1956 - 1982
A Biography by Family, Friends, and Fellow Musicians
As told to Jas Obrecht
From Guitar Player, November 1982
RANDY RHOADS had become one of rock's most acclaimed guitarists at the time of his death earlier this year. A magnificent performer, he rose to fame quickly and became a hero to legions of young players. He left us a legacy of only a few albums, the best known being two records with Ozzy Osbourne. By all accounts, though, Randy's considerable talents extended far beyond the realms of heavy metal. He lived for music, and was well loved and respected by those with whom he grew up, studied, or played. They tell his story best.
My son Randy was born on December 6, 1956, in St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California. He has one brother whose real name is Doug, but who goes by the name of Kelle Rhoads when he sings. His sister is Kathy. Randy was the youngest. His father, who has always been a music teacher in public schools, left when Randy was 17 months old, and I raised the three children by myself. In 1949 we started building a music school and store in North Hollywood called Musonia, which I still own. We couldn't afford a TV or stereo until quite a bit later than most people, so there was not a lot of music to listen to at home. Randy just had to develop things on his own. Of course, I was always on the classical side. I played professional for a short while, and also taught music--especially trumpet--in the public school.
All Randy ever wanted to do was play the guitar. I don't remember him ever saying he wanted to do anything else. I can remember really well the time before he played guitar. He was a very intelligent kid who got good grades in school, and he didn't even have to try. And the thing that should underscore anyone's understanding of Randy is that he was so kind. Man, he was probably the kindest human being I ever met. I don't think he could have offended anybody, and I never saw him get mad. And he was like that as a child.
Randy started taking lessons in my school when he was about six-and-a-half. We had an old Gibson acoustic that belonged to my father. Randy picked that up and just loved it from the very first--as soon as he was large enough to hold it and do something. I had a guitar teacher in the school at that time who was a pretty good rock player--I guess rock was just beginning to come up. So Randy studied with him. It was not too long until the teacher came up to me and said, "He knows everything I know! I can't teach him anything more. He's gone beyond me already." Randy just loved it so much. He played all the time; he never put it down. He was so dedicated. In all the years I had been teaching--and that's a good many years--I've never seen a student who just loved it so much. In his early teen years, when Randy talked on the phone he would hold the receiver with his shoulder and practice at the same time.
I still have the first electric guitar Randy played on--an old, large, semi-acoustic Harmony with f-holes. He started playing that when he was about eight years old. The guitar was really Randy's only instrument, although I did teach him some piano and a bit of reading music after he was pretty good on the guitar. He knew enough piano to work out harmonies and chords to use when writing songs. He could read all the scales and chords. I had a straight little group for the students to participate in--it was like a school orchestra--and Randy played in that when the guitar was almost larger than him. But he loved it, just because it was playing.
I tried lessons on and off when I was young, but I couldn't stick with it. I didn't have the patience. When I went back to lesson in my teens, I took classical guitar. It did wonders for me. When I was 12 or 13, I started jamming, and that's when I said I wanted to do this for real. When I first got up and played for people, it was a fluke. These guys used to jam on a mountain in Burbank, and I thought I wanted to get up and play. When I first did it, people started clapping. A friend had shown me the beginning blues scale. That sort of showed me how to connect the barre chords to a little scale. From then on, it was just add-ons. [The Randy Rhoads quotes appearing in this article are from previously unpublished interviews conducted by John Stix in 1981 and '82.]
When Randy was a teenager and even before, we used to ride on the trains to Chicago, New York, the Southwest, and on down to New Orleans. Randy would always take a guitar with him, and he would never leave it anyplace! It was in a big case, and we had to carry it on the train and wherever we walked. I remember we once had a little bit of a layover in Chicago, and we walked towards a drugstore. Some really creepy looking characters started to follow us, and I thought they were going to try to steal the guitar. We ran to get back into the station just to protect the guitar! When we'd travel on the train, he's say, "You know, Mom, I imagine what it will be like if I ever get to tour. It's going to be exciting to go different places."
The first band that I was in was the first band Randy was in. We got the group together when Randy was about 14 and named it Violet Fox after my mother's middle name, Violet. I played drums. Randy played rhythm guitar on a big, red Ovation; at that time, he didn't think he'd ever be a lead player. The band was together for four or five months, and we played some parties and some little shows at my mom's school.
We have always lived in the same house in Burbank. In fact, Randy was still living at home even with Ozzy, although he was on the road a lot and stayed with Ozzy in England. Randy was raised in a religious environment. He went to First Lutheran Day School through sixth grade, and then he had to go to John Muir Junior High. By the time he was 13 or 14, his little group was playing for parties and picnics, in the park, and down on the Burbank Mall. He was playing a lot by then. I used to go with him and load up the equipment. Alice Cooper became the big thing with my sons. Then their tastes changed as they grew.
I took Randy to his first rock concert, and he was amazed. It was Alice Cooper in 1971. He never saw anything like it, and he couldn't talk for four hours. I think that kind of showed him what he could do with his talent, and that's partly what made him decide to play rock. Before that, he played rock guitar and I played drums, but we never really thought about it.
When Randy went to Burbank High, he decided that school was not necessary. The only thing he wanted to do was play all day. I said, "You have to finish your education." About halfway through, I went to the board of education and asked special permission for him to go to adult school at hours that were convenient for him and wouldn't interfere with his playing. That was the way he finished school. He was mainly in little neighborhood groups until Quiet Riot. Quiet Riot was really a popular local band in the L.A. area. They made a couple of Japanese albums. They were supposed to tour, but that never materialized. I guess the management was not as good as it should have been. Nevertheless, they played a great deal. They performed four or five nights a week, every week. Randy wrote most of their music, and the singer, Kevin Dubrow, wrote a lot of the lyrics.
I met Randy in late 1977, when I started playing bass with Quiet Riot. They already had a couple of albums out on CBS Sony in Japan and had management, but they were just playing locally. Although my picture is on the Quiet Riot II album, Kelly Garni played bass on both albums.
I thought Randy was a totally excellent guitar player. It didn't hit me how good he was until I had played with him for a while. People would tell him do this or do that, and he would say, "Okay, sure, no problem," and then he would go on and do whatever he felt like doing. He never really compromised that much, but the material that had to be played was compromising for him. He had to play along with the songs, but we did something with a pop flavor, he would come on and just do a blow-your-head-off type of a lead on top of that. Quiet Riot didn't do much traveling--we went from Oxnard down to Riverside. We mainly were an L.A. club band, doing weekends at the Starwood or Golden West Ballroom. We didn't get an American record deal, which is one of the reasons why Quiet Riot broke up.
Rudy and I used to gig a lot in L.A. It was something to do, and I guess I thought Quiet Riot would make it. But now that I'm away from it, I know that it wouldn't. I hate to say that. It was kind of like I was growing up at the time and didn't know it. There is a lot more room for a guitar in Ozzy's band than there was in Quiet Riot.
Randy never had any real great guitars until he was playing with Quiet Riot. The owner of one of the rehearsal studios they played in bought Randy that white Gibson Les Paul that he played all those years. That was the first really good guitar that Randy ever had. He loved it.
Four or five months before he parted from Quiet Riot to join Ozzy, Randy came to my shop and asked me to make him a guitar. He had gotten referrals from other people I had made custom guitars for. We had several meetings to discuss the details of what he wanted on the guitar fefore it was even written up. He had pictures drawn. He wanted a Flying V shape, tremolo unit, double humbucking pickups, and one volume and one tone control per pickup. The guitar has an old '60s non-adjustable Danelectro neck that has been shaved and modified to look somewhat like an arrowhead. It has a rosewood fingerboard and a wide, flat feel. The action is very comfortable. The tuners are standard Schallers.
The thing that was different about it was the Strat-style side-mount jack underneath the V section, which was one of his ideas. He also wanted the toggle switches at the end of the wing. Polka dots were used because they were like his trademark, and the inlay on the fingerboard is supposed to resemble bow ties. Both of these were his ideas, too.
The most unusual thing about Randy was the fact that he didn't have to play copy material to survive. So he didn't have the same background as a lot of players who have to go out and do disco, blues, or Steely Dan music. Randy didn't need that because he had been teaching for about ten years. Instead of going out to play clubs, he would teach and make excellent money. So his playing influences are unusual--mainly classical music and late '60s, early '70s English rock guitar players. Later on he came to really admire Gary Moore and Eddie Van Halen. Those were his top two guys. By the time he got to England, he was not like a typical American guitarist who has influences of R&B, country, and things like that, because he never played that.
I have a lot of influences from everywhere. I like a lot of classical music and blues rock. As far as the classical, I just like it. I think it's a real technical thing. I wouldn't call myself an accomplished classical player at all, though. Again, I never had the patience to go through it. I wish I could be good at it.
There are many great players. Eddie Van Halen is great--I don't want to get near competing with people like him. I love Allan Holdsworth's playing. He's got a lot of great jazz scales. Andy Summers of the Police is definitely unique. Pat Metheny does some great acoustic stuff. John McLaughlin is technically great, but his is not one of my favorite styles. Leslie West was very important to me. He has a great feel. He is powerful and moody. I like Earl Klugh. Jeff Beck can do anything--he can play one note and it's great. Ritchie Blackmore was great; I loved his expression. I love B.B. King. I like Michael Schenker's and Steve Lukather's playing a lot. I also like Ronnie Montrose, especially with Edgar Winter. I like the way he bends; I could never bend like that. I liked all the English players in the '70s who used a lot of vibrato.
But I don't own any rock guitar albums. I listen to a lot of background music that I don't have to think about. I don't listen to music to achieve anything from it. I just listen to relax and be social. Mostly I like mellow jazz and classical. If I'm out in public, I like to hear blaring load rock, but never in my own house. I can't listen to my own records at home.
With Quiet Riot, Randy would teach during the day up to the time when he had to go play, which was around 7:00 at the latest. On days that he didn't play, he would teach a heavy schedule. In fact, Randy taught in my school for many years. He always said that was one thing that built him up strongly, because he played with the students, which encouraged them so much. He was a very successful teacher who built up a large group of students because he could relate well with them. He had his own way of presenting material, even in the rock field. His playing inspired the students a great deal. You know there are so many good guitar players because it's such a popular instrument. The minute I heard Randy playing anyplace, though,, I knew it was him because he played with such feeling and had such a live, brilliant sound. His technique was so fast--he could make his guitar playing sound like the music of a great concert violinist. That always amazed me. I'm not saying that because he's my son, but because I analyze it as a musician who has heard many players. Later on, when time allowed it, Randy would give seminars in some of the large music stores.
I am a former student of Randy's. I took lessons from him for about six months when he was teaching at his mother's school. I was extremely fond of Randy and had a great deal of respect for him, as did his other students, who numbered in the forties or more. Randy had much more than talent: He had charisma. He was friendly, and, above all, enjoyed teaching and helping others become better players. He was more than kind, and almost always placed my name, as well as the name of many other students, on the guest list just about any time he played in Hollywood. Quiet Riot was L.A.'s favorite local band, and Randy was L.A.'s favorite local guitarist.
I always looked forward to my lessons. He'd almost always run late, and we would spend about half an hour a week laughing, talking, and learning. He would say "Keith, make your guitar a part of you. Use it to express how you feel!" He emphasized that phrasing is the most important aspect of one's playing: "People don't talk in a monotone, and you shouldn't play guitar that way. Accent your playing." He worked very hard with me to help me develop my own style. Needless to say, he was a huge influence and was more inspiration than is imaginable.
The way I started to get a style was by teaching. People wanted to learn everybody's licks, and a first this was okay. Then I thought, "Wait a minute-you've got to get your own style." So I started combining what they wanted to learn with a bit of technique. Every day with every student I'd learn something. When I started to get a lot of students, I thought, "Enough with the licks. I'm going to have to get them to learn to find themselves." When you teach something to a student, it clicks in your head. You may find the answer to another problem you may have been trying to figure out.
I taught eight hours a day, six days a week, every half hour a different student. I had little kids, teenagers, and even some older people. When you sit there and play all day long, you're going to develop a lot of speed. I learned to read, too, but I have to look at it, think about it, and then play it. About the third time I do a piece, I can read it.
I think half of your sounds comes in the way you play. A lot of it is in your hands. If you practice with a lot of muting and then go out and do it louder onstage, you've still got the same sort of sound. You can't be lazy. You have to want to play. You have to love the guitar. I did. As a matter of fact, I was afraid of competition because I thought that everybody was better than I was. It was so close to me, I thought everybody was great. Therefore I couldn't copy licks; I just learned on my own.
Quiet Riot ultimately had an outrageous following. It was great! Randy was the focal point of the band, the guy the kids would come to see. If you went out in the audience, you'd see a bunch of little kids with his haircut, wearing little polka dot bow ties and vests, trying to be like him. And then there were a lot of clone Randy Rhoads guitar players in bands.
How Randy got into Ozzy's band is kind of a funny little story. I used to ask Randy, "What if someone did come along who was really big and asked you to go with him? He said, "Well, of course, I would have to take that opportunity." Ozzy was looking for a lead guitar player. He had been in New York and LA for weeks and weeks, and couldn't find anyone. He was just ready to go back to England and say, "Forget it. I can't find who I want." A bassist who knew Randy suggested that Ozzy listen to him. They called Randy, who was teaching that day in my school until about 10:30 P.M. He said, "Oh, it won't amount to anything, Mom. I won't even to bother to go down" I said, "Randy, even if it doesn't materialize, it's good for you to meet people who have been in the business for years." He was reluctant, but he took his little practice amp and went down. When he came back, he said, "Golly! I only played about two minutes, and Ozzy said, 'You've jot the job!' I don't know what I got, but I got something!"
Apparently Ozzy went through every player in L.A. after he quit Black Sabbath, and I never knew about it. I never looked for outside things; I was stuck in a rut. To be honest, I wasn't a big Black Sabbath fan. They were great for what they did, and obviously they did it well and made it huge. I respect that. I don't want to get into it too much, but I wasn't a big fan. I'm not sure why I got into Ozzy's band. Possibly he knew a certain sound he was looking for, and all of these other players tried to show off too much. I just started making a few harmonics. Perhaps it was my personality, because I was real quiet. I still don't know. I was 22 when I joined his band.
Two weeks later Ozzy called and said, "Well, we're getting things together, Randy. Are you ready to come to England?" Randy was flabbergasted! He said, "Oh, oh I can't go now! I've got a cold, and I can't leave until I feel better." Randy always had respiratory problems and was susceptible to colds. Many times he played with a fever of 104`. If he was supposed to play, he would play.
Randy and Ozzy finally got it together. It all happened so fast, Randy couldn't get his thoughts together. It was like a whirlwind. He went to Ozzy's house in England in October or November of 1980; this was his first time out of the country. They started getting into it really strong with just the two of them. Then they auditioned people for the rest of the band and recorded the first album in March and April.
I fell in love with Randy as a player and a person the instant I saw him. He had the best smile in the world. Randy was the best guy in the world to work with. There is no comparison between him and [Black Sabbath guitarist] Tony Iommi, and I can only compare the two because those were the only guitar players I had ever worked with. I was attracted to Randy 's angelic attitude towards the whole business. I didn't have to teach him anything; all that he was lacking was guidance. He listened to every word I spoke to him, and we had a great rapport together.
When we were working on the album, I would give him a melody and he would work a riff around it. Every hook he ever came up with, I loved. He was original. We discovered that most heavy metal bands stick to one key--I don't know about keys or read music or really understand notes because I just get up there and scream and jump around. But Randy said to me that most guitar players in modern bands fluctuate between A or E or whatever. So we made a rule that almost every number that we recorded on an album was never played in the same key.
Ozzy's music is both of ours. A lot of times he'll have a melody, and I'll have a riff that fits in. He hums something and I go, "Hey, I have a chord progression that will go with that!' "Goodbye To Romance" and "Mr. Crowley" were done that way. A lot of other times I'll be sitting practicing, and he'll say, "I like that--remember it." Naturally, I never can. So we'll do it right there and build a song.
I met Randy at a place in London where the band was rehearsing. This was about two weeks before I engineered Blizzard of Ozz. The recording of that album, which took just over a month, was done at Ridge Farm. Usually all four people would be there playing in the same room for the basic tracks. We would lay down the vocals, drums, bass, and rhythm guitar simultaneously. As long as we got a good bass and drum track, we would take it from there. Then the guitars were overdubbed.
Randy was always very nervous in the studio. He was extremely careful about what he played. If there was one thing out, he would go back and do that again. That's a pretty good policy, really, because a lot of those tracks--especially the lead guitar tracks--were triple-tracked.
He was the best guy at overdubbing solos and tracking them that I've ever seen. I mean, he would blow me away. He would actually play the whole solo three times. "Crazy Train" is an example of that. I you listen to it really close, you'll hear there's one main guitar around the center and two other guitars playing exactly the same thing, panned pretty much to the left and right, but back somewhat. You just hear them as one guitar. In fact, when you hear solos of his that really come out, a lot of times that's because there's three parts there, which means you get a very stable image.
Randy did quite a bit overdubbing during the Blizzard Of Ozz sessions, and we would spend considerable time in the control room going through the songs one by one. He had a lot of ideas and arrangements. We would take half an hour just to get a sound, and then it would take a long time for us to get some of these things down simply because he wanted to get just one little twiddle right. The great thing about it was that he had the parts so together that it didn't sound like there were that many there. Everything kind of jigsaws into each other.
Randy would usually rip one solo down, and if there were a couple of little mistakes, instead of going back and patching those, he would go back and do the whole thing again. He was extraordinary because he would know exactly what he played--a very astute player. A lot of Randy's outro solos--solos on long fades at the end of the tracks--were first takes. A lot of the other ones were quite well written in his head beforehand; he would work on them for along time to get them right. Some of his solos were perfected over a few days. He'd fire a few, listen to them, and then he'd say, "Oh, yeah, okay. I see what's going on." Then I'd make a tape loop up for him, and he'd sit down and run the loop around maybe 20 times. He would forget about it for a day, and then come back and try another one. By the time we got close to recording the solos, he would play the whole thing straight through.
Randy did a great deal on all of the tunes. He was instrumental in writing a lot of the actual key rhythms, and he was almost totally responsible for the overdubbing sessions. For instance, most of the musical backing on "Revelation (Mother Earth)" is Randy's. It's his chord pattern, pretty much most of his ideas filling up the overdubs. There are six guitar parts on "Goodbye to Romance."
Pretty much all the guitar tracks were done with Randy's polka-dot Flying V-type guitar, which had an extraordinary top-end. He also had a creamy white Les Paul that we used; that was pretty good, chunky. He ran his guitar into his onstage effects board and then into his 100-watt Marshall stack pretty much all the time. That amp had a real nice straight sound, actually, with both cabinets plugged in and stacked up. It was one of the older models without the master volume.
We originally put Randy's amp in a fairly live room downstairs underneath the control room and shut the doors. I used a close mike and a distance mike down there, and all of the original rhythm tracks were done like that. A lot of them though, were replaced later on because we opened those sliding doors and cranked the Marshall up and turned it out towards the studio and used even more mikes. This gave it a much bigger sound. The room had concrete walls and the amp was placed about three feet from the back wall, so the sound would funnel out from the concrete chamber into the rest of the studio, which is an old barn. I'd have a Shure SM-58 close mike on the Marshall in the concrete room, an AKG 451 mike just outside o the room on the steps, and a couple of Neumann U-87s out in the middle of the studio. The controls on the Marshall were pretty much flat-out.
The effect that I used a great deal on that album was an AMS 1518, which is a very clean British digital delay with a VCO [voltage-controlled oscillator] on it. You can slightly flange with it and do some strange grindy things if you get a hollow, tubey effect. If you listen to the rhythms on "Crazy Train," you'll hear there's a real grind to then. That particular sound comes from the AMS. "Suicide Solution" has four rhythm guitar tracks with a bit of AMS, which contributed a lot to its fullness. At the very end of that song he used feedback and his vibrato bar.
Randy wanted to do an acoustic guitar instrumental called "Dee" on Blizzard of Ozz. That was written for his mother. I miked that the same way I did all of the other acoustic guitar parts: I had him sitting out in the middle of the floor of the studio at night when everything was real quiet, and I miked him with an AKG 451 at a distance of about three or four feet. I believe he did "Dee" with two guitars, a steel-string and a gut-string. It is very difficult to tell because the guy was a master at syncing up.
"Revelation" and "Mr. Crowley" are my favorite cuts on the first LP because both of them have a heavy classical influence. I think the relationship between heavy metal and classical music is great. It has been going on like that for a long time. Look at Deep Purple: It's heavy, but it's a way to bring a melody in there, too. Leslie West was one of my all-time favorite guitar players. I love his feel. He used a lot of classical lines, but he was really into it when he did it.
Randy went on the road recording Blizzard of Ozz, first touring the United Kingdom. Later the band zigzagged across the U.S. Randy loved playing L.A., because it was his local scene. The first time he appeared there with Ozzy was at the Long Beach Arena in June 1981. He was really looking forward to that. He had so much trouble with his custom pedalboard, he was just beside himself. No one could figure out how to repair it. I said, "Look, Randy, you played many, many years without that pedalboard. You just give it all you've got." So he played the concert without it, but he was upset because he felt that it added a great deal, Randy was always a bit of a worry-wart--he wanted everything to be so perfect!
My weakness is my insecurity. I don't go up there every night with a lot of confidence. If the sound is not right, I'll get paranoid. My strength is my determination-I just want to keep getting better. I want people to know me as a guitar player, the way I knew other people.I don't want to be satisfied with myself. My other weakness is my girlfriend, who distracts me. She is the one person who can take me away from my instrument, which is something that never happened in the past. She is also strength at the same time.
I saw Randy play in Santa Monica on the Blizzard Of Ozz tour, and, man, the guy blew me away so badly! He actually gave me a bit of a scare. It was the first or second time he'd played L.A., so he was really showing off. He was so on, it was ridiculous. I went backstage, and the first thing I said to the guy was, "Well, I guess I better get my paper route back [Laughs]." He really got a kick out of that.
The stuff that he would do live and what he'd do on albums was very different. He had a lot of musical knowledge, and some of the scales that he employed onstage were a little more out there. As far as serious rock and roll guitar goes--somebody who's got the sound and uses the [vibrato] bar--I had never really heard anyone apply diminished scales and all that the way he would.
I was amazed when I saw Randy play live because he managed to make it sound like there were at least two guys there. Onstage Randy was more dynamic than in the studio insofar as he was leaping between three different parts and trying to cover them all. He was basically playing in a three-piece band onstage, although there was a keyboard player who was very much kept in the background. He had to work real hard on the rhythm in this context, and I think Randy was very good at that. He would pull the lead solos one note short in order to get back into the next session for the rhythm.
I've gained a lot of experience since the Blizzard Of Ozz tour, which comes out in my playing. A year ago I was probably more in practice from all the teaching gigs. I had more time to practice, but my styles have changed now. I've learned more about live playing. I don't feel I have to overplay because I'm basically in a trio, although we do have keyboards on the side that fill in a little bit. In fact, I think I could do more. I'm still learning my way around the big stage. I like the sound of two guitarists in other bands, but I couldn't play with another guitarist. It's just to confining. l like to have the freedom.
I've still got a long way to go. Ozzy is so big and such a humble guy. He helps me a lot. He always says something will happen, and it does. He educates me about record companies and the kids in the audience. He's just predicted everything along the way. My old band was really into trying to get to the top. The only way we knew how to do it was by going over the top. I learned from Ozzy that you don't need to do that if you're good. Now I move when I want to move, not because I think I have to. I leaned that from his personality. I don't want to be a ham and throw in the kitchen sink, but I still want to get my mark in. You're only as good as you are.
Randy wanted be a rock star until the time he got it. After that he just wanted to be a fabulous musician. He was a musician first. Being with Ozzy sure gave him a chance to see the world. Going from a local boy to doing that--what an incredible leap! It really made him more humble. It gave him more respect for his talent. People always told him he would make it.
After the first tour they started the second album. It was very cold over there, and Randy was so miserable with a cold. He said, "We can't get out; we have to just stay in. It's so confining. All I do is write music all day. Then we go in and rehearse and record it, to see what we want to change. It's like being in prison!" It was a hard album for him because Ozzy wanted certain things, and he was not the easiest person to work with. Randy worked hard and he wrote a majority of the music.
My role on Diary Of A Madman was pretty much the same as on the first album. I had a little more influence, I guess, on the second one, which I co-produced. The first one kind fell together; the second was a lot more organized. My recording strategy changed a little, too. The placement of the drums changed. Randy's playing was better because there was a tour between the two albums. He was just getting better all the time. He was getting really hot on the second album; the improvements are really noticeable. Stuff that used to take a long time to do didn't take so long anymore. Plus he had a lot more ideas about what arrangements he wanted.
All of the backing tracks were recorded the same way and the basic miking and speaker setup was the same, but we got into very curious extremes when recording some of the guitars. We did a lot of stuff in the control room to change the tonality of the sound around, such as running him through a little compressor on the board before going into the amp. I would help his guitar EQ by putting it through the board first.
The solo in "Flying High Again" was triple tracked, with Randy playing the same part each time. I used the AMS on that. We had a little bit of trouble getting "Little Dolls" to work very well. We may have only put one solo track on that, instead of three, which is why the guitar sounds a little in the back.
He did the swells in "Tonight" with his volume knob. Near the end of that tune he flicked his pickup selector switch back and forth. The jam concluding that song went on quite a long time after the fade, about another two minutes. It was amazing, but some of the tracks are pretty long, and we had to do some early fades. There is some tantalizing stuff, and I wish it didn't go out quite there. But both of the albums were long.
"You Can't Kill Rock And Roll," which has kind of a slow tempo, has quite a few rhythm tracks: a couple of heavy-duty power-chord tracks, one steel-string acoustic track, and probably two or three other guitar parts. At the end there, Randy said, "Just roll it round to me, and I'll wax some stuff on the end." The main lead guitar going out of there was pretty much one-take.
"Believer" begins with some unusual guitar work. Randy was just messing around before the track comes in, and we just left it on there because we liked it. There are a few little bits and bobs like that; those little accidents that happen, and you think, "God, that sounds great. We'll leave that on there."
"Diary Of A Madman" is another one where we did one steel-string acoustic and a nylon-string acoustic. There are a lot of guitars there. We did work a lot about getting those textures and rhythmic magic from Randy.
All of the studio tracks we recorded were released on Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman. The only other material that's available is from some live shows from last year, which I have been doing a little bit of work on.
We played the songs on the first album a lot before we recorded. I had time to sit back and say, "I don't like this lead," or, "That's not what I'm looking for." For the second album I sort of had to put the lead together in the studio, that's it. Be happy with it or else. I didn't have time to search for what I wanted to play. Possibly if we had more time to write it, it would have been different. We could have played the songs more. We sort of got a basic form for the songs and went right into the studio. I was wrapped up in the middle of everything to the point where I couldn't get a hold on it. Considering how it was done, I'm happy with it.
Epic Records Press Release
November 30,1981: On December 29, Ozzy Osborne will embark on a four month U.S. tour in support of Diary Of A Madman, his second Jet/CBS LP. A road crew of 25 Broadway and Las Vegas technicians will travel with him to stage this living horror flick. In addition to the trap doors and hidden passageways onstage, a giant motorized hand has been constructed to dramatize Ozzy's stage entrance and exit. The concert's only restriction is clearly printed on the ticket: "No normal people admitted." Sales of Blizzard Of Ozz currently top 6,000 records each week.
Randy was 99% responsible for getting me into Ozzy's band for the Diary Of A Madman tour. I came in after that album, although my picture is on that one, too. By the time that album was finished, the old bass player, Bob Daisley, was kicked out.
The difference between Randy's playing with Quiet Riot and Ozzy was day and night. When Quiet Riot was working very hard in L.A. to get a record deal, we had to be ourselves, but also try to please the record labels. So we were more pop-oriented, and Randy's playing was a little more restrained. Ozzy told him to just go all the way and be totally himself, be totally out in his playing: "Be the best Randy Rhoads you can be."
Randy was a progressive guitarist. By that I don't mean a style, but that every day he would progress on a song, play it different. It would still be the same song, but he would elaborate on it. Randy didn't like to jam, though, in the sense of getting together with a bunch of people and playing in one key. The jams we had would actually be writing; they'd turn in to songs.
Randy was in London when I first met him. I was playing drums with Gary Moore for a live EP, and he came by to hear us. I started with Ozzy in April of last year, when both of the albums were already recorded. One of the reasons I took the gig was that I got off so much on playing with Randy.
I've performed with a lot of guitarists, including Gary Moore, Pat Travers, and Pat Thrall, and there in no comparing them to Randy at all. In every respect, Randy was by far the best musician I ever worked with and probably ever will. The small amount of actual recorded music he left behind is infinitesimal compared to what he was capable of. And he was such a giving, loving kind of guy.
In every show there is a five-minute piece where Tommy Aldridge and I each get to do a bit of a solo. Five minutes between two people is not very much time, and the kids we play for aren't interested in musical expertise. If I sat down and played some classical music, most of the kids--besides those who were interested into the classical side--wouldn't be impressed. They're headbangers. Ozzy has an incredible following, and most of his kids are non-stop. I've experimented with a few things and tried to get some classical things in, but I really couldn't work them into this set. The time calls for flash. It's very heavy and everything is very powerful. The solo features are only there to show off Tommy and me. At the same time, they're not supposed to represent anything like, "This is what we can do." It's just a quick flash pot going off.
Before I became the keyboardist for Ozzy's band, Gary Moore, Tommy Aldridge, and I made an album together. I knew Ozzy quite well before then because I had worked on a Black Sabbath album when he was with them, and he had tried to get me to join Sabbath. So I finally ended up joining him the day after Christmas 1981 for the Diary Of A Madman tour.
I didn't get a rehearsal with the band. They've got this massive set and massive production, so more or less my fist run-through was my first show! I wasn't actually on the stage. I was off on the battlements of a castle; "Keyboard Corner" is what it was called. It was absolute chaos for the first two weeks, and I wasn't sure what to play because nobody told me. But then I got together with Randy and saw how he wanted it. It was more keyboards being used for effects rather than an integral part of the band--a bit of drama and a few surprises here and there.
It was a hard band to join because they had been playing for a year on the road, and they were tight. To come into that band was really quite a challenge. I was frightened to death when I heard them. I'd never heard anything as heavy, and Randy was phenomenal. After a month or two I got the hang of it, and it really started to sound very good. It was the best band I'd ever played with. Tommy Aldridge is a great drummer, and Randy was certainly the most exceptional person and musician I've ever met.
Randy was an all-encompassing player. His guitar sound was so huge. Sometimes he'd more or less be playing three parts at once. I'd just say, "What do I do? What do you add to that?" I really had to come up with a few things. Randy would hear the tapes afterward and go, "Wow!" Randy could get some very unusual tones, including one that was like very clean and had fierce distortion--I don't quite know how to put it. I hadn't heard anybody use that kind of sound before. It almost sounded as if he had a ring modulator on the guitar, which he didn't. It was just him. The three months I had on the road with him were very exciting. It was quite a strange tour, actually, with snow all the time. It was freezing! Quite a grueling experience, but very exciting for me musically.
When Randy was on the road, instead of like partying out after he played, he would go to a Top-40 club and say, "Hi, I'm with the Ozzy Osbourne group. Can I jam with this band?" And he'd get up there with them just so he could play. He really was a musician's musician.
Near the end of his career, Randy also used to go to a lot of pawnshops to look for guitars. In the last four months of his life he bought a couple of really rare Les Pauls. One was a black '57 that was virtually untouched.
I made a couple of the guitars that Randy played up until his death: the white offset-V kind of instrument, and the black one. These have "Jackson" on the peghead. Randy contributed quite a bit to their design. He came in Christmas of '80 with a crude line drawing of a guitar, and said, "Can you make this?" I said, "Well, let's change this and that." I added the head design to it, and he and I worked together and made the white one. He contributed 50% or better of its design.
The instruments have long, fairly small bodies that are easy to get around. They have a neck-through-the-body solid maple construction, 22 frets, a 25 1/2" scale, and Seymour Duncan pickups: a Jazz model in the neck position and a Distortion. They have binding on the neck and around the head, and a special pearl inlay that Randy came up with. The white one had one of Charvel's standard tremolo units on it.
One of the main differences between the white one and the black one is that the black one has a pickguard and a lengthened, thinned-out rear wing. Randy complained that too many people thought the white one was a Flying V, and he wanted a more distinctively shark-finned design, more off-center. When we actually got the black one made as a wooden, unfinished guitar. Randy came in and said, "More." I literally took it to the bandsaw and cut a chunk out of it with him standing there. He said, "Yeah, yeah. That's it!" It was a pretty creative process.
I got the black one to him just before the tour, and then a few months later he was gone. I am going to market a version of the black one as the Randy Rhoads Model, although he wanted to call it the Randy Rhoads Concorde or just the Concorde. He really wanted to see that guitar happen.
What do I look for in a guitar? Small frets. I can't play the big frets. Every time I get a guitar, I have really small frets put in it, almost like an acoustic guitar's. I like the sound of a double-coil pickup, but I also love the Strat sound. I'm looking for an old Strat, but not for live playing. For what I need to hear in a trio, it's not fat enough. As far as string and picks, I use regular GHS strings, gauged beginning with a .010. or .011 for the high E. I like them because they have a real metallic sound. I also use a medium-gauge pick.
As for effects I use an MXT Distortion Plus, an MXR equalizer, a Cry Baby wah-wah, an MXR chorus, an MXR flanger, and Korg Echo. I don't practice with the gadgets too much, though, because I don't use them that much. I do use Distortion Plus a lot, but that's it. I used to use them more because I had time to learn what I wanted to do with them, But don't need them that much with this band.
In the last few months, Randy was strongly into classical music. He was seriously studying harmony and advanced theory. He had written out all of the modes and recorded them. As a matter of fact, he was going into this field very, very heavily at the time of his accident. He would call me and ask questions. Being on the road was a problem for him. He didn't know what to do with his time, and he wanted to further his music. So he really had started on something that I think would have been extremely great. He would have combined something in the way of classical and rock that probably would have been unique.
Randy's hearts was in the classics, to be honest; he wanted to be a classical guitar player. In fact, with the first record royalties he received, he went out and bought himself a very, very expensive classical guitar. He sat there for days and nights working on his music theories. As a matter of fact, right before he died he had been up for four days and nights--plus gigging--working on his theory because he wanted to get into a university and get a degree in music. And every town he went to, he'd find a tutor. On days off I'd get in the bar. He wouldn't: He'd practice all day, every day. He didn't take drugs, and he didn't drink too much. Every day of his life he practiced.
In the last six months of his life, Randy was getting extremely involved with classical music. He was very interested in a couple of classical composers, and he would study their music. One was an obscure Baroque-period composer named Johann Pachelbel. He was very influenced by him. He also liked Vivaldi. He was really into Baroque music because of all the layers an modes. I have every reason to believe that he would only have played rock for another nine or ten months. He was planning to go back to school to study and really pursue a classical career. What he could do on classical guitar was just sensational.
Guitar Player Magazine
December 1981: Randy Rhoads wins Best New Talent in the Guitar Player Readership Poll.
Last year Randy got voted Best New Talent in Guitar Player. When something like that happens to a young guitar player, he could do two things: He could say, "Hey, I've made it, and I don't need to get any better at this!" or he could do the opposite, which is what Randy did. He went totally into his playing. He stopped partying hard when he realized that people were paying attention to what he was doing. On the first tour he was a little crazy, but by the last tour he was totally serious--little or no drinking. He spent all of this time in his room, playing electric or classical guitar.
On days off, we would be in the middle of like Anytown, U.S.A. When we would get to the hotel in the morning after traveling all night, Randy would open up the telephone book and look up the music schools. He would go and take classical guitar lessons. He would come with his books and ask questions about reading, fingering positions, pieces, and stuff like that. He was coming along incredibly well.
Of course, in a lot of places he would go to the wrong school. He would have to face some young, 18-year old girl teacher who would totally freak out when she found out who he was. Actually, many times he wound up giving them lessons, but he would pay for it [laughs].
The more recognition he got, the better he wanted to get. He was an incredibly humble guy. Every time anybody would ask him for an autograph or tell him a compliment, he would smile real shy. That was his nature.
I'm in my second year with Ozzy now, and the question is: How do you stay on top of yourself? I've really got to start getting a hold on it now. It's no longer a case of just try your best. I've got to be great now, and I'm sort of bored with my own playing. I'll pick up the guitar and it seems like it's the same thing. I used to play constantly. In fact, I couldn't put it down. Now that I'm on the road, I practice less than I did because I don't have the time. I need total stimulation from somewhere.
The best way to keep improving is to have a guitar lesson every day. The cost of bringing a tutor on the road would be ridiculous, but I am wondering if someday it might be done. True, if you sit with the guitar long enough every day, you're going to improve and sometimes accidentally come up with things. But sometimes it's hard to put yourself in that frame of mind. If I had a tutor, it would be more of a responsibility: I'm paying this guy, and it's my commitment to keep at it. In fact, I wouldn't mind going to college, although it doesn't fit in with the idea of heavy metal.
Being on the road was difficult for Randy. When he was traveling with Ozzy, his big hobby was those tiny, Z-scale model trains that they make in Europe. He had a lot of layouts and would make the little houses and all that. I think that relaxed him from playing and tension, and maybe it reminded him of riding on trains as a child. It was hard for him to be away from home and the family. He loved being on the road, and it was what he wanted to do, but he missed us a lot.
I could always tell when the road was really bad or when he really hated it, because when he got home, if he intensely got in to those model trains, he was bummin'. I don't think he liked being on the road at all. See, people like my brother shouldn't get involved with rock and roll. They are higher people. I don't thing he would understand a lot of it because he wasn't raised that way. A lot of times there were things that conflicted with the way he was brought up and his own morality. He say a lot of things that really blew him away.
Those trains were important to him, but another thing that was real important to him was anything that had to do with family matters. The guy really was into family situations, like Christmas. What he could do to a Christmas tree! He never wanted to take them down, but he could decorate a house so fast, and it would all look incredible.
Toward the end there, Randy wasn't very happy. I don't know so much if it was the road he became disenchanted with, or if it was what he was doing. He was so young and he had so much ability. His vocabulary was so vast, and his potential was so much bigger than he even knew. He definitely wanted to be elsewhere, to move in a new direction. He wanted to go back and teach, to write some pieces out, and to take advantage of some of the classy sessions offers and flattering invitations that he was getting. With our schedule, he just didn't have the time. He was always asking me about lawsuits, how can I get out of this, how can I get out of that. I felt so much for what he was going through, but I honestly couldn't think of a way that he could get out of his situation, you know.
Five years from now I would love to have people know me as a guitar hero. I'd love to do a solo album, but I haven't met the right people in the business yet. I'm not at the level where I meet people all the time. It has to be the right time for the right thing. I really haven't been able to think; I just go, go, go. Lately I've just been trying to hang onto myself, to keep up with everything.
I'm locked into something right now, and it's not my own pace. Therefore it's kind of stifling sometimes. Playing sessions would be nice; I could do a different sort of playing and spread my name in different areas. Now it's very limited. Being with Ozzy is almost like being in Kiss. That's why I'm thinking of going back to taking lessons and teaching all day long. Now it's a combination of stopped ideas and constant touring. I've got to put it together.
Randy left L.A. on a Monday in March. He had just had ten days at home and had all three of his wisdom teeth pulled. He was miserable. At the end of the week he caught another cold--typical Randy--and when he left that morning, he was so sick! I said, "Please call me when you get there, Randy." He did, and that was the last time I ever talked with him.
March 20,1982, Leesburg, Fla. A small plane crashed into a mansion here and burst into flames yesterday, killing the lead guitarist of the Ozzy Osbourne rock group and two other people, police said.
The crash killed guitarist Randall Rhoads, 25, the pilot of Beechcraft Bonanza--Andrew Aycock, 36--and Rachel Youngblood, 58, the group's makeup artist and hairdresser. The plane's pilot was also the group's bus driver.
It was 7:30, 8:00 in the morning, and I had just woke up. All of a sudden there was an airplane wing flying through the side of the bus. The guy who was flying the plane had no business being there because he had been driving all night. It was like being on a movie set. Don Airey and I were running around with a fire extinguisher, but it was useless. It was the heaviest thing I have ever gone through. Randy had so much that he wanted to do, and he was so prolific, I just want to say how lucky I feel to have been associated with the gentleman and to have heard him night after night.
Ozzy and the rest of the band went to the funeral, as well as all of the people from Jet Records. Members of Ozzy's band and Quiet Riot were pallbearers. My teacher Arlene Thomas, who was a close friend of Randy's sang and played acoustic guitar. Randy is buried in San Bernadino, which is where I grew up and want to be buried. I had a small bronze guitar put in on one side of his name one the gravestone, and on the other side the RR signature that he used. I know he would have wanted that.
Randy's death was the hardest thing I've ever gone through. It's something that none of us will ever really understand. I know a lot of people say, "Oh, the band--partying and drugs." But it wasn't like that at all. Randy was so serious about what the band was doing. Randy and Ozzy wanted nothing less than the best, and I think it was headed that way. We're going to keep going as best we can.
The other day I was driving to Jet Records and I turned on the radio. "Crazy Train" was on, and I listened to it. You know, Randy is the kind of player that every time you listen to a song, you hear new things, different things. There will be a live album out by Christmas as a tribute to Randy. There you will hear the difference between his live playing and the albums. It's like more. He does everything, like an attack. He blazes you with his guitar. Not to take credit away from Brad Gillis' guitar playing with us, but there was only one Randy.
Eddie Van Halen
Randy Rhoads was one guitarist who was honest and very good. I feel so sorry for him, but you never know--he might be up there right now, jammin' with John Bonham and everyone else.
Randy was such a kind, warm person. I have tons of letters and cards, even from fans who never met Randy but just heard him play. They have written so much to me! I still get long-distance calls from people who just want some little connection with Randy, and I'm the one, I guess. They just want to know a little something about him personally. It's unbelievable. Neither he nor I realized at the time that he was making such a name for himself.
I can't think of anybody who deserves to be in heaven more. I think he will be remembered the way James Dean is: somebody who died real young and was able to make a few accomplishments. He was totally outstanding, but God took him back.
Randy was so unique that I don't think people will ever fully realize what a talent that guy was--not only in rock and roll, but in every other field. He was phenomenal in the classics. We loved each other very dearly. I swear to God, the tragedy of my life is the day he died. I've been doing this for a long, long time now with my life, and if ever I could say that I met a natural born star, it was a guy called Randy Rhoads, God bless him. Long live Randy Rhoads! If I could only put it in one word and people would believe me, as crazy as a reputation as I have, he was the most dedicated musician I ever met in my life. He was a master of his art.