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Credit: Ted Van Pelt

Music

Ozzy Osbourne’s 10 favourite Beatles songs of all time

@TomTaylorFO

In not much more than a handful of years, The Beatles had changed the world. When the news broke on April 10th, 1970, that the musical force that had turned the monochrome world multicoloured just like flicking on a light, had suddenly blown a fuse, the mourning took to the streets. “Nobody will ever replace The Beatles,” one fan remarked, “It’s just one Beatles group. We grew up with them. They started when they were younger and we were younger, and they belong to us in a way. There could never be another Beatles, never!”

One youthful fan who was dragged up by the bootstraps into a new bohemian world by the ‘Fab Four’ was none other than Ozzy Osbourne. Osbourne once proudly proclaimed, “When I heard the Beatles. I knew what I wanted to do,” when speaking to Blabbermouth in 2019. “My son says to me, Dad, I like the Beatles, but why do you go so crazy? The only way I can describe it, is like this, ‘Imagine you go to bed today and the world is black and white and then you wake up, and everything’s in colour. That’s what it was like!’ That’s the profound effect it had on me.”

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Osbourne says, sharing the first time that his ears were greeted by the dulcet tones produced by The Fab Four. “I was walking around with a transistor radio on my shoulder. And ‘She Loves You’ came on. And I don’t know, it just went, ‘Bang! And that’s what I want to do! Wouldn’t it be great?’”

Then in an odd kinship ‘The Prince of Darkness’ entered the music scene just when the kaleidoscopic blur of The Beatles faded out. Black Sabbath’s debut record was released in February 1970 and was just beginning to seep into public consciousness when news of The Beatles split broke. The dark supreme rawness of Sabbath seemed a befitting tonic for angry youths looking to vent. In fact, it quickly seemed like the natural evolution of music and the sixties dream rolled seamlessly towards the dirge of the seventies

The Promethean influence of The Beatles, however, remained a permanent fixture hidden in the sound of all music. It lurked underneath the dark swirling guizer of the surface with melodic intent and daring experimentation. “I feel so privileged to have been on this planet when the Beatles were born,” Ozzy once told Rolling Stone. “They are and will forever be the greatest band in the world. I remember talking to Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. He said, ‘I didn’t like the Beatles.’ I said, ‘there’s something fucking wrong with you.’”

Ozzy Osbourne’s 10 favourite Beatles songs:

10. ‘The Long and Winding Road’

In at number ten for Ozzy is the Let It Be classic ‘The Long and Winding Road’. McCartney described the inception of the song as follows: “I just sat down at my piano in Scotland, started playing and came up with that song, imagining it was going to be done by someone like Ray Charles. I have always found inspiration in the calm beauty of Scotland and again it proved the place where I found inspiration.”

Ozzy ventured to say: “It reminds me of winter in England. It’s cold, you’ve got fingerless gloves on. And it makes me sad, because it’s the end of the greatest movie I’d ever seen. You hear Paul going, ‘I’m out of steam. I can’t do this anymore.’”

9. ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’

In The Beatles classic psychedelic anthem, John Lennon revisited his youth. He told Playboy: “Strawberry Fields is a real place. After I stopped living at Penny Lane, I moved in with my auntie who lived in the suburbs in a nice semidetached place with a small garden and doctors and lawyers and that ilk living around, not the poor slummy kind of image that was projected in all the Beatles stories… We always had fun at Strawberry Fields. So that’s where I got the name. But I used it as an image. Strawberry Fields forever.”

Part of the beauty of The Beatles is the extent to which their tracks transcend the clutches of culture and enter our daily lives. This is precisely why Ozzy loves the song. He explains: “I used to work in a slaughterhouse, and across the road was a meat-pie shop, and this was on the radio there all the time.”

8. ‘Something’

The rare George Harrison penned Beatles ditty of ‘Something’ is a loving ode of obfuscated origin. As George Harrison said of the origin of the song himself when asked who he wrote it about, “Maybe Pattie, probably.”

The song might seem a bit on the soft side for Sabbath, but it was actually beloved by the whole band. “Black Sabbath were doing a residency in a bar in Zurich. It was winter and we were driving in the van to get home for Christmas. We were homesick and had no money, one cigarette between the four of us. This song reminds me of that time, because we kept hearing it as we were going over the Alps,” Ozzy recalls. 

7. ‘Eleanor Rigby’

The Price of Darkness was notably less considered when it comes to his praise for ‘Eleanor Rigby’, he simply stated: “’Eleanor Rigby’ is f–king phenomenal. I don’t know why. I just know that every time I heard something from the Beatles, it made me feel better that day.”

As it happens, the track shares an unexpected kinship with Black Sabbath in the sense that it draws inspiration from a particularly dark classic piece that Geezer Butler was prone to doing himself. With its sumptuous, syncopated melody and the beguiling entwinement of Albert Camus-esque lyrics, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ can easily be declared a songwriting masterpiece. When Paul McCartney was crafting this mythological epic, he was listening to Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ on heavy rotation. 

6. ‘Help’

There aren’t many songs that a fair chunk of music fans could identify before the very first second has elapsed. With ‘Help!’ The Beatles burst their album into brilliance with unmistakable intent. A few years down the line and Black Sabbath would mimic this opening track magnificence with ‘War Pigs’, a truly rousing classic. 

“When I hear this, I hear Lennon thinking, “You can’t get bigger than big.” But they did. They got beyond massive. And he just goes, “Help!” because they don’t know what they’ve done. They only know how they did it,” Ozzy vouches. 

5. ‘Hey Jude’

If you asked a thousand random people to name a Beatles song then ‘Hey Jude’ would quite possibly be the one that crops up the most. Whether this makes it their most defining piece of music is open to interpretation, but its poignant simplicity is certainly a feat that Ozzy admires. 

In a 2018 GQ interview, McCartney remarked: “John and his wife Cynthia had divorced, and I felt a bit sorry for their son, who was now a child of a divorce. I was driving out to see the son and Cynthia one day and I was thinking about the boy whose name was Julian – Julian Lennon, and I started this idea, ‘Hey Jules, don’t make it bad, it’s gonna be OK.’ It was like a reassurance song.”

4. ‘A Day in the Life’

Of all the songs in the blur of Sgt. Peppers, in some weird way ‘A Day in the Life’ is the most defined. The record as a whole can be tricky to digest, it is a Michelin Star mash-up and ‘A Day in the Life’ is seemingly the most familiar flavour. It was the daring of such albums, however, that opened the door for the likes of Black Sabbath to stroll through. 

With a 41 piece orchestra in the mix and a trip through the evening papers playing out in the lyrics, it ties together the postmodernist ideology of the album with the sonic science and playful creativity that lifted it to buoyant heights. 

3. ‘I am the Walrus’

The tiring debate on who was the best Beatle was alluded to brilliantly by Ethan Hawke in the film Boyhood. He yells: “There is no favourite Beatle! That’s what I’m saying, it’s in the balance, and that’s what made them the greatest f—king rock band in the world.” 

This is something Ozzy seemingly agrees with as he explains: “Lennon and McCartney were like sweet and sour. Paul would be the guy who said, ‘It’s getting better all the time.’ John would say, ‘It couldn’t get much worse.’ I loved Lennon’s plays on words. I love any song where you can go, ‘I don’t know what that means,’ but you understand it anyway.”

2. ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’

The track ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ represents an epochal peak for the ‘Fab Four’ as it became the moment that they were catapulted to global acclaim and assailed America. However, behind the sweetness of the song and the Beatlemania it spawned is a slightly more edgy underbelly. 

As McCartney reveals regarding the 1963 anthem: “There was an eroticism behind it all. If I’d heard myself use that word when I was seventeen, there would have been a guffaw. But eroticism was very much a driving force behind everything I did.”

1. ‘She Loves You’

Ozzy’s favourite Beatles track is yet another early classic. As he explains: “This is the one that sucked me in. I was a 14-year-old kid with this blue transistor radio. I heard ‘She Loves You,’ and it floored me. It was as if you knew all the colours in the world. Then someone shows you a brand new colour, and you go, ‘F–king hell, man.’”

Many people are no doubt in the same boat as ‘The Prince of Darkness’ on this one and agree with the Brummy legend when he declares: “I feel so privileged to have been on this planet when the Beatles were born.”