Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath were at the forefront of ushering in a brand new sound when the four rowdy lads from Birmingham tore it up on their self-titled debut album in 1970. The next few years saw the band take their brand of heavy metal across the world, all while enjoying the debauched journey that came with it. Fifty years on from the release of Sabbath’s debut, Ozzy is still flying high as one of the forefathers of metal. Still, his favourite album of all time shows a different side to his personality, and behind the façade, there’s a gentler side to Osbourne.
The metal iconoclast pioneered a genre, became the figurehead of everything related to darkness, and it’s hard to imagine Osbourne listening to anything but metal. However, the Black Sabbath frontman is an unapologetic Beatles-head, making more sense when considering the similarities between these two titans of British music and how they both vigorously smashed boundaries.
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?'”
Although The Beatles were Osbourne’s gateway into the power of music and the possible capabilities through sound, it’s not an album by The Fab Four that occupies the most precious slot in his record collection but a solo-record that came after their split. That coveted place is inhabited by John Lennon’s sophomore album, Imagine, which contains more sombre moments in each song than the entirety of Osbourne’s career combined.
“I must have played this album thousands of times over the years,” Osbourne recounted to Forbes in 2020. “The songs (‘Imagine,’ ‘Jealous Guy,’ ‘Gimme Some Truth’) are just timeless, which is the sign of what a great songwriter John Lennon was. Lennon was a poet, a rebel and had an incredible passion, all of which are so evident on this landmark album. I cannot believe that we will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year.”
On another occasion, Osbourne went as far as describing Lennon as a “driving force for humanity”. “The world stopped for me,” he told the BBC in 2010, recalling when he heard the devastating news that Lennon had died. “I can’t even describe how I felt. But the amount of joy and hope that he gave people was just remarkable.”
For somebody that lives and breathes metal music since the incarnation of the genre over 50 years ago, it shouldn’t be surprising that Osbourne enjoys a break away from the sound, which encompasses almost every aspect of his adult life. Listening to metal non-stop would be a busman’s holiday for Ozzy, and Imagine offers a blissful sonic holiday that couldn’t be further away from where Osbourne calls home.