October 08, 2010
Over the last few years — more than that, really — I kind of lost interest in Ozzy Osbourne. To me, his mystique was gone, drained dry to the bottom of the barrel. Other than a few tracks on Black Rain, none of the albums released after No More Tears seemed interesting. The music, and his diabolical image, were displaced by the marquee value of reality show buffoonery. The prince of darkness had become America's favorite TV dad.
Hitch a ride with Mr. Peabody and Sherman, setting the dials on the WABAC machine to 1981, and you'll understand my disappointment.
Blizzard of Ozz was monumental in so many ways. The songwriting was top-notch, and Ozzy was singing at his peak. Plus, Randy Rhoads enabled Ozzy to sidestep comparisons to his former band, Black Sabbath, because Randy was a different sort of guitar hero than Tony Iommi.
But it was the stories whispered in third period classrooms that made Ozzy dangerous. Some, like reports that he demanded his audience to perform acts of animal cruelty, were not true. Others — famously, the dove, the bat, and the Alamo — were fact. And moms and dads clamped down on letting kids participate in the fun: "Don't think you're going to that Ozzy Osbourne concert!"
The exhilaration of that danger was intoxicating. People feared Ozzy, and proclaiming allegiance by wearing his concert t-shirts, or driving around with the windows rolled down, cranking Diary of a Madman at top volume, made people look at you with genuine alarm. And contempt.
Sure, the response to Ozzy's musical output rose and fell like waves. Bark at the Moon was cherished; The Ultimate Sin, not so much. Zakk Wylde joining the ranks in 1987 was the wave rising again, first with No Rest for the Wicked, then cresting with No More Tears.
Then my appreciation of Ozzy Osbourne's music began to wane. Ozzmosis slipped under my radar, and Down to Earth said little to me. I did like Black Rain when I heard it for the first time, at the Madison Avenue offices of Sony Records. But other than playing a few tracks on my Caffeine Bomb radio show, that one drifted away, too.
Then, earlier this year, two things happened: I ready Ozzy's autobiography, and I listened to his new album, Scream.
Scream caught my attention because it took a turn off the beaten path of sounding complacent. The typical elements of the past few Ozzy albums that I expected were not there. Look, it's not Blizzard, it's not Diary. It's not No More Tears. But it demonstrates effort, unlike the contrived formula of Ozzmosis and Down to Earth. It begs more than listening once or twice, which is an accomplishment in a culture of shuffling and iTunes singles.
But his book, I am Ozzy, made me understand that Ozzy was never anything other than a poor kid from Birmingham, struggling with the limitations of his economic upbringing, and schooling rendered ineffective because of attention deficit disorder. He was a song and dance man, a clown, tap dancing himself away from bullies and into the fondness of his peers.
He never aspired to be the delivery man for the devil. He just wanted people to like him.We canonized him as the prince of darkness; we made him the poster child for delinquency; we created the expectation of who Ozzy should be. He just wanted to entertain us.
Over the last decade, since The Osbournes pulled back the curtain on the illusion we created, it's been easy to condemn Ozzy. Footage of his unsteady shuffle became a doddering, incoherent punchline. We laughed — mostly at, not with — and bemoaned the sad failing of our unholy hero. It never occurred to us that he hadn't changed, we just wiped our lenses and finally saw him for himself.
That Ozzy — the real Ozzy — didn't empower us. For all the tales of his wild rebelliousness that we used to armor ourselves against the world, Ozzy has always been harmless — harmless as a fart in church, like John Mellencamp once told Playboy magazine. So, if he was harmless, that in turn made us defenseless, and in fear we turned on him.
That realization, after reading his book, washed away the contempt I've felt for Ozzy over the last ten-plus years. I don't begrudge his career choices any more, or feel disdain for The Osbournes and albums like Down to Earth. It's not his fault that we insisted on perceiving him as our unholy saviour. He was never anything other than a poor British kid, eager to entertain us, and desperate to be liked.
Keep in mind, though, that Ozzy was not the lyricist on his albums. Bob Daisley wrote the lyrics on the first five Ozzy albums. And Geezer Butler was the Black Sabbath lyricist.
Monday, October 18, 2010 06:45 PM
Ozzy said it best in an interview after Randy Rhoads died "You can't kill rock n roll...I'm gonna to keep going and keep it alive....Randy would have wanted it that way"
When Randy died it probably killed Ozzy inside, but that man never gave up.
He kept writing great poetry about the lessons he learned in life and we kept turning his simple lessons into an image of the anti-christ.
If only we held Vanilla Ice to these same standards, he would still be living in the slums of Miami.
Oh wait...he was really from a small town in the Everglades - whoops!!!
Thursday, October 14, 2010 11:42 PM
Very well said
Saturday, October 09, 2010 06:01 PM
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