Taken from Loudwire (Sep 20, 2017)
37 Years Ago: Ozzy Osbourne Releases ‚ÄėBlizzard of Ozz‚Äô
by Jon Wiederhorn
There are a number of reasons why Ozzy Osbourne‚Äôs solo debut, Blizzard of Ozz, which was released on Sept. 20, 1980, is one of the greatest albums in the history of metal. First, it was a stunning comeback from an artist who seemed completely stricken down and burned out.
In late 1978, after recording, eight albums with Black Sabbath, Osbourne was coming apart at the seams. Incapacitated by drugs and alcohol and dealing with debilitating writer‚Äôs block, he went AWOL and missed six weeks of rehearsal with the band. Ultimately, the other members of Sabbath ‚Äď who had severe alcohol and drug problems of their own ‚Äď decided they couldn‚Äôt move forward anymore with Osbourne.
‚ÄúAt that point, Ozzy didn‚Äôt want to do anything apart from go out and get drunk,‚ÄĚ Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi told me for the book Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal. ‚ÄúSo it came to the point where the other guys said, ‚ÄėWell, look, if we don‚Äôt do anything we‚Äôre gonna break up. We‚Äôre not gonna stand it. We‚Äôre gonna leave.‚Äô So that was the decision between the three of us. We said, ‚ÄėWe‚Äôre gonna have to replace Ozzy.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
At that point, Osbourne was living in a run-down hotel he could barely afford since he had spent so much money on cocaine and booze. He had lost his wife, his band, his self-esteem and, he thought, his charisma. But Sharon Arden, the daughter of Black Sabbath‚Äôs manager, Don Arden, felt that Osbourne had been the star of the show when he was onstage with Sabbath and could still be a part of something exceptional. So she took him under her wing, first as a friend and then as a manager and restored his confidence as a performer. Then she worked with him to put together a new lineup of musicians. Initially, they wanted to recruit guitarist Gary Moore, but he wasn‚Äôt interested, so, at the suggestion of Ozzy‚Äôs friend Dana Strum, they tracked down a young, virtuosic guitar player named Randy Rhoads.
‚ÄúWe drove to a studio somewhere so I could hear him play,‚ÄĚ Osbourne wrote in his memoir I Am Ozzy. ‚ÄúI remember him plugging his Gibson Les Paul into a little practice amp and saying to me, ‚ÄėDo you mind if I warm up?‚Äô ‚ÄėKnock yourself out,‚Äô I said. Then he started doing these finger exercises. I had to say to him, ‚ÄėStop, Randy, just stop right there.‚Äô ‚ÄėWhat‚Äôs wrong?‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄėYou‚Äôre hired.‚Äô You should have heard him play, man.‚ÄĚ
From that point until March 19, 1982, Rhoads was Ozzy‚Äôs not-so-secret weapon. To complete the lineup, Ozzy wanted Strum to play bass, but that didn‚Äôt work out so he added ex-Uriah Heep bassist Bob Daisley and one of Ozzy‚Äôs friends, Barry Screnage, as their temporary drummer.
With new blood, strong musicianship and excellent chemistry, Rhoads, Daisley and Osbourne started writing at a live-in studio in Monmouth, Wales. In early 1980 the band demoed three of their strongest and most popular songs, ‚ÄúCrazy Train,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúI Don‚Äôt Know‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúGoodbye to Romance‚ÄĚ with drummer Dixie Lee. Realizing they needed someone who could keep a more powerful and consistent beat, they auditioned and hired drummer Lee Kerslake, who had previously played with Daisley in Uriah Heep. It was slight compromise since Ozzy was gunning for Tommy Aldridge who was busy at the time. But Kerslake served the band‚Äôs needs, though he and Daisley would both later get ensnared in a legal battle for unpaid royalties.
The Blizzard of Ozz band, as it was called at the time, flew to Ridge Farm Studio in Rusper, England to start recording the album with producer Chris Tsangarides. Max Norman was his engineer. The first song they tracked was ‚ÄúGoodbye to Romance,‚ÄĚ a tune that would establish Osbourne‚Äôs reputation for balancing high-energy anthems with heart-on-sleeve ballads. They repeated the formula on the haunting ‚ÄúRevelation (Mother Earth).‚ÄĚ
Other standouts on the album were the storming ‚ÄúSteal Away the Night,‚ÄĚ the occult-themed ‚ÄúMr. Crowley‚ÄĚ the classical guitar instrumental ‚ÄúDee‚ÄĚ and the controversial ‚ÄúSuicide Solution.‚ÄĚ Some thought the song advocated suicide, but it was actually a warning about the dangers of drowning in alcohol.
Nonetheless, in 1984 after teenage fan, John McCollum, shot himself in the head, possibly after listening to the song, the boy‚Äôs parents sued the Prince of Darkness and CBS Records for encouraging vulnerable individuals to commit suicide. The case was dismissed by a court, which determined that Osbourne‚Äôs freedom of expression was protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Ironically, Ozzy and his bandmates were initially disappointed with the sound of Blizzard of Ozz. They blamed Tsangarides, who they fired, and promoted Norman to the producer‚Äôs chair. Though he‚Äôs not credited on the release, Norman strengthened the sound of the record and worked as Ozzy‚Äôs producer until 1986‚Äôs The Ultimate Sin.
When the Blizzard of Ozz band finished the album, CBS Records created artwork that featured Ozzy‚Äôs name in large print and Blizzard of Ozz in much smaller font. Immediately ‚Äď mistake or not ‚Äď the album was considered Osbourne‚Äôs first solo album. In all likelihood, when the label realized how strong the record was, they figured it would be easier to market as the solo album from Black Sabbath‚Äôs former singer than as a totally new band.
‚ÄúBy the time we got Blizzard in the can, I knew we had a cracking album,‚ÄĚ Ozzy wrote. ‚ÄúWe had a couple cracking albums, actually, because we had a lot of material left over when we were done.‚ÄĚ
Some of that material was used on the follow-up to Blizzard of Ozz, Diary of a Madman, which was written quickly and recorded between February and March 1981. By then, Osbourne was still partying heavily, but he was back at full strength, able to record and perform exceptionally using muscle memory. All it took was a major injection of success.
‚ÄúEven if you think something‚Äôs brilliant, you never know what the general public‚Äôs going to pick up on,‚ÄĚ wrote Osbourne in I Am Ozzy. ‚ÄúBut as soon as the radio stations got hold of ‚ÄėCrazy Train,‚Äô it was a done deal. The thing just exploded.‚ÄĚ
Blizzard of Ozz entered the Billboard album chart at No. 21 and it was No. 7 in the U.K. The album was certified gold July 31, 1981, and platinum June 18, 1982. To date, it has sold over four million copies in the U.S.
In 2002 Osbourne reissued Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman, but since he had been sued by Daisley and Kerslake, their parts were re-recorded for the release by bassist Robert Trujillo and Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin, who was playing in Osbourne‚Äôs band at the time. Some fans were outraged by the move, which Sharon said was Ozzy‚Äôs decision, while the Prince of Darkness claimed he didn‚Äôt even know the albums were revised until after their release. A later reissue of the Blizzard of Ozz, which came out in 2011 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the record, featured Daisley and Kerslake‚Äôs original bass and drum parts. The reissue also included the B-side, ‚ÄúYou Looking at Me, Looking at You,‚ÄĚ a previously unreleased version of ‚ÄúGoodbye to Romance‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúRR,‚ÄĚ a Rhoads solo outtake from the original album session.
To date, Blizzard of Ozz isn‚Äôt just one of the most successful metal albums of all time, it‚Äôs also one of the most influential. ‚ÄúThe first album I got knowing full well that it was heavy metal was Blizzard of Ozz,‚ÄĚ says Testament lead guitarist Alex Skolnick. ‚ÄúI wasn‚Äôt familiar with Sabbath yet. But that was a great discovery for me. And hearing Randy Rhoads playing was completely mind-blowing and pretty much reinvented the way I thought of the electric guitar and what you could do with it, which was pretty amazing.‚ÄĚ