It was a dark time for one Ozzy Osbourne in 1979 following his recent separation from Black Sabbath and his harrowing struggle with addiction. It seemed that the once lauded “Prince of Darkness” would be dethroned from fame or worse. Fortunately for Osbourne, Sharon (his newly discovered love), and the world, a man named Randy Rhoades provided him a saving grace in the form of his musical genius and rejuvenation.
Forty years ago on Sept. 20, Ozzy Osbourne debuted to the world his first solo work and his first album since being fired from the group he helped form: Black Sabbath. Considering the circumstances, this release was a powerful statement that the “Prince of Darkness” would not succumb to the world. As we celebrate the album’s 40th anniversary, let’s take a look at the tracks and the genius which Rhoades was able to share before his untimely death.
The short-lived auditions for guitarists ended almost as soon as the 23-year-old Quiet Riot guitarist walked in the door. Rhoades was and remains a once-in-a-lifetime talent who was taken from life too soon. His mastery in classical guitar forged an almost unparalleled sound in his pieces with Osbourne. The memory of Randy leaves the now 71-year-old Osbourne with a dazed reaction when discussed or when listening to old solos by his long lost friend and bandmate.
In this first album and “Diary of a Madman,” Randy went to work with Ozzy to create a masterful comeback for the Prince of Darkness.
Kicking off this debut album is a piece called “I Don’t Know,” which rolls into lyrics of Ozzy trying to search for answers in a world so confusing, before finally yelling at his questioners that he is as much in the dark as they are. You can instantly tell from Randy’s intro that Osbourne was pulling out all the stops and was proving he could exist without Black Sabbath. That sentiment would be glaringly obvious as the next song roared in your speakers.
If you don’t instantly recognize the song begin by Ozzy screaming “All Aboard” then proceeding to maniacally laugh, then you might need to read up on your rock and roll. Randy reaches ears with a musical tear-jerker (of joy) as he shreds “Crazy Train” to life. This iconic piece has become a staple for the terms “rock and roll” and “metal,” as it well deserves.
The first song written for the album was Ozzy’s farewell to Black Sabbath in “Goodbye to Romance.” This emotionally-charged piece emanates a mournful cry, especially in the 2010 mix, which featured solely Randy’s guitar along with Ozzy’s vocals. Randy’s classical expertise bled through his strings in this ballad, and Ozzy’s lyrics match the overall tone of such a composition.
As if we do not understand Randy’s appreciation for classical guitar, “Dee” allows us to better comprehend this affection held by the 23-year-old prodigy. This 50-second piece features only Randy playing a classical guitar bit which transitions listeners into “Suicide Solution.”
This hard-hitting statement song has become a center of controversy for Osbourne in the form of lawsuits and accusations. When on trial in a case which asserted that he had influenced the suicide of several people with his song, Ozzy argued that the piece was written about the death of AC/DC vocalist Bon Scott. Cowriter and bassist Bob Daisley later stated that he had written much of the song in regard to Osbourne and the track he saw him going down. The trial found Osbourne not guilty under grounds that he held the right to artistic freedom under constitutional law.
Don Airey plants listeners into a trance as “Mr. Crowley” begins with his keyboard solo. The song about infamous cult leader Aleister Crowley features an impeccable solo by Rhoades. His live solos were even more outstanding and improvisational, which led Osbourne to feature a live version from November of 1980 as a single, and more versions have popped up in new releases of “Blizzard of Ozz.” The solo is almost enough to overwhelm guitar enthusiasts and metal fans with tears as Rhoades so often did in his days with Osbourne.
The next song was written in opposition to adult films by Bob Daisley, along with Osbourne, Rhoades, and drummer Lee Kerslake. “No Bone Movies” was a rejection to these types of films by Daisley, in particular, after he had attended one and strongly disliked watching it.
The following piece is a beckoning for Mother Earth to be saved. In “Revolution (Mother Earth),” a softer tone begins the piece, which harkens to the classical melding with metal that Randy had mastered. The song talks of the need to “let my mother live,” which, of course, represents Earth and the need to protect her in an age which has seen an escalating threat to the planet. The song eventually rolls into a harsher tone and faster guitar solo by the end until it melts into “Steal Away (The Night).” The final song tells of a couple escaping from the restraints of rules and living on the edge for a night.
That concluded the resurrection of Ozzy Osbourne in 1980. The album now celebrates 40 years with a digitally-released extended edition and new music video for “Crazy Train.” Rhoades’ death in 1982 would fall on the world like an anvil and upon Ozzy as a boulder. The loss of his bandmate left Ozzy ready to hang up the solo career, but the Prince of Darkness once again would rise from the ashes to spit in the face of adversity, still spitting today as he battles Parkinson’s Disease and several injuries. Through hard times, Ozzy continued to write album after album, even into 2020 when he released “Ordinary Man.” Osbourne’s portfolio of works is indeed among the most iconic and expansive in rock and metal, but all of these pale in comparison to that first blizzard.
Joseph Gill is a second-year English writings major. JG923276@wcupa.edu