-Ozzy Osbourne responding to statements made by Tony Iommi about Ozzy's inability to remember lyrics during live performances, leading to their decision to not record a live album with him during his time with Black Sabbath.
Before I get to the good stuff in this post, I must be clear about two things–historically, Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio had a somewhat antagonistic relationship. However, as I hope you recall after we lost Dio on May 16th, 2010, Ozzy had nothing but praise and kind words for Ronnie. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Ozzy revealed he had only recently learned of RJD's diagnosis a few months before his death. He reached out to Dio, and the two briefly exchanged emails – including Ozzy offering to help Dio and his family out in any way they could. Ozzy admitted to only meeting Ronnie "a couple of times" calling him a "great, great singer" and a "terrible loss" to the music and metal community.
After getting relieved of his duties in Black Sabbath, Ozzy cranked out two of the greatest metal albums of all time, 1980's Blizzard of Ozz and 1982's Diary of a Madman. Meanwhile, Sabbath would join forces with Dio releasing the crushing album Heaven and Hell in April of 1980–a full five months before Ozzy released Blizzard. Sabbath followed up quickly with their final studio record with Dio, Mob Rules in November of 1981 until 1992 when they joined forces again for Dehumanizer. So far, so good for both bands, right? This would all change when both Ozzy and Black Sabbath released live albums within weeks of each other at the end of 1982.
I recently flew across the country to see Ozzy perform in Boston for his No More Tours tour and it was completely worth every penny and hour I spent in the air remembering why I hate airplane travel. While I was back, I spent time with a gal pal of mine who has shared my affection for Ozzy/Sabbath since we were kids. Said BFF has a nice stash of Ozzy/Sabbath memorabilia which, while we were reminiscing and looking through, discovered an article published in what I believe was Hit Parader (or perhaps Circus) called Ozzy vs. Sabbath: Fighting Mad.
In the article, Ozzy came out swinging at his former Sabbath brothers after learning they had put out their very first live record. Journalist Hank Thompson interviewed The Prince of Darkness for the piece describing Ozzy as being so pissed he was literally foaming at the mouth. It's important to note this was Ozzy's "shaved head" period in 1982 while he was still deeply mired in grief and substance abuse following the death of Randy Rhoads. At any rate, here's Ozzy opening up the interview with a few choice words about Sabbath and his ire at the nearly simultaneous release of Live Evil alongside his own live record, Speak of the Devil (noted in the article as "History of Ozz"):
"Those ASSHOLES (while popping opening a fresh can of Budweiser). They (Black Sabbath) wait fifteen fuckin' years to do a live album, and then they do one at the exact same time I do mine. On top of that, they're still using some of my songs. I can't believe that they had the balls to put "Paranoid" and "Iron Man" on their album. Black Sabbath performing those songs without me singing them is like four guys getting together today and calling themselves The Beatles. That's just rubbish. I'm bigger than Sabbath ever was. It's rather sad they still have to live off of songs that are ten years old. It's a fuckin' joke they don't have more confidence in their newer material. Yeah, I do "Iron Man" too, but that's MY SONG–people DEMAND I do it. I imagine Sabbath still does it because they don't feel their new songs hold up very well."
Of course, Ozzy's comments about "Paranoid" and "Iron Man" being "his songs" is a bit of rubbish on its own. While it is true Ozzy conjured up the conceptual idea of an "iron bloke" or an "iron man," and it's hard to imagine anyone but Ozz slugging through either jam, the songwriting credit belongs to Geezer Butler as do a large number of Sabbath songs including "Paranoid." On both Black Sabbath (1970) and Paranoid (1970), Ozzy is listed as a contributor to the composition of both songs as well as other songs on both albums. Now, let 's hear a bit from the Sabbath-side of this heavy metal fence, this time from Dio disputing the insinuation the release of Live Evil coinciding with Speak of the Devil was anything more than pure coincidence:
"I can assure you that we didn't call up Ozzy's record label and then plot some evil scheme to steal some of his thunder. That would have been very stupid for us as well as for him. I'm not naive enough to think that a lot of our fans don't like Ozzy too. I don't think we are in direct competition. They'll just have to buy two great live albums. I'm sure both records will do very well."
Well, that was pretty congenial of Dio, right? Unfortunately, the great Tony Iommi was a bit more blunt, citing the reason they never got around to recording a live album with Ozzy was mostly due to Osbourne being so into stage theatrics he would often forget the lyrics to songs they had been performing for years. Specifically, Iommi was quoted by Thompson as saying Ozzy forgot lyrics because he was too busy "prancing around and turning the crowd on" that sometimes he forgot "when and what he was supposed to sing." Iommi was quick to clarify his comment wasn't a "knock" at Ozz as his behavior on stage was, of course, part of his "charm." In closing Iommi noted any fan of Sabbath would have to be "rather deaf" to not hear the difference RJD made with the band on stage. Ozzy's frothy response to hearing this from Thompson "Those fools!" was apparently screamed at the journalist before he admitted Dio was, in fact, a stronger singer than he was. Of course, Ozzy's accolades stopped there and in a classic "hold my beer" moment added that, despite this acknowledgment, he was the better frontman. Remember when I said Ozzy and Dio had a somewhat shaky past when it came to playing nice with each other? While doing my very enjoyable "research" for this post, I came across audio from an interview with Dio from this precise time period (1982/1983) during which he gets to actually hear Ozzy slagging Sabbath. Remember kids, this was when we still had things like telephones wired to our walls and MTV was only a couple of years old. Here's what Ozzy had to say about the new version of Black Sabbath:
"Sabbath is dead now. It's not that I don't like what they are doing. It's great music what they are doing. It's not Black Sabbath. It's a new band. It's a different band. It doesn't even remotely sound like Sabbath apart from Tony Iommi's thundering riffs. It wasn't until I left that I realized how much of a part of Sabbath I was, you know? It's not like losing a bass player or drummer. "
Ozzy gets a devil-horn hand up for using the words "thundering riffs" to accurately describe Tony Iommi, but the rest would get under Dio's skin. I say this because I transcribed almost all of Dio's entire five-plus-minute response to Ozzy's swipe, often having to pause because of Dio's calculated, systematic takedown of Ozzy's continued attacks on him and Sabbath were so fucking savage. My transcription is below. You can listen to the entire interview here (it's totally worth it).
"Well, I think he's right. I think he's right in that he is talking about there is no more Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne in it.
He's absolutely right. It's not even remotely close as far as I'm concerned. I think you will find the riffs Tony is playing are probably more musical riffs. And the reason probably being that he now has someone who can compare musically to the riffs he is playing.
I'll make a derogatory statement for you that you can play to Ozzy if you like. He's talking from the context of when he was in Black Sabbath. Granted a bass player or drummer leaving a band would not make much of an impression as a vocalist or a guitarist player. He's right about the drummer. This band is not the band that did "Iron Man" or "War Pigs".
Because I don't sound like Ozzy. At least I hope I don't sound like Ozzy. I don't try to. I don't want to. This is a band that has progressed where Ozzy either refused to progress or was incapable of progression. I'd like to think he was incapable. I can tell you things that the other people in the band won't tell you. I've seen things in Creem Magazine and Rolling Stone that Ozzy has said about Tony and myself in particular. To reply to the things Ozzy has said is like dueling with an unarmed man. I feel like someone who has a sword up against someone who has no clue what a weapon is. I find the man to be stupid. Totally devoid of intelligence. An animal.
I can give you examples to back up what I'm saying. I would not say them if I didn't firmly believe them. I doubt very much Ozzy could carry a tune if you gave him a radio in a suitcase and gave it to him in his hand. Remember this is what the people who worked with him for twelve years should be saying, and I'm saying it for them. It's about time someone replied to the idiocies this man has been saying. And we don't bite the heads off birds, and we don't' spit blood at people. We don't need to. We wish Ozzy success."
Oh, the shade of it all. Since we are now 2000+ words deep into this period of heavy metal history, I'm going to stop because collectively Tony Iommi and Ozzy have both put out definitive first-hand books (Dio's is due out in late 2019) detailing their past together, apart, and together again better than anyone else ever could.
Great live footage of all noted lineups in this post follow as well as some choice photos.
Dio and Black Sabbath Live In Uniondale, New York at the Nassau Coliseum Tour during a stop on the Heaven and Hell Tour, October 1980.
Ozzy and his Blizzard of Ozz performing a live version of "Crazy Train" on a television show broadcast out of Rochester, New York in 1981. You can see the entire performance on the 2014 DVD set, Memoirs of a Madman.