Q&A: Ozzy Osbourne On 'Blizzard' and 'Diary' Reissues, Black Sabbath Reunion Rumblings
There may be some Sony Music staffers who may want to forget the earliest days of Ozzy Osbourne's career, when he bit the head off a dove in a moment of inebriated exuberance. But a legion of fans still swears by his first two solo albums, 1980's "Blizzard of Ozz" and the following year's "Diary of a Madman," both hard rock classics that went multi-platinum and spawned enduring favorites such as "Crazy Train," "Goodbye to Romance," "Flying High Again" and "You Can't Kill Rock and Roll" -- and, of course, made a guitar hero out of Randy Rhoads before he was killed in a March 19, 1982 plane crash during the Diary of a Madman tour.
The 30th (or so) anniversary of these two landmark releases is being commemorated next Tuesday (May 31) with special expanded editions, as well as a box set that includes CD and vinyl copies of both along with a DVD documentary "Thirty Years After the Blizzard," rare live performance footage, a posters, a 100 page hardcover book and, for the true fan, a replica of Osbourne's famed gold cross -- but no winged creatures. Billboard.com caught up with Osbourne during a break on his current "Scream" world tour for a ride on the crazy train of yore...
Billboard.com How do you feel about the "Blizzard..." and "Diary..." reissues and the box set?
Ozzy Osbourne: They've done a good job, haven't they? To be perfectly honest, my wife (manager Sharon Osbourne) is in the driver's seat with this one. I had approval with what was used. What really surprised me is the quality's so f***ing good. I thought we wouldn't have stuff left, and there's a lot. I think it's a fair package. We've done the best we can with it. There's only a limited amount of stuff you can put over that they haven't already got, but we tried to make it as interesting as possible.
Does it feel like 30 years or 30 minutes -- or 300 years?
No, it seems like a couple years ago, it really does. I mean, 30 years ago, it's f***ing ridiculous how fast it's gone. And for some reason, those few years with Randy Rhoads seem to be a lot longer than a few years. I was with Zakk Wylde a lot longer than that, but it seems like the Randy Rhoads years are longer. The perception gets screwed up as you get a bit older.
Were you scared back in 1979 and 1980, when you were starting the solo career?
Of course I was. I'd never been in the driver's seat in my life. I was just the singer with Black Sabbath. I was just a drunk. I was f***ed up all the time. But the early days were a lot of fun. I had everything to gain and nothing to lose. Randy would just sit in a corner playing his guitar all day long, and me and the rest of the guys, we were just getting f***ed up, you know?
Given those circumstances, how did you ever create music that's stood the test of time like this?
I don't know, but I'm f***ing glad we did. A typical day, we'd get up, we'd go down to the pub, we'd come back and start jamming, then we'd go to the pub again...But nobody goes into the studio and goes, "I want to make a pile of crap record," do they? Everybody goes into the studio and goes, "I want to make the best record ever." Sometimes you do, sometimes it didn't work out. These two worked out.
What do you remember about how you and Sabbath felt about each other at the time "Blizzard of Ozz" and "Diary of a Madman" came out?
Being as I'd been fired by Black Sabbath, there was a rivalry between them and me. It's like when you're getting divorced from your wife; at the beginning you're all kind of, "OK, babe...," but then the poison sets in and you want to get married to someone who's better than your last wife. It's a healthy rivalry, but at the time you don't realize it. I wanted to kick their ass, and they wanted to kick my ass, I'm sure.
Was there anything different about making "Diary of a Madman" than "Blizzard of Ozz?"
No. It was basically the same vibe. Those two albums could've been a great double album, really. But, you know my career wasn't just about "Diary..." and "Blizzard..." I've had some great highs and lows over my years in the business. Your instincts tell you when you're on to something good; then again, my instincts aren't always right. There's this track on "Diary of a Madman," "S.A.T.O.," it's kind of the last thing we did as time ran out. It's what we call a throwaway, a filler. But the amount of kids that come up to me and say, "Why don't you ever play that on stage?" and I go, "What?!" So I'm not always right.
How are you feeling about things in your music life now?
Well, the band I have now, I'm having the most fun I've had in a long time. We all have a good time together on stage. I'm yet to record a whole album with them, but there will be an album. I'm sure there will be.
No OZZFest, but you'll be doing some live shows this summer, yes?
I know that I'll do some gigs in Europe and around England for the rest of the tour. I put all my irons in the fire, and whatever turns out the best I go for. I have the great thing of choice now; if I don't want to do something, I don't have to. Maybe I'll do a reunion with Black Sabbath; I'm here if they want to call me.
Could that really happy? Geezer (Butler) has said no way.
Well, you know, it's rumbling about. I'm sure eventually somebody will pop the question in a serious manner. I'm having such a good time in my band now, I don't want to go back and have an unhappy time. I'd love to do another great Black Sabbath album to say, "Here we are. We can still do what we started out to do." But the longer it goes on, the more pressure it is, 'cause I don't want people to go, "We waited so many years for this and this is all you have to offer?" The pressure's on if you're gonna do that. You really have to be dedicated to what you do. If it's meant to happen, it'll happen; if it's not meant to happen, it won't."
How do you feel about the new documentary about you that your son, Jack, co-produced?
I think he did a very good job. It's very...honest. (chuckles) When Jack said he was gonna do it, I said, "All I want you to do is don't make a film to make me happy. Make a film as you." I didn't say, "I don't like that, take that out." Whatever he felt he wanted to do in, I didn't have anything to do with it whatsoever. I let him decide what to do with it, and it got received exceptionally well.