After he sang on seven albums as the front-man for the quintessential heavy metal band Black Sabbath, and before he became a household name as the rather stoned-out husband in the reality TV show “The Osbournes”, he was simply Ozzy Osbourne: Madman.
Throughout his early solo career at the beginning of the 1980’s, Ozzy did just about anything to gain attention. On a visit to San Antonio, Oz peed on a monument honoring those who died defending the Alamo (across the street from the actual building) and was banned from San Antonio for ten years. He was arrested in Memphis for public intoxication (if they notice you’re drunk in Memphis, especially if you’re anywhere near Beale Street, you must be REALLY drunk). He bit the head off of a live dove in front of executives from his record company. While on tour with Motley Crue, it is rumored that while heavily intoxicated, Osbourne snorted a line of ants, in competition with Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe, who had set fire to himself the night before. Sounds like a night out with Charlie Sheen.
And, of course, who can forget this day in history? On January 20, 1982, Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off of a live bat on stage in Des Moines, Iowa. Some say it was a rubber bat, and the kid who brought it and threw it up on stage claims it was dead already. But Ozzy swears that the bat was so alive that it bit him, causing him to undergo a series of rabies shots. Live animals at a concert are never a good idea…just ask Alice Cooper. He once threw a live chicken into the audience, and according to Alice, was “mortified” when people started throwing pieces of the chicken back up on stage.
Less than a week after the Des Moines incident, Ozzy took the stage at the U of I Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois. He sang two words of his opening number, and collapsed to the floor. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and treated for exhaustion and reaction to the rabies shots. I was on the air at WWCT in Peoria at the time, and around 10 p.m. I started getting calls from people who attended the show, saying “Man, Ozzy’s dead! He dropped dead on stage!” It sounded a little suspect, so I called the Assembly Hall and got the straight dope. I announced the real truth on the air immediately, no doubt diverting a crisis among young teenage boys everywhere within an earshot.
I had the distinct pleasure of talking with Ozzy on the phone for an interview. It’s interesting talking to Mr. Osbourne on the phone, because your mind has to take a few seconds to translate what he is saying through his thick, slurring British accent. At the time, rumors were running rampant that he was considering doing another tour with Black Sabbath. Just as I was ready to ask him about it, he interrupted me by saying “I don’t want to talk about the past!” OK, next question. He told me he would like to try recording something with a horn section, but HATED jazz. When he talked about being married, he said he had a theory about women: “We spend nine months trying to get out of one, and the rest of our lives trying to get back in.” He also rambled on about just concentrating on the present, and at the present time he was talking to a rather nice chap on the phone. Gee, thanks Oz.
For me, the funniest part of the interview never made the tape. I have been a record collector for years. In 1968, a band called the Magic Lanterns put out an album, and had a modest hit with a poppy little mainstream number called “Shame Shame”. On the back cover, where it listed the band, it referred to the bass player as John “Ozzy” Osbourne. Well, as you can imagine, just about anyone named Osbourne can wear the nickname “Ozzy”. When I would go to record shows, I would see the Magic Lanterns album going for upwards of 10 to 20 dollars, always bearing a sticker on the front saying “Ozzy’s first band!” I knew that couldn’t be the same guy, especially since Sabbath had formed around the same time. But I needed verification, so I asked Ozzy about it. Around the time I said “Hey Ozzy, I always wanted to ask you…were you ever in a band called…” he cut me off. “NO, GOD I WAS NEVER IN THAT BAND! DOES THAT SOUND LIKE THE KIND OF BAND I WOULD BE IN? THAT BASTARD GETS MORE FUCKING PRESS THAN I DO!!!”
Thanks for the verification, Oz.