As anyone who has followed the wild daily life of Ozzy Osbourne via the classic MTV reality exposé can attest, the Prince of Darkness is certainly not the pedantic fussy type. It is his inherent blasé approach to life that makes his loathing of one of his own songs all the more noteworthy.
Back in 2019, the bat decapitating rocker sat down with Billy Idol guitarist Billy Morrison and discussed certain elements of his solo back catalogue. When asked whether there were any songs that he hated, Ozzy unflinching offered up the following: “‘ S.A.T.O.’ was one. I always remember that. I was in the studio, and Sharon wanted to go somewhere and I went, ‘That’ll do!’ And in the back of my mind, I knew I let something go. But you know what? The amount of people that come up to me and go, ‘Why don’t you ever play that live?’ Only I know.”
The rousing Diary of a Madman classic is one of Osbourne’s most introspective tracks inspired by a letter entitled A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering by a Buddhist monk named Nichiren Daishonin from 1261. However, the very singular Ozzy twist comes from the fact that the track title was twisted to represent the maiden names of both Sharon (Arden) and his ex-wife Thelma Osbourne.
The song also represents a pivotal moment in his solo career because, according to Bob Daisley, this was the last song that they wrote together before he and Lee Kerslake were fired from the band leaving only Ozzy and Randy Rhoads remaining from his first solo album, Blizzard of Ozz. When Tommy Aldridge replaced Kerslake for the record and was credited in the liner notes, he remarked: “I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s not my drumming on that album. I have never taken credit for that recording and have always given Lee Kerslake, whenever asked or interviewed, the credit he rightly deserves.”
Whether this acrimonious undertone to the track affects Ozzy’s judgement is only for him to know. However, it is notable that the title changed from ‘Strange Voyage’ to ‘S.A.T.O’ after the duo were fired, and Kerslake recalled: “Everything was working fine. It was only when Sharon came in that we had a problem. When she started managing—taking over—she wasn’t the manager until Diary of a Madman.”
Kerslake adds: “She came in and it started to get edgy. But we never suspected a thing until we went away on holiday. Next minute, they’re rehearsing with Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo, and going to America.” The rest is history, but the song remains a relic from the early period of Ozzy’s solo career with the original line-up.
Despite Ozzy’s disavowal of the track, it remains an integral part of Diary of a Madman, which went on to sell over three million copies and counting and established Ozzy as a viable solo act following the demise of the legendary Black Sabbath. According to Setlist FM, however, he has never played the song live even once during his long life on the road as a touring musician.