An interesting article by Tony Stewart from the NME, Dec. 3, 1977, during the brief period when Ozzy left Black Sabbath and was prepared to form a new band called The Blizzard of Ozz. That would have to wait a couple of years though, because Ozzy returned to Sabbath for one more album (1978’s Never Say Die) before being fired, and going off to solo fame with Randy Rhoads. Ozzy talks about how he was turning into an alcoholic during his years with Sabbath, and that he had to leave the band before he killed himself. He also talks about wanting a quieter life. We all know that the craziness was really only beginning, as he was anything but a teetotalling quiet man during the ’80s. But we catch him here in a moment of reflection…
In the past Ozzy Osbourne has often over-dramatised the state of both his mental and physical health, but as he now relates his reasons for leaving Black Sabbath he shudders convincingly.
Never one to ignore a theatrical moment, he lurks in the shadows of the lounge in his remote Staffordshire cottage. Flames from the open fire seem to leap at his back, and outside a howling wind batters noisily into the windows and doors like a collecting agency from the graveyard.
He couldn’t have engineered a better setting, as he announces that if he hadn’t quit the Sabs he would have become an alcoholic, and eventually would have been carried offstage in his coffin.
“I was drinking like a fish for two years,” Ozzy explains. “It was just getting worse and worse, off one thing and on to another. Finally I nearly ended up an alcoholic.
“We’d come offstage, for instance, and I’d just go straight to the bar. Perhaps I’d meet one of the band there, but I wouldn’t drink for the sake of having a good time. I’d just drink to get out of the way.
“And that’s when you’ve got to say to yourself, ‘Hey man, there’s something wrong’.
“You’re just going through the day, just to get on the stage for an hour to do your gig, just to go home, get stoned and go to bed. The next day’s the same. There was no excitement.
“I would have been dead in two or three years if I’d carried on. I know I would. And I don’t think anything’s worth giving your life up for.”
Although the official statement about Osbourne’s departure was only recently made, it’s now two months since he left. He had walked out before, he says, but had always reconsidered his position and returned.
This time he refused.
Of course, something must have caused him to go on his two year binge, when he found it necessary to be drunk by mid-afternoon. But he’s still not entirety sure why he was in such a desperate state, and even feels guilty about leaving.
“I realise I’ve let a lot of people down,” he comments sadly. “because it’s never going to be the same again for the people who liked Sabbath then.
“We haven’t left on bad terms. But who knows – it may turn out that way, because time has a weird way of eroding a friendship. I wouldn’t say the band screwed me up. But there were a lot of personality clashes.”
As the interview unfolds it’s apparent that he had innumerable reasons for getting out.
Musically he was frustrated. He was caught in a vicious trap of not liking their last album, which many reviewers thought was some kind of progression, and yet being bored with concert audiences demanding the same old material all the time.
When it’s suggested that heavy metal is doomed because of the emergence of punk, and maybe he scampered off before his credibility was undermined further, he partly agrees. Only partly, though.
He admits that the idea of Sabbath using elaborate studio facilities and orchestras when recording was ridiculous.
“That’s rubbish to me,” he says angrily. “You can get away with it with Yes and ELP, but Black Sabbath was a backstreet band – like the punk thing, if you like.
“I’m not saying we were before punk, but in our own way we were what the punk groups are now: a people’s band.
“I don’t want to play it, but I’m into the new wave because you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to listen to it. It’s just a simple, down-to-earth music that people can tap out on a tin lid.”
Even so, Ozzy has a sneaking suspicion that the Sabs themselves had realised their days were numbered, and that to survive a radical new image was needed.
“I don’t know whether it was a subtle way to get me out of the band,” he muses aloud. “Because they knew they had to change, and the only way they could was by getting a different front man.
“People don’t really know how black my Sabbath was over the years,” he chuckles.
“All I wanted to do was make records and get on that stage, and that’s all I should have to do. But you’ve got to be like Bamber Gascoigne to wade through all the pieces of paper that are involved to get up there and do it.
“I think the business is fucked. There are too many people sitting on their arseholes and doing nothing for vast amounts of money. There’s so much talent out there who’re so frightened to get involved, because they think they’re going to end up floating down the River Thames in a pair of concrete wellingtons.
“The business,” he decides, with what seems obvious good reason, “is like a rosy red apple at the front, with a big crab at the back.”
You might, in the light of this, expect him to scarry straight away from it all – but instead he is going to form his own band, The Blizzard Of Oz. Knowing how the business operates, and suffering it for nine years with Sabbath, it seems somewhat perverse for him to want to return.
Already the carrion crows of the industry have swooped down at him.
“I’ve been approached by several sharks and crooks in the business,” he explains, “and some of the deals I’ve been offered went out with Al Capone.”
He is willing to try again because this time, he optimistically predicts, he’ll do it differently.
In a field behind his cottage he has parked a red and white coach, and when the new band is formed they’ll live in this while tearing small venues and universities – whereas with Sabbath he hit the big time too quickly and couldn’t handle it.
“We all thought we were tin gods. But at the end of the day it just turned round and kicked us in the teeth. I just want a simple life for a while. I just want to be an ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill guy.
“Inside I ain’t a tin god. I ain’t a tin of beans walking around. And that’s what I began to feel like: a product. ‘Buy Ozzy Osbourne and he’ll clean your carpet faster than anything else’.
“I’ll do it again, but I’ll do it comfortably. I won’t ever let myself be prostituted again.”
At the moment his future is by no means certain. He still wants to play rock, but hasn’t yet found musicians to work with. If it doesn’t work out for him then he’ll start labouring jobs, as he doubts if he even has enough money saved to support him for a year.
But his enthusiasm refuses to allow him to seriously consider that possibility. He’ll form the Blizzard, he says breezily, it’s best that his process of selecting the right guy is rigorous. “I don’t want any ego-trippers, I don’t want any suck-arses, and I don’t want any leeches. And I don’t want any people to think they’re going to walk into a band and expect it to be there!
“It’s like the man who climbed the mountain. Once he’s climbed the mountain what does he do? Lie down for the rest of his life? There’s another mountain he can climb up the road.”
With that, Ozzy peers cautiously out of his lounge window, almost as if he expected Everest to have been spirited into his back garden.