OZZY,A HAPPY ENDING TO A SAB STORY?
Taken from Circus Magazine, March 31st,1983
By Richard Hogan
The message was in cipher,and it encircled the sinister photo of Ozzy Osbourne's face. Once the letters were decoded,it seemed certain that his Ozzness had gone off the deep end at last. Right on the cover of every copy of the singers top 20 CBS/JET lp, Speak of the Devil,was the following greeting: "Howdy. Dial a demon Productions, in conjunction with Grave yard graphics proudly presents the Madman of Rock dumping in El Satanos toiletio."
For Osbourne, already unpopular with christian fundamentalists and humane societies, the inscription stood to open a can of wormy new questions.
Was the album - a live collection of 13 old Black Sabbath songs - intended as a slap in Sabbath's face? Did it reflect Ozzy's anger at his estranged recording manager,Jet Records honcho Don Arden? Or was it simply a move to buy time for an overworked entertainer who's been finding himself short on new material ever since his songwriting partner, Randy Rhoads, was killed in a plane crash last March?
Everyone who works for Ozzy,or near him, has his own opinion. Black Sabbath bassist Terry "Geezer" Butler has pooh-poohed Speak of the Devil (an lp recorded in only two nights after minimal rehearsal) as "something of a joke." The lead guitarist on the album, Brad Gillis, says that "all of us played real sloppy." Record reviewers around the world are hiding it at the back of the pile.
Yet it's Ozzy who may have the last laugh. For even as Sabbath, his former band, was mixing it's Warner Bros. magnum opus, Live Evil (a double that sprang from years of planning),Speak of the Devil was racing up the charts in proof of audience support.
"It's a good quality album," defends Ozzy. "It wasn't a thing to 'get at' Sabbath on. I just did it. I understand," he adds mischieveously, "that Sabbath had an idea of putting a live album out themselves."
Sabbaths Live Evil, recorded and mixed over a period of more months then Ozzy would spend on any studio disc, became available in late January. By the time of it's release,the band responsible for it had broken up,leaving only Butler and Iommi to continue under the groups banner. Yet in spite of all the work Sabbath did to make it's live album sound right, the set's been upstaged by Ozzy's seven day wonder. To hard rock fans,at least,it seems that no amount of mixing or compressing could ever make Sabbath's re-recorded hits match Ozzy's renditions for spontaniety.
"Black Sabbath always had it's cult audience," explains Osbourne,"like Pink Floyd in the old days. But it was never as big as this." Speak of the Devil sold half of a million copies it's first day of release. Brad Gillis claims that he never had time to learn the songs properly : "The band had to learn ten songs in five days, and record them (plus three others) the next night." (Luckily, the group had a second night in concert to cover itself.)
"I don't think Ozzu does the songs justice," snorts Geezer Butler,fanning the flames.
Not since soprano Geraldine Farrel had it out with conductor Aruto Toscanini on the Metropolitan Opera rehearsal stage had there been a feud in music like the one between Ozzy and Black Sabbath. Even the petulant Maria Callas would have cringed at the mud that's been slung between these rock firebrands. For every accusation of off-key Ozzy vocalizing that's come from Sabbath, Osbournes had a rejoinder like this one: "Leaving that band was the best amputation I ever had in my life."
But hostillity, even the heavy metal variety, rusts away with time. Behind the rivarly that Ozz and the Sabs carry on in print, mutual acceptance has grown. Since Randys death, Ozzy has again taken to phoning his old bandmate, Iommi, and inviting him to his English concerts. Tony's accepted. In december, the two even attended a party together in Birmingham. What's more,the carping in public has lost some of its edge. There's even been talk that the three most active members of the original Sabbath - Ozzy,Tony, and Geezer - may hook up once again down the road.
"It's hard to keep a relationship going with new people," admits Butler. He and his partner Iommi recently dropped singer Ronnie James Dio and pickup drummer Vinnie Appice from the Sabbath ranks. "With Ozzy it's differnt, I mean,we grew up together. Yeah,we might end up back together in a few years."
I'm sure Sabbath's live album will be pretty good," Ozzy conceded privatley last December. "It's competition, I suppose. But the whole music business is a game like monopoly: I turn a card over and I find out I'll be playing with guy x,who last week was playing with the guy I fired three weeks ago. In about the year Three Billion and Four I'll probably wind up playing with Sabbath again. But I haven't got any firm plans for that one."
At press time,Sabbath's own plans revolved around tryouts of singers and drummers. "We've got about three applicants we like at the moment," Butler explains.
"Tony and I call the shots," he confided. "But this was something that was coming for a long time. It's a shame that it had to come about,but it was an unavoidable thing. It was the constant being with each other and never getting a break from one another," said Butler.
Cynics claim that Sabbath is in the biggest hole of its career since losing Ozzy, but Butler and Iommi admit to few worries. Black Sabbath is now signed to a world wide deal with Don Arden, whose daughter Sharon is Osbournes wife and manager.
We didn't know what to do next," Butler explained of the pact with Arden. "We were having problems with management and we just didn't want to go on with the band the way it was. Don told me and Tony to keep it together,to keep positive thoughts. As long as we are together,he said, We should be able to keep the two of us going. he helped us out with alot of things at a bad time."
Meanwhile back at the Osbourne homestead - a four bedroom thatch cottage in Staffordshire - Ozzy and Sharon were intensifying their search for new musicians. The hunt was spurred by the defections for greener pastures of one Ozzy sideman after another. Guitarist Brad Gillis recently rejoined Night Ranger, a Bay area sextet whose boardwalk lp, Dawn Patrol, is straffing its way on to playlist both here and in England. Bassist Rudy Sarzo rejoined the realigned Quiet Riot, whose CBS/Pasha album, Mental Health, is just out. Don Airey joined guitarist Gary Moore's group as touring keyboardist. At the start of the new year, Ozzy's new band was still in the embryonic stage; it only Tommy Aldridge had been confirmed as an "official" member.
"The people who work with me aren't there on a permanent basis," revealed Osbourne. "They're working with me when I'm working,and if they want to work elsewhere when I'm not working,they're free to. Unlike Night Ranger, for instance,which includes several equal partners, Ozzy's groups get wages for roadwork and a flat fee for sessions.
Sessions are something that Ozzy and Sabbath both will be having plenty of. After a winter-spring tour of the U.S. and Canada that's expected to go through May, Ozzy plans to return to the booth with engineer Max Norman to cut a new studio lp with a werewolf theme; it's to be called Bark at the Moon. And Sabbath will be combing through songs originally intened for Butler and Iommi's solo albums,which have been canceled.
Whatever further moves Osbourne and Sabbath make,their destinies seem inextricably entwined. Both perform "Paranoid," "Iron Man" and "Children of the Grave" on stage. Both continue to roast each other in print. Both have 13 song live albums competing for the dollars of fans. But privately, Ozzy,Tony and Geezer go on being sociable.
While in Los Angeles to mix Live Evil late last fall, Terry Butler heard a knock at his front door. "It was three in the morning," he says; but he answered anyway. "There was a bald-headed lunatic outside the door. I didn't have a clue who he was with his head shaved." As recognition crept over Terry's face, Ozzy was admited and drinks were ordered.
"We got along fine," says Butler. "We talked about old times. Ozzy and I go back forever, and he just can't get away from the people who were in the original band." A few hours later Ozzy disapeared into the back seat of a taxi driven,according to Terry,by "a capable as loony as his fare was." But Osbourne, Butler and Iommi know that their paths will cross again.