A photo of the original lineup of the Blizzard of Ozz from a press kit put out by Jet Records in 1981.
In the late fall of 1979, bassist Dana Strum arrived at a studio used and operated by Frank Zappa on Sunset Boulevard with his gear in hand. Strum's invitation came from Don Arden by way of a representative from Jet Records who told Strum Ozzy Osbourne was interested in having him audition for his new band. Also at the studio was a 27-year-old Gary Moore whom Strum watched audition for Ozzy. While Moore's talent can't be disputed (though Ozzy described the guitarist as "hot and cold"), Strum instantly felt his sound wasn't what Osbourne was looking for. After his own audition, Ozzy asked the bassist to come to visit him at the Le Parc Hotel where he was holed up so they could discuss their potential collaboration. When he did drop by to visit Osbourne, he suggested Ozzy consider Randy Rhoads, a local Burbank guitar teacher and lead guitarist for LA band Quiet Riot, insisting that this was definitely the "guy" he needed for his band. According to Strum, Ozzy drunkenly blew his suggestion off then requested Strum come back the next day to listen to more guitar players. This sent Strum on a mission to get ahold of Rhoads himself to try to persuade the guitarist to play for Ozzy, convinced the pair belonged together.
Strum got Randy's phone number from fellow bass player, Runaway Jackie Fox (Fuchs) and repeatedly called Rhoads until Randy finally picked up the phone. Their first conversation didn't go well because, as it turns out, Rhoads just wasn't into Black Sabbathat all. Finally, after many more phone calls Strum wore Randy down, and he agreed to come to meet Osbourne and show him what he could do. In his first interview with Guitar World in May of 1982, Randy recalled his so-called "audition" for Ozzy which went a little something like this:
"I brought along a tiny practice amp. I started tuning up, and Ozzy said, 'You've got the gig!' I didn't even get to play! I had the weirdest feeling because I thought 'He didn't even hear me yet."
Ozzy has compared his relationship with Rhoads to the mismatched fictional bromance between Oscar Madison and Felix Unger in The Odd Couple, as they were different from each other in nearly every way. Musically, they connected on a level most musicians only dream of, and the pair bonded despite their differences. Here's Randy's brother Kelle on his brother's relationship with Ozzy:
"They loved each other. LOVED each other! It was really, really, really a symbiotic relationship, because what Ozzy did was he allowed Randy a spot on the world stage. He gave him a platform where everybody could see him and appreciate just how truly great he was. Ozzy, on the other hand, had been kicked out of Black Sabbath and people were already starting to write him off. He was a drunk, a drug addict. People just didn't feel like he would really go on successfully and so what Randy did was he helped Ozzy as much as Ozzy helped him and they loved each other."
Rehearsals would soon begin in LA, though nobody involved at this point (Rhoads, Strum and future Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali), were advised to not discuss the heavy metal goings on under any circumstances. After wrapping up a few sessions, Ozzy flew back to England where he connected with Bob Daisley, who agreed to come jam with Osbourne at Bullrush Cottage (nicknamed the "Atrocity Cottage"), his country home in Staffordshire. Ozzy bought the house based on its proximity to his favorite watering hole, the Hand and Cleaver (located on Butt Lane), leading Ozzy to joke that the location was known as "the arsehole of the world." Reluctantly, Daisley agreed to come along and quickly learned Osbourne was onto something, and joined the band. Randy would later arrive in London and join Osbourne and Daisley in rehearsals-it only took hearing Rhoads one time to convince Daisley he was the real deal. Although Osbourne had not changed the lifestyle that got him tossed out of Black Sabbath, things were coming together-and the idea that Osbourne could perhaps redeem himself as an artist beyond his contributions to Black Sabbath was coming into focus.
In March of 1980, the fully-formed band (comprised of Rhoads, Bob Daisley, Lee Kerslake-who joined the band a few days before recording started, and keyboardist Don Airey) took up residence at Ridge Farms Studios in Surrey to start recording Blizzard of Ozz. Images from the month-long recording session were captured by photographer Fin Costello as the band pulled together the album that would put in motion Osbourne's return to music-something even Osbourne wasn't sure was going to happen after he was thrown out of Sabbath. Bob Daisley had been recording the band's various sessions since 1979, including a few conducted at Ridge Farms. Among the recordings captured by Daisley (dubbed by the bassist as "The Holy Grail" ), is a frenzied, alternate solo for "Crazy Train" which you can hear about 40-seconds worth of here. Daisley has also posted other short clips he recorded of the band over on his site.
As Ozzy's reputation preceded himself, record labels were less than enthusiastic on the idea of distributing Blizard of Ozz and both Warner Brothers and EMI rejected the album after hearing the demos. Sharon Osbourne brought the demos over to her Dad's label Jet, which put out the record and to date, the album has sold approximately five million copies worldwide. Once it was released in the U.S. in March of 1981, it would remain on the Billboard music chart for two solid years. The album would also expose a generation to Rhoads' galvanizing guitar style of playing which, as you likely know, was cultivated by his love and extensive experience with classical music. Guitarist and teacher Wolf Marshall beautifully cataloged Rhoads' work in his 1996 book Original Randy Rhoads, a technical exploration of his unique, ground-smashing technique. Over the years there has been speculation about Randy's plans to leave the band and pursue other interests outside of Ozz. It's always best to go to the source if you hope to find the truth. Here is Rhoads (as published in Guitar Player in 1982) talking about his future:
"Five years from now I would love to have people know me as a guitar hero."
Everyone with ears: Mission accomplished! Rhoads would then elaborate on his five-year plan:
"I'd love to do to a solo album, but I haven't met the right people in the business yet. I'm not at the level where I meet people all the time. It has to be the right time for the right thing. I really haven't been able to think. I just go, go, go. Lately, I've just been trying to hang onto my self to keep up with everything. I'm locked into something right now, and it's not my own pace. Therefore it's kind of stifling sometimes. Playing sessions would be nice. I could do a different sort of playing and spread my name in different areas. Now it's very limited. Being with Ozzy is almost like being in KISS. That's why I'm thinking of going back to taking lessons and teaching all day long. Now it's a combination of stepped-up ideas and constant touring. I've got to put it together."
Randy's brother Kelle has also stated his brother had no plans on leaving the band anytime soon and really wanted to get his degree in classical guitar studies, and admittedly had grown tired of the road. While he was on tour with the Blizzard of Ozz, Randy would look for opportunities to take classical guitar lessons during any downtime he had, including the time he spent in England while recording Blizzard and Diary of a Madman. In the same Guitar World interview, Ozzy makes it clear he was well-aware of Randy's quest to dedicate his talents to classical music while echoing Kelle's take on his brothers aspirations. Here are more bittersweet recollections from Ozz on his friend, and his love of classical music:
"With the first royalties from Blizzard he received, he went out and bought himself a very, very expensive classical guitar. He sat there for days and nights working on music theories. As a matter of fact, right before he died he had been up for four days and nights-plus gigging-working on his theory because he wanted to get into a university and get a degree in music. And every town he went to he'd find a tutor. On days off I'd get to the bar. He wouldn't. He'd practice all day, every day. He didn't take drugs, and he didn't drink too much. Every day of his life he practiced."
Today marks the 37th anniversary of Rhoads' shocking passing in a horrifying plane crash which also claimed the lives of makeup artist Rachel Youngblood and the band's tour bus driver, Andrew Aycock. Below you'll find some photographic artifacts of Rhoads' time with Ozzy and members of the Blizzard of Ozz, including Randy's handwritten guitar lessons, as well as an insightful BBC interview with Ozzy about the band and newcomer Randy Rhoads from 1980.
One of Randy's handwritten guitar lessons
Rhoads and Ozzy pictured in a booklet included in Epic Records' 2002 CD release of 'Blizzard of Ozz.' One more follows (photo credits listed in the booklet include Fin Costello, Neal Preston, and Mark Weiss)
Randy Rhoads on booklet page of "Goodbye to Romance"
A live version of "Mr. Crowley" recorded during the Blizzard of Ozz's first UK tour in 1980.
Audio of Ozzy's interview on the BBC in August of 1980 during which he talks a bit about Randy.