- April 22, 2013 in Columnists
Crazy, but that’s how it goes…
I’m always reading several books at once. One book that I recently finished was Ozzy Osbourne’s autobiography, “I Am Ozzy.”
Now, I didn’t start out a Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne fan. I grew up listening to Motown, R&B and ’70s acts like the Eagles, Elton John, Steve Miller Band and ELO. My older brother Tony was the rocker in the family. He even had a shirt made up with the words “Rockin’ Negro” on it that he’d wear to school. (Which of course made me deny that we were related.)
But I’ve found that our musical choices aren’t really voluntary. We think they are. But most of us grew up listening to music our parents played. If you were forced to listen to your coworker’s country music radio station for a year even though you hate country, you’ll develop a taste for it. That’s what happened with my brother’s heavy metal. Now Metallica, Sabbath, the Scorpions and Def Leppard sit on my iPad next to Jay-Z, the Isley Brothers and Sam Cooke.
But I digress. “I Am Ozzy” begins with John “Ozzy” Osbourne growing up in the working class town of Aston, England. He was a poor student with undiagnosed dyslexia going to school with future Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. Ironically, the only thing Ozzy showed an aptitude for in school was metalshop with the instructor saying he’d be good at “heavy metal work.” Little did he know.
It’s all here in its outrageousness, from Ozzy biting the head off a dove in a boardroom, biting the head off a bat during a concert and getting arrested for urinating on the Alamo in a drunken stupor.
Ozzy is brutally honest in the book, pulling no punches. He boldly discusses his alcoholism and drug abuse. With the amount of pills, cocaine, pot and alcohol he abused in a single day, it’s astonishing the man is alive today.
Now, there are parts of the book that are flat-out hard to read and would make a PETA member’s head explode. He writes of drug-fueled episodes where he takes a Bennelli shotgun to cats and chickens on his estate. And his pre-fame days goofing off on a job working in a slaughterhouse makes for repugnant reading.
But it’s fascinating how a guy from such a bleak background forms a band and hones his craft playing in the same Hamburg, Germany nightclub where the Beatles perfected their act day in and day out. When Ozzy and his bandmates saw how crowds lined up for horror movies at a theater down the street, it inspired them to give their band a dark name and sing about frightening subjects. They were never Satanists. It was all about standing out and making a buck.
The book allows you to live vicariously through the madman as he goes from a guy with no indoor plumbing to buying an estate in the countryside where everything he wants is a phone call away. Want a horse? Call his manager and a horse appears the next day. Pinball machines, furs, diamonds, motorcycles, ATVs, shotguns, a Rolls Royce, etc… Anything he could think of — all he had to do was make a phone call.
Ozzy’s relationship with his wife Sharon is chaotic, crazy and loving all at once. Osbourne is honest about his shortcomings as a husband to his first wife and Sharon, as well as his faults as a dad. He gives most of the credit to Sharon in making him what he is today.
But Sharon’s relationship with her record mogul father makes for incredibly uncomfortable chilling reading. Dysfunctional doesn’t begin to describe the relationship. It makes Joan Crawford’s relationship with her daughter seem warm and cozy by comparison.
The alcohol-soaked, cocaine-fueled tales from the road when Ozzy toured with Black Sabbath and toured solo are funny, exciting and scream for a movie to be made. However, one moment you’re laughing out loud and the next you’re startled by the harrowing accident that cost Osbourne’s legendary young lead guitarist Randy Rhoads his life.
One doesn’t have to be an Ozzy fan to enjoy this book. In fact, pure metalheads will probably be disappointed because the book follows Ozzy’s life and doesn’t have a narrow focus on his music.
We go from Black Sabbath to Ozzy to Ozzfest to “The Osbournes.” Yes, we can’t forget that Ozzy practically invented reality TV with the MTV hit series, “The Osbournes.” That show spawned countless other shows featuring celebrities including Anna Nicole Smith, Gene Simmons, Snoop Dogg, Bobby Brown & Whitney Houston and Britney Spears & K-Fed. Without “The Osbournes,” there would be no Kardashians. (Okay, that’s reason enough to hate Ozzy.)
He writes of his stays in rehab and by the end of the book feels he’s finally moved beyond the madman who always felt he had to out-crazy everyone. Ironically, it takes throwing a television out of a hotel room window in his fifties to finally realize he no longer has to live the life of a rock star cliché’.
The most recent news, that Ozzy has fallen off the wagon and has marital problems as a result, is sad but not at all shocking. Ozzy has outlived so many other rockers who have become cliché’s by losing their lives young to drugs and alcohol. I hope the Madman gets it together before going off the rails permanently.
So go ahead and board the crazy train for this quick, compelling read.
- April 22, 2013 at 1:06 pm
- April 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm