Inside the rivalry between Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne
Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne both sit in the pantheon of rock music, but it’s safe to say that they don’t see eye to eye. When the two groups found themselves spending months on the road together, it was like something out of their own personal nightmares, and they made sure the crowd knew about the displeasure.
Ozzfest was the pinnacle of metal festivals by 2005, and the touring circus travelled from stadium to stadium across America, with Black Sabbath headlining every night of the tour. It was a badge of honour to be included on the run and getting the opportunity to play to tens of thousands of metalheads every night. The line-up saw Iron Maiden join Sabbath on the bill with the likes of Mudvayne, Rob Zombie and Shadows Fall also appearing on the run of dates.
Iron Maiden quickly grew tired with the tour’s commercial nature, and frontman Bruce Dickinson didn’t try to hide his annoyance. The manifesting anger got worse day-upon-day from the first date of the tour on July 15th. Then, on August 20th, it all came to a head when disaster ensued, an incident which ended with fans throwing ice, lighters, and everything else at them on stage. According to Sharon Osbourne, throughout the tour Dickinson allegedly moaned incessantly backstage. She claimed he said: “We don’t need a teleprompter” and “we don’t need a reality show to be legit”. These were both thinly veiled digs at her husband, and Sharon had enough.
She decided to take the situation into her own hands and, during their set at San Bernardino’s Hyundai Pavilion, she remarkably cut their power three-times during their hour-long set. Osbourne fans got irate with Maiden for delivering such a lacklustre show and began hurling objects at the band. It should come as no surprise that this would be the final date the group played on the tour. Hover, things got even worse after they departed as Sharon Osbourne arrived on stage to deliver a scathing attack on Dickinson. She told the audience that she “absolutely loved [the rest of] Iron Maiden and their crew,” however, she caveated this by labelling Dickinson “a prick and had disrespected Ozzfest since they began their stint with the tour.”
Following Maiden leaving the tour, Sharon issued a public letter to their manager, Rod Smallwood, which was about as far from an apology as you can get. “I did cut [the band’s] sound,” she wrote. “Ozzfest is our tour. Dickinson doesn’t have the manners to realise that when you are invited into someone’s home, are seated at their dinner table, are eating their food and drinking their wine, you shouldn’t talk disrespectfully about them. Otherwise, you just might get your ass handed to you. Every action has a reaction. Was Dickinson so naive to think that I was going to let him get away with talking shit about my family, night after night? I don’t think he realises who he’s dealing with.”
She added: “It’s shameful that Dickinson felt he had the right to air his issues publicly onstage every night as a way to boost his own ego. Dickinson never once came up to Ozzy and me to voice any concerns. If he wasn’t able to show us that courtesy, then why should I give him the respect to air my grievances with him in private? Frankly, Dickinson got what he deserved. We had to listen to his bullshit for five straight weeks. He only had to suffer a couple of eggs on the head.”
Speaking to The Quietus in 2010, Ozzy Osbourne waded in, explaining that he has no issues with how his wife handled the matter. “Unbeknown to me, every night he was going on stage slagging me off,” Osbourne said. “That wasn’t fair. If he didn’t like the fuckin’ tour, he should have said “I’m jumping [off] the fuckin’ tour”, but to go on stage and fuckin’ slag me off for no reason… I’d never said a fuckin’ bad thing to him. The bass player [Steve Harris] came round at the last gig and said ‘I’m sorry about Bruce’, and I’m like, ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ Nobody had told me, you know. I said, “You know what? I don’t understand what the fuck you’re talking about here.”
“And so, I mean, Sharon got pissed off… it was nothing to do with me. I suppose Sharon got pissed off. I’ll back my wife up to the hilt, but I didn’t know what was going down. But you know what? [Maiden were getting] a few fuckin’ quid out of that Ozzfest. If you’ve got something to talk to me about, be a man. Come to my face and say, ‘I think you’re a fuckin’ asshole.’ Don’t be a fuckin’ idiot. It’s so pathetically childish.”
However, in 2018, Dickinson spoke to NME and attempted to pour water over the issue: “It’s a complete storm in a teacup. I grew up listening to early Sabbath with Ozzy. Ozzy and Sabbath are icons so that’s that, end of story.”
Whether Dickinson thinks Ozzy is an icon is irrelevant to whether he likes him or not, which he was deliberately coy about his feeling. Whilst it remains sad to see two bastions of rock music locked in such a bitter feud, it doesn’t appear that and end will arrive anytime soon. Being two being fiery characters, it is perhaps easy to see why they didn’t see eye-to-eye, but those same characteristics are the same reason they are such iconic figures in rock.