible. Not only was he a guitar player but he was a very good technician with sounds. He was great at getting sounds and-through his sounds came an emotion. I remember distinctly going in one day and saying, Randy, that's, incredible. You've got to work on that. My honest belief is that I only just touch the tip of the iceberg of Randy Rhoads. He was such an oddball. For a kid getting the acclaim that he was, I would have thought he would have wanted to stop every groupie and go wild. He was nothing like that. On a day off he would walk around town, look in junk shops, nothing like what you would expect a rock 'n' roll guitar player to do. He was a gentleman.