When it comes to rock ‘n’ roll debauchery, Ozzy Osbourne is something of an expert. The vocalist rose to fame in the 1970s as the fang-toothed frontman of the legendary heavy metal outfit Black Sabbath. During his time with the group, the self-proclaimed Prince of Darkness developed a reputation for – to put it bluntly – lunacy. Eventually, his anarchic persona and penchant for cocaine began interferringwith his musical obligations, leading to his dismissal from Black Sabbath in April 1979. Considering Osbourne and company spent an estimated $75,000 on cocaine during the production of Vol. 4, it comes as a surprise that Osbourne’s musical upbringing was so quaint. Indeed, he once cited one of The Beatles’ teenybopper hits as the song that made him want to be a rockstar.
The Beatles were always far more than their music. Despite their notoriety, the ‘Fab Four’ maintained a sense of relatability. They weren’t strangely tanned or obnoxiously coiffeured; they looked and sounded (depending on where you lived) a lot like their fans, and their fans responded to that. Instead of symbolising an unachievable dream, The Beatles implied that even the most ordinary people living in the most ordinary of places could make a better, more thrilling life for themselves. For youngsters growing up in drab industrial centres, the sheer existence of a band like The Beatles was a reason for optimism.
Opening up about The Beatles’ impact in a 2016 interview, Osbourne explained that the group’s 1964 hit ‘She Loves You’ completely changed the game: “I come from the backstreets of Aston in Birmingham and it wasn’t a very cool place when I was growing up,” the singer began. “I used to sit on my doorstep and think, ‘How the hell am I going to get out of here?’ And then one day ‘She Loves You’ came on the radio.”
Unless you were actually there, it’s hard to imagine just how explosive the Beatles’ sound was in the early ’60s. The group’s blend of radio-friendly rock ‘n’ roll had been bubbling under the surface for a while. With traces of music hall, skiffle, and blues, tracks like ‘She Loves You’ heralded the arrival of a new era. “That song turned my head around,” Osbourne continued. “My son always says to me, ‘What was it like when The Beatles happened?’ All I can really say to him to is: ‘Imagine going to bed in one world, and then waking up in another that’s so different and exciting that it makes you feel glad to be alive.”
With their shimmering pop, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr severed the nation from the post-war years, replacing a monochrome world with one soaked in technicolour. Their sound was, in a sense, a reflection of the burgeoning sense that things could only get better, and for Osbourne, it was the beginning of everything.