Anything But Black Sabbath
I grew up in a rock and roll house. By that I mean that there were rock and roll bands practicing in our basement constantly. Whether they were my own bands or my brother’s bands, hardly a day went by that there was not someone down there making a lot of racket. I don’t think my parents liked it, but I think they took the stance that they would rather we be down there making music than out someplace else doing who knows what. There was just one rule, though. We were not allowed to play any music by Black Sabbath or the song D.O.A. on Bloodrock’s second album Bloodrock II.
Every once in a while one of my brother’s bands would start playing some Black Sabbath and my parents would kick them out for a couple of days. That suited me just fine, because, to be perfectly honest, that music creeped me out. Seriously.
Fast-forward a lot of years since then. A lot has changed. I am still a rock and roller at heart. I still don’t listen to Black Sabbath. It creeps me out.
I travel a lot now. Before I head out on a trip I usually log in to my local library and load my iPad up with several books to read on the airplane. I did a quick search for titles related to music. Up popped “I Am Ozzy”. It was the autobiography of Ozzie Osbourne, the founding lead singer for Black Sabbath. I was intrigued, I always wondered what was up with those guys….why they did the things they did, and why they played the kind of music they did. So I checked it out and downloaded it. I wasn’t certain I would like it, though, so I checked out several other books. Turned out I didn’t need any of the other books. I started reading it at the airport and then on the airplane and every chance I got. It was a long book (391 pages!), but it didn’t seem long. I was quickly captured into the world of this most interesting individual.
The More You Travel The Better Your Stories Get
It’s been said that the more you travel the better your stories get. I think that is a true statement. I know it is true in my own life. BUT I think it is even more true if your name is Ozzy Osbourne and you have spent your entire life traveling and not just traveling, but traveling in the rock and roll lifestyle, with the rock and roll bands, girls, alcohol, drugs, and other associated paraphernalia that goes with it.
This book is story after story of his life, much of which was spent traveling with a rock band. The book is split into three core parts (my divisions, not explicitly stated in the book) including: His childhood and life before Black Sabbath; His life in Black Sabbath; and His life after Black Sabbath. Interestingly, his life after Black Sabbath is the entire second half of the book. It includes tales of Ozzfest, the television show “The Osbournes”, and details of his struggles with becoming sober.
Some of the stories are totally outrageous, and others give real clues into what was going on inside of his head and heart. Here is one example anecdote he tells. This is a direct quote from page 144:
“I should have known bad things were about to happen to Black Sabbath when we flew to America in 1974 and the bloke sitting next to me croaked it halfway across the Atlantic.”
He then goes on to tell the story of how the person next to him on the plane died and the stewardess’s reaction and so forth. All told, that story takes about a dozen sentences. A dozen sentences out of three hundred ninety one pages! I think for most people, a story like that would be a much more significant fraction of their stories of interesting things that have happened to them. These sorts of things happened to Ozzy on a constant basis. I was riveted.
I went through all of the reactions over the course of his life from sometimes feeling sorry for him, sometimes thinking he was a total jerk, and feeling bad for the people around him who he hurt. In all, I think he made a very honest presentation of his life, of his feelings, and his thoughts on the meaning of it all as well as an apology to those around him who he hurt through his actions and inactions.
He Bit The Head Off A Bat
When I was growing up I would hear all these different, outrageous accusations of things that Ozzy Osbourne did. “He bit the head off a bat!”, “He is a Satanist!”, “He’s completely fried his brain”, etc. etc. etc. He addresses most of the things I had ever heard about him and tells the circumstances about what really happened, how it came to be, the fallout that came afterward and so forth.
Directly addressing those accusations, yes, he bit the head off a bat, he claims to not be a Satanist and tells a multitude of tales of how that came to be proclaimed, as well as their encounters with Satanists, and yes, he pretty much did fry his brain, but remarkably, has lived through it and made great strides in cleaning up his life.
He Seems Like a Good Guy
Overall, I came to think more highly of Ozzy than I did before. Sure he has had a lot of problems and hardships, many of them brought on by his own behavior, but for the first time I got the sense that he is a deep feeling guy who cares about those around him who was trapped by addictions and genuinely repentant for what those addictions cost him. One could easily argue that he was a very selfish individual, and I think that is true, but it was also apparent from reading the book that he learned over his life that his selfishness, especially as it played out through addictions, cost him dearly.
If I have any complaints about the book, it is that it was probably longer than it really needed to be, but that does not mean I wanted to quit reading before the end. The thing that did bother me, though, was the language. The book is riddled with foul language to the point that I was very tired of it. Of course, this book is written (with a coauthor) in Ozzy’s own voice, and the language is his voice. It definitely felt like the stories were coming directly from Ozzy. But, keep in mind that some of the stories are very crude, the language is raw, and Ozzy is not someone I would choose to be the role model for my kids, but rather he is a very interesting, quirky individual who has had a very interesting life.
While I was reading the book I went back and listened to some old Black Sabbath albums. They still creep me out. But, I understand better why they made them and what they were trying to do at the time. Also it was interesting to learn that the opening on the first Black Sabbath album with the rainstorm and chimes at the beginning that it was the record company who added that. They didn’t hear it until the record was done. That definitely added to the “creepiness” factor on that first album.
I think anyone who has wondered about Ozzy, his life, his music, his relationships (especially with guitarist Randy Rhoads, Sharon Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, and others) would find it to be a very interesting way to pass a couple of airplane rides.