Posted October 27, 2014 by Jeff in Tunes

Ozzy Osbourne: The “madman” muses

Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy Osbourne

At 65 (soon to be 66), singer Ozzy Osbourne shows no signs of slowing down. He’s just issued Memoirs of a Madman, a collection of classic music videos, unreleased and out-of-print live performances and interviews from his solo career. He phoned from his Beverly Hills home to talk about his illustrious career.

You just announced Ozzfiesta. Talk about the concept.
I’m doing one more Black Sabbath album and one more Black Sabbath tour but to do a major tour as well as Black Sabbath is impossible. Zakk Wylde is doing an acoustic thing. Black Label Society is doing the band thing. Jim Norton and his friends will be there. It’s hosted by Sharon [Osbourne]. First 500 sold get a meet-and-greet with me.

So, there’s even comedy?
Yeah, especially when I go on stage [laughs]. Sharon put it together and it’s a good stop gap for me while I’m doing the Black Sabbath thing. The Black Sabbath success [with last year’s 13] took me by surprise. Over the years, being with them and being solo, we never got a number one in America. It took all this time to get a number one in America. We did an 89-date tour. It was great gigs. I was sober and I wasn’t fucking doing drugs. I wasn’t smoking cigarettes. I wasn’t going out and getting fucking crazy. I honestly thought I would never do that. I never thought I could write anything or record anything sober. If we never do anything again, I’m glad that we ended up on an up note. The only sad thing is that [Sabbath drummer] Bill Ward wasn’t there. One of the greatest accomplishments of my life is that I was one of four guys from the streets of Birmingham who conquered the world in our own way.

You’ve made some great music videos over the years. Talk about some of your favorites.
To be honest, I don’t watch them. I have this fucking thing about seeing myself on TV. I never watched one episode of The Osbournes. I don’t like to see myself on TV. It freaks me out. “Is that me? Do I really look like a fucking idiot like that?” With The Osbournes, people would ask me who writes the script. I would go, “What?” They would go, “Who writes the script to the show?” I would go, “God. That’s just the way we lived.”

It was true reality TV.
It wasn’t scripted. It was edited well. There was a lot of stuff when I was fucked up face down on the floor that they couldn’t use.

The kids ended up on drugs. I ended up on drugs and alcohol. My wife got cancer. You can’t get more real than that.

What was your favorite music video to make?
I never enjoyed one of them. You think these fucking directors were making War and Peace. They were only three-minute videos. I remember when I was making the video for “Mama, I’m Coming Home.” I went to this sky blue room and had to get a side of pork and walk across the room. I thought, “What the fuck does this mean? [This is] going to cost 900,000 dollars.” I went and used the cameraman who did the Nirvana video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” He just did a video with me in the car. That cost about 10,000 dollars. I prefer the one I did because it was cheap and there was no elaborate fucking trickery. MTV played them both. Sometimes I would just go, “What are you fucking thinking?” It’s only a music video. It didn’t warrant spending millions of dollars.

You’ve also played with some fantastic musicians.
I’ve been blessed. Randy Rhoads. Zakk Wylde. Tommy Clufetos, my drummer now, is such a reliable guy. He doesn’t get fucked up everyday like I used to. I would ask him, “What do you do if you don’t have a gig?” He gets up, exercises and plays drums. He doesn’t smoke. He doesn’t drink alcohol. He’s a very reliable great drummer.

Who influenced you the most?
Believe it or not, the Beatles were the ones who made me take up music. I heard them and something happened to me. I realized that’s what I wanted to do. When I went to school, nobody told me about anything. My father told me I had to have a trade or I would be in the scrap heap. I could never hold a fucking job. I took up burglary and that didn’t work out. You make mistakes until you get the thing right. Having a band and career as a musician is not a job. It’s a gift.

I don’t have to get up at seven in the morning, sit in traffic, go into a job I hate and then work for someone I also hate for the rest of my life. I would want to fucking kill myself.

Did you know Black Sabbath was onto to something when the band first started?
I remember the first Black Sabbath album. We got a $200 advance which is fuck all now but at the time I was impressed. I went from making $5 a week to fucking $200. I was in a club in Birmingham and our manager at the time, Jim Simpson, comes up and says, “I have something to tell you.” The manager came up to tell me our album was entering the charts at number 18. I told him to fuck off. I thought he was joking. The following week, I rushed out to get the local music paper and there it was and it remained on the charts. I thought it might be good for a few years. The second one, Paranoid, came out and went to number one in England.  I thought, “What the fuck have we just created?” Four of us started a band, made some music and, from record one, we never made a bad album. It always entered the charts. You don’t know. It’s a crapshoot. You either win or you don’t. I would have had to been clairvoyant to have realized that I would be still in demand and have my first number one record in America.

Did you know you were doing something different?
When we first started writing, we started doing jazz blues like Jethro Tull, Ten Years After and the original Fleetwood Mac. Back then, it was peace, love and all that shite. We sang about the dark side. We didn’t realize what we were doing. We just started to write scary music because we grew up from across the movie theatre. Tony [Iommi] thought it was strange that people paid to get scared and pay to go to the theater so that’s what we started doing. It was just a fluke of luck. The first album is a great album but when you’re on the inside looking out, you don’t realize it.  I remember when I took my mom and dad the first record and played it for them and there’s the thunder and the rain and the demonic first riff comes in. My father looks at me and asks me, “Are you sure, you only take the occasional drink?” It was some spooky music. It was the biggest and best thing that ever happened to me.

Black Sabbath continues to have a huge influence. What is about the group that’s so enduring?
I don’t know and I don’t particularly want to know, but I’m glad.

When split with Black Sabbath in 1979 to pursue a solo career, did you worry you might not succeed?
Have you been divorced? Put a band there instead of a wife. It’s exactly the same. You start out being reasonable. But then you realize fuck them or they’ll fuck me. You get deeper in and you want to fuck everybody up. When I met Randy Rhoads, he was another important thing that happened in my life. He was a guitar teacher at a music school. He had patience and would work with you. When I needed a melody with a riff, he would said to me, “Maybe you should sing it in this key.”

What was the key to making your solo career take off?
We just had fun. The early stages of any band are the best times. You have a gung ho attitude. There are no time constraints. It’s open-ended. Once you record it, you can’t go back to it. People always say to me, “If you could give me any advice, what would it be?” I always tell them, “If you’re serious, write as much as you can while you can. If it takes off, you never have enough songs.”

Did you know “Crazy Train” would be a hit when you recorded it?
You knew it was going to be okay. You can’t say it’s going to be monumental. I remember with “Paranoid” the song, I was in the studio in London. Rodger Bain, the producer says we have four minutes left so just jam something. Tony Iommi came up with the riff and I came up with another one and Geezer [Butler] wrote the lyrics. Right off the bat, it came off. I don’t think I’ve ever done a gig anywhere without playing “Paranoid.”

You’ve lived the life of a rock star. Do you have any regrets?
We all have regrets. When you go to the crossroads whatever road you take, you have to take the good, bad and rest of it. If it was hunky dory every day, you would want to break a window or something. It’s part of my journey. I don’t know how I’m still alive. It’s a mystery to me. But I’m sober and I don’t do dope. Now I don’t get loaded at all and I’m having more fun than I thought I ever would have.




Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected]