1980 is taking us all over the map. Digging deeper into the expanding genre of heavy metal, we get the first solo album from Ozzy Osbourne. “Blizzard of Ozz” is rated as the 6th greatest heavy metal album of all time by loudwire.com, and this is Ozzy’s 3rd appearance on the list, having already attained the #1 and #10 spots with Black Sabbath albums. An impressive feat, but I think any metal fan, myself included, would say this album’s greatness, and its inclusion on the list actually has very little to do with Ozzy. As many of you may know, this was our first wide-scale introduction to guitarist Randy Rhoads, a virtuoso metal guitarist whose life was taken way too young.
He started his career with the band Quiet Riot before they had their wave of success, but the opportunity to record and tour with a legend like Ozzy was too much to pass up. Some people might suggest his style is too derivative of the technique and sound of Eddie Van Halen, a claim Eddie himself would make, but for many of us, there is a very unique and masterful sound that Randy Rhoads brought to the guitar. His chord tone, the way he melded the notes together, and his frenetic and beautifully structured solos were absolutely amazing.
The album opens with “I Don’t Know”, a great intro, and next comes what is by far their most recognized hit from this era, “Crazy Train”. There are probably Ozzy-Randy songs I like better, but this song is truly iconic and the signature song from Ozzy’s entire solo catalog over the past 40 years. The album shifts to a melancholy ballad from the Prince of Darkness, “Goodbye to Romance”, which would seem more out of place if it wasn’t such a good song. Side one ultimately ends with the controversial “Suicide Solution”. Some of you will sadly recall the litigation that was filed against Ozzy after a teenage boy tragically took his own life, allegedly after listening to this song. An action that extreme is hard to pin on a single factor, but regardless, it serves as a reminder that all artists have to be somewhat conscious who is listening to their music, and what they are saying. I think that is fair, especially on this subject.
Keeping things dark, Ozzy sings his ode to occultist and magician Aleister Crowley on “Mr. Crowley”. Prior to this song’s release, Crowley was more closely associated with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, who shared this fascination as well. I don’t put too much stock personally in any of this black magic, but I do like the song, particularly the extended keyboard opening. It did serve for great fodder with the evangelists who were convinced Ozzy and others were here to turn all of his fans into devil worshippers.
The rest of the second side is a bit less eventful, with my favorite song probably being “Steal Away (The Night).” All in all, it is a really impressive performance, primarily from Rhoads, and one that rock guitar aficionados to this day look back on with admiration and respect.
Barely two years past the release of this album (and a second big success as well), Rhoads and Ozzy were touring and arrived in central Florida, preparing for a large rock festival in the Citrus Bowl, approximately three miles from where I am writing this blog right now. After a long night of partying on the road, they arrived at their destination, parking their tour bus at a small airport in Leesburg, FL, just a few miles up the road. For some inexplicable reason, the bus driver, who was later confirmed to have been consuming cocaine all night, decided it would be a great idea to not only take members of the band up for flights, but to repeatedly buzz the tour bus in order to get a rise out of, and awaken, Ozzy. After several close calls, Rhoads hopped on the plane for more of this nonsense, despite his fear of flying. Unfortunately, they came too close to the bus, actually clipped it with one of the wings of the plane, and were throttled off course directly into trees and a nearby garage, killing all aboard instantly. Tragic under any circumstances, this served as one of the absolute most pointless and preventable deaths of any music legend from any era.
Randy Rhoads, in his time as Ozzy’s guitarist, had a tremendous impact on the world of rock music and heavy metal. Adored by many, I will always think of my friend and former roommate Darren, who elevated Randy to the very top of his long list of influential metal guitarists. It would be hard to dispute that opinion, he was truly a genius. For all of his many poor decisions in life, I know Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, who were both there that day, greatly regret and mourn this pointless loss of life, and hopefully they and all who continue to fight the demons of excess can learn from the tragedies we all experience in one way or another.
“Crazy… but that’s how it goes…”