February 16, 1984
By David Huff
The Blizzard of Oz Weathers the Storm
INDIANAPOLIS, IN—The downtown area in the state capital of Indiana is unusually busy this evening. The sports complex, Market Square Arena, is the center of attention. No, the NBA's Indiana Pacers are not playing tonight, nor is the hockey team. Inside though, there are thousands of people anticipating an intriguing musical event to usher in the New Year. From what they have ‘heard’, this one particular entertainer is the one to see.
Outside the arena however, there are over 200 parents with signs, leaflets and banners protesting, picketing and warning the thousands entering the arena to turn around and go back because what they have 'heard' has convinced them this entertainer and his music will corrupt the unsuspecting youth.
This scenario will be repeated dozens of times in dozens of cities throughout the country as British rocker Ozzy Osbourne tours in support of his new release, Bark at the Moon. To this day, rumors still persist of the inhuman things Ozzy does to animals onstage like sawing live cows in half or throwing cute puppies off the stage into the audience. And of course there are his ties with the devil and his show-stopping ‘bite the head off the bird or bat’ trick that’s a definite highlight.
For nearly two years the Blizzard of Oz fairy tales have followed the singer throughout his travels around the world. Though there is not one documented piece of evidence to support any of the claims of blowing up Doberman's, butchering cattle, etc. during an Ozzy performance, the rumors persist and have seem to be getting stronger. Yes the former black Sabbath singer has had his problems with liquor, then again, who hasn’t at some point in their life?
"I blame a lot of the stupid things that I've done on alcohol.` said Ozzy shaking his head, "but because of who I am, Ozzy Osbourne, the press picks up on it. Your regular Joe Blow on the street who does it, nobody gives a damn. But, because I am Ozzy Osbourne and I am in the public eye, everybody makes a big deal out of it."
One of those big deals was Ozzv watering down the Alamo with his own urine. "In actual fact, it is not something that I feel proud about, and I would like to set the record straight about that.”
Here is a recap of the incident. On Feb. 19, 1982 Ozzy was stumbling around drunk in the unfamiliar city of San Antonio, wearing his wife’s dress. He needed to go to the bathroom, couldn’t find any business or gas station nearby, so he decided to relieve himself on a statue. This was done in broad daylight with plenty of witnesses. To make matters worse, the stone object Ozzy chose to water down was the Alamo Cenotaph, which commemorates all the Texans who died at the famous battle during the War of Independence in 1836. The monument, erected 100 years after the battle, is adjacent to the Alamo, which is considered to be sacred ground and a symbol of Texas pride.
Osbourne was arrested for public urination and intoxication. He was released on $40 bond that was posted by promoter Jack Orbin who had brought Ozzy to town for a sold-out show at the Hemisphere Arena. The concert would be marred by fans who threw rocks because they were unable to get into the sold-out show. Twenty-four people were arrested for their part in the riot. The combination of the two events caused Osbourne to be banned from San Antonio by the city council.
"I haven't been back to San Antonio since that incident,” replied Osbourne. “A lot of people were upset by what I did. But you see, I didn't realize where I was. I was absolutely drunk and I was in a totally crazy state. I am not that kind of guy. If I would have realized where I was, I wouldn't have done the thing I did. I certainly didn’t realize I was standing on a national shrine for Texas. Was it stupid, yes! But again, I just did not know. I was totally innocent and blind to the fact of where I was.”
Another obstacle Ozzy has been unable to overcome is the various religious groups that haunt his every move. Osbourne has had concerts cancelled because religious organizations have pressured city councils to ban his act for fear of corruption and outrage his stage show would inflict on attending those watching the performance.
"In England and America,” stated Osbourne, “religion is a very powerful force and it is a very serious looked upon trip. For reasons beyond my knowledge, suddenly all of these religious groups have gotten down not just on me, but on rock and roll in general.
"Religion in America is not something to be screwed with. I don't know how they can say I have done something to offend the church. But, they believe what they want to believe. What I have to do is go in, do the show, and then get out of town. Whatever time I have left to myself nowadays is very precious to me. I don't want anybody coming up to me pushing off leaflets. It gets on your nerves a little bit."
Ozzy Osbourne is no angel. He’ll be the first to admit it. His career began in Birmingham, England in the late 60's. He was still in his teens when he became the lead singer of Black Sabbath, a heavy and dark rock band that assaulted the senses with a mixture of vaguely mystical themes and loud, abrasive noise.
"I had a fantasy that I wanted to be a Beatle when I was a kid," recalled Ozzy. "I adored the Beatles. I thought they were the most incredible thing that had ever happened in my life. It was just a real trip to hear the names John, Paul, George and Ringo. My bedroom was littered with Beatles junk. It's funny that now I have become that star, to a certain amount of people, I have become their sort of rock and roll hero."
Ozzy's real notoriety didn't begin until 1980 at the offices of Epic Records in Los Angeles. He had just signed with the label and was being introduced to the staff. He introduced himself by pulling a dove out of a bag and promptly biting its head off. He was intoxicated.
This incident outraged the people in the room and the company threatened to tear up the contract. Ozzy's manager persuaded everyone that the singer had been under tremendous strain. News of the incident spread throughout the rock world, and was indirectly responsible for the incident that would keep Ozzy in newspaper headlines for months to come. During a concert in Des Moines, Iowa in 1982, someone threw something on stage that looked like a toy rubber bird. Osbourne picked it up and bit off its head. It was a dead bat. As a precaution, Ozzy was rushed to the hospital and was given a series of painful rabbles shots. News of the incident spread saying it was part of the show. And so did the rumors.
"I'll tell you what, it was scary playing up on stage sometimes," said Brad Gillis, the lead guitarist for NightRanger who was hired to tour with Ozzy after Randy Rhodes died. "People would throw all sorts of dead animals, stuffed animals, even live snakes. The road crew would have to sweep the stage during the show because it would get so littered sometimes. I still can't figure out how people got all of that stuff into the arenas. It was nuts."
Bark at the Moon is Ozzy's third album. His first two were Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. Both went platinum. A live album, Speak of the Devil, was released in 1982. It was a contractual obligation Osbourne had to fulfill. Originally, it was to be an album that was half Black Sabbath material and half Randy Rhodes. After he died, the band released the album that had been recorded at the Ritz in New York City.
"I didn't have enough material to do a live album on my own plus,” he commented about the recording. “this was right after I had left Black Sabbath. “People were always coming up to me saying, 'Play Never Say Die', or 'Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath,' so I said to myself, 'Okay, if I do one album of Sabbath material, I will get it out of the way.’ Sabbath had never really done a live album and the one they did was dreadful.
"We recorded the Sabbath material and then Randy tragically dies. Since I was under contractual obligation for a live album, I asked myself what I should do. I didn't want to do an album half with Randy and half with Brad Gillis, and the record company was a stickler for Randy Rhodes. I just did it and got it out of the way. To this day, I feel as though that album was a bit of an injury to me."
Injury or not, Osbourne has prevailed against enormous odds stacked against him. His concerts, despite all of the outside interference, usually sell-out wherever he goes. The loss of Rhodes, which Ozzy admits he still hasn't gotten over yet, lives on through Ozzy's hits like "Crazy Train," “Flying High Again” and "Man on the Mountain."
Ozzy Osbourne has probably lived three or four lives during a musical career that has spanned three different decades. His wife Sharon recently gave birth to their first child named Aimee. Finally, Ozzy has been able to settle down and put the last two years, if not his entire musical career, into perspective.
"The rock and roll syndrome is not a realistic existence," offered Ozzy. "It takes you away from the human thing you once were and you become a sort of demi-god to people. I do in-store appearances and people come up to me shaking in their shoes when they see me. It freaks me out sometimes and I wonder, 'What is this all about?'
"You mentioned that you felt that death and heavy metal had some sort of association. We all live with it you know. Maybe it's because of the highly visible lifestyle that we lead. We travel constantly with the high energy you have to put out night after night. John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) and Bon Scott (AC/DC) died from drinking too much. This in an intense existence, do you know what I mean.
"I am living out people's fantasy's. That's exactly true, exactly true. This life is so intense, it's like 24-hours a day. Sometimes you find it hard to grasp what you are doing it for. You find yourself so wound up you can't stop sometimes. So you start drinking, or in some cases do drugs, which I can't understand what people get out of it."
Perhaps Osbourne is getting some sort of an idea now with a new self-induced psychological drug called ‘paranoia’ has been creeping up at almost all of his shows, forcing cancellations and fostering demonstrations.
"In actual fact,’ conceded the Ozz, “I have created a beast, and these people actually think I am one. I’m routinely condemned before anyone actually witnesses anything. These groups put me down before they hear what I have to say. My wife and I are normal people, and we do everything that normal people do.
"Everything that has been said and done developed on its own. I didn't say, 'Okay, this is the way it is going to happen,' so that I could attract attention to myself. Everything happened purely by accident. We didn't say. 'Yeah, we are going to start all these rumors.' In actual fact, I have created a beast with the image, and the beast has overtaken Ozzy somewhat. Everyone tries to make a sensation out of their career, and the press has made mine far greater than I ever dreamed.
"I don't relish the fact that I am going to be remembered for biting the heads off of things. I don't think myself clever for doing that, but it seems to have stirred this whirlpool of excitement up and I am trying to shy away from it. I am not complaining about all of the publicity, though it does get tiresome answering the same questions. I get the impression that people just don't believe me."
If controversy ever seemed to follow one performer, it's Osbourne. Even when he left Black Sabbath in 1980,that too was something that would come back to haunt him.
"If you are around people that are ill,” said Ozzy pointedly, “if you are working with people that are sick all of the time and you are close to them, you begin to feel sick yourself. That is what happened. Black Sabbath just wasn't working. We had outspent our usefulness within each other and we weren't working as a unit anymore.
“When you realize that it isn't jelling musically anymore, you have to do something about it. We had four massive hit records and then we just got stymied within ourselves. We didn't try anymore because we knew that we were Black Sabbath and we could go out and sell a hall out when we were on the road. We were just using the name Black Sabbath to get by the day. It is very difficult period of time when you decide you have to leave.
"Black Sabbath got mad because I was getting successful, and I got mad because they carried on with the name. I think that they should have shelved the band. I don't have a right to the name anymore, so I don't care. I gave 11 years of my life to it, and I was pissed a little bit."
Osbourne's Bark at the Moon is his first without Rhoads, Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake. Jake E. Lee is the group’s new guitarist, and Daisley did agree to come back and help write the album despite being let go after the Diary tour. Ozzy admits he is no musician but an entertainer, which is why he didn’t really care who wrote the songs. His unique voice makes all Ozzy’s songs immediately identifiable.
"I am not a musician in any respect and I can't play an instrument,” he said point blank. “I have a lot of good ideas and so far, I haven't been wrong with any of them. I certainly have doubts a lot of time, but I think that happens with anybody that writes for a living.
"If you’re an artist and write a piece, you are always trying to top the last thing you did. I always think that what I have done will not top the last one, but fortunately, things always seem to work out for me for some unknown reason.
"Despite everything that has happened to me the past couple of years, I have not changed my attitude towards music that I've held from the early days. I enjoy what I do immensely, and the pleasure that I see on people's faces far outweighs the damage part of it. Being a rock and roll hero to some people is not bad at all. The way I look at it is this. From my one life, I am giving countless thousands a chance to live."